If you are a young person and considering having children, we might have more reason to be sure that you are adhering to a diet and exercise program. A rather new field called epigenetic processes is uncovering interesting facts about how we send genetic signals to our children. We always knew of the correlation between the health of the mother during pregnancy and the baby’s health, but we are finding genetic signals the father is sending also have great significance. And they go deeper than we have ever thought.
A recent Australian study has found that obese fathers will not only raise the risk of obesity for their children, but also the grandchildren. Further examples in the study also found an increased risk of developing type II diabetes in both male and female offspring, and this apparently can be passed along by either parent. Folate deficiency in fathers resulted in a 30% higher risk of birth defects. Folate is the necessary ingredient for overall neurological health, which includes learning, memory and cognitive skills.
All of these findings show a significant effect on the father’s nutritional status for the unborn child. It is now thought that the father’s health possibly can have more bearing on the child’s health than the mothers in some instances. This is definitely new ground in understanding how health choices of parents significantly affect their children and their grandchildren.
Since we now know that the human genes are malleable and can be influenced and shaped by the environment along with thoughts and emotions, we also know that they can be affected in positive ways. Every person has the power to make alterations in their genetic expression by the lifestyles they lead. Those dietary and environmental choices if they are the right ones can give extra protection against potential health problems of their children.
Probably the most obvious target for poor health is when it comes to obesity. Obesity rates in the United States and around the world are growing by leaps and bounds, but they are also growing at alarming rates with children. If we as a society don’t do something to reverse this trend those “fat genes” will be passed on to future generations, making it ever more difficult to reverse the trend of overweight people.
A greater understanding of epigenetics should shed more light on how important wise lifestyle choices of both parents are. Certainly it is going to be impossible to control every factor that goes into your children’s health. But we now understand that there are more factors under our control than we had ever previously thought. No longer can people entirely dismiss health issues that our children are having as bad luck or God’s will. In the United States our infant mortality rates are some of the worst in any developed country. Through education and understanding all future parents have the ability to turn those horrible numbers into something that is at the very minimum more in line with the rest of the world.