Could Carrots Be The Secret
To A Long Life And Sex Appeal?
Researchers at the Universities of Glasgow and Exeter have found
that eating certain plant substances can slow down the rate of
aging - and that females prefer mates that will be long-lived.
Carotenoids are naturally-occurring yellow and red pigments found
in plants. Animals that eat those plants can then use the pigments
to make themselves colourful in order to attract mates. But carotenoids
are also antioxidants, which improve an animal’s ability to
combat oxidative stress and strengthen its immune system.
This latest research has found for the first time that males
eating more carotenoids were better able to protect their cells
from damage and so lived longer - and that females found these
long-lived males particularly attractive.
The work was carried out on sticklebacks, and compared the fate
of fish that all received the same basic diet but had different
amounts of carotenoid supplement. Male sticklebacks need carotenoids
to produce the red throat patch that they develop in the breeding
season and display to females.
Dr Thomas Pike, researcher in Environmental and Evolutionary
Biology at Glasgow University said: 'Males provided with fewer
carotenoids still tried to produce a bright red throat patch,
but could only do so by diverting carotenoids away from their
role as antioxidants; so by trying to look as good as possible,
these males aged faster.'
In sticklebacks, the female lays her eggs in a male’s nest
and then leaves, and it is the male alone who cares for the eggs
'It seems that females can tell if males haven't eaten many carotenoids,
even if they do look quite red, and probably found these males
less attractive because they were more likely to die before they
had finished looking after the young,' said Dr Pike. 'The positive
effects of a carotenoid-rich diet are likely to apply to many
other animal species as well – but whether eating carrots
makes humans longer-lived and more handsome remains to be seen!'
'The most brightly coloured males often get the girl, but why
females prefer such show-offs hasn't been clear,' said Dr Jon
Blount, Research Fellow at the University of Exeter. 'Our study
shows that redder males are more likely to be good fathers, because
they can survive the demands of parenting.'
Article: ‘Carotenoids, oxidative stress and female mating
preference for longer-lived males '
The study was carried out by the Fish Biology Research Group
at the University of Glasgow, in collaboration with researchers
at the Akvaforsk Institute for Aquaculture Research in Norway
and the University of Exeter, and will be published in the scientific
journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.
The study was funded by a grant from the Natural Environment