Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Women Go into Menopause Because Men Want Younger Mates, Study Suggests

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Women Go into Menopause Because Men Want Younger Mates, Study Suggests

Article excerpt

Menopause due to men wanting young mates: study


TORONTO - Theories abound as to why women go into menopause, but the latest hypothesis being put forward suggests it may be men -- or specifically their preference for younger mates --that has led to women's loss of fertility at a certain age.

Researchers at McMaster University believe that over tens of thousands of years, a lack of reproduction among older women has given rise to menopause as an unintended result of evolutionary natural selection.

Using computer modelling, the researchers found that over time, competition among men of all ages for younger mates left older females with much less chance of reproducing.

"We are saying somewhere along the line, men began to change their preference in mating," said evolutionary biologist Rama Singh, co-author of the study published in this week's issue of the journal PLOS Computational Biology.

"What we're saying is that menopause will occur if there is a preferential mating with younger women and older women are not reproducing," he said Thursday from Hamilton.

Singh said women would have had children when they were younger -- from 15 to 30, based on the computer model.

Any genetic mutations that caused an end to fertility later in life would be passed down from generation to generation, he said.

And over time, an accumulation of such mutations harmful to female fertility ended up producing a menopausal period that became part of the overall human female genome, the hypothesis suggests.

"It's a very simple theory. What it does is it demystifies menopause. ... It becomes a simple age-related disease, if you can call it that," said Singh.

"That's just like all the mutations that affect our aging -- white hair, weak muscles, this and that. These are mutations which affect fertility."

The researchers' hypothesis runs counter to prevailing theories about menopause, including the widely held "grandmother theory."

That theory suggests that women evolved to become infertile after a certain age to allow them to assist with rearing grandchildren, thus helping to promote survival of their children's offspring. …

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