Southampton researchers are exploring how a father’s obesity may impact their children’s risk of dementia.
The national study is funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and led by Lancaster University.
Professor Keith Godfrey from the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) is leading the Southampton team.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. It affects around 600,000 people in the UK today.
Previous studies have found changes in the brain may be present up to 20 years before symptoms appear.
Research shows lifestyle factors can increase a person’s chances of developing the disease. These include smoking, physical inactivity and drinking too much alcohol.
The research team will analyse data on three generations of people who took part in the Framingham Heart Study - a long-term research project in the US to identify common factors that contribute to heart disease.
They will compare participants’ memory, thinking skills and brain structure. This will help to determine if there is a difference between people with fathers who are obese, compared to those who are not.
Researchers will also work with mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease to study changes in the brains of adult offspring.
Results from this study could provide new strategies to reduce cases of Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
Prof Godfrey is a Professor of Epidemiology and Human Development at the University of Southampton and lead for Nutrition, Lifestyle and Metabolism in the NIHR Southampton BRC. He said:
“Research has shown that a mother’s health and lifestyle choices before conception and during pregnancy have a profound impact on their children’s future health.
“The importance of the father’s diet and lifestyle before conception is only now being recognised. Up to 40% of dementia cases can be linked to lifestyle factors, and recent evidence suggests that paternal obesity could be one of these factors.
“We hope this project will provide key insight into whether paternal obesity increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It could offer an opportunity for interventions to reduce the number of cases of this distressing disease.”