Telomere tests: How well do they predict biological age

You could have heard about at-home DNA testing and may need even despatched a cheek swab or saliva pattern off within the mail to be taught extra about your ancestry or illness threat. Now, a rising variety of corporations are providing over-the-counter exams to measure your telomeres and supply insights into how your physique is growing older.

What are telomeres? 

Telomeres are mixtures of DNA and protein on the finish of a chromosome. Just like plastic tips about the ends of shoelaces, telomeres forestall DNA from “fraying” or shedding genetic materials. Your telomeres get shorter as you grow old.

“Telomeres are the principle biomarkers of growing older,” says Juan Luis Sánchez González PhD, professor of nursing and physiotherap on the College of Salamanca in Spain. “They’re thought-about to be the clocks or timers of the cell since they mark the variety of cell divisions till the cell dies.”

Some analysis has linked shorter telomere size to an elevated threat of diabetes, heart problems and shorter lifespan. Analysis has additionally targeted on altering telomere size as an avenue to stop age-specific illness threat and restrict the impacts of growing older.

The affect of telomere size and cognitive efficiency or dementia threat is much less clear.

In a 2022 examine, González in contrast telomere size of bodily energetic ladies of their seventies with inactive ladies in the identical age group and located no correlation between telomere size and cognitive efficiency. Separate analysis discovered shorter and longer telomere size had been related to an elevated threat of Alzheimer’s illness. One researcher famous the hyperlink was “inconsistent.”

“This can be a new subject,” says Sue Rutherford Siegel Ph.D., a genetic researcher and professor within the Biomarker Core Lab at Penn State. “We’re nonetheless attempting to analysis and establish all of the ramifications of telomere shortening at this cut-off date.”

Does telomere testing work?

Some corporations that provide at-home testing promise your DNA will reveal your true organic age and supply perception into your mobile well being. In actuality, the outcomes obtained by way of telomere testing may not be priceless.

“It’s not like an individual who has [a certain] measurement of telomere size is in good well being as a result of there’s a terrific vary [in normal telomere length],” says Siegel. “Telomeres will shorten with age naturally…it’s simply the pure development of growing older, however even amongst 60-year-olds, you’ll discover a huge quantity of variations between people who have lengthy and brief [telomeres].”

Not solely is there no commonplace for what constitutes a “wholesome” telomere size by age, there are additionally a number of strategies for evaluating telomere size and infrequently important variations within the outcomes. Analysis reveals that one frequent check, the quantitative polymerase chain response or qPCR check, has as much as a 20% variability in outcomes and testing on completely different days can result in completely different outcomes.

“A few of it’s measurement error however some [changes to telomere length] could also be true organic regulation [or] intervals of shortening and compensatory intervals of lengthening,” says Elissa Epel PhD, co-director of the Growing old, Metabolism and Feelings Heart on the College of California. “Having brief telomeres is just a threat issue for well being [but] it solely barely will increase your threat for illness. So many different components go into your threat [like] your well being behaviors and your genetics.” 

Given the challenges, Epel doesn’t consider it’s value investing in at-home telomere testing, including, “If somebody is devoted to getting repeated measures of telomere size, earlier than, throughout and after a giant way of life change, that could possibly be fascinating. However for me [testing] will not be a precedence.”

How you can protect telomere size

It may not be mandatory handy over your bank card info to be taught your telomere size however you will need to prioritize wholesome habits that might protect or enhance telomere size.

Consuming a weight loss program chock filled with legumes, nuts, fruits, and occasional (and skipping sugar-sweetened drinks, pink and processed meats) might assist protect telomere size; train, optimum sleep and quitting (or not smoking) had been additionally linked to much less telomere shortening—however Siegel notes that these are the oft-cited hallmarks of a wholesome way of life and helpful no matter their affect on telomeres.

Regardless of a rising physique of proof, even researchers admit that additional research are wanted to get a greater understanding of the connection between telomere size and wholesome growing older.

Fortune‘s CFO Day by day publication is the must-read evaluation each finance skilled must get forward. Join at present.