Research Explains Why We Bother With Sex

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 18, 2001 -- Ever wondered why you bother to have sex? Probably not, but there does appear to be an actual biological basis behind why you are a sexual organism -- not that you needed a reason.

The point is that some organisms out there get along just fine without having sex and somehow manage to get through the day. They reproduce without concerning themselves with the task of intercourse. So why trouble yourself, you ask?

The answer appears to lie in those little fruit flies from biology class that have helped enlighten us about our genetic makeup.

According to a study in the Oct. 19 issue of Science, sex may be a way for you to bring in the good and get rid of the bad. In other words, sex weeds out the bad genes that may have arisen in your DNA -- so-called "baggage" -- and allows good mutations to flourish in your offspring.

To test this interesting theory, researchers William R. Rice, PhD, and Adam K. Chippendale looked at two different populations of fruit flies -- one that reproduced with sex and one reproduced without sex. Rice and Chippendale are from the department of ecology, evolution and marine biology at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

They found that in flies that had sex, good gene changes were able to spread throughout the population faster than those deprived of the joy of sex.

Generally, we think of mutations as being a bad thing, but, in fact, mutations can actually lead to good changes in our bodies. For example, at some point in history, a good gene mutation likely led to some people producing a lot of good "HDL" cholesterol, the kind that helps prevent heart disease.

So science has come through once again: Medical research is giving you a reason to have sex -- you will be doing a service for the entire human race.