A new study from researchers at Indiana University in Bloomington, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, suggests that the children of older fathers may be more at risk of developing psychiatric problems than children of younger fathers.
Previous studies have indicated that “advancing paternal age” (APA) at childbearing is associated with increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as academic and intellectual problems.
More recent genetic studies have claimed that the age of the father at conception is linked to the likelihood of “de novo mutations” developing in their children. De novo mutations are when a gene becomes present in a family for the first time as the result of a mutation in the egg or sperm from one of the parents.
The new study compared siblings born in Sweden over a 28-year period. They found that children born to fathers 45 years or older were at higher risk of developing all of these problems, compared with their siblings who were born when their fathers were between 20 and 24 years old.
Sperm mutation rates have been steadily rising over the past sixty years. Sperm health is measured by three parameters – mobility (are they good swimmers?), morphology (how are they shaped?) and DNA fragmentation (if the DNA is fragmented, then the sperm is damaged).
When Watson and Crick unraveled the structure of DNA in 1953, sperm were used in the studies. It contained half the genetic material of other cells and was therefore easier to work with. DNA fragmentation levels were at 50% in healthy males. Today, a male is considered healthy if only 96% of his sperm have fragmented DNA. This leaves less than four percent to produce a healthy offspring! This dramatic drop in healthy sperm took only 60 years of environmental pollution and it is ongoing. The healthy number was 95% just a few years ago.
As we age, the toll from environmental factors builds. Exposure to radiation, especially from plane travel is thought to be a major factor in the decline of healthy sperm. The accumulation of toxins from pesticides and exogenous hormones has also been implicated in this problem.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Men, if you are considering fathering children, have a sperm count performed. If your DNA fragmentation rates are high, seek the help of a qualified nutritionist. There are several herbal supplements that have shown to reduce DNA fragmentation in as little as three months.