A ‘biological age’ score predicts that being male, overweight, a smoker and having depression all contribute to biological aging, a study published today in eLife reports.
Aging can be measured in different ways. While chronological age is measured by date of birth, scientists have developed a range of measurements to determine our biological age. These include measuring the length of telomeres (little caps on the end of our chromosomes that shorten as we grow older), chemical changes to our DNA (epigenetics), and changes to the proteins and metabolites in our bodies (proteomic and metabolomic measures).
Although studies have linked these individual measurements to physical and mental health, it is not known whether they influence each other – or whether they have a cumulative effect on our overall wellbeing as we age. This new research is the first to combine these individual measurements of biological age and show how they link with mental and physical health.
The team used blood samples from nearly 3,000 people taking part in the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety. They applied computer modelling to create individual biological aging indicators based on five commonly used measurements: telomere length, epigenetics, gene levels, metabolites and proteomics. The five indicators were then linked back to different factors such as sex, lifestyle factors, and known physical and mental disorders such as depression.
Of the five biological aging indicators, only three were found to significantly interact in individuals, such that an increase in one indicator also paralleled an increase in the other. There were many overlapping and distinct links between particular aging indicators and specific lifestyle factors or diseases. But being male, having a high body mass index (BMI), smoking and having metabolic syndrome were most consistently linked with more advanced biological aging.
This study has been published as part of eLife’s special issue on aging, geroscience and longevity.
Release date: 09 February 2021