Mankind has pondered several unanswerable questions for exactly as long as it has been on the planet. We search for the meaning of life. We wonder if there is life after death. . And we ask, “Who Put The Bop In The Bop Shoo Bop?” Right up there with all the others is the mystery of what, exactly, causes menopause.
Menopause, the end of menstruation and fertility, officially occurs 12 months from a woman’s last period. The average age is 51 in the United States. Symptoms may include sleep disturbances, hot flashes, lower energy level, anxiety, painful sexual intercourse, forgetfulness, weight gain, hair loss, back fat, inability to balance one’s checkbook, and the desire to attend a transvestite revue.
For a long time, it was believed that menopause was a natural safeguard to stop women from producing when they were too old to ultimately reap the benefits of a grown, financially independent child finally vacating the family home. The “grandmother effect” would also allow older women to care for the younger generation’s offspring, helping future generations survive.
But now, a new study published in PLoS Computational Biology has come to the conclusion that natural selection for a youthful mate has, over the millennia, lowered the rate of reproduction for older women, rendering fertility a useless function. In other words, without men to schtupp, the reproductive anatomy of older females simply went on hiatus.
To delve into the reason behind menopause, researchers created “computational models based on computer simulations” to see how men’s preference could select for mutations that would end female reproductive abilities. Researchers were forced to stop the study when a majority started to spend too much time in the lab and at least one entered into a ménage-a-tois with the computer simulation, thereby unfairly impacting on the results.
If this research is getting your granny panties in a twist, calm down. A lot of people take exception to the study. In fact, the opposite case can be made, that the human male preference for younger females is likely to be because older females are less fertile. It all comes down to a chicken/egg thing (no pun intended).
But, getting back to the PLoS study, if this study is true, this might mean that should older women start having heaps of sex, menopause would slowly disappear. This theory says if women were reproducing all along, and there were no preference against older women, women could be reproducing throughout their entire lives. No actual older woman was asked to consider this possibility, since researchers’ medical insurance would not have covered the consequences.
Dr. Maxwell Burton-Chellew, an evolutionary biologist from Oxford University who was not involved in the study, told the Guardian newspaper that he doesn’t agree with the study because sterile worker bees, which are female, show that evolution can select for infertility.
“Because it’s a human and mammalian pattern for men to die younger (than women), you have a younger female with an older male who is going to die,” he explained. “I get mixed up about how that pulls a woman’s lifespan across menopause.”
In sum, if an evolutionary biologist, who went to school for a lot of years and presumably passed a ton of scary-sounding courses, can be mixed up about menopause, how can any of us regular folks be expected to understand it. It’s a lot easier to figure out the meaning of life.