Fathers Contribute to Health Status of Offspring
Birth defects affects 1 out of every 33 babies born each year in the United States. This means birth defects are real and as much as possible must be prevented.
That’s why medical researchers are on a mission to probe the causes of birth defects. The research findings will eventually pave the way to prevention.
A study conducted by researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center went to extra lengths to better understand the cause of birth defects.
One key finding from the study is that birth defects are linked to the father’s age, alcohol use and environmental factors.
Researchers assert that some defects result from epigenetic alterations that can potentially affect multiple generations.
It’s Not All About the Mother
There is a common notion that only the mother contributes to the health status of their offspring. However, the study, published in the American Journal of Stem Cells, asserts that both parents contribute to the overall health status of their children.
Joanna Kitlinska, PhD, an associate professor in biochemistry, and molecular and cellular biology, said the the hormonal, nutritional and psychological environment provided by the mother permanently alters organ structure, cellular response and gene expression in her offspring.
But this is also true with the father, the study found.
“His lifestyle, and how old he is, can be reflected in molecules that control gene function.” – Dr. Kitlinska
The Nutritional Status of Father Matters too
The study shows that the health of the father also contributes to the health status of their children. In fact, the study points out that paternal obesity is linked to enlarged fat cells, changes in metabolic regulation, diabetes, obesity and development of brain cancer.
Paternal Alcohol Use Can Cause Birth Defects
Alcoholic fathers can negatively impact their offspring. The study explains that a newborn can be diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), even though the mother has never consumed alcohol.
Joanna Kitlinska, PhD. further explains that up to 75 percent of children with FASD have biological fathers who are alcoholics. This suggests that preconceptual paternal alcohol consumption negatively impacts their offspring.
In addition, paternal alcohol use leads to decreased newborn birth weight, marked reduction in overall brain size and impaired cognitive function.
Older Fathers Associated with Birth defects of Children
The study reveals that age of fathers is also associated with birth defects. The study shows that advanced age of a father is correlated with higher rates of autism, schizophrenia and birth defects in his children.