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Sperm might remember your bad habits

At Copenhagen's Culture Night, a UCPH researcher explained how diseases like obesity and diabetes can be transferred from one generation to another

If you are a man, there is now another excuse to get up off the couch, get fit and start eating healthy. According to UCPH researchers, bad habits might have an impact in the future generations.

In 2006, a Swedish study found how the good or poor food access that granddads had just before they reached puberty was able to predict the mortality rate of their grandsons. Another study with mice confirmed that the food of one generation affects the next one. They stuffed the male mice with food and made them obese. These mice reproduced and their babies were diagnosed with diabetes when they grew older. Now UCPH research may confirm the research.

“Our theory is that the sperm can transfer the memory from one generation to another”, explained Ida Donkin, MD and PHD in the NNF Center for Basic Metabolic Research of the University of Copenhagen. She was talking at an open lecture in the Culture Night event in Copenhagen at the Medical Museion.

Not too late to change

The scientists made a study with two groups, one with young obese men and another with lean men. After studying the different semen samples, they found that their spermatozoa were different and had an altered epigenetic signature. They have also discovered that this can change if the person starts exercising and changing his food habits.

What does this mean? Sperm can apparently carry information about your habits too. Bad habits such as eating unhealthy and not exercising, might affect the way your children and grandchildren live, whether you are in contact with them or not.

Professor Donkin is currently doing more studies in Rigshospitalet and Hvidovre Hospital, where they are studying sperm samples and newborn babies to see if they can find similarities. With these studies, there will be more information about how we inherit diseases like obesity and diabetes, and will help to know how to prevent these diseases to spread from generation to generation.

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