Eunuch Study Reveals Why Women Live Longer

Man Sitting on a BoatWhat can ancient castrated Koreans tell us about longevity? A lot, apparently. A new study of historical data reveals more evidence that when it comes to why women outlive men, testosterone may be to blame.

For the study, scientists looked at genealogical records spanning more than 500 years of Korean history, from the late 1300s to the early 1900s. The data shows most men (including kings and other royalty) died in their late 40s or early 50s. But men who had been castrated – aka eunuchs – lived, on average, to 70 years old.

Lead researcher Kyung-Jin Min said the discrepancy is likely due to testosterone, the male sex hormone. “Testosterone is known to increase the incidence of coronary heart disease and reduce immune function in males,” he said. Castration, of course, removes the source of testosterone.

Thankfully, modern men looking to lessen their testosterone load have less drastic options available than did their Renaissance-era counterparts. Testosterone reduction can be achieved with an anti-androgen drug, which stops the body from using testosterone, or with hormones that reduce testosterone production. Both of these are sometimes used in treating prostate cancer or (in women) polycystic ovary syndrome.

As of yet, however, there’s no evidence that “testosterone reduction therapy” could actually extend male lifespan, said Min. Meanwhile side effects – “mainly, reduction of sex drive” – are well-documented.

Lower testosterone levels have also been linked to loss of lean muscle mass in older men, heart death in men with erectile dysfunction and overall risk of early death.

Monday Quick Hits: 

Emmys for grownups. Older entertainers – including Julianne Moore (51), Louis C.K. (45), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (51), Tom Berenger (63) and Jessica Lange (63) – raked in the awards at the 64th Emmy Awards ceremony Sunday.

Government workers stay put longer. A new report finds public-sector workers stay in the same position nearly double the time of private-sector counterparts (7.8 versus 4.2 years). The Labor Department chalks the disparity up to a larger segment of older employees in the government workforce.

Obama, Ryan clash at the AARP conference. President Barack Obama and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan each spoke before 5,000 or so AARP members at this past weekend’s Life@50+ conference. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both pledged to uphold Medicare and Social Security and accused the other party of putting these programs in jeopardy.

- Empty nests abound in China. About half of urban China’s elderly live alone, according to new figures released by China’s National Committee on Aging. In rural China, 39 percent live on their own. Traditionally, extended Chinese families would all live under one roof.

Photo: Sam Edwards/OJO images/Getty Images

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