Connection found between parental diet and offspring immunity

Thursday, 30 November, 2017

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There is a close relationship between parents’ diets and the immunity of their offspring, according to new research from the University of Sydney.

Published in the journal Biological Reviews, the meta-analysis looked at studies on a range of animal species — such as rodents, primates and birds — published in 38 published papers and concluded the whole of the animal kingdom shows a connection between diet and immunity. The study found that what the parent eats can affect the health of the offspring after birth.

Lead author Dr Catherine Grueber from the Sydney School of Veterinary Science suggested more research is needed to understand whether a poor parental diet can lead to health issues for offspring in the long term.

“Our meta-analysis suggests that the effects of a parental diet on immunity can be inherited and that this ‘signal’ is maintained in offspring in the short term, even if offspring are on the normal diet for their species.

“Researchers are now following a range of leads to discover exactly what that ‘signal’ is, what the long-term consequences are and whether the effects can be reversed if offspring continue to eat a healthy diet as they grow,” she said.

Nutrition is known to be key to maintaining overall health, and poor nutrition can have negative implications such as poor disease resistance.

Co-author and Professor in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences Stephen Simpson argued the findings could be applied to humans as well, which emphasises that a good diet is especially important during pregnancy.

“We already know that parents need to be mindful of maintaining a healthy diet not only during pregnancy but also before they conceive,” Simpson said. “This study demonstrates that the impacts of a parent’s diet can extend beyond birth to affect the health of the child.”

Image credit: © Monika Olszewska/Dollar Photo Club

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