Telomere tests: How well do they predict biological age

You could have heard about at-home DNA testing and might 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 growing older.

What are telomeres? 

Telomeres are combos of DNA and protein on the finish of a chromosome. Just 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 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 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 growing older.

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

In a 2022 research, González in contrast telomere size of bodily lively 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 had been related to an elevated danger of Alzheimer’s illness. One researcher famous the hyperlink was “inconsistent.”

“It is 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 making an attempt to analysis and establish all of the ramifications of telomere shortening at this time limit.”

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 way of telomere testing won’t be invaluable.

“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 fantastic 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 those who have lengthy and quick [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 vital variations within the outcomes. Analysis reveals that one widespread take a look at, the quantitative polymerase chain response or qPCR take a look at, has as much as a 20% variability in outcomes and testing on totally different days can result in totally different outcomes.

“A few of it’s measurement error however some [changes to telomere length] could also be true organic regulation [or] durations of shortening and compensatory durations of lengthening,” says Elissa Epel PhD, co-director of the Growing older, Metabolism and Feelings Middle on the College of California. “Having quick telomeres is solely 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 imagine it’s price 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.”

Learn how to protect telomere size

It won’t be obligatory at hand over your bank card info to study your telomere size however it is very important prioritize wholesome habits that would protect or enhance telomere size.

Consuming a eating regimen chock stuffed with legumes, nuts, fruits, and occasional (and skipping sugar-sweetened drinks, crimson and processed meats) may 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.

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