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A new study suggests that the reason women live longer than men isn't only due to lifestyle factors like obesity, alcohol consumption and smoking.
Women's higher longevity comes down, in part at least, to genetics, according to the new research, carried out by Monash University in Melbourne and UK's Lancaster University, and published in 'Current Biology'.
Girls born in Australia today can expect to live to the age of 84, while the current life expectancy for males is 80.
Monash University's Dr Damian Dowling believes the explanation for the four year difference lies in the nucleus of our cells.
"This difference is not caused by hormonal differences between the sexes, such as testosterone in males, or to risk-taking behaviour. It's genetic," said Dr Dowling.
Mitochondria, responsible for producing energy, are found in every cell of the body, and are associated with the ageing process.
While women's longevity remained unaffected by mutations in mitochondrial genes, the researchers believe these mutations contribute to the on average shorter life expectancy of males.
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This is because offspring inherit mitochondrial genes from the mother, unlike most other genes which are passed down from both parents.
"It's this strict maternal inheritance of mitochondria that has allowed mutations to creep in to mitochondrial genes that are harmful to males," saud Dr Dowling, "while having no simultaneous effect on females."
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