A recent study on rats reveals that eating habits of fathers might have dangerous long-term effects on their unborn daughters. The investigation found that feeding high-fat diets to male rodents predisposed their daughters to metabolic problems and diabetes.

According to a report on the study a female can develop diabetes-like disease due to a high fat content in her father's diet even before she was conceived.

Researchers at Australia’s University of New South Wales noticed that daughters also inherited hundreds of altered and abnormal genes linked to metabolic problems and diabetes.

“This indicates that the fathers' high-fat diets altered the development of their sperm, which then promoted an adult-onset disease in the daughters,” Michael Skinner, at Washington State University says in an accompanying report.

With obesity and diabetes reaching epidemic proportions, researchers are now relating it to “intergenerational transmission.”

Researchers observe that exposure to a diabetic environment in a mother's uterus may predispose babies to Type 2 diabetes. There’s another theory that suggest obesity and diabetes can alter sperm, triggering metabolic problems in the next generation. However, they find it tricky proving it on humans.

During the study, researchers fed male rats a high-fat diet and mated them with females on a control diet. The nine males packed on so much fat their weight increased to more than 700 grams, compared to the males on the control diet that weighed in around 550 grams. The males on the high-fat diet also developed glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, hallmarks of diabetes.

Their observed that the daughters were not overweight, but may soon develop “early onset” impaired insulin secretion and glucose intolerance that worsened with time.Hundreds of abnormal genes were found during the study. Further, the fathers' high-fat diet “altered the expression of 642 pancreatic islet genes in adult female offspring.”

The work suggests a molecular mechanism for environmental factors such as diet to affect health and to influence subsequent generations through the germ line.