By Daniel W Belsky, Avshalom Caspi and Others
India’s population is young, but the global population is aging, driving up age-related disease morbidity. Anti-aging interventions can help cut disease and extend population productivity. But there is scepticism over whether the aging process can be detected in young adults who do not yet have chronic disease.
The findings of the research indicate that aging processes can be quantified in people who are still young enough for prevention of age-related disease, opening a new door for anti-aging therapies. Authors of the study argue that the science of healthspan extension may be focussed on the wrong end of the lifespan — rather than only studying old humans, geroscience should also study the young.
The researchers studied aging in 954 38-year-olds, individuals who had not yet developed age-related diseases, tracking 18 biomarkers such as blood pressure, organ function and metabolism, to estimate their biological ages. The results showed that while in a majority of cases, biological ages corresponded to actual ages, in many, they were significantly more or less than the number of years the individual had been alive.
The conclusion: people of the same age grow old at different speeds — with some of us aging faster than others.
Thus, many participants — though aged 38, had biological ages in the 50s, and one was biologically 61 years old. The faster pace of biological aging (or, the declining integrity of multiple organ systems) in some study participants meant that they were less physically able, showed cognitive decline and brain aging, reported worse health, looked older than other participants of the same chronological age.
The set of physiological markers were measured when the participants were aged 26, 32, and 38 to check how they had changed, to get an idea of the “pace of ageing”. The biological ages of the 38-year-olds were found to range from 28 to 61. If a chronologically 38-year-old showed a biological age of 40, it indicated an annual “pace of ageing” of 1.2 years over the 12-year study period.
Biologically older participants did badly in tests typically given to those aged over 60 — such as tests of balance and coordination.
— ADAPTED FROM ABSTRACT
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, June 2015