For centuries, women have been known to have a longer life span than men. Even though we belong to the same species, we differ a lot anatomically and physiologically from each other. This can obviously be backed up by the evidence of biochemical processes taking place in our bodies, predominantly hormonal fluctuations.

There are multiple factors that influence the aging processes differently in women and men. They are:

  • Survival ability in general: Men tend to engage in hazardous activities and jobs more often than women. From a psychological perspective, they gravitate more toward riskier and life-threatening situations.
  • Health: Women visit clinics and hospitals for screenings and check-ups more often than men which provides them a brief window to prevent the development of certain diseases or at least get treated on time to impede the disease progression.
  • Skincare: Compared to women, men tend to have thicker skin. Thicker the skin, the more collagen it contains. So, there is a notion that men age more gracefully than women due to this very fact. But this can be explained by the fact that men lose collagen gradually over time. But women would abruptly lose the collagen after menopause. This is why we feel that men age better than women.
  • Hormones: Sex hormones play a huge role in the aging processes in women and men. As mentioned earlier, testosterone levels gradually drop in males over time. But the estrogen levels are known to drop drastically in higher percentages in post-menopausal women. So, the changes in women are viewed as being too dramatic.
  • Brain aging: In reference to a study conducted back in 2019, men’s brain, according to the functional aspect, was said to be three years older in comparison to women’s brain.

So, back to the question we have been pondering, “Do women age differently from men?”

Is the effect of anti-aging drugs gender-specific?

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Cologne, and University College London researchers conducted a recent study on how the drug Rapamycin prolongs lifespan in only female fruit flies and not males.

Rapamycin is an FDA-approved macrolide with immunosuppressive activity used in the prevention of transplant rejection mostly and in treating other tumors.

The study showed that Rapamycin showed decelerative effects in the development of diseases that are age specific in the gut of female fruit flies.

From a statistical point of view, women’s life expectancy has always been on the higher side compared to men's. However, this wouldn’t exclude them from developing age-related pathologies and adverse drug effects.

According to Yu-Xuan Lu, who was one of the lead authors of the research, “Our long-term goal is to make men live as long as women and also women as healthy as men in late life. But for that, we need to understand where the differences come from.”

Increased autophagy means a healthier life

According to the study, Rapamycin showed an acceleration in the rate of autophagy in the female intestinal cells. In males, the basal autophagy rate was already high leading to the drug rendering no use. This study was conducted in mice as well; female mice responded to the drug with increased autophagy in their intestines.

“Previous studies found that females had greater responses to rapamycin on lifespan extension than did males in mice, we now uncover an underlying mechanism of these differences using flies”, said Yu-Xuan Lu. The study’s senior author Linda Partridge said, “Sex can be a decisive factor for the effectiveness of anti-aging drugs. Understanding the processes that are sex-specific and determine response to therapeutics will improve the development of personalized treatments.”

So, do you think women tend to age differently than men?

Since the beginning, we have established the fact that men and women differ in many aspects of life, be it biological, physiological and even genetic, which leaves us with wonderfully puzzling evidence showing that the aging process too is quite different in both sexes.

To answer the question, I think it’s safe to say yes for now.

(Co-written with Nandhika Sundara Raman)


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