Telomere tests: How well do they predict biological age

You will have heard about at-home DNA testing and may need even despatched a cheek swab or saliva pattern off within the mail to study extra about your ancestry or illness danger. Now, a rising variety of firms are providing over-the-counter checks to measure your telomeres and supply insights into how your physique is getting old.

What are telomeres? 

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

“Telomeres are the primary biomarkers of getting old,” says Juan Luis Sánchez González PhD, professor of nursing and physiotherap on the College of Salamanca in Spain. “They’re thought of 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 danger of diabetes, heart problems and shorter lifespan. Analysis has additionally targeted on altering telomere size as an avenue to forestall age-specific illness danger and restrict the impacts of getting old.

The impression of telomere size and cognitive efficiency or dementia danger is much less clear.

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

“This can be a new area,” 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 determine all of the ramifications of telomere shortening at this cut-off date.”

Does telomere testing work?

Some firms that supply 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 means of telomere testing may not be helpful.

“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 an amazing vary [in normal telomere length],” says Siegel. “Telomeres will shorten with age naturally…it’s simply the pure development of getting old, however even amongst 60-year-olds, you’ll discover a huge quantity of variations between those who have lengthy and brief [telomeres].”

Not solely is there no customary for what constitutes a “wholesome” telomere size by age, there are additionally a number of strategies for evaluating telomere size and sometimes vital variations within the outcomes. Analysis reveals that one widespread 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 older, Metabolism and Feelings Middle on the College of California. “Having brief telomeres is just a danger issue for well being [but] it solely barely will increase your danger for illness. So many different components go into your danger [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 an enormous way of life change, that could possibly be fascinating. However for me [testing] is just not a precedence.”

How you can protect telomere size

It may not be crucial at hand over your bank card data to study your telomere size however it is very important prioritize wholesome habits that would protect or enhance telomere size.

Consuming a food regimen chock filled with legumes, nuts, fruits, and occasional (and skipping sugar-sweetened drinks, purple and processed meats) might assist protect telomere size; train, optimum sleep and quitting (or not smoking) have 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 useful no matter their impression 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 getting old.

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