Men who become fathers at a more advanced age may be passing on a genetic advantage that helps their offspring live longer, says a new study published in the June 2012 issue of PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
One of the causes of aging is the shortening of telomeres, which are repeating DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes that protect and buffer genes from nucleotide loss during cell division. As we age, most of our telomeres become shorter.
However, telomere length actually increases on sperm as men age. Thus, the older a man is when his child is conceived, the longer the telomere on the sperm that he contributes to the gene pool of that baby. The longer your telomeres are to begin with, the longer you are likely to live.
In this study, researchers gathered and analyzed data from nearly 1,800 young adults and their mothers in the Philippines. Children both with older fathers and with older paternal grandfathers had longer telomeres.
As lead author Dan Eisenberg says on Medical News Today:
“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 … In such an environment, investing more in a body capable of reaching these late ages could be an adaptive strategy from an evolutionary perspective.”
As the researchers concluded, delaying fatherhood is one way in which people could “extend late-life function.”
However, being an older father is not without risks. Women whose partners are older are at an increased risk for miscarriage due to genetic failures in the growing fetus. Babies born to older fathers are also at an increased risk for certain health problems.
The authors of this study finally state that more research needs to be done on older fathers have children who may live longer.
Would you consider delaying fatherhood to help your children live longer?