You Are What Your Dad Ate?

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Does your health depend on what you’re learning at home?I think we can all agree that a mother’s lifestyle before, during, and after her pregnancy can directly affect the short and long term health of the child. However, it seems that the lifestyle dynamics of the father can greatly impact the health of the unborn child too.

New research available from the Maastricht University in the Netherlands discovered that the lifestyle of fathers could cause various gene mutations which could be passed on to future children. This research assessed a large cohort of people as part of the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. The participants were split into two groups based upon income designation. The higher income group was hypothesized to have people who had better lifestyles and the lower income group was hypothesized to have poorer lifestyles and thus be unhealthier.

What the researchers found was that the lower income group was much likelier to smoke relative to the high income group. Hence, the lower income men who had higher rates of smoking showed more gene mutations in accordance with the amount smoked in the six months preceding their significant other’s pregnancy compared to the higher income group.

I think it’s quite important to realize and understand what this study was really about. It was not about the extent to which the effects of a father’s lifestyle dynamics can influence the future health of a child. This research looked at the effects that male smoking had upon gene mutation which could be passed on to the child.

The results of this research are not really new, as it has been known for quite some time the effects of smoking upon genes, sperm production, and function. Although these findings are important, they do not really tell the whole story regarding the role the lifestyle of a parent or parents have upon their children’s relative level of health.

In my opinion, it’s probably more important to look at parental lifestyle choices and the risk of obesity in children, which paints a better picture on the impact a parent’s life choices have on children.

Previous research indicates there are many positive parental health outcomes which can be transmitted to infants. There is a great deal of research that indicates that parental skills, engagement, lifestyle dynamics, and attitudes that are of fundamental importance in the prevention of childhood obesity, the most serious childhood disease of our time.

Of course, there is evidence to conclude that parents’ lifestyles have a direct effect on the health outcomes of their children. Again, I use obesity as a relevant example. It is a well-known fact that if you have parents who are overweight or obese, the risk of their children becoming obese or overweight increases. It is also known that there are obesity genes which can be conferred to the child. However, this genetic link creates a relative degree of tendency to develop obesity, not a certainty. It is also pertinent to understand that lifestyle dynamics greatly influence genetic trait expression. So even if you’re more likely to develop obesity, you can overcome it.

Parents’ lifestyle dynamics greatly influence health behaviors, more importantly through a pattern of learned behaviors which the child then incorporates into their own lives. Parents of obese children are themselves overweight or obese and have a similar but detrimental lifestyle pattern which the children can learn.

In my view, this is where we should be focusing our attention if we want to affect the lives of our children. We should be looking at ourselves and our own behaviors as a future example and influence to our children’s health and well-being.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
“Dad’s lifestyle choices can affect future children,” Huffington Post web site, July 10, 2013; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/10/dad-lifestyle-affects-children-future-dna_n_3530343.html?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living, last accessed July 15, 2013.
Willis, T.A., et al., “Combating child obesity: impact of HENRY on parenting and family lifestyle,” Pediatr Obes. July 2, 2013.
van der Kruk, J.J., et al., “Obesity: a systematic review on parental involvement in long-term European childhood weight control interventions with a nutritional focus,” Obes Rev. June 4, 2013.
Golley, R.K., et al., “Interventions that involve parents to improve children’s weight-related nutrition intake and activity patterns – what nutrition and activity targets and behaviour change techniques are associated with intervention effectiveness?” Obes Rev. February 2011; 12(2): 114-30.

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