As I just hit my 29th birthday, I am sometimes reminded of the fact that I don’t yet have any children. I’m certainly not in any hurry, but I’d also not like to be in a wheel chair when they’re getting ready to go off to college.
But then again, waiting a while to have kids might not be the worst thing in the world. It might make them live longer lives.
According to a new study from Northwestern University’s Dan T.A. Eisenberg, doctoral candidate in anthropology, and Christopher W. Kuzawa, associate professor of anthropology, children of older fathers in the Philippines are primed to live longer lives. What’s more, the effect is cumulative, meaning offspring still reap the benefits generations later.
The key to the finding is the length of the telomeres passed down through the generations. Much work has come in the realm of aging regarding telomeres as of late. A telomere is a series of repetitive sequences of DNA at the end of a chromosome. Its job is to protect the important information during mitosis.
Every time a cell reproduces, the telomeres become a little bit weaker, a little bit shorter. Eventually, it adds up until potentially important genetic information begins to be lost, which science seems to point towards being the main cause of cell deterioration through aging.
So it would stand to reason that the longer the telomeres, the longer the offspring is primed to live before feeling the effects of aging.
Of course, this small bit of potential gain is no real reason to delay parenthood too long; plenty of previous research shows that the older fathers get, the more likely they are to pass along harmful mutations at conception.
But still, besides the obvious benefits of being young and stupid for longer, apparently it isn’t all that bad to wait a bit.