Washington D.C. – The paternal environment in terms of nutrition and hormones, as well as their age and psychological health, affect their babies more than previously thought. In fact, all this can have a huge impact both on their immediate offspring and future generations, which leads experts to say that fathers must have a healthy life just as mothers if they want to have healthy children, according to a study published in the American Journal of Stem Cells.
Researchers at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., are warning men who want to become fathers that their age, health condition, and lifestyle choices are as important as the same factors in prospective mothers. Children whose fathers are over the age of 40 are at a higher risk of developing Down’s syndrome, autism, and other conditions.
Men’s advanced age is also linked to schizophrenia and birth defects while fathers’ obesity can cause their children to develop enlarged cells and changes in metabolic regulation. Moreover, psychosocial stress in fathers is linked to behavioral problems in offspring.
The study authors, who reviewed more than 50 studies into the effects of a father’s overall health conditions and lifestyle on his child’s health, found that drinking problems can negatively affect any baby he conceives. Newborns may suffer from decreased birth weight and reduction in brain size.
Babies whose fathers are heavy drinkers are also at a higher risk of developing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which leads to attention problems, poor coordination, and hyperactivity. A child can be diagnosed with this condition even if the mother has never consumed alcohol.
“We know the nutritional, hormonal and psychological environment provided by the mother permanently alters organ structure, cellular response and gene expression in her offspring,” said study author Dr. Janna Kitlinska. “But our study shows the same thing to be true with fathers — his lifestyle, and how old he is, can be reflected in molecules that control gene function.”
Further research: focus on interplay between both parents’ effects and prevention
An associate professor of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology at Georgetown University, Dr. Kitlinska said in a press release that researchers need to organize the new findings in order to be able to issue clinical recommendations and lifestyle alternations, according to a report by The Telegraph.
Regarding the gaps in previous studies, she noted that experts need to look at the combination of paternal and maternal effects, rather than studying each one in isolation. She also said that the studies her team reviewed do not determine that fathers’ poor health conditions always cause defects and disabilities in offspring, although there is a link.
The study authors remarked the importance of focusing further research on prevention methods with clinical applications, aside from the focus on understanding the links.
Source: The Telegraph