Having Kids Early Can
Shorten Lifespan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - People who complain that their children are driving them to an early grave may be closer to the truth than they thought, researchers said on Thursday.
They said they had found definitive evidence of what parents and biologists had suspected for a long time -- that reproducing takes a deadly toll on the body.
Linda Partridge and Carla Sgro of University College London bred various lines of fruit flies, some of which produced eggs at a very young age and others that reproduced when they were older, by fruit fly standards.
The flies that bred while young died at an earlier age than the ``old'' flies. When the younger-reproducing flies were sterilized with X-rays, they began living as long as their ''old'' counterparts.
``These results suggest that aging has evolved primarily because of the damaging effects of reproduction earlier in life, rather than because of mutations that have detrimental effects only at late ages,'' they wrote in their report, published in the journal Science.
Patridge and Sgro said they were basing their study on solid science. Fruit flies, known by scientists as Drosophila melanogaster, are clearly affected by reproducing.
``Egg production, exposure to males and mating have all been shown to reduce survival in female D. melanogaster,'' they wrote.
They believe that the genes that cause an animal to be highly fertile when young can have the reverse effect as the creature gets older. And the act of having offspring may be what does the genetic damage.
``Reproduction may cause damage directly, and the effects may accumulate with time,'' they wrote.
David Reznick of the University of California in Riverside pointed out that people do have one extra chance in life. Writing in a commentary, he and colleagues pointed out that the death rate in humans and other animals level off after a certain point, suggesting that the wearing effects of having children do wane, if the parent survives long enough.


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