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3 ways your dad's genes are influencing your life

Genetics studies reveal unexpected ways dad's genes influence their kids

It's basic biology – about half of your genes come from mom. The other half comes from dad. Each copy is called an allele.

But that's not the whole story...

Just because two copies of each gene are there doesn't mean they're both expressed. Genes get turned "on" and "off" by the environment – which includes lifestyle habits.

In many mammals, the genes that come from the father are the more dominant.

54 - 60%

A 2015 study found that the paternal allele was more highly expressed in 54 to 60 percent of genes in mice.

Nature

Here are a few ways your dad's lifestyle can persist in his genes. These changes can be passed down to you.

Dad genes influence white fat levels in the body, a 2018 mouse study found.

The body has more than one type of fat. Brown fat is metabolically active. It burns calories and creates body heat.

White fat stores energy.

That 2018 study showed that, for genes related to white fat production, the paternal allele is expressed more often.

"It is in the interest of our father to make us strong and endow us with enough energy resources, so that is to favor white fat development."

– The study's lead author Jan-Wilhelm Kornfeld at the University of Southern Denmark.

A dad's exercise routine can also affect their future child's brain, a 2019 mouse study found.

Mouse dads who exercised were better at memory tests. They also expressed different genes in the hippocampus, an area of the brain related to learning and memory, than sedentary mice.

Their sedentary children also had different patterns of gene expression in the hippocampus.

“All this has led to the litters to have inherited the greater capacity of learning and memory of the running parents.”

- José Luis Trejo, a cell biologist at the Cajal Institute in Madrid.

A father's smoking habit can also reshape a child's DNA

A 2018 mouse study showed that these changes can persist for one or more generations.

When male mice were exposed to nicotine, their offspring developed hyperactivity, attention deficit, and cognitive inflexibility.

Their grandchildren also showed cognitive inflexibility but to a lesser degree.

Maternal smoking has also been linked to ADHD development in kids. This study and others suggest both parents' habits are an influence.

“Our study shows that paternal nicotine exposure can be deleterious [cause harm] for the offspring in multiple generations."

- Pradeep Bhide, Ph.D., director of the Center for Brain Repair at the Florida State University College of Medicine

Ultimately, a father's habits can affect their future kids.

Even in invisible, biological ways.

Nick Dolding/Getty

Ahead of Father's Day, Inverse is sharing a week's worth of all-new explorations of Dad Science. To read more, click here.

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