Chronological Age vs. Biological Age: Will both ages appear on our health charts in the future?

Genes are passed onto children by both parents when their egg and sperm fertilize to form a baby.

Chan (June 13, 2022) recently published an article highlighting some of the work of “Dr. Steve Horvath, a 54-year-old UCLA professor who pioneered the first “clock” to indicate human aging by examining chemical changes to DNA.” DNA is a microscopic structure in our cells that hold genetic information for us all. A chromosome is a long DNA molecule that carries most or part of our genetic material. Genes are the blueprint of who we are. Genes are passed onto children by both parents when their egg and sperm fertilize to form a baby.

Dr. Horvath believes that analyzing our DNA will reveal our actual ages biologically. In other words, “biological age is a better predictor of our life expectancy than chronological age.” One approach focuses on the length of telomeres, which are protective structures on the ends of our chromosomes that shorten every time a chromosome replicates, making them an approximate yardstick for biological aging. The hope is that understanding biological age can lead to new life-lengthening interventions. Chan also reports that other approaches take blood samples and measure the presence of molecules that correlate with decreased bodily function. Some systems even claim to determine mortality risk by scanning people’s eyes.

Räsänen (April 1, 2021) reports that “Dutchman Emile Ratelband (age 69 at the time) recently made headlines by wanting to change his birth date to 20 years later than the date he was born.” “He claimed he has the body of a 50-year-old man and identifies as being younger than he currently is. Therefore, he claimed, he should be entitled to change his official age. The Dutch court rejected Ratelband’s appeal.” Compared to chronological age, biological age indicates more accurately what matters, such as functioning ability. Should our legal age change be allowed if our aging process is significantly slowed so that our biological age accurately measures our actual bodily functioning age?

The distinction between biological and chronological age could have significant implications for how we should understand our legal age. Räsänen (April 1, 202) further mentions that in gerontology (the study of aging) and anti-aging medicine, there is a commonly used distinction between biological and chronological age. Recent developments in epigenetics (analysis of the changes in genes) suggest that our gene changes and aging effects might be the key to understanding and calculating human biological aging. Fan (May 24, 2022) reports that Dr. Horvath discovered, after gathering and analyzing over 13,000 human samples, that Horvath found an impressive measuring tool for aging.

The key was a type of epigenetic modification called methylation, which tends to rest on DNA spots dubbed CpG islands. Next, his team developed an algorithm for biological age. This cellular biological clock impressed researchers with its accuracy throughout the body (Fan, May 24, 2022). This kit is called Epi Age. EpiAge seems to work for multiple organs and tissues, potentially showing how aging happens. With more work, Horvath found even more patterns that reflected the age of certain types of cells, such as neurons (nerve cells) and blood cells.

Dr. Rosa Kincaid (2022), a physician who focuses on healthy lifestyles, supports that whole food and plant-based nutrition may increase your biological age vs. chronological age. Will biological age vs. chronological age be the game changer for people to eat healthier and live healthier lives? Americans, in general, have been living longer than before. Perhaps one’s biological age may play a role in many industries, such as health and life insurance. Biological age is an excellent topic to be aware of in the upcoming years. The Narrative Matters!

References:

Chan, W. (June 13, 2022). Real age versus biological age: the startups revealing how old we really are. Real age versus biological age: the startups revealing how old we really are | Ageing | The Guardian

Fan, S. (May 24, 2022). What’s Your Biological Age? A New ‘Aging Clock’ Has the Answer. What’s Your Biological Age? A New ‘Aging Clock’ Has the Answer (singularityhub.com)

Kincaid, R. (2022). (Dr. Rosa Kincaid (drrosakincaid.org)

Räsänen, J. (April 1, 2021).Does the distinction between biological and chronological age support legal age change? Does the distinction between biological and chronological age support legal age change? | Bioethics (harvard.edu)

Photo Credit: What’s Your Biological Age? A New ‘Aging Clock’ Has the Answer (sportsmedicineweekly.com)


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