Good news for women with many children! A new study published this year (January 5) on PLOS ONE suggests that the greater number of children a woman bears, the slower does she age. Apparently, the reason is that those who give birth to more surviving babies have longer telomeres.
Want to slow ageing? Have longer telomeres by having more children!
The ageing process of women is seemingly affected by the number of children she has as researchers from Simon Fraser University have found a link between the latter variable and telomeres which are the protective structures at the end of chromosomes indicating cellular ageing.
Throughout life, the telomere shortens with each DNA replication. Conversely, longer telomeres are associated with more cell replication, and hence, with longevity as well; the more can a cell divide, the more can the life of the individual be sustained.
The experiment: Measuring telomere lengths
The telomeres of the 75 participants from two rural Guatemalan populations were measured two times (with 13 years in between) after taking their salivary samples and buccal swabs.
The results show the women with more kids have longer telomeres. This is the first time such an association has been investigated on a high level.
Lead author health sciences professor Pablo Nepomnaschy says that their findings are in contradiction with the life history theory that stipulates that a greater number of offspring should increase the rate of biological ageing. Explaining this discrepancy, he says that the women’s telomeres might be shortened at a lower rate because of the dramatic rise in hormone oestrogen during pregnancy which is known to act as an antioxidant protecting cells from telomere shortening. He adds that other factors might also be at play: for instance, the women who participated in the study are said to come from “naturally fertility populations” whereby family and friends tend to provide for greater social support for mothers with many kids – this would, in turn, increase metabolic energy to fuel the maintenance of tissues, and leading to slower ageing.
Find the press release on the website of Simon Fraser University.