A study published last month has found a possible link between men’s lifestyle choices and the health of their children and grandchildren. The study, published in Science, found certain aspects of a father’s lifestyle and environment may affect his baby’s health and development.
Researchers from McGill University in Canada, the University of Basel in Switzerland, and the University of Bristol in the U.K. conducted epidemiological studies to determine if a child’s risk factors are associated with a father’s choices prior to conception. Laboratory studies involving male mice found that a father’s diet, stress levels, and exposure to drugs, alcohol and other toxins are, in fact, linked to his child’s health. This study may help prevent future health problems like cardiovascular disease, according to the study.
The researchers altered the histones (protein signals) in the sperm of male mice and found a higher prevalence of birth defects in the offspring, and even the grandchildren. The study found that histone alteration increased mortality and caused stunted growth in future generations of the mice.
“We didn’t expect these lasting effects across generations from changing a protein in one generation,” Sarah Kimmins, senior author of the study and associate professor of reproductive biology at McGill University, told CBC News. “It’s a completely non-DNA based transmission of this abnormal development.”
To date, most efforts to positively affect a baby’s health have been directed toward the mother and her specific lifestyle choices. However, given this emerging evidence, equal importance should be placed on both parents’ health choices. “It’s another critical piece of information that says we really need to start looking at fathers’ preconception health,” Kimmins added. “And that’s a message that’s really missed in society.”
The study’s findings are significant for all future fathers. The responsibilities of fatherhood may begin long before a child is conceived. To secure a child’s full health potential, it appears that preconception health in both mother and father are essential. As noted by the study, even the following generations can be affected by the lifestyle you live while trying to conceive.
Exactly how unhealthy markers are passed between generations from preconception onward is still unknown. Caution may be the best alternative moving forward for all future fathers out there. What if the lifestyle choices you make today mean placing your future child at greater risk?
Adult males in the U.S. have a life expectancy of approximately 76 years, according to the 2010 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are on the rise — diseases that can often be avoided through the lifestyle choices men make. Could this risk be passed to your children?
Heart disease is the number one killer in America and, according to the American Heart Association’s 2013 statistical report, one in three men have some form of cardiovascular disease. Like many of the other diseases plaguing adult males, heart disease may be avoided or reversed through regular diet and exercise.
You now have one more reason to take back your health and nutrition. Besides benefiting yourself, it could quite possibly benefit your child’s health and, as the study found, extend beyond to several generations.
Do you think a father’s health impacts his child?
Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flair for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.