For years the onus has been on overweight women to lose weight for a healthy pregnancy. But men likewise shoulder a responsibility in the healthy development of their unborn child, says a new Aussie study, which urges gents to lose their love handles for the sake of their swimmers.
Using in vitro fertilization on mice to determine the effects of paternal obesity on embryos, researchers from the University of Melbourne found that the sperm of obese males resulted in delayed fetal development and a decreased rate of successful embryo implantation.
The news comes as Australia suffers from a major "weight problem" researchers pointed out. A whopping 75 percent of men in that country are estimated to be overweight or obese. The global average rate, meanwhile, is 48 percent.
"A lot of men don't understand what contribution they're having, but they need to be healthy before conceiving," said lead researcher David Gardner in a statement. "Sperm needs to be match fit for the games of life and creating life is the biggest thing that we can do."
In addition to smaller fetuses and poor pregnancy success, a father's obesity also reduced placental development in the woman with potential for long-term developmental consequences in the child.
In the study, obese male mice were fed the equivalent of a fast food diet for 10 weeks. Embryos were created from both normal weight and obese male mice.
The findings will be presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2012 this week.
Meanwhile, another study -- partially funded by the California Walnut Commission -- found that eating a handful of walnuts could boost sperm quality.
Other foods that have been shown to help improve sperm quality include foods rich in omega-3 like salmon, as well as eggs, natural yogurt, nuts, seeds, berries and sweet potatoes.