Paternal Grandfather’s Access to Food Predicts All-Cause and Cancer Mortality in Grandsons Interview with:

Denny Vågerö  PhD MSc CHESS, Centre for Health Equity Studies Department of Public Health Sciences Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

Dr. Vågerö

Denny Vågerö  PhD MSc
CHESS, Centre for Health Equity Studies
Department of Public Health Sciences
Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Transgenerational, epigenetic, response, has been shown in studies of animals and plants. Does it apply to humans?

Previous findings of associations between grandparents early nutrition and grandchildren’s mortality have been controversial.  Two reasons for this: evidence in human studies has been based on rather small numbers and potential mechanisms are not very well understood.

We have tested the hypothesis that there is “a male line transgenerational response” to nutritional events in pre-puberty in a study much larger than previous ones.

We find support for this hypothesis in that boys who enjoyed unusually good access to food during their “slow growth period” (aged 9-12 years) seem to transmit a mortality risk on their grandsons but not granddaughters, in particular for cancer. What should readers take away from your report?

 Response: The finding of an association across generations is solid, not due to confounding, we believe. The interpretation is not obvious. Whatever the mechanism, it seems possible that children’s over-eating may have consequences in the next generations. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Epidemiologists and molecular biologists need to work together to find out possible mechanisms for the observed transgenerational response. Are male germ cells particularly sensitive to environmental influence just before puberty? And historians need to alert us to historical events that might shape human fate for generations,  also via epigenetic influences.


Paternal grandfather’s access to food predicts all-cause and cancer mortality in grandsons
Denny Vågerö, Pia R. Pinger, Vanda Aronsson & Gerard J. van den Berg

Nature Communications volume 9, Article number: 5124 (2018)


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