In a new study, researchers have found that increasing sugar in the male fruit fly’s diet for 1 or 2 days prior to mating can lead to obesity in the offspring, reports
For the study, the researchers investigated how variations in the father’s diet would affect the weight of Drosophila melanogaster or fruit fly offspring.
The researchers found that increased sugar consumption for one or two days before mating increased the odds of obesity in the offspring by changing gene expression in the fetus.
“To use computer terms, if our genes are the hardware, our epigenetics is the software that decides how the hardware is used,” said Anita Öst, a postdoc at Linkoping University in Sweden. “It turns out that the father’s diet reprograms the epigenetic software so that genes needed for fat production are turned on in their sons.”
“It’s very early days for our understanding of how parental experiences can stably reprogram offspring physiology, lifelong,” said Andrew Pospisilik, a professor of immunobiology and epigenetics at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
By learning more about the epigenetics of obesity, researchers can potentially develop drugs to reverse the gene expression that contributes to obesity.