”You kids are killing me!”

Many moms have been known to occasionally utter this line in frustration. But according to a new study conducted by two British Columbia universities, the opposite might be true—having children could extend a mother’s life.

Conducted over 13 years, the study examined DNA samples of Guatemalan tribal women, tracking the length of their “telomeres,” an important component of the human chromosome. Shortened telomeres indicate an accelerated aging process.

Because reproduction has been found to increase the aging process of many animals, researchers expected to find the same with the women in their sample. Surprisingly, the study found the exact opposite. The Atlantic reports:

“After the 13 years had passed, once the researchers had controlled for telomere length at the beginning of the study, women who had more surviving offspring had longer telomeres than women who’d had fewer kids.

‘These results suggest that, at least in our study population, having more surviving children acts as a protective factor, slowing the pace of telomere shortening,’ the study reads. But why didn’t all those kids wear them out? One possibility the researchers suggest is that humans are ‘cooperative breeders,’ and women who have children are likely to be supported by family members and friends in the community.

‘More children may lead to greater support, which in turn may lead to an increase in the amount of metabolic energy that can be allocated to tissue maintenance, thereby slowing the process of cellular aging,’ the researchers write.”

The findings certainly go against today’s conventional wisdom, but hey – it’s science!

Image Credit: Camp Academia