On the 16th February 2020, Jonathan Leake wrote an article in the Sunday Times strongly suggesting that obesity is linked to male factor infertility because the protein messengers which help to code for Sperm production are chemically disrupted by the way we live and eat. Sunday Times, February 16th 2020: Dad's Bad Diet Damages His Sperm and His Kids.
"Men with poor diets risk producing damaged sperm that puts their children at risk of obesity and diabetes", writes Jonathan Leake, "Research suggests that a diet low in nutrients damages RNA molecules, which help sperm swim towards an egg, fertilise it and initiate the formation of a healthy foetus....."
"These subtle but persistent influences probably have effects which can be inherited, and although we cannot point to a measurable genetic mutation (yet), this may be a discovery for the future" - Jonathan Ramsay.
How does it all work? Sperm give new embryos more than just a copy of their genes: they also contribute RNA. These are molecules which are similar to DNA but are important in terms of switching genes on or off, and regulating how much protein each gene produces.
It was thought that these complex RNA molecules simply carried instructions to the cells. However, research now suggests that they are much more than just messengers, that they also dictate the health of the foetus, especially its risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
It has now been shown that environmental factors such as stress, an unhealthy diet, and toxin exposure, can prevent the RNA carrying out its job.
Just a few years ago this idea that lifestyle can impact inheritance was far from excepted. DNA is known to be a fairly robust molecule with the ability to repair if it becomes damaged, minimising how much a parent's lifestyle choices are passed onto their children via their genetic make up.
However work on infertility from across the globe as shown that more than just DNA dictate inheritance. Most of these other factors are much more easily influenced than DNA, and are quite delicate and easily damaged by lifestyle factors such as smoking, eating a bad diet and drinking alcohol. These factors include RNA.
Studies showing the ability of RNA to pass information between generations is also shown in the battle against the coronavirus, which comes from an ancient family of viruses that never evolved to use DNA. Instead, it uses its own RNA to infect humans and to replicate itself.
It is with this in mind that we urge patients to look at their lifestyle and moderate factors within their control to try to enhance the environment. This includes a healthy, balanced diet, moderate exercise, quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption in a bid to boost fertility and reduce the chance of passing on conditions such as diabetes to offspring.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.