Having more children slows down aging process, study finds

January 7, 2016
Credit: Robert Kraft/public domain

A study by Simon Fraser University researchers suggests that the number of children born to a woman influences the rate at which her body ages.

The study led by professor Pablo Nepomnaschy and postdoctoral researcher Cindy Barha found that women who give birth to more surviving children exhibited longer telomeres. Telomeres are the protective tips found at the end of each DNA strand and are indicative of cellular aging. Longer telomeres are integral to cell replication and are associated with longevity.

The study assessed the number of children born to 75 women from two neighbouring indigenous rural Guatemalan communities, and their telomere lengths. The participants' telomere lengths were measured at two time points 13 years apart, through salivary specimens and buccal swabs. This is the first study to examine the direct association between the number of children and telomere shortening in humans over time.

According to Nepomnaschy, the study findings contradicts life history theory which predicts that producing a higher number of offspring accelerates the pace of biological aging. "The slower pace of telomere shortening found in the study participants who have more children however, may be attributed to the dramatic increase in estrogen, a hormone produced during pregnancy," says Nepomnaschy who also spearheads the Maternal and Child Health Laboratory at the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences. "Estrogen functions as a potent antioxidant that protects cells against telomere shortening."

The social environment that the live in may also influence the relationship between their reproductive efforts and the pace of aging. "The women we followed over the course of the study were from natural fertility populations where mothers who bear numerous receive more social support from their relatives and friends," explains Nepomnaschy. "Greater support leads to an increase in the amount of metabolic energy that can be allocated to tissue maintenance, thereby slowing down the process of aging."

Explore further: Early exclusive breastfeeding associated with longer telomeres in Latino preschoolers

More information: Cindy K. Barha et al. Number of Children and Telomere Length in Women: A Prospective, Longitudinal Evaluation, PLOS ONE (2016). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0146424

Related Stories

Early exclusive breastfeeding associated with longer telomeres in Latino preschoolers

July 21, 2016
Infants who are exclusively breastfed early in life are more likely by age 4 or 5 to have longer telomeres, the protective bits of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells. In older adults, shorter telomeres are associated ...

Early behavior problems may be linked to 'aging' biomarkers in preschoolers

June 16, 2015
Preschoolers with oppositional defiant behavior are more likely to have shorter telomeres, a hallmark of cellular aging, which in adults is associated with increased risk for chronic diseases and conditions like diabetes, ...

Children with ADHD and their mothers may live less than average population

September 28, 2015
Psychiatric disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) impact family's emotions and social life. It is well known. What is new is that this condition also affects the DNA of patients and their parents. Brazilian ...

Recommended for you

Study finds immune system is critical to regeneration

September 20, 2017
The answer to regenerative medicine's most compelling question—why some organisms can regenerate major body parts such as hearts and limbs while others, such as humans, cannot—may lie with the body's innate immune system, ...

Thousands of new microbial communities identified in human body

September 20, 2017
A new study of the human microbiome—the trillions of microbial organisms that live on and within our bodies—has analyzed thousands of new measurements of microbial communities from the gut, skin, mouth, and vaginal microbiome, ...

Immune cells produce wound healing factor, could lead to new IBD treatment

September 20, 2017
Specific immune cells have the ability to produce a healing factor that can promote wound repair in the intestine, a finding that could lead to new, potential therapeutic treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according ...

As men's weight rises, sperm health may fall

September 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—A widening waistline may make for shrinking numbers of sperm, new research suggests.

Researchers find way to convert bad body fat into good fat

September 19, 2017
There's good fat and bad fat in our bodies. The good fat helps burn calories, while the bad fat hoards calories, contributing to weight gain and obesity. Now, new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. ...

New model may help science overcome the brain's fortress-like barrier

September 19, 2017
Scientists have helped provide a way to better understand how to enable drugs to enter the brain and how cancer cells make it past the blood brain barrier.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.