A father’s lifestyle prior to the birth of their children can affect the latter as well as subsequent generations, according to a review paper published in American Journal of Stem Cells.
More and more studies are indicating that a father’s lifestyle pertaining to his consumption of alcohol together with environmental factors are potentially linked with birth defects in their children. According to the new study, this might be the result of epigenetic alterations, that affect not only in his children, but also the subsequent generations.
While the argument that parents affect the health of their children might seem logical, science has been uncovering this link only recently, says senior author, Joanna Kitlinska. According to her, the “nutritional, hormonal and psychological environment” catered for by the mother will cause permanent modifications in the child, for example in his organ structure. The new information that her team has found out, though, involves the father. The latter’s age and lifestyle generate effects on molecules regulating genes such that future generations might thus inherit them.
We often hear of how alcoholic mothers, as opposed to fathers, pose a danger to their children in terms of birth defects. This study, however, points at how a baby can have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) even if the mother did not consume alcohol. Kitlinska explains that, in fact, around three-quarter of the cases of kids with FASD have fathers who are alcoholics, thereby suggesting that alcohol consumption among fathers prior to conception can negatively affect the baby. Paternal consumption of alcohol is also linked with lower birth weight in newborns. This can also lead to smaller brain size and impaired cognition.
The age of the mother affecting the child’s development is also common knowledge. The paper, on the other hand, explains that the same can be said for the father. Advanced age of a father is linked with conditions like schizophrenia and autism, and even birth defects in the newborns.
Also, obesity in fathers is linked with enlarged fat cells, metabolic problems, diabetes, obesity, as well as brain cancer in children. The offspring can also suffer from defective behavioural characteristics if the father endured psychosocial stress.
Thankfully, the effects are not all gloomy. For instance, limited diet in pre-adolescence among fathers has been linked with a lower risk of cardiovascular death in both their children and grandchildren.
To conclude, Kitlinska says that inherited paternal epigenetics should be arranged into “clinically applicable recommendations“.