Many people are interested to know whether they are aging faster or slower than their chronological age. That is why a lot of online quizzes, expensive chromosome tests or blood panels are prevalent nowadays, apparently to determine if our aging process matches our actual age. However, these tests are not really reliable in terms of determining your aging process. Some are also quite costly, ranging from $300 to $800.
A recent study revealed that based on 11 different measures of aging, including blood and chromosome tests, none of them agree with one another in terms of given results. The research is based on a lifelong study of nearly 1,000 people in Dunedin, New Zealand, who have been studied extensively from birth to age 38. This means that age tests have varying results and data from specific tests don’t support one another. Thus, it is difficult to identify which one is accurate.
“People age at different rates and geriatric medicine needs a way to measure that,” says Daniel Belsky, an assistant professor of population health sciences at Duke University who studies aging. “However, results coming from different aging measures may vary and see a lot of disagreement, depending on a person’s physiology, genes, blood markers, balance and grip strength. It is safe to say that it’s premature to market aging tests to the public.”
The researchers collected physical aging measures from the Dunedin participants such as motor coordination, cognitive function, facial aging, and self-assessed health. However, the DNA’s telomeres, located at the end of chromosomes that unravel the more we age, are found to have “no evidence of the ability to predict physical or cognitive changes, except possibly facial aging,” Belsky said.
Moreover, the DNA’s “epigenetic” patterns, which are thought of as clocks that measure the aging rate, were found to “keep time pretty well.” However, it also seemed that these patterns “were less clearly related to changes in people’s physiology or problems with physical or cognitive performance.” Thus, using the said patterns can be questionable whether they are appropriate to use to survey individuals in order to predict their life span.
Algorithms were also utilized to analyze large data involving blood markers and tests of organ functions, and fared somewhat better. Regarding telomeres, Stephen Kritchevsky, director of the Sticht Center for Healthy Aging at Wake Forest University but not involved in the said study, said that while it is a mechanism that can potentially prevent aging and cancer, using telomeres to measure aging in a 50-year old individual can produce varying results.
Kritchevsky further added that different tissues of our body age at different rates and not simultaneously, and that “there are another seven or eight aspects of physiology that are being pursued that might turn up a more reliable measure of aging.” Nevertheless, the Dunedin study can be a stepping stone for further research regarding aging tests. While the rest of the world focuses on treatments to slow down the aging process, an aging test can similarly be helpful, preferably those that are inexpensive and non-invasive, and measure whether an anti-aging treatment is effective or not.