The findings also show that mutations in the germ-line are present in all cells of the children, including their own germ cells. This means that a father's lifestyle has the potential to affect the DNA of multiple generations and not just his immediate offspring.
For this discovery, Roger Godschalk, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Toxicology and the School for Nutrition, Toxicology and Metabolism at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and his colleagues looked at two groups of families (father, mother and child) from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.
The first group had a low yearly income, whereas the second group had a relatively high yearly income. The investigators chose income as a criterion because it generally correlates to lifestyle choices of the parents.
For instance, fathers in the low income group were more often cigarette smokers than fathers in the high income group. Researchers looked for DNA mutations in the children and found that they were more frequent in the group with low income fathers than in the group of high income fathers. These results suggest that the parents living conditions before conception may directly impact the health of their children.
The research has been published in The FASEB Journal.