If you watched proudly as the mother of your child adopted the eating habits of a Buddhist monk while pregnant, you maybe should have felt something else while you were at it: guilt. That’s because new research out of Denmark suggests that your weight and eating habits, right up to the point of conception, might influence your kid’s weight and eating habits after they’re born.
The study compared the sperm cells of 13 skinny men and 10 obese men and found that each group’s cells showed different characteristics, which were acquired by experience rather than passed down by parents — what’s known in the gene researching business as “epigenetics.” Six of the obese men had weight-loss surgery and, one year later, their genes showed nearly 4,000 new changes. Those are the same genes that can influence their future kid’s appetite and risk for obesity, which means that, even if your dad and his dad before him had the lean, mean genes of Ryan Gosling, your own kid could still look like Guy Fieri if you mostly eat like Guy Fieri.
As with any research of this type, there’s plenty of work to be done to determine if these findings are actual signal in the growing body of scientific understanding around epigenetics, or if it’s just some curious noise. Then again, if your own long-term health may have been negatively impacted by your grandfather’s hard-partying ways (and it may have been), you can always just blame your own dad if the kid winds up being a little chunky.