Longevity Determined by Paternal Ancestors' Nutrition during Their Slow Growth Period


Social circumstances often impinge on later generations in a socio-economic manner, giving children an uneven start in life. Overfeeding and overeating might not be an exception. The pathways might be complex but one direct mechanism could be genomic imprinting and loss of imprinting. An intergenerational "feedforward" control loop has been proposed, that links grandparental nutrition with the grandchild's growth. The mechanism has been speculated to be a specific response, e.g. to their nutritional state, directly modifying the setting of the gametic imprint on one or more genes. This study raises the question: Can overnutrition during a child's slow growth period trigger such direct mechanisms and partly determine mortality?

Data were collected by following-up a cohort born in 1905 in Överkalix parish, northernmost Sweden. The probands were characterised by their parents' or grandparents' access to food during their own slow growth period. Availability of food in the area was defined by referring to historical data on harvests and food prices, records of local community meetings and general historical facts.

If there was a surfeit of food in the environment when the paternal grandfather was a 9–12 year old boy a shortening of the proband survival could be demonstrated. The influence of parents', maternal grandparents' and paternal grandmothers' access to food during their slow growth period was discounted in a multivariable analysis. The results are indicative of very early programming mechanisms in human adaptation to the social environment.

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Bygren, L.O., Kaati, G. & Edvinsson, S. Longevity Determined by Paternal Ancestors' Nutrition during Their Slow Growth Period. Acta Biotheor 49, 53–59 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1010241825519

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  • Genomic imprinting
  • childhood nutrition
  • off-spring