Thursday, September 4, 2008

One Factor Doubles Odds of Living to 100

If your mother was under 25 years old when you were born, your odds of living to 100 or beyond just doubled when compared to people whose mothers were older at the time of their birth.

HealthDay News reports that research from the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago suggests that society's oldest members are most likely to be born to its youngest members.

This latest study is one of the most rigorous ever conducted on the subject and may clear up a mystery created by an earlier study by the same research team. It found that being the first-born child in a family boosted longevity, but no one knew why birth order had such a stunning impact. That mystery may have been solved since it's far more likely a first-born will be born to a woman under 25 than will subsequent children. "It turns out that the whole phenomenon of first-born order and longevity is driven by young maternal age," study co-author Leonid Gavrilov told HealthDay News.

The study: Nearly 200 centenarians from across the country were selected for the research. Their ages were verified using every form of documentation available. The researchers then compared the centenarians' histories to those of their siblings in an attempt to explain the "first-born effect."

The results: Two theories were proved to be flat-out wrong:

  • First-borns are better protected from childhood illnesses because they are not surrounded by disease-bearing siblings.
  • First-borns reap many benefits by having a young, strong and productive father.
What they did find out, though, is having a young mother showed a direct correlation with longevity and completely accounted for the so-called first-born effect. "It is very rare in science that you have such clear-cut results. But here, when we saw the results, we went 'Wow,'" Gavrilov told HealthDay News.

Why? "At this point all we have are hypotheses," Gavrilov said. "One is biological--that maybe the eggs are different in their quality, and the best ones, the most vigorous eggs, go first to fertilization." Another thought is that young mothers don't have the latent, chronic infections that might afflict an older woman and could somehow affect the long-term health of her children, interfering with normal development. "So, when the children are born they are superficially healthy, but maybe they are not really strong enough to survive to 100," he told HealthDay News.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Society of Actuaries and was presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America in Los Angeles.
source: Netscape.com

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