Previous research has claimed that men who wait until they’re older to have children are at increased risk of having children with birth defects, but that may not be the case. New research claims older dads may pass along longer telomeres. Those longer telomeres could mean living longer lives – for more than one generation. It appears that the children and grandchildren of men who become fathers between the late 30s and early 50s live longer lives than children born to younger dads.
What are telomeres?
At the end of a chromosome is a protective barrier called the telomere. The telomere holds multiple DNA sequences. In addition to providing chromosome protection, the telomere also prevents the chromosome from bonding with other chromosomes. Women naturally have longer telomeres than men, which is likely why women have naturally longer life spans.
Why do longer telomeres matter?
Researchers from Northwestern University, led by Dan T.A. Eisenberg, have connected longer telomeres with slower aging and if children and grandchildren age more slowly, they are more apt to live longer. The study involved pulling data from a previous study out of the Philippines. Researchers not only found that telomere length for the first generation offspring was longer but the length of the telomeres at birth is longer for multiple generations. That means that grandchildren of older fathers also benefit from a potentially longer life span.
According to the lead author, Dan Eisenberg, these findings conflict with other research studies, so researchers are not sure of the “net effect” of waiting to have children. What we do know is that the average age for men when their first child is born is 25. If research supports older fathers conceiving children who live longer, we may see an influx of baby boomer babies in the future.
Source: Dan T.A. Eisenberg, M. Geoffrey Hayes, Christopher W. Kuzawa. Northwestern University. May 11, 2012.