Contrarily to mainstream thinking and today’s gerontology, the aging process can start from prenatal conditions and can continue throughout one’s lifetime, even during the adolescence’s growing phase. In this perspective, a new study partially and recently proved the Institute of Optimal Longevity’s research by examining the aging process over 12 years of young adults, aged from 26 to 38 years. (1) Thanks to this study, 18 biological measures were distinguished, all of which can help to determine whether people are aging faster or slower than their peers.
The data comes from a landmark longitudinal study that has tracked close to one thousand people born in 1972-73 in the same town from birth to the present. Health measures like blood pressure, immune function and liver function have been taken regularly, along with interviews and other assessments. (2)
“We set out to measure aging in these relatively young people,” said first author Dan Belsky, an assistant professor of geriatrics in Duke University’s Center for Aging. “Most studies of aging look at seniors, but if we want to be able to prevent age-related disease, we’re going to have to start studying aging in young people.” (3)
In this framework, the studied cohort of 954 people agreed then to be tested on these 18 different factors multiple of times. (4). At age 38 in 2011, the team measured the functions of kidneys, liver, lungs, metabolic and immune systems. They also measured HDL cholesterol, cardiorespiratory fitness, lung function and the length of the telomeres — protective caps at the end of chromosomes that have been found to shorten with age as well as dental health and the condition of the tiny blood vessels at the back of the eyes, which are a proxy for the brain’s blood vessels.
Based on a subset of these biomarkers, the research team set a “biological age” for each participant, which ranged from under 30 to nearly 60 in the 38-year-olds. The researchers then went back into the archival data for each subject and looked at 18 biomarkers that were measured when the participants were age 26, and again when they were 32 and 38. From this, they drew a slope for each variable, and then the 18 slopes were added for each study subject to determine that individual’s pace of aging. In this way, it is possible to see an aging trajectory by combining multiple measures.
Most participants clustered around an aging rate of one year per year, but others were found to be aging as fast as three years per chronological year. Many were aging at zero years per year, in effect staying younger than their age. This achievement is nothing less than age reversal.
“That gives us some hope that medicine might be able to slow aging and give people more healthy active years,” said senior author Terrie Moffitt, the Nannerl O. Keohane professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke.
As the team expected, those who were biologically older at age 38 also appeared to have been aging at a faster pace. A biological age of 40, for example, meant that person was aging at a rate of 1.2 years per year over the 12 years the study examined.
“As we get older, our risk grows for all kinds of different diseases… To prevent multiple diseases simultaneously, aging itself has to be the target.Otherwise, it’s a game of whack-a-mole.” (Professor Belsky, Duke University)
Most people think of the aging process as something that happens late in life, but signs of aging were apparent in these tests over the 12 years of young adulthood. Those who aged three years in one year would need to be examined for at least another 12 years so that we can better understand what is making them prematurely aged. These study members who appeared to be more advanced in biological aging also scored worse on tests typically given to people over 60, including tests of balance and coordination and solving unfamiliar problems. The biologically older individuals also reported having more difficulties with physical functioning than their peers, such as walking up stairs.
As an added measure, the researchers asked Duke University undergraduate students to assess facial photos of the study participants taken at age 38 and rate how young or old they appeared. Again, the participants who were biologically older on the inside also appeared older to the college students.
The aging process isn’t all genetic. Studies of twins have found that only about 20 percent of aging can be attributed to genes. And these genes can be influenced with lifestyle and epigenetics. The OLI’s research team has even found that prenatal conditions can significantly affect the child’s aging process.
THE OPTIMAL LONGEVITY INSTITUTE’S CONTRIBUTION
The OLI’s team is also researching complementary multi-factorial way of measuring the aging process and we will be conducting clinical trials on this topic. Meanwhile, the ultimate goal of longevity research is to intervene in the aging process holistically and via public policy because as we get older, our risk grows for all kinds of different diseases, in particular debilitating diseases that drain the Nation’s economy.
As the OLI reserch team has demonstrated, progress of aging shows in different human organs at different times and under different conditions, from the immune system, the eyes, joints, hair, kidneys, liver, lungs, libido etc. , There are multiple pathways that determine both global and organ aging. General caloric restriction and resveratrol for example targets the entire organism’s aging process affecting many longevity genes like sirtuins while exercises affect testosterone levels and stem cell rejuvenation. One’s metabolic rate and stress level are also general biomarkers while diet and certain superfoods and antifungals work on more spectific pathways.
What is remarkable is that when we address both the multiple and specific pathways of longevity, the major chronic diseases that affect Humanity start being lessened if not reversed. Holistic medicine is therefore the most logical, cost-effective, safe and efficent health-care system ever.
(1). “Quantification of biological aging in young adults,” Daniel Belsky, Avshalom Caspi, et al. PNAS, July 7, 2015. This research was funded by the New Zealand Health Research Council, U.S. National Institute on Aging, UK Medical Research Council, Jacobs Foundation and the Yad Hanadiv Rothschild Foundation.
(2). This study reports on 954 of the original 1,037 study participants. Thirty of them had died by age 38: 12 by illnesses such as cancer and congenital defects, 10 by accidents and eight by suicide or drug overdose. Another 26 did not take part in the study at age 38. Twenty-seven participants had insufficient data to be included.
(4). Earlier studies have linked to aging many processes, from blood pressure to lung function, cholesterol, plaque and amyloid build-up, body mass index, inflammation and the integrity of their DNA, including, but not limited to telomeres.
Disclaimer: This blog is educational. Nothing therein should be construed as medical advise.
2015 (C) Optimal Longevity Institute and Christian Joubert. All rights reserved.