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Child Smokers End up Having Fatter Sons

Update Date: Apr 02, 2014 09:36 AM EDT

Smoking can lead to several health problems for both the smoker and the surrounding people. In a new study, researchers set out to examine the potential effects that smoking might have on one's future children. The researcher reported that smokers who started the habit before the age of 11 tended to have fatter sons.

For this study, the team examined data on 9,886 fathers from the Children of the 90s study conducted at the University of Bristol. 54 percent, or 5,376, of the fathers were smokers at some point in their lives. Out of these smokers, three percent, or 166, stated that they had started smoked regularly before they turned 11-years-old. The researchers then examined the offspring of this sample set during the ages of 13, 15 and 17.

The researchers compared the body mass indexes (BMI) of the children born to fathers who smoked before the age of 11 to the BMIs of children born to fathers who smoked after the age of 11. BMI is a measurement of obesity and calculates weight in relation to height. The team found that the children from the first group had BMIs that were higher than the latter group at all three age points. Children from the first group also had BMIs that were higher than children with non-smoking fathers.

The fathers' smoking age had no effects on daughters' BMIs. The researchers reasoned that the BMI differences in the children could be tied to their fathers' puberty. Smoking regularly before puberty could have caused changes in the body that could be tied to metabolic changes in their children.

"This discovery of trans-generational effects has big implications for research into the current rise in obesity and the evaluation of preventative measures. It is no longer acceptable to just study lifestyle factors in one generation. We are probably missing a trick with respect to understanding several common diseases of public health concern by ignoring the possible effects of previous generation," senior author, Professor Marcus Pembrey, said.

The study was published in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

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