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Grandfathers’ age linked to autism in grandchildren

Men who fathered children after age 50 may be nearly twice as likely to have a grandchild with autism compared with men who had children in their 20s, according to a study based on Swedish health data. The study is the first to suggest that the risk for autism may build over multiple generations.

Researchers in London, Sweden, and Australia compared the ages of maternal and paternal grandfathers for nearly 6,000 people with autism to the ages of grandparents of more than 30,000 healthy people who were born in Sweden since 1932. They found that the older the grandfather was at the time he had a son or daughter, the more likely the grandchild had autism. The increased risk remained regardless of the age of the child’s mother and father. However, the overall incidence of autism among the grandchildren was small, the researchers noted.

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Previous studies have suggested that older paternal age may play a role in a child’s risk of autism. This study suggests that, in some cases, the genetic risk may develop over generations.

BOTTOM LINE: Men who fathered children after age 50 may be nearly twice as likely to have a grandchild with autism than men who had children in their 20s.

CAUTIONS: The study found an association between the grandfather’s age and the grandchild’s chance of having autism and does not suggest that one factor causes the other.

WHERE TO FIND IT: JAMA Psychiatry, March 20

Fit doctors more likely to advise their patients to exercise, study finds

Doctors who routinely exercise are more likely to advise their patients to do the same compared with doctors who don’t exercise, according to a study by researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers reviewed 28 studies looking at the physical activity levels of doctors and how they counseled their patients. Most of the studies found that the doctors who exercised were between two to five times more likely to advise their patients on ways to lead an active lifestyle than inactive doctors.

The researchers also found that when doctors increased their amount of physical activity, they felt more confident and were more likely to advise their patients to be active.

Since many patients listen to lifestyle advice from their doctors, the findings suggest that doctors who have an active lifestyle are more likely to have patients who are also active, according to the researchers.

BOTTOM LINE: Doctors who routinely exercise are more likely to advise their patients to do the same compared with doctors who don’t exercise.

CAUTION: The preliminary findings were presented at a meeting; the study has not been peer reviewed or published in a medical journal.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Presented at American Heart Association Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions, March 22

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