If you’re looking for someone to blame all those years of hot flushes, restless nights and irritability, look no further than your own grandkids.
At least that what French scientists from the Institute of Evolutionary Sciences of Montpellier say.
The team of researchers say menopause could be linked to our primal instinct to pass on our family genes, and that we do this by ridding the body of certain resources, such as our own need to procreate.
Scientists have long looked for an explanation as to why women go through menopause well before their lifespan is up.
Now, the French researchers say menopause could be the body’s way redistributing its resources so, instead of procreating ourselves, we pass on our smarts to our kids and grandkids, so they’re more likely to procreate successfully. Thus, we ‘guarantee’ ourselves a lengthier, healthier bloodline, they posit.
They explain that the older we get, the less likely we are to be able to bear children because our eggs are not as viable as when we’re younger. Once our ovaries have released all of our eggs, our menstrual cycle stops and menopause is triggered.
The study’s lead author, Carla Aimé, and her colleagues set out to understand why menopause happens at this stage of most women’s lives. They say it could be the body’s way of moving on from one resource – our ability to procreate – and refocusing our body’s efforts toward our cognitive ability instead.
The researchers believe that women use this cognitive ability to teach, guide, and care for their children and grandchildren, therefore influencing their offspring in a new way.
The team developed computer simulations of human populations to test the theory and found that menopause and a long life after menopause was linked to caring for grandchildren and good cognitive ability.
“Cognitive abilities allow accumulation of skills and experience over the lifespan, thus providing an advantage for resource acquisition,” Aimé says.
“Stopping reproduction during ageing allows allocating more of these surplus resources to assist offspring and grand-offspring, thus increasing children’s fertility and grandchildren’s survival.”