Forget dietary supplements, a healthy diet and exercise. New research suggests the secret to a long life is having more kids. It might be tiring in the short term, but raising more children could actually help mothers live longer, a new study from Simon Fraser University in Canada has found.
The evidence comes from DNA. Scientists looked at the chromosomes of 75 Guatemalan women and found that those who have more children also have longer telomeres, which help slow the aging process. Telomeres are caps of DNA at the end of each chromosome that protect genetic data from damage. Longer telomeres are crucial for cells to be able to multiply, which make them age slower. Telomeres shorten as people age, ultimately leading to cell death. The research suggested — but did not prove conclusively — that having more children was associated with a slower pace of telomere shortening.
The cause might be pregnancy, which increases estrogen dramatically. The estrogen boost seems to act as a powerful antioxidant that prevents telomeres from shortening. The study also suggested that the social support the moms received might keep telomeres from shortening.
While researchers said further study is needed, there are lots of measures you can take to keep your telomeres long and chromosomes healthy — whether or not you’re a mother. For starters, get more exercise. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of several diseases. Then, make sure you have good friends. Research shows that a vibrant social life can lengthen your own life. Do everything in moderation, eat a well-balanced diet, make sleep a priority and work on reducing stress. That should help you live long and prosper — even if you don’t have more kids.