Objective: Fathers of low-birth weight offspring are more likely to have type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in later life. We investigated whether paternal insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk factors were evident at the time that fetal growth-restricted offspring were born.
Research design and methods: We carried out a case-control study of men who fathered pregnancies affected by fetal growth restriction, in the absence of recognized fetal disease (n = 42), compared with men who fathered normal-birth weight offspring (n = 77). All mothers were healthy, nonsmoking, and similar in age, BMI, ethnicity, and parity. Within 4 weeks of offspring birth, all fathers had measures of insulin resistance (HOMA index), blood pressure, waist circumference, endothelial function (flow-mediated dilatation), lipid profile, weight, and smoking habit. Comparison was made using multivariable logistical regression analysis.
Results: Fathers of fetal growth-restricted offspring [mean (SD) 1.8th (2.2) customized birth centile] were more likely to have insulin resistance, hypertension, central adiposity, and endothelial dysfunction and to smoke cigarettes compared with fathers of normal grown offspring. After multivariable analysis, paternal insulin resistance and smoking remained different between the groups. Compared with fathers of normal grown offspring, men who fathered pregnancies affected by fetal growth restriction had an OR 7.68 (95% CI 2.63-22.40; P < 0.0001) of having a 1-unit higher log HOMA-IR value and 3.39 (1.26-9.16; P = 0.016) of being a smoker.
Conclusions: Men who recently fathered growth-restricted offspring have preclinical evidence of the insulin resistance syndrome and are more likely to smoke than fathers of normal grown offspring. Paternal lifestyle may influence heritable factors important for fetal growth.