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Why Women Outlive Men

Mitochondria mutations that affect male, but not female, aging could explain why women tend to live longer than men.

By | August 3, 2012

image: Why Women Outlive Men Flickr, Martin Smith

Researchers have discovered several mutations in the mitochondrial DNA of Drosophila that affect male lifespan and rate of aging, but have no effect on aging in females, according to a study published this week (August 2) in Current Biology.

According to BBC News, there are about 50 percent more women in the UK population by the age of 85, and twice as many more women by the age of 100. And this pattern is not just limited to humans.

Analyzing the mitochondria of male and female Drosophila melanogaster, Damian Dowling of Monash University in Australia and colleagues found that the mitochondria harbor numerous mutations that affect male, but not female, aging. Because mitochondria are passed down from the mother, evolutionary theory predicts that male-harming mutations can accumulate in its DNA.

“If a mitochondrial mutation occurs that harms fathers, but has no effect on mothers, this mutation will slip through the gaze of natural selection, unnoticed,” Dowling told the BBC. “Over thousands of generations, many such mutations have accumulated that harm only males, while leaving females unscathed.”

Of course, there are likely other factors at play as well, such as lifestyle, social and behavioral traits, and of course, hormones, ageing expert Tom Kirkwood of Newcastle University added. “It may be it does tell us something rather important about mitochondria and the difference between male and female fruit flies,” he told the BBC. “But I certainly don't think this is a discovery that explains why women live 5–6 years longer than men.”

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Avatar of: jhnycmltly

jhnycmltly

Posts: 65

August 3, 2012

There are mutations , such as muscular dystrophy , in which oxidation has been shown to be 'the straw that broke the camel's back' , in that those with the mutations , oxidation is what sets it off. They have shown women are protected from iron excess , by their menses. Women lose iron rich blood every month which keeps their iron levels low as compared to men. Could it be the loss of oxidation / iron by this monthly matter menses BE the reason why womens' mutations are not 'kicked in' as opposed to men ?

Avatar of: querynerd

querynerd

Posts: 2

August 6, 2012

Menses cease around age 50. However, vaginal tissue that is eliminated each month only accounts for a small fraction of blood loss (in most women); the majority of the substance is vaginal lining (soft tissue and other non-blood components). I would hazard a guess that most boys, from the ages of 3-25, lose more whole blood than females do. Then factor in blood drives where adults of both genders can donate a pint of blood every few months, and many other reasons people lose blood via accidents, violence, etc. The study for why women, on average, live longer by a few years probably doesn't boil down to blood loss.

Besides, statistics like this rarely address the questions they posit to prove their numbers. What are the population figures (birth rates) for each gender and each generation they are counting? Do they count transgendered men? Do they factor in crime rate for certain areas? Socio-economic status? What was the economy like for each generation? Do they factor in career choices (or lack there of)? How many generations has this 5-6 year age difference between genders did they find this to be true? Has this been occurring since census records began? Has there ever been a generation where men out-aged women? If so, what was different about that time period?

At any rate, 5-6 years doesn’t seem to me to be very significant difference to do an expensive study over. If the difference were more like 10 years, over tens of generations consecutively, then maybe an investigation would be warranted.

Avatar of: avraham raz

avraham raz

Posts: 1

August 6, 2012

Why man die earlier ? because they want too!!

Avatar of: N K Mishra

N K Mishra

Posts: 1457

August 7, 2012

I don't think only mitochondria are involved in making a female live longer. The answer  probably lies in the Y chromosome and the investment in terms of production of seminal fluid.

Avatar of: Guest

Anonymous

September 23, 2012

Having to say that the women live longer than men due to this reason does not give me a full assurance about the matter regardless of the discovery by the researchers. Nevertheless, I still feel that the discovery is still a great job done by the scientists though it is not fully proven as there might be some other factors that could affect the lifespan of males and females. In my opinion, further research regarding this matter should be carried out in order to find a firm answer.

Avatar of: aderrah hasnul

aderrah hasnul

Posts: 2

September 23, 2012

Having to say that the women live longer than men due to this reason does not give me a full assurance about the matter regardless of the discovery by the researchers. Nevertheless, I still feel that the discovery made by the scientists is still a great job though it is not fully proven as there might be some other factors that could affect the lifespan of males and females. In my opinion, further research regarding this matter should be carried out in order to find a firm answer.

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