The “X”-Factor of women’s health

By , on March 3, 2015


Several studies both through the years and in recent times have yielded the same results: women tend to have a stronger immunity to infections and most diseases, and are less likely to get cancer than men. And it’s all primarily because they have the “X”-Factor. The X-chromosome factor, that is.

These findings were discussed in research led by Dr. Claude Libert from Ghent University in Belgium and published in the medical journal Bio Essays. The study focused on the the X- chromosome and the microRNA — or tiny strains of ribonucleic acid — that it contains. Men have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, and women have two X’s. Their microRNA tells our genes what to do or not to do.

Libert recounted that “Statistics show that in humans, as with other mammals, females live longer than males and are more able to fight off shock episodes from sepsis, infection or trauma. We believe this is due to the X chromosome which in humans contains 10% of all microRNAs detected so far in the genome. The roles of many remain unknown, but several X chromosome-located strands of microRNA have important functions in immunity and cancer.”

This shows that women, perhaps, might have been dealt the upper-hand in warding off certain ailments. As suggested by Dr. Libert’s team, the biological workings of the X chromosome bear a significant impact on an individual’s genes, what is known as genetic imprinting, and this gives women the immunological advantagem as well as the longevity advantage.   Numerous studies have repeatedly shown that women live anywhere from 5- 10 years longer than men.

Dr. Libert and his team mapped out all of the microRNA found on the X chromosome in both humans and mice, emphasizing the microRNA that plays a role in our immune system’s ability to fight off infections and cancer. A good deal of this microRNA is found on the X chromosome.

One related theory is that some genes on the X chromosome may be silenced or inactivated, leaving men at a disadvantage because they only have one X. Women, on the other hand, have a back-up X to buffer the effects from what may be defective or silenced on a single X chromosome.

To say that health and longevity are solely dependent on the X-factor, however, would be misleading. One cannot discount the impact of a healthy lifestyle upon overall well-being, and the importance of making the necessary adjustments towards healthful living.

Still,  X does seem to mark the (healthy) spot.