So many things that you have to do to combat the onslaughts of aging are hard or unpleasant. (Crunches and colonoscopies come to mind.)
So here’s a much nicer prescription: According to a study by researchers at Indiana University and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, cuddling young children may cut down on one of the most-hated effects of menopause — hot flashes.
Candy Sagon, writing on AARP’s blog, reports that the study, published in the journal Menopause, looked at women who were going through menopause, naturally or as the result of ovarian surgery, or who had gone through it and were still having hot flashes.
“The women who had the fewest hot flashes in the long run were those who had young kids at home,” lead author Tierney Lorenz told Sagon in an e-mail. “Young” was defined as younger than 13; no effect was seen in women with older kids.
The researchers theorize that the difference occurs because a mother’s brain generates oxytocin when she cuddles and plays with her children, and because this hormone affects body temperature, possibly offsetting the hot-flash-producing fluctuations in the body’s thermostat.
“We don’t know if being around young kids in general would help,” Lorenz wrote, “or if there is something special about one’s own kids or grandkids (well, of course, there is something special about your grandkids, they’re amazing).” But since there’s not much downside to hugging a baby, “it’s worth trying it out while . . . researchers nail down the mechanisms.”