Women who have several children age more slowly according to Canadian researchers.
After extensive DNA testing, academics from Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia found that women with more than one child had longer ‘telomeres’. These are protective tips found at the end of a DNA strand. Longer telomeres are a sign of less ageing at the cellular level.
The long-term study analysed data collected from women in two rural communities in the Central American nation Guatemala. Each woman provided DNA samples which allowed the researchers to measure their telomeres. They were each tested again 13 years later.
In the second round of testing, the telomeres of women who had had several children since the first test had not shortened as much as they had for women with one or no children. The results appear to contradict the previously held notion among scientists that having children causes women to age faster.
SFU health sciences professor Pablo Nepomnaschy was the lead author of the study. He suggested that this trend could be explained by a “dramatic increase in [oestrogen], a hormone produced during pregnancy”, between the first and second tests. Oestrogen is “a potent antioxidant that protects cells against telomere shortening,” he explained.
However, a woman’s social surroundings could also be a factor. The samples they took came from a culture where women who have numerous children “receive more social support from their relatives and friends”, Nepomnaschy said. Ample support can lead to “an increase in the amount of metabolic energy that can be allocated to tissue maintenance”. This could “[slow] down the process of aging”, he suggested.
The full results of the SFU study can be found here.