“Research is showing that a father’s environment, his behavior and even his appearance can have a substantial effect on fetal health — and on the health of his grandchildren.”
He points to a growing body of literature suggesting that fathers can pass on acquired traits. A study in December in the journal Nature Neuroscience, for instance, found that male mice conditioned by electric shocks to fear an arbitrary odor had offspring with the same phobia. A similar study discovered that baby mice born to stressed-out fathers displayed heightened anxiety and depression. Yet another experiment revealed that feeding male mice a high-fat diet before mating set off diabetes-like symptoms in their daughters.
This peculiar form of inheritance stems from alterations in gene expression that occur during an organism’s lifetime, which in turn creep into the germ line. And while it’s trickier to pin them down in people than in lab animals, for obvious reasons (“Would-be parents needed for electrocution/mating study!”), Mr. Raeburn writes that “it might be wise for men who are about to become fathers to think about their health and about what they should be eating even before their wives or partners become pregnant.” Anyway, he adds, “this would be good advice for fathers even if it doesn’t have any beneficial effects on their children.”