ARIRANG NEWS (Korea), BBC NEWS, CURRENT BIOLOGY (UK), MEDICAL DAILY (USA)
During Korea's Chosun Dynasty, young men living in poverty often chose to castrate themselves to live within the relative comfort of the imperial palace walls, reports Arirang news.
They were used to guard gates and manage food, and were the only men outside the royal family allowed to sleep in the palace, explains the BBC. According to Dr Cheol-Koo Lee from Korea University: "Eunuchs had some women-like appearances such as no moustache hair, large breasts, big hips and thin high-pitched voice."
A new study, published in Current Biology, investigated records from the families of eunuchs living in the court of the Chosun Dynasty. It found that on average, eunuchs lived between 14 and 19 years longer than other men of similar socio-economic status, reports the Medical Daily.
Researchers examined the records of 81 Korean eunuchs who lived between 1556 and 1861, says the BBC. They lived far longer than men of noble blood: the average age was 70 years, including three centenarians - the oldest reached 109. This centenarian rate is 130 times higher than it is in developed nations today, according to the Medical Daily.
By comparison, men in other families in the noble classes lived into their early 50s. Males in the royal family lasted until they were just 45 on average.
Dr. Kyung-Jin Min, from Inha University, told the BBC that the study provides compelling evidence that male sex hormones (such as testosterone) reduce the male lifespan by weakening the immune system or damaging the heart.
According to the researchers, it has long been known that male animals live longer if castrated, but this is the first study to show the same result among humans.
Researchers say they hope to use the data to figure out ways to increase human lifespan, reports Arirang news.
The ironic longevity of the eunuch and other secrets for eternal youth. bit.ly/NNDzdo
— Camilo Matiz (@Camilo_Matiz) September 25, 2012