Study Suggests Having More Children Could Protect Against Aging!
A recent study has found that in some circumstances, increased reproduction may protect the cells of the mother from aging. The findings were published in PLOS ONE and we summarize the results for you below.
Biological aging, which is known as senescence, refers to the steady deterioration of living tissue which is caused by the natural degradation of genetic material. According to this new study, the effect of reproduction may positively affect the process of aging by limiting the degradation of human DNA. The authors explain how telomeres were found to be longer in the participants who had had more children. Telomeres are defined as DNA particles situated at the ends of chromosomes. They act as a protective layer for the genetic information contained on the chromosome. They prevent the chromosomes from engaging in reactions with other material and becoming warped.
These telomeres slightly shorted whenever a cell divides until they are no longer able to function. As this occurs, the cells that contain these chromosomes are not able to further divide and thus cause the tissue to die. This is to say that the length of the telomere is an important marker of senescence.
In order to conduct the study, the researchers collected data from 95 Guatemalan women. All of them were from rural Kaqchikel Mayan communities. The data were first collected in 2000 as a part of the Society, Environment and Reproduction study, and it contained information about the length of the women’s telomeres. After 13 years, the researches collected genetic samples from the same group of women, before cross referencing changes in telomere length with the number of children each woman gave birth to. Unpredictably, they found out that those women who had the most children had longer telomeres.
This finding contradicts some pre-existing theories which claim that reproduction speeds up aging, since childbirth and child-rearing involve significant amounts of energy which leaves less availability for tissue maintenance. In order to explain this contradictory findings, the authors stated that the limited damage to telomeres caused by childbirth may be due to the steroid estradiol, which has an antioxidant effect, protection telomeres from the so called oxidative stress. This is possibly caused by highly sensitive molecules, known as oxygen species, even though dramatic increases in estradiol helps mitigate the negative effect of these molecules.
In addition, the researchers suggest that the social structure of their target communities may play an important role in the outcome of the study. Within Kaqchikel Mayan villages, women who have more children tend to accumulate greater social status and therefore obtain more communal assistance and welfare. Therefore, they are required to spend less energy, meaning that more energy would remain available for tissue maintenance. As a consequence, the researchers are keen to stress that the findings may not apply to all women worldwide, and are therefore calling for similar studies to be conducted in different ethnic groups, in order to confirm the accuracy of the findings.