Children who were born to older dads – between their late 30s and early 50s – may inherit their father’s longevity, a recent study shows.
Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study involved 3,327 women and their children from the Philippines. Researchers from Northwestern University found that the offspring of older fathers possess longer telomeres – structures in the tips of chromosomes which protect from cell damage - which are linked to good health and long life.
According to Dan Eisenberg, the study’s lead author, “Our study shows for the first time that this happens across at least two generations: older fathers not only have offspring with longer telomeres, but their sons also have offspring with longer telomeres.”
The data, which was gathered from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey, compared the length of the telomeres of the children (subjects) against the age of their fathers and grandfathers, and found a relevant link between the two.
Telomeres get shorter with age and eventually die. As such, individuals with longer telomeres naturally have the advantage. As to why older men have longer telomeres, Eisenberg theorizes that it is probably because these components of his sperm also get longer as they mature. He further says that this may be “an adaptive strategy from an evolutionary perspective.”
“If your father and grandfather were able to live and reproduce at a later age, this might predict that you yourself live in an environment that is somewhat similar — an environment with less accidental deaths or in which men are only able to find a partner at later ages,” Eisenberg adds. Nonetheless, more research is required to prove the findings, says Professor Thomas von Zglinicki, a cellular aging research at Newcastle University in the U.K.
On the other hand, waiting too long to have kids also has its disadvantages, as it poses a higher risk of passing on harmful genetic mutations and having children with developmental deficiencies.
Photo by mariacasa from flickr creative commons