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Off-Topic Telomere Testing - Useful? Reliable?

Steve Freides

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I've read about telomere testing before a way to determine one's physical age as differentiated from one's chronological age, e.g., to tell if your body is older or younger, in terms of health and aging, than your chronological age.

I've also read that some people think it's a crock, endorsed by supplement companies trying to sell things that will "make you younger."

I'm interested to hear opinions on this.

Thanks in advance for your replies.

-S-
 

Steve W.

Level 7 Valued Member
How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?

How long would your telomeres be if you didn't know how long your telomeres are?
 

James Sullivan

Level 5 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
I've read about telomere testing before a way to determine one's physical age as differentiated from one's chronological age, e.g., to tell if your body is older or younger, in terms of health and aging, than your chronological age.
@Steve Freides I'm curios as to what this data would be used for. Lifestyle change and retest, or something else?
 

Steve Freides

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If it’s reliable data, it would/could be an interesting measure of the effectiveness of a diet/exercise/lifestyle program. If memory serves, it’s mentioned in Q&D and/or S&S.

We discuss a lot of body metrics here: cholesterol values, what’s a good 1RM in a particular lift, what’s good for mitochondrial health, etc. I am curious to know if this another such metric that might be worth discussing. Given my memory of it appearing in a recent book, I had assumed it was a useful metric, but my reading on the subject found many opinions to the contrary.

So I asked.

-S-
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
Some years back I watched the documentary The Immortalists (The Immortalists (2014) - IMDb) and found it a bit fascinating, but a bit science fiction. I have done no studies or looked at no research on the topic, so I have no science to back it up, but that doc gave me the impression it's pretty far fetched research.
 

Steve W.

Level 7 Valued Member
I take it you’re not a fan of telomere testing @Steve W.

-S-
I don't really have strong feelings about it either way, but I'm "not a fan" in the sense of being unenthusiastic.

So we know that telomere length is involved in the aging process and is at least somewhat correlated with healthy lifestyle practices, levels of stress, and with health and longevity. However, I think there is still a lot we don't know about the nature and extent of those correlations and even more that we don't know about any possible causative connections or mechanisms (if any), or about any possible interventions.

But we already know about the correlations between healthy lifestyle practices, levels of stress, and health and longevity. The existence of telomeres and our current understanding of them doesn't change that or expand on it.

In the video above, the first point about aging involving an interaction of genetics and environment/behavior is trivial. Of course it does.
,
Then the second point is an explanation of what telomeres are and what we know about them.

Then the last three points are a bunch of mindset and lifestyle advice which has been common since long before anyone knew what a telomere is. A positive and resilient mindset, lower stress, and a healthy lifestyle tend to promote good health? Who knew?
 

Kenny Croxdale

Level 6 Valued Member
I've read about telomere testing before a way to determine one's physical age as differentiated from one's chronological age, e.g., to tell if your body is older or younger, in terms of health and aging, than your chronological age.

I've also read that some people think it's a crock, endorsed by supplement companies trying to sell things that will "make you younger."

Telomeres

There appears to be validity to it.

The role of exercise play a role...


Conclusion
"Longer telomeres and higher levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines were identified in athletes who belong to high-intensity sports, suggesting less aging and a potentially healthier phenotype compared to athletes who belong to low- and moderate-intensity sports", summarize the researchers.


,,,higher levels of physical activity or exercise are related to longer telomere lengths in various populations, and athletes tend to have longer telomere lengths than non-athletes.

Supplements

Some supplement may help.

Diet

Diet has been show to influence telemers.

This is an evolving field to elicit positive health...

Epigentics

...the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence.
...
 

silveraw

Level 7 Valued Member
've also read that some people think it's a crock, endorsed by supplement companies trying to sell things that will "make you younger."
My personal theory is that it is like the biohacker equivalent of "which Hogwarts house are you quizzes".

You don't really get any actionable data from it. It just kind of gives you a reinforcement of what you are already doing along with a status you can post to brag about your results on Facebook. There are valid reasons for it to be an important measurement. Which is fine and great I have no problem with it.

Unless you start trying to game the test.

As Dan John put it "If you have to study for an aptitude test, it isn't measuring aptitude anymore."

Once the supplement companies and the gurus get into it you start running into the issue where they start selling you better test scores for better test scores. Regardless of if it still means anything in regard to extending healthy lifespan or not. I think the classic examples here are the testosterone boosting supplements/protocols. They can increase measurements in some tests without actually meaningfully increasing testosterone.

