Do People With Children Live Shorter Lives?
Imagine being promised that you will be able to live a long and healthy life. Sounds great, right? But, what if your only key to that long and healthy life meant that you had to give up your fertility? Would you still be willing to make that deal?
Fertility and longevity having some sort of correlation is nothing new, in fact, it was first studied way back in the 1970’s. That is when gerontologist Tom Kirkwood, now at the University of Newcastle, proposed his “disposable soma” hypothesis.
Kirkwood suggested that as we get older, our bodies are exposed to all of the normal “wear and tear”, and our bodies have an important choice. They can use up a limited amount of energy to repair those damages, or they can save up that energy and use it to reproduce. In essence, you can live a long and healthy life, or you can have kids, but not both. So, is there any scientific proof behind this?
Surprisingly, scientists think that the longevity/fertility link might in fact, be true. The hormone that controls aging, known as IGF-1, is the hormone that initiates the chain of events that controls the way that energy is used in the body.
However, the levels of IGF-1 are incredibly important, because, if the levels are too low, the body goes into a sort of “self preservation” mode. This means that the body switches away the energy from the reproductive organs,and allots that energy straight to the maintenance of the body and DNA repair.
In other words, our bodies simply don’t have enough energy to do both, and our bodies can only choose one thing at a time.
What does this mean? High levels of high IGF-1 in middle aged people have actually recently been linked to having a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. “Alzheimer’s disease in late life is probably driven strongly by spontaneous low-grade inflammation in the brain,” explains longevity researcher Maarten Rozing from Leiden University in the Netherlands.
“So low IGF-1 activity would mean far more molecular activity being devoted to repairing damaged tissue, which can halt the inflammation and prevent it from spreading.” There is still much more research that needs to be done on this subject, but it does pose a very interesting question: is it possible that our bodies can handle living a long, healthy life or they can handle reproducing and having children, but not both?
Definitely something that scientists are going to be researching more in the future.
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