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Eunuchs reveal clues to why women live longer than men

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  • Chris & Christine
    25 September 2012 Last updated at 01:47 GMT Eunuchs reveal clues to why women live longer than men By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 24, 2012
      25 September 2012 Last updated at 01:47 GMT

      Eunuchs reveal clues to why women live longer than men

      By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News
      Birthday cake 
        Will castration earn a few extra candles?

      Castration had a huge effect on the lifespans of Korean men, according to an analysis of hundreds of years of eunuch "family" records.

      They lived up to 19 years longer than uncastrated men from the same social class and even outlived members of the royal family.

      The researchers believe the findings show male hormones shorten life expectancy.

      The study is published in the journal Current Biology.

      Castration before puberty prevents the shift from boy to man. One of the scientists involved in the study, Dr Cheol-Koo Lee from Korea University, said: "The records said that eunuchs had some women-like appearances such as no moustache hair, large breasts, big hips and thin high-pitched voice."

      Eunuchs had important roles in many cultures from protecting harems to castrati superstar singing sensations. The imperial court of the Korean Chosun dynasty used eunuchs to guard the gates and manage food. They were the only men outside the royal family allowed to spend the night in the palace.

      They could not have children of their own, so they adopted girls or castrated boys.

      Ageing well

      Researchers in South Korea analysed the genealogical record of these "eunuch families".

      They worked out the lifespans of 81 eunuchs born between 1556 and 1861. The average age was 70 years, including three centenarians - the oldest reached 109.

      By comparison, men in other families in the noble classes lived into their early 50s. Males in the royal family lasted until they were just 45 on average.

      There are no records for women at the time for comparison.

      Dr Kyung-Jin Min, from Inha University, told the BBC: "We also thought that different living circumstances or lifestyles of eunuchs can be attributed to the lifespan difference.

      "However, except for a few eunuchs, most lived outside the palace and spent time inside the palace only when they were on duty."

      Instead he thinks the data "provides compelling evidence that male sex hormone reduces male lifespan".

      Men v women

      Women tend to outlive men across human societies. However, theories are hard to test in experiments and the exact reason for the difference is uncertain.

      One thought is that male sex hormones such as testosterone, which are largely produced in the testes, could be damaging. The researchers said the hormones could weaken the immune system or damage the heart. Castration would prevent most of the hormone from being produced, protecting the body from any damaging effect and prolonging lifespan.

      Dr Min said: "It is quite possible that testosterone reduction therapy extends male lifespan, however, we may need to consider the side effects of it, mainly reduction of sex drive in males.

      Dr David Clancy, from the University of Lancaster, said: "The results are persuasive, but certainly not conclusive."

      He said the relatively high number of centenarians in the group suggested eliminating testosterone may have prolonged life. However, he cautioned that difference in lifestyle could have had a significant impact.

      "In this case eunuchs were raised by eunuchs over generations, lifestyle differences may have been reinforced in this way.

      "Castrato versus non-castrato singers are probably a better comparison, and showed no difference in lifespan. Non-castrato lived an average 65 years and both groups lived fairly cosseted lives."

    • Michael Rios
      This is very questionable science. The difference in lifespan between men and women is a relatively recent phenomenon; look at life expectancy charts prior to
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 25, 2012

        This is very questionable science.  The difference in lifespan between men and women is a relatively recent phenomenon; look at life expectancy charts prior to 1900, and there is usually very little difference.  There are many confounding factors as well, because until recently, many women died in childbirth or aged prematurely from the physical stress of bearing a dozen kids or so, and many men died in wars, hunting, protecting the family, and other male-role activities.   There is no good evidence that women do live longer than men, once lifestyle factors (cigarette smoking, diet, risky behaviors, etc.) are taken out; in fact, most of the evidence is that there is no natural difference in life span between men and women.

         

        The more likely explanation of their longer lives has to do with their relatively pampered, stress-free lives.  Compared to the royal family, they have access to the same food and critical creature comforts.  No one challenges them to duels, no one wants to assassinate them. 

         

        Michael Rios

         


        From: sexualparadox@yahoogroups.com [mailto: sexualparadox@yahoogroups.com ] On Behalf Of Chris & Christine
        Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 2:22 AM
        To: sexualparadox@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [SP] Eunuchs reveal clues to why women live longer than men

         




        25 September 2012 Last updated at 01:47 GMT

        Eunuchs reveal clues to why women live longer than men

        By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News

        Birthday cake 

          Will castration earn a few extra candles?

        Castration had a huge effect on the lifespans of Korean men, according to an analysis of hundreds of years of eunuch "family" records.

        They lived up to 19 years longer than uncastrated men from the same social class and even outlived members of the royal family.

        The researchers believe the findings show male hormones shorten life expectancy.

        The study is published in the journal Current Biology.

        Castration before puberty prevents the shift from boy to man. One of the scientists involved in the study, Dr Cheol-Koo Lee from Korea University , said: "The records said that eunuchs had some women-like appearances such as no moustache hair, large breasts, big hips and thin high-pitched voice."

        Eunuchs had important roles in many cultures from protecting harems to castrati superstar singing sensations. The imperial court of the Korean Chosun dynasty used eunuchs to guard the gates and manage food. They were the only men outside the royal family allowed to spend the night in the palace.

        They could not have children of their own, so they adopted girls or castrated boys.

        Ageing well

        Researchers in South Korea analysed the genealogical record of these "eunuch families".

        They worked out the lifespans of 81 eunuchs born between 1556 and 1861. The average age was 70 years, including three centenarians - the oldest reached 109.

        By comparison, men in other families in the noble classes lived into their early 50s. Males in the royal family lasted until they were just 45 on average.

        There are no records for women at the time for comparison.

        Dr Kyung-Jin Min, from Inha University , told the BBC: "We also thought that different living circumstances or lifestyles of eunuchs can be attributed to the lifespan difference.

        "However, except for a few eunuchs, most lived outside the palace and spent time inside the palace only when they were on duty."

        Instead he thinks the data "provides compelling evidence that male sex hormone reduces male lifespan".

        Men v women

        Women tend to outlive men across human societies. However, theories are hard to test in experiments and the exact reason for the difference is uncertain.

        One thought is that male sex hormones such as testosterone, which are largely produced in the testes, could be damaging. The researchers said the hormones could weaken the immune system or damage the heart. Castration would prevent most of the hormone from being produced, protecting the body from any damaging effect and prolonging lifespan.

        Dr Min said: "It is quite possible that testosterone reduction therapy extends male lifespan, however, we may need to consider the side effects of it, mainly reduction of sex drive in males.

        Dr David Clancy, from the University of Lancaster , said: "The results are persuasive, but certainly not conclusive."

        He said the relatively high number of centenarians in the group suggested eliminating testosterone may have prolonged life. However, he cautioned that difference in lifestyle could have had a significant impact.

        "In this case eunuchs were raised by eunuchs over generations, lifestyle differences may have been reinforced in this way.

        "Castrato versus non-castrato singers are probably a better comparison, and showed no difference in lifespan. Non-castrato lived an average 65 years and both groups lived fairly cosseted lives."


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