Staff author: Adilia S.
In the past few years there have been a wide range of studies showing that advanced father’s age can greatly impact physical health of his children.
American scientists have found that children of older fathers have a greater risk of birth defects. Such defects are mostly provoked by epigenetic changes and can be passed to next generations, Science Daily reports.
Epigenetic changes are natural gene alterations but they can also be caused by lifestyle habits and the environment. Smoking, drinking, and recreational drugs can lower the quality of father’s sperm and influence gene expression.
Older Paternal Age
The chief author of the research, Joanna Kitlinska, an expert in the field of biochemistry from Georgetown University, believes that advanced paternal age and father’s preconception behavior have long lasting effect on his future child.
Lifestyle factors impact the expression of genes, moreover, such harmful changes could be passed to next generations. The good news is that most of the harm is recoverable. Healthy habits allow new, healthy sperm to be produced while the sperm with abnormal DNA dies out.
It also turned out that a newborn may have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), even if his mother has never drunk alcohol. Kitlinska states that 75% of children with FAS are born from an alcoholic male parent.
FASD includes physical, mental and behavioral problems with possible lifelong implications.
The statistics show that:
- Older dads’ kids are more likely to have learning disabilities, bipolar disorder, and other congenital disorders;
- Dieting in younger age reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death in his kids and future generations;
- Parental obesity leads to an increased number of fat cells, changes in metabolism, predisposition to diabetes, overweight and brain tumor;
- Father’s psychosocial stress cause abnormal behavioral patterns in his kids;
- Parental alcoholism leads to the insufficient weight of the newborn, reduced mental capacities.
Despite the fact that the health of the mother is also very important for the future baby, children of older moms are better educated and healthier than their younger siblings from the same father. It may be because women are born with their eggs unlike men, who produce new sperm daily throughout most of their lifetime. Therefore, men’s lifestyle directly affects the quality of sperm.
Some British scientists have even suggested that men should freeze their sperm in their 20s for future use. The studies confirm that the sperm of older men have more harmful mutations than in younger males. They say that aging sperm can cause problems in future as modern western men are more likely to delay fatherhood. Men who consider having children later in life will be wise to take steps to create a reserve of healthy sperm.
Kitlinska says they plan to conduct further research to understand the nature and causes of the epigenetic changes. The scientists hope to create a list of recommendations for the future parents to understand how their behavioral patterns may influence future health of their children.