A father’s stress may directly affect his son’s health.
In mice, males exposed to repeated psychological stress developed high blood sugar — and so did their unstressed male offspring, researchers report online February 18 in Cell Metabolism. Stress appeared to alter chemical tags on the DNA in a male’s sperm. These epigenetic tweaks were then passed onto male pups, which produced higher levels of blood sugar-generating proteins in their livers than mice sired by unstressed fathers. If the frazzled fathers received daily doses of a drug that blocked stress hormones before mating, their sons’ increased blood sugar was mostly prevented, the team found.
The results call for further exploration of how a father’s experiences or actions — for example, smoking or exposure to toxins — may impact his children’s health, the scientists say.