It's not just the mother's diet that influences a child's future health; the father's diet can also have a critical impact. According to a new study, a simple dietary change, with fathers taking fish oil supplements, might help reduce the risk of obesity in their children.

Obesity is a pressing global health concern, affecting more than 390 million children and adolescents as of 2022. The prevalence of childhood obesity has surged dramatically, climbing from 8% in 1990 to 20% in 2022. Apart from poor self-esteem and poor mental well-being, obesity raises the risk of metabolic disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

The latest study results presented in the NUTRITION 2024, the flagship annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, held in Chicago suggest fish oil supplementation in fathers as a "secret weapon" to combat the issue of childhood obesity.

Although previous studies have shown the benefits of fish oil supplementation in mothers for reducing childhood obesity risk, researchers say this is the first study to evaluate the inheritance patterns exclusively in the paternal line.

The research team conducted an animal study involving 150 male mice, fed on a high-fat diet, with some receiving additional fish oil before they mated with female mice on a regular healthy low-fat diet.

The offspring of male mice given fish oil weighed less at 7 and 21 days compared to those whose fathers did not receive fish oil. Female offspring from the fish oil group also showed better metabolic health, with improved glucose clearance and insulin sensitivity.

"This concept offers a significant potential to reshape our strategies in combating childhood obesity. Picture a future where pre-conception dietary guidance isn't solely directed at mothers, but also involves fathers, enabling them to play a more active role in promoting their children's well-being right from the start," Latha Ramalingam, a lead researcher of the study, said in a news release.

The researchers are now investigating how dietary changes impact sperm and how this information transfer affects future generations. "While further human studies are needed, this discovery opens a new frontier in our understanding of how parents, beyond just genetics, influence their offspring's well-being. Fish oil, a readily available and safe supplement, could become a powerful weapon in our fight for a healthier next generation," Ramalingam added.