We have all heard that a mother’s choices during pregnancy can affect the growing babies, but now a recent study has shown that a father’s age and lifestyle may be just as important.

A growing body of research is revealing associations between birth defects and a father’s age, alcohol use and environmental factors, said researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center, adding that these defects result from epigenetic alterations that can potentially affect multiple generations.

The study suggests that both parents contribute to the health status of their offspring, a common sense conclusion which science is only now beginning to demonstrate, said senior investigator Joanna Kitlinska.

She said, “We know the nutritional, hormonal and psychological environment provided by the mother permanently alters organ structure, cellular response and gene expression in her offspring, but our study shows the same thing to be true with fathers , his lifestyle and how old he is, can be reflected in molecules that control gene function.

Kitlinska added, “In this way, a father can affect not only his immediate offspring, but future generations as well.”

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.