No. 434 October 26 2001
Inheriting more than the furniture:
the effect of parental genes on daughters' longevity
Mothers of daughters have to live over 85 years and their fathers only
have to live over 75 years to predispose their female offspring to
live very long lives as well. Parents who die before those years seem
to have no affect on the longevity of their female offspring. This
study of the familial transmission of human life span from parents to
daughters was co-authored by Natalia and Leonid Gavrilov, Research
Associates in NORC's Center on Aging, and published in the prestigious
Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine (Vol 4, No. 2, Summer 2001,
Studying daughters of noble families who were born between 1800 and
1880, Natalia and Leonid Gavrilov show that long-life genes appear to
influence daughters' whose mothers have lived past 85 and whose
fathers have lived past 75. "Women who live above this age  are
fundamentally (presumably genetically) different from other women in
the sense that their daughters live significantly longer"(p. 121).
"Daughters born to shorter-lived fathers (died before 75 years) do not
inherit paternal life span" (p. 122).
The Gavrilovs chose daughters of royal and noble families to study
because they were a "privileged social group [that] lived in favorable
conditions" where "one could expect less influence of adverse social
factors (poverty, for example)" (p. 116). Further, "daughters did
not have a high incidence of violent causes of death due to military
service" (p. 115).
The mechanisms that influence longevity are likely to be complex, much
like those of eye or skin color. Nevertheless, this research offers
one more thing for women to thank an aged parent for.