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Thursday 20th June 2019

Clue why women live longer than men

3rd August 2012

The study of fruit flies has helped scientists come up with a theory as to why women may be living longer than men.

Old Hands

Experts from the University of Lancaster, working with a team from Monash University in Australia, have been focussing on mitochondrial DNA, which is only inherited from mothers.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, they say this means there is no way to weed out mutations that damage a male’s prospects.

For their research, the team analysed the mitochondria – which is present in almost all animal cells to convert food into the energy that powers the body - of 13 different groups of male and female fruit flies.

Researcher Dr Damian Dowling from Monash University said the results point to numerous mutations within mitochondrial DNA that affect how long males live, and the speed at which they age.

“Intriguingly, these same mutations have no effects on patterns of ageing in females,” he said.

In the UK, there are about six women for every four men by age 85 and by the age of 100 the ratio is more than two to one.

Dr Dowling said there is a tendency for females to outlive males in different species and added: “Our results therefore suggest that the mitochondrial mutations we have uncovered will generally cause faster male ageing across the animal kingdom.”

Tom Kirkwood, professor of ageing at Newcastle University, said the paper was “intriguing” but warned there are other factors as to why women live longer than men such as lifestyle, social and behavioural factors and different hormones.


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