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How metabolic rate affects lifespan: gender differences

Jun 13, 2023

Scientists conducted a study to understand how the basal metabolic rate (BMR) affects lifespan, specifically considering differences between males and females. BMR refers to the energy the body needs to perform basic functions when at rest. The researchers used a method called Mendelian randomisation, which helps identify causal relationships between variables, to investigate this relationship.

Using large genetic datasets, the study analysed genetic variations associated with BMR and examined their influence on lifespan in men and women. The results indicated that a higher BMR in women was associated with a longer lifespan, suggesting that women with a naturally higher metabolic rate may live longer. However, no significant relationship was found between BMR and lifespan in men.

The findings suggest that metabolic rate may have a sex-specific impact on longevity. Further research is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms and explore other factors that contribute to differences in lifespan between men and women. This study provides valuable insights into the complex relationship between metabolism and lifespan, which may have implications for future studies on ageing and related health conditions.

Metabolism and lifespan: gender-specific findings revealed


Here are our key takeaways from the study, Effect of basal metabolic rate on lifespan: a sex-specific Mendelian randomization study

Basal metabolic rate and lifespan: Examining the link


Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is a measure of the energy expended by the body during a state of rest. It encompasses vital bodily functions like maintaining body temperature, circulating blood, and ensuring organ function.

This study aimed to investigate whether BMR, as an indicator of the body’s energy expenditure, plays a role in determining an individual’s lifespan.

Gender-specific correlation: BMR and female longevity


The study found a significant correlation between BMR and lifespan, but interestingly, this relationship was specific to women. Women with a higher BMR were observed to have a longer lifespan compared to those with a lower BMR.

On the other hand, there was no discernible connection between BMR and lifespan in men. This indicates that the impact of metabolic rate on lifespan might be distinct between the sexes.

Higher BMR, longer life: Advantage for women


The findings suggest that women with a naturally higher metabolic rate may experience certain physiological advantages that contribute to their extended lifespan.

These advantages could include enhanced cellular repair mechanisms, improved stress resistance, or a more efficient energy utilisation process. The specific biological mechanisms underlying this association remain to be explored further.

Considering gender differences in ageing research


The gender-specific nature of the relationship between metabolic rate and lifespan underscores the importance of considering sex differences in research related to ageing and longevity.

Men and women have unique physiological characteristics, hormonal profiles, and genetic factors that can influence the interplay between metabolism and lifespan.

Understanding these distinctions is crucial for developing targeted interventions and personalised approaches to promote healthy ageing.

Unravelling mechanisms: Hormones, genetics, and lifestyle


While the study focused on the association between metabolic rate and lifespan, it highlights the need for additional research to unravel the underlying mechanisms.

Exploring factors such as hormonal influences (e.g., estrogen levels), genetic variations related to metabolism, lifestyle choices (e.g., physical activity, dietary patterns), and environmental factors could provide a more comprehensive understanding of why metabolic rate impacts lifespan differently in men and women.

Complexity of lifespan gender disparities


Investigating the differences in lifespan between men and women is a complex task that requires interdisciplinary research efforts.

This study contributes valuable insights into the role of metabolic rate as a potential factor shaping longevity, emphasising the significance of gender-specific analyses in understanding the intricate relationship between metabolism and lifespan.

Implications for healthy ageing interventions


The implications of this research extend beyond the scope of the current study. A deeper understanding of the connections between metabolism, ageing, and associated health conditions can have broad implications for developing strategies to promote healthy ageing, identifying individuals at higher risk for age-related diseases, and exploring potential interventions or treatments to mitigate the impact of ageing on overall health and well-being. Such knowledge could pave the way for personalised medicine approaches tailored to an individual’s metabolic profile and specific health needs.

Reference:  Ng, J.C.M., Schooling, C.M. Effect of basal metabolic rate on lifespan: a sex-specific Mendelian randomization study. Sci Rep 13, 7761 (2023).