ScienceDaily. Published online: 15 May 2016.
A growing body of research is revealing associations between birth defects and a father’s age, alcohol use and environmental factors, say researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center. They say these defects result from epigenetic alterations that can potentially affect multiple generations.
The study, published in the American Journal of Stem Cells, suggest both parents contribute to the health status of their offspring — a common sense conclusion which science is only now beginning to demonstrate, says the study’s senior investigator, Joanna Kitlinska, PhD, an associate professor in biochemistry, and molecular and cellular biology.
The report is a review of evidence, human and animal, published to date on the link between fathers and heritable epigenetic programming.
Among the studies reviewed are ones that find:
- Advanced age of a father is correlated with elevated rates of schizophrenia, autism, and birth defects in his children;
- A limited diet during a father’s pre-adolescence has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular death in his children and grandchildren;
- Paternal obesity is linked to enlarged fat cells, changes in metabolic regulation, diabetes, obesity and development of brain cancer;
- Psychosocial stress on the father is linked to defective behavioral traits in his offspring; and
- Paternal alcohol use leads to decreased newborn birth weight, marked reduction in overall brain size and impaired cognitive function.
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