Barbara Boucher, of the University of London, and colleagues in Taiwan say that men who chewed betel nuts had children who were prone to develop 'metabolic syndrome', suffering obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. This was true even when they did not chew betel nuts.
Prof Marcus Pembrey, of University College, London said that earlier studies had shown that in mice even a few days of betel chewing conferred diabetes and obesity on their children. 'We have to think of previous generations when it comes to the obesity epidemic,' Prof Pembrey told the Cheltenham Science Festival. 'Dr Boucher has found that betel nut chewing of the father leads to earlier onset of the metabolic syndrome in the offspring. What is so exciting is that it looks as if we are getting a coherent picture.'
Similar findings were in evidence in another study of 5,000 fathers in Bristol University's Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. All participants were or had been smokers. 'Betel nut and tobacco are similar,' he said. 'This is replication of our findings with smoking.'