Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant often hear warnings about how their age and lifestyle might affect their children. According to new research published in the American Journal of Stem Cells, fathers’ drinking habits, age, and lifestyle may contribute to birth defects.
Previous research has shown a mother’s lifestyle, including her nutritional status, psychological well-being, hormonal profile, and other factors, can produce permanent changes that alter the behavior of genes and cells in her child. The latest research shows fathers play a similar role, suggesting would-be fathers should cultivate their physical and mental health as carefully as mothers do.
Fathers Can Reduce Birth Defects, Too
The study reviewed previous data on the role of fathers’ preconception health in subsequent offspring outcomes. The report found a number of correlations between fathers’ choices and their children’s health.fetal alcohol syndrome—a cluster of symptoms that can impede psychological and physical development—had fathers with an addiction to alcohol. Even children of mothers who never drank during pregnancy may develop fetal alcohol syndrome, pointing to the important role of fathers’ lifestyle choices. Paternal alcohol consumption was also linked to low birth weight and a reduction in both brain size and cognitive abilities.
The study also found a link between older fathers and children with schizophrenia, birth defects, and autism. Specifically, at age 25 the risk of schizophrenia increases with each five-year age increment. Children of fathers older than 45 faced the greatest risk. Fathers who experienced psychosocial stress also were linked to fathering children with behavioral issues.
Fathers who ate limited diets in childhood were more likely to have children and grandchildren with a reduced risk of cardiovascular death. Conversely, obese fathers were more likely to have children with enlarged fat cells, metabolic dysfunction, obesity, diabetes, and brain cancer.
- Day, J., Sovani, S., Krempley, B. D., Nguyen, M., & Kitlinska, J. B. (2016). Influence of paternal preconception exposures on their offspring: Through epigenetics to phenotype. American Journal of Stem Cells, 5(1), 11-18.
- Father’s age and lifestyle associated with birth defects, review reports. (2016, May 15). Retrieved from http://neurosciencenews.com/father-age-birth-defects-epigenetics-4242/
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