New research suggests that the number of children a woman has could change how her body ages, leading to a rate of biological ageing.
A team of researchers from Simon Fraser University, Canada, studied indigenous women from rural communities, collecting data on the number of children they had.
The researchers then studied the womenâ€™s telomeres, which are the tips found at the end of DNA strands that can show how the cells are ageing. The longer the cells means the better they age and the longer the lifespan. The DNA was collected again thirteen years later.
The results showed that the women who gave birth to more surviving children had longer telomeres. This surprises scientists it goes against the general theory of having more children means one has, the faster their biological ageing is. This was found to not be true in this study.
The researchers believe that these results could be explained by two factors.
As the women were from communities where mothers receive a large amount of social support from friends and family, this could enable the body to devote more of its energy to looking after and maintaining body tissue, therefore slowing down the biological ageing process.
However although this level of support is a social norm for communities where the study took place, it may not be seen across all cultures or societies.
In addition, the results could be explained by the primary female sex hormone oestrogen, which has a strong antioxidant effect on the body.
Levels of oestrogen rise significantly during pregnancy, leading the researchers to believe that it thanks to its antioxidant effect, oestrogen may protect the motherâ€™s cells against telomere shortening. â€“ AFP Relaxnews