How father’s obesity may impact child’s risk of dementia

Lancaster University is leading a project looking at the long term impacts of paternal obesity on the brain of adult offspring.

The £350,000 project is led by Dr Cheryl Hawkes with Dr Neil Dawson from Biomedical Life Sciences and fellow researchers from the Universities of Southampton, Kent, Loughborough and Exeter.

Dr Hawkes said: “Harmful changes are present in the brain for decades before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear. It is now widely recognised that parental health at conception and during pregnancy is a key driver of long-term health. Emerging evidence suggests that children born to obese fathers have lower IQ and poorer memory compared to children of lean fathers.”

The project will use data collected from three generations of participants in the Framingham Heart Study to compare memory, thinking skills as well as brain structure and markers of Alzheimer’s Disease in the adult children and grandchildren of obese and lean men.

The Framingham Heart Study began in 1948 in the city of Framingham in the US, looking at cardiovascular health in the local residents. Results from the study have informed current knowledge on the effects of diet, exercise and medicines such as aspirin on heart disease.

The researchers will also induce paternal obesity in mouse models of Alzheimer’s Disease to study the behavioural and cellular changes in the brains of adult offspring.

Dr Dawson said: “Results from this project will provide key insights into whether paternal obesity increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease, which has the potential to inform future public health messaging and provide novel targets for interventional strategies to reduce the number of cases of Alzheimer’s Disease.”

The four year project is funded by Alzheimer’s UK.

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