A Father's Role Might Be More Important Than You Think To a Babies Health

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Everyone has know, for a long time, that what the mother does during her pregnancy can affect her baby's health, such as smoking or drinking alcohol. But an ongoing research has suggested that a man's diet and age may also contribute to mental illness, birth defexts, autism, and other problems that can develop in their children.


Joanna Kitlinska, PhD, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular & cellular biology at Georgetown University, looked at dozens of studies on dads' and children’s health. The research suggests “that paternal age, lifestyle, and certain exposures can have an impact on children,” she says. And here is how: unhealthy lifestyle habits and age can cause changes to occur in a man's genes. Although scientists don’t yet fully understand how this happens, the changes are then passed on to his kids and perhaps even his grandchildren. For example, a man’s obesity may affect his genes in a way that makes his children more likely to be obese. Or tobacco smoke may damage a man’s sperm, allowing it to pass on potentially harmful genes to his children.

In one study that Kitlinska’s team reviewed, children whose fathers were over 40 had a much higher risk of autism compared to those with fathers under 30. Other large studies backed up this finding. Older fathers also tend to have children who are more likely to get schizophrenia.

In these studies, only a link between the two was shown, they didn't exactly prove that one causes the other. The mother's health will obviously have a much stronger impact on the child than the father, but this study could be the beginning of much larger research. Absolute risks of birth defects and other issues remain low for any one child.

“These findings emphasize the fact that the interplay between nature and nurture -- genetics and the environment -- are far more complex than previously appreciated,” says Andrew Adesman, MD, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York.




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