According research conducted in the Philippines, children born to older fathers tend to have longer telomeres, which protect chromosomes from age-related damage:
Dr Dan Eisenberg and colleagues from the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University studied telomere inheritance in a group of young people living in the Philippines.
Telomeres, measured in blood samples, were longer in individuals whose fathers were older when they were born.
The telomere lengthening seen with each year that the men delayed fatherhood was equal to the yearly shortening of telomere length that occurs in middle-aged adults.
Telomere lengthening was even greater if the child’s paternal grandfather had also been older when he became a father.
Although delaying fatherhood increases the risk of miscarriage, the researchers believe there may be long-term health benefits.
Inheriting longer telomeres will be particularly beneficial for tissues and biological functions that involve rapid cell growth and turnover – such as the immune system, gut and skin – the scientists believe.
And it could have significant implications for general population health.
“As paternal ancestors delay reproduction, longer telomere length will be passed to offspring, which could allow lifespan to be extended as populations survive to reproduce at older ages.”
So it looks as though men’s reproductive fitness actually improves with age in at least one measure. This means that men who delay fatherhood until later in life are not necessarily doing their children a disservice, and may be contributing to the longevity of future generations.