The X-(Chromosome) Factor: Women Truly Are the Tougher Sex, Study Finds

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Women are often regarded as the fairer sex, full of sugar and spice and, of course, everything nice. But new research suggests that women are not only tougher than men (as if there was any doubt), but are also hard-wired to better resist infections and certain diseases, such as cancer.

Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium have determined that the secret to women’s super immune systems lies in their extra X-chromosome. These chromosomes are packed with molecules called microRNAs, which just so happen to be key in regulating the immune system.

Men only have one X strand, but women are lucky enough to have two. When one of a woman’s X-chromosomes is compromised, the other one is quick to kick in and pick up the slack — kind of like a back-up player for your body. Perhaps that’s why you’re likely to find men moaning in agony over a tiny cold, while women are able to power through, and look chic doing it.

(MORE: Why Women Are Better at Everything)

According to Ghent University researcher Dr. Claude Libert, there are other benefits to the extra X, as well: “Statistics show that in humans, as well as other mammals, females live longer than males and are more able to fight off shock episodes from sepsis, infection or trauma,” he said.

Of course, as with most positives in life, there are a few negatives to women’s superhuman immunity: It can also lead to severe responses to infections, meaning that women are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases and have serious bouts of the flu.

But at least you won’t hear women complain about it.

Erin Skarda is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ErinLeighSkarda. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

SPECIAL: Women and Health
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