The diet of fathers could directly impact the health of their unborn children's health and wellbeing, according to a new Australian study.
In what is believed to be a first, the study of male rats appears to show a link between how much the father eats and the weight and behaviour of their offspring.
The results have been published in the scientific journal Psychoneuroendocrinology today.
The cross-generational study, led by Professor Antonio Paolini from RMIT's School of Health Sciences, saw one group of male rats allowed to eat an abundant amount of food compared to another group which had 25 percent fewer calories in their diet.
"Even though the father has had no contact with their offspring and the mother's behaviour remained relatively unchanged, the offspring of the food-limited rats were lighter, ate less and showed less evidence of anxiety.
"The results suggest that the diet of one generation may affect the next," Prof Paolini said.
It appears to show differences in offspring act differently as a result of their father's experience.
Prof Paolini believes fewer calories could make survival instincts better, make animals less anxious and more adventurous in exploring.
The research could have a major impact for people, with Prof Paolini saying lower levels of anxiety linked to a reduced diet it "raises alarm bells" for long-term potential health consequences with rising obesity levels.
"This generation lives in a world where food is plentiful, something that could have profound implications for future generations and society as a whole."
Men and women trying to conceive should consider their lifestyles including diet, alcohol consumption and smoking, Prof Paolini suggests.