New research has shown that a father’s age, alcohol intake, lifestyle and exposure to environmental pollutants greatly determines the risk of birth defects in his children and grandchildren.

This finding comes from researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center. Birth defects can result from epigenetic alterations to the DNA inside sperm, that can potentially affect multiple generations. Epigenetic means there are changes in the way the DNA inside sperm cells behaves. The study was published in the American Journal of Stem Cells and suggests that both parents contribute to the health status of their children. Something we’ve always known, but science is now proving.

Doctor Joanna Kitlinska is an associate professor in biochemistry, and molecular and cellular biology. She had an interesting comment about these findings: “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. In this way, a father can affect not only his immediate offspring, but future generations as well.” The older a man is, the more time environmental chemicals, alcohol, tobacco, heavy metals, etc. have had time to accumulate in his body and have harmful effects on the DNA of his cells.

According to Dr Kitlinska, a newborn baby can be diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), even though the mother has never consumed any alcohol. “Up to 75 percent of children with FASD have biological fathers who are alcoholics, suggesting that pre-conceptual paternal alcohol consumption negatively impacts their offspring.”

Every parent wants their children to be as healthy as possible. A great deal of emphasis is placed on a woman’s diet while she is pregnant and breastfeeding. This is important, but so too is the diet and lifestyle of both parents long before they decide to have children. The health of your children and their children depends on it.

For more information about optimizing health before conception see our book Infertility: The Hidden Causes, and how to overcome them naturally.