Can twins tell us how men's eating habits impact the next generation?
Researchers are hoping a new study involving male twins will help them better understand how a man's diet affects the quality of his sperm and, in turn, what impact this might have on his future children.
By recruiting pairs of male twins, researchers from Deakin University's Institute for Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation (IMPACT) in the School of Medicine want to compare men who are genetically similar but eating different foods to assess how their diet affects sperm quality and genetic programming.
IMPACT Professor Jeffrey Craig said the study, a collaboration with the University of Copenhagen and Twins Research Australia, was the first in the world to attempt a controlled dietary study with male twin pairs.
"We hope our findings will raise awareness about the importance of healthy eating habits for men at a time when they are planning to start a family," Professor Craig said.
"There has been considerable research into the role a mother plays in her child's development which has resulted in extensive guidelines and advice on supplements to take before and during pregnancy, and even beyond the birth, so the baby has the best chance of being healthy and disease free.
"But there has been very little research to tell us how a father's diet impacts the health of his sperm and the DNA it carries."
Researchers are looking to recruit male twins aged between 18 and 45 willing to register for the three-week study which will require each twin to eat a different set of pre-prepared meals over the study period.
The diets will resemble different but common eating patterns seen in Australian men and participants will have their sperm analysed for changes across the three-week diet intervention.
In addition to the supply of mainly pre-prepared food, participating twins will also receive financial reimbursement for their time, an exercise wristwatch or a one-month gym membership, and a detailed health report including specialised information on reproductive health.
"We know from studies in male mice that diet can change the composition of sperm and that this can be passed on to the next generation and influence their health. But we don't know whether this happens in humans," Professor Craig said.
"If diet can change both the quality and the composition of sperm, the next step will be to determine whether these changes are passed onto a man's future child, and whether this might impact their health and disease status.
"Fortunately, sperm has a life cycle of three months and is constantly being regenerated so healthy diet changes would take just three months to ensure the best chance of creating healthy children.
"This study will add important knowledge to this pioneering area of research and provide a promising starting point for the development of healthy guidelines for fathers-to-be that have the potential to impact the health of future generations," Professor Craig said.
Twins can find out more and join the study at twins.org.au