Common vices of men and the health of the next generation
Paternal traits, such as advanced age, smoking and stress, can ‘programme’ changes in offspring, leading to an increased risk of neurological, behavioural and/or metabolic disease in later life.
In this review, Fullston et al. have focused on the impact of the three most prevalent vices among men (alcohol consumption, overweight/obesity and tobacco smoking), which are leading risk factors for death and disability adjusted life years worldwide. They have examined their effect on the function and molecular composition of sperm as well as longer term offspring health.
They have also highlighted prime candidate mechanisms involved in the nongenetic (i.e. epigenetic) paternal transmission of disease risk to the offspring. These include sperm-borne microRNAs, which are transferred to the oocyte upon fertilisation, where they alter gene expression in the early embryo, as well as sperm oxidative DNA damage characterised by 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine oxidative lesions. Importantly, both sperm microRNA content and an imbalance in reactive oxygen species leading to oxidative stress occur as a result of male alcohol consumption, overweight/obesity and smoking.
This review emphasises the importance of understanding the molecular changes in sperm as a result of paternal exposure, as well as the effectiveness of preconception dietary and lifestyle interventions, for improving sperm quality and offspring health.
Read the full article in Journal of Endocrinology 234 F1–F6.