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Grandkids May Make Us Live Longer, Study Says

A new study says a gene variant may explain why grandparents live long lives.

grandparents with grandkids on beach Shutterstock
Uh oh, looks like grandparents just got more ammo when it comes to convincing us parents we should have babies! A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says people just may live longer when they have grandkids.

Researchers found gene variants that protect against Alzheimer's disease and a host of other aging-related diseases are present in humans, but not in other primates. Dr. Ajit Varki thinks those variants are an evolutionary result of grandparents needing to stick around for babysitting, bedtime stories, cookie-making, and other grandparent-y "responsibilities." Or just to be in their grandchildren's lives.

"Now you're really seeing natural selection for good grandmothers," he jokes.

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The variant helps keep dementia at bay, and makes a grandparent more useful to the extended family. Because when grandma is sick, as Dr. Varki explains, "You've gone from a helpful grandmother to an extra baby, which is the opposite of what you want."

It's worth noting there's no proof the gene variant that is absent in apes is a result of natural selection in humans; it could just be a mutation. But it's nice to think that nature is helping grandparents experience their grand kids, which as my mom says, are so much fun, she wishes she could have had them first. In fact, I've never seen my parents so happy as when they are with my three daughters, almost to the point that they forget I exist! Which is okay with me; at least I get some help!

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.