Men, Start Smoking Before Age 11? Your Future Sons May be Obese

We all know we need to quit smoking.  But now here's a new really good one.  Young male smokers may raise obesity risk in sons they may have in the future.

Men who start smoking before the age of 11 risk having sons who are overweight, British researchers have found, adding to evidence that lifestyle factors even in childhood can affect the health of future offspring, writes Kate Kelland at Reuters.

"The scientists said the findings, part of ongoing work in a larger 'Children of the 90s' study, could indicate that exposure to tobacco smoke before the start of puberty in men may lead to metabolic changes in the next generation," she reports.

Worldwide, almost one billion men smoke - about 35 percent of men in developed countries and 50 percent in developing ones, according to the World Health Organization.

While previous studies in animals and in people have found some transgenerational health impacts, the evidence so far is limited. It points, however, to epigenetics - a process where lifestyle and environmental factors can turn certain genes on or off - having an effect on the health of descendants, Kelland explains.

Looking at the next generation, researchers found that at age 13, 15 and 17, the sons of men who started smoking before 11 had the highest Body Mass Index scores compared with the sons of men who had started smoking later or who had never smoked.

Although it was there, the effect was not seen to the same degree in daughters.

Researchers are hesitant to say this is conclusively true, but they've seen enough evidence to think it very well could be.


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