Are Children Healthier When They Have Older Grandfathers?
A new study has found that older grandfathers may end up having healthier grandchildren. This study observed over 2,000 men who were between the ages of 15 and 43 when their children were born. The researchers analyzed the length of the telomeres (the strands at the end of our chromosomes).
They found that children with older fathers were born with longer telomeres. Longer telomeres were reportedly passed down to their grandchildren as well. Previous studies have shown a correlation between telomere length and overall health.
The results of this study were surprising to many researchers. They contradict previous studies which suggest older fathers are more likely to have children with a variety of mental health problems.
However, much more research needs to be completed before a connection can be drawn. According to researcher Dan T.A. Eisenberg, a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern, the study only drew a connection between the men’s age and the telomere length of his children and grandchildren. Researchers are operating under the premise that longer telomeres are always correlated with health. Future studies will need to be conducted to determine whether or not that is true. Eisenberg said that is the next step.
Carol Greider is a researcher with John Hopkins. She was awarded the Nobel Prize three years ago for her work in telomere research. She said that the findings of the study are not surprising. However, she also said that it is unwise to place too much emphasis on this one variable.
Greider reminds her colleagues that older men are more likely to pass a number of other dangerous mutations along to their children as well. Even if connections between telomere length and health can be found, that does not mean that older fathers invariably have healthier children and grandchildren.
Researchers argue that they will also have to consider previous studies which drew a link between older fathers and the likelihood a child would develop autism. A European study was conducted in 2008 which found that older fathers were more likely to have children with bipolar disorder. The correlation was very low, so researchers didn’t want to discourage older fathers from having children based on their findings.
However, two more recent studies also found that older fathers were more likely to have children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. The studies found that the likelihood of children developing disorders in the autistic spectrum was higher when the father was significantly older than the mother.
[box type="important"]Although the new study was encouraging, it also needs to be taken with a grain of salt. As researchers pointed out, there are more studies that contradict the findings and new research will need to be completed before a connection can be drawn.[/box]