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Science Says the Best Anti-Aging Product May Be More Children

Young happy family spending their time together in the living room.

by Rachel Tomlinson

Registered Psychologist

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Before having my little girl, I loved getting dressed up, doing a full face of makeup, I slapped on at least two face masks a week and prioritized plenty of pampering time. These days I’m putting in effort when I change from my “at home” leggings to my “fancy” leggings. My priorities have changed, but I still want to feel good, and being really honest, I sometimes get a shock when I pass an unexpected mirror. Who is this woman? She looks a little different than who I remember from those hazy pre-baby days. I don’t have the time anymore to commit to my beauty regime like I used to. But what if having another baby… Read More

Before having my little girl, I loved getting dressed up, doing a full face of makeup, I slapped on at least two face masks a week and prioritized plenty of pampering time. These days I’m putting in effort when I change from my “at home” leggings to my “fancy” leggings. My priorities have changed, but I still want to feel good, and being really honest, I sometimes get a shock when I pass an unexpected mirror. Who is this woman? She looks a little different than who I remember from those hazy pre-baby days. I don’t have the time anymore to commit to my beauty regime like I used to. But what if having another baby (or many more) could actually help with anti-aging?

Can Having More Children Be the Fountain of Youth?

A study conducted in 2016 suggests that having more children might have anti-aging properties. The bags under my eyes beg to differ, but I was curious, so I took a closer look at the research. A study by professor Neopmnaschy and post-grad researcher Barha[1] found that the DNA in women who gave birth to more (live) children were affected. Those with more children had longer telomeres, which are the protective tips at the end of a DNA strand. These bits of our DNA are responsible for cell replication (and turnover) as well as longevity.

Researchers believe that this is due to dramatic surges of the hormone Estrogen during pregnancy. Estrogen has antioxidant properties that protect telomeres from shortening. Once a telomere gets too short, it can no longer reproduce or replicate itself, which is a traditional sign of aging – we develop wrinkles or see changing texture in our skin and hair because the cells don’t keep “turning over” at the same rate anymore. We often see this in our hair and skin first, as they are areas in the body where cells reproduce more often.

Before you shout “sign me up” and start producing Brady Bunch quantities of children to reduce those crow’s feet, hold your horses. As always with most things, there’s more to the story!

Turns Out, Having Support Helps

The study was also conducted in a Guatemalan community where women are known to receive more intergenerational or community support in raising their children. So, it can’t be ruled out that better support during child-rearing years was also behind some of their youthfulness. The researchers suggested that when women receive support and don’t have to raise children alone, they have more metabolic energy. Instead of chasing after children all day by themselves, picking up all the odd socks dotted around the house, or making dinners no-one wants to eat, their energy can be used to maintain tissue (skin, nails, hair, etc.) in the body which helps with anti-aging.

On The Other Hand, Motherhood Can Be a Huge Stressor

Conversely, other research[2] tells us that pregnancy can actually take a significant toll on our bodies. In some circumstances, telomeres in women with multiple children are actually shorter than those with one or no children. When we are juggling the demands of family life, in particular, if we are doing it alone or with little support, it can see increased levels of physical and emotional stress. Stress is known to impact on our immunity and general physical health (in particular high blood pressure) and is also shown to reduce the length of telomeres[3].

So, while the science is out on this one, I’m going to run with the idea of additional support and the importance of self-care being a significant influencer on anti-aging and aging gracefully. With that in mind, I’m off to sneak in 5-minutes of self-care! Who knew hiding in the pantry, scrolling through social media while cramming a biscuit into my mouth could be so beneficial for my appearance? I can feel my wrinkles receding as we speak!

Sources:
1. Cindy K. Barha, Courtney W. Hanna, Katrina G. Salvante, Samantha L. Wilson, Wendy P. Robinson, Rachel M. Altman, Pablo A. Nepomnaschy. (2016). Number of children and telomere length in women: A prospective, longitudinal evaluationPLOS ONE, 11 (1). e0146424 DOI: 1371/journal.pone.0146424
2. Ryan C., Hayes, M. G., Lee, N. R., McDade, T. W/. Jones, M. J., Kobor, M. S., Kuzawa, C. W., & Eisenberg, D. T. A. (2018). Reproduction predicts shorter telomeres and epigenetic age acceleration among young adult women. Scientific Report, 9 (11100).
3. Epel, E.S. Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101(49). 17312-17315.