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Published on January 21st, 2014 | by Martha Kent

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The reason why people live longer than other mammals

I still remember the time when I was very young and I used to have long walks with my grandfather in the small forest that was located near his old house. During those inspiring walks in nature, I used to ask him a lot of questions about our planet, about the animals and ultimately about us, humans. Although I can’t remember all his answers, I vividly remember a conversation about the human longevity that started with a question that was bothering me for some time: “When will I die?”. Of course, he understood that that information is too much for a young girl to handle, so he said in a warm tone that I don’t have to worry about how much will I live and when will I die, because that moment is really far away in the future. I asked him the same question about his life and he answered with similar kind words. He was around 50 years old at that time and I was just a young preschooler with the whole life ahead of me. I wrote these words because that question was like a boomerang, always coming back to me at various moments of my life, even years after my grandfather’s death.

Why do we live longer than most beings on this planet and how can we extend our life?

Researchers seem to have solved the mystery of our longevity. According to their findings, the reason why we live longer is based on the fact that the most evolved creature on Earth burns calories more slowly than other mammals. The speed is comparable to the one encountered in the elephants’ bodies. Some mammals reach sexual maturity in just a year (even less), which means that more energy is consumed and the body experiences rapid aging.

Scientists based their theory on the fact that animals in captivity live longer than their wild counterparts. To arrive at these results, the Herman Pontzer study group from Hunter College in New York observed various mammals, among them being the 17 species of primates. The results were really interesting: humans and other primates burn 50% less calories per day than other mammals.

According to the conclusions of the study, the aging speed of most mammals is definitely connected with the time frame needed to reach maturity and sexual maturity. The metabolism plays a very important role in aging, and it is different from species to species. If an animal is bigger and weights more, it is expected to have a slower metabolism and a long life expectancy.

Here are average life expectancies for some of the animals that we know (and some that we love):

  • Mouse – 4 years
  • Rat – 7 years
  • Cat – 14 years
  • Dog – 15 years
  • Polar Bear – 18 years
  • Horse – 28 years
  • Elephant – 70 years
  • Human – 82 years

As you know, the human longevity is getting longer every year thanks to modern medicine, but that’s not the only reason. I invite you to watch the following TED Talk video where Dan Buettner reveals the secrets why people from various places of the world get to 100 years old and beyond. Taking your medicines everyday is not enough! Just watch the video and… live long and prosper!

image source: www.digiarabs.com
read the complete report on pnas.org

Tags: medical, science


About the Author

I am the senior editor for SciNotions web magazine. In the past, I have also worked in various projects involving science, music, technology and gadgets.



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