Fellas, scientists are handing you another reason to quit smoking: your unborn babies may not cross your mind when you’re lighting up, but new research suggests that asthma is three times more common in babies whose dads picked up smoking at a young age.
How early a man picks up smoking and how many years he spends smoking before conception are major factors in increasing babies’ risk of early-onset asthma, the doctors out of the University of Bergen say.
“Offspring with a father who smoked only prior to conception had over three times more early-onset asthma than those whose father had never smoked,” Dr. Cecilie Svanes, out of the Norwegian university’s department of global public health, said in a statement.
“The greatest increased risk for their children having asthma was found for fathers having their smoking debut before age 15,” Svanes warned.
The study is based on the health data of more than 24,000 offspring. Paternal health is a burgeoning field of research for scientists – before, the focus was set on mom’s well-being and how it affected baby’s health outcomes but now the spotlight is on dads.
When it came to moms, the Norwegian scientists found that if moms smoked around pregnancy, their kids were more likely to develop asthma, too. These findings are consistent with past studies.
But there was “no effect” from maternal smoking right before conception. The researchers guess that with dads, the effects of smoking seep into sperm cells.
“Smoking is known to cause genetic and epigenetic damage to spermatozoa, which are transmissible to offspring and have the potential to induce developmental abnormalities,” Svanes explained.
A father’s lifestyle appears to shape his kids’ genes in many ways.
Over the summer, Georgetown University doctors warned that baby girls conceived when their fathers are overweight could face a 30 per cent higher risk of developing breast cancer later on in life.
READ MORE: How fatherhood changes a man’s brain
Last year, McGill University scientists said that daddy’s diet is critical to a baby’s healthy development.
That study urged men to load up on folic acid, found in leafy greens, such as spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and some meats and fortified cereals.
Svanes’ full findings were published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.