Male preference for young mates blamed for menopause

Rod Stewart has had several younger female partners. Picture: PA
Rod Stewart has had several younger female partners. Picture: PA
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Men who behave like Michael Douglas, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood are to blame for women ending their reproductive life early, according to a new theory.

All three celebrities are famous for wooing partners much younger than themselves.

And it is the male preference for young mates that has led to the menopause, researchers said.

Through the forces of natural selection, men have unwittingly stacked the Darwinian deck of cards against older women remaining fertile, it is claimed.

“In a sense it is like ageing, but it is different because it is an all-or-nothing process that has been accelerated because of preferential mating,” said evolutionary biologist Professor Rama Singh, from McMaster University in Canada.

The average woman hits the menopause at 51, but for some the “change” can come in their forties.

But quite why human women become infertile in middle age is an unsolved mystery.

Female chimpanzees, our closest animal cousins, only stop being fertile near the end of their lives, typically around the age of 45.

The new theory turns the conventional view that the menopause prevents older women from continuing to reproduce on its head.

Instead, it holds that lack of reproduction has given rise to the menopause.

Another idea called the “grandmother theory” suggests women evolved to become infertile after a certain age to free them up to assist with rearing grandchildren.

This in turn improves the survival of kin, and so is an example of positive selection.