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New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that pregnancy could accelerate aging in women. The study indicates that being pregnant is linked to accelerated biological aging, particularly in women in their early 20s.

Epigenetic clocks detect bodily wear-and-tear not feasible externally

An international research team, with members from Columbia University‚Äôs Aging Center, employed advanced “epigenetic clocks” to assess the biological ages of over 800 women, distinguishing between those who had been pregnant and those who hadn’t. These clocks gauge changes in DNA chemical tags indicative of aging, acting as molecular odometers to detect bodily wear-and-tear not apparent externally.

In general, research indicates that women who have been pregnant age biologically faster than those who haven’t, with each pregnancy associated with approximately six months of additional aging.

Biological aging differs from chronological age, representing the wear-and-tear on the body’s cells and tissues. While chronological age marks the number of birthdays, biological age reflects actual physical condition, akin to comparing mileage on cars.

DNA methylation assessment offers insight on accelerated aging

The study utilizes advanced biological clocks, known as epigenetic clocks, to gauge biological age accurately. These clocks assess DNA methylation, offering insights into accelerated aging prior to visible signs like wrinkles or gray hair, or even before diseases are diagnosed by doctors.

Scientists measure biological clocks by examining epigenetic marks on DNA, akin to “post-it notes” guiding when and where to read genetic recipes for protein building. These marks, changing with age and cellular demands, serve as indicators of biological age. Clocks target DNA spots where these marks predictably shift over time, offering estimates of an individual’s age based on these changes.

The correlation between pregnancy and accelerated aging could be explained by a tradeoff between reproduction and longevity, according to evolutionary theory. Resources diverted to growing and nurturing a baby may detract from the mother’s own maintenance and repair, leading to faster aging.

A study analyzing data from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey, focusing on 825 Filipino women aged 20 to 22 in 2005, found this link.