TL:DR: like most things the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
 

Steve Freides

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But we already know about the correlations between healthy lifestyle practices, levels of stress, and health and longevity. The existence of telomeres and our current understanding of them doesn't change that or expand on it.

What's new here is that telomere testing offers to quantify something about the correlations to which you refer - that really does "change or expand" our current ability to measure our own health. We think the correlations you mention do exist - we're pretty sure, even. But telomere testing, assuming you accept its significance, offers a way of knowing something new, something concrete about a person's physical versus their chronological age as a measurement of health. And even if it doesn't offer "knowing", if it only offers a _better_ measurement or a data point that didn't previously exist, that's a big plus. I feel like what you're saying is like saying, "Who care about cholesterol measurements?" I care to have them, even as how we interpret them continues to evolve. Perhaps measuring telomere length offers a similarly useful bit of data about our bodies that, like cholesterol numbers, doesn't need to be treated as stone tablets handed down on Mt. Sinai but can nonetheless provide useful information about our bodies.

-S-
 

Steve W.

Level 7 Valued Member
What's new here is that telomere testing offers to quantify something about the correlations to which you refer - that really does "change or expand" our current ability to measure our own health. We think the correlations you mention do exist - we're pretty sure, even. But telomere testing, assuming you accept its significance, offers a way of knowing something new, something concrete about a person's physical versus their chronological age as a measurement of health.
But it doesn't really, especially at the current time.

Telomere length is not health; it's just telomere length.

There might be some evidence it might have some correlation with health, but there is no evidence of a causal relationship, much less of the specific nature of that relationship. It's just a data point of no known specific significance.

I don't really buy into the idea of "physical," as opposed to chronological age. You might evaluate your physical condition or physical health by whatever criteria you value, but you don't have a physical "age" except as you compare to others, or averages of others, in the population based on your chosen criteria. And where does comparing yourself to others in this way really get you?

I'm interested to hear opinions on this.
If you want to get your telomeres tested and think this will give you give you some useful information or satisfy a curiosity, feel free.

But I feel like I'm repeating my original response, just in more concrete and long-winded terms.
How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?

How long would your telomeres be if you didn't know how long your telomeres are?
 

ali

Level 6 Valued Member
"Judith Campisi, an expert on cellular aging at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif., said the underlying research is solid. “If you have a terrible diet and you smoke, you’re definitely shortening your life, and shortening your telomeres,” she said.

Short telomeres increase the likelihood of cells becoming senescent and producing molecules that lead to inflammation, which she said is a huge risk factor for every age-related disease. “So there is a link there,” Campisi said, “it’s just not this exclusive magic bullet, that’s all.”

Cells can age in different ways, so someone could have lots of aging cells but normal-looking telomeres. “If all aging was due to telomeres, we would have solved the aging problem a long time ago,” she said.


includes an interview with the author of the telomere effect.
Nice round up of the main issues.
 

ali

Level 6 Valued Member
If you are in good health with no health concerns and in your 50s or 60s or above if telemore length suggests you have the biological age of a 35 year old....would you change anything? If they were that of an 80 year old, would you change anything? And if so what? If you already have what many would consider a healthy lifestyle, then what variables could you amplify or drop?

You could make the assumption that someone with shortened telomeres then other markers for health would reflect that, wouldn't it? Weight, blood pressure, heart rate, diabetes etc....easy to test. The sum of which is reflected perhaps in telomere length, I dunno.
 

Steve Freides

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Elite Certified Instructor
Telomere length is not health; it's just telomere length.

There might be some evidence it might have some correlation with health, but there is no evidence of a causal relationship, much less of the specific nature of that relationship. It's just a data point of no known specific significance.
Someone else mentioned a Nobel prize for research in this field. I have not looked into the specifics but that does lend some credence to the idea of causality here, does it not?

I have no horse in this race FWIW. I’m just exploring the issue. My tentative conclusion thus far is that the idea has merit but that some people are also trying to take advantage of it for purposes of financial gain. The latter is what it is but I am still interested in the merits, and the cause and effect.

-S-
 

ali

Level 6 Valued Member
My tentative conclusion thus far is that the idea has merit but that some people are also trying to take advantage of it for purposes of financial gain

There is a similarity to genetic testing, 23andme and others, especially with regards to alzheimer risk and for sport/performance, various testing for 'sport' genes etc. That is, how the wellness industry is able to exploit health anxieties and lifestyle pursuits with 'research says' and 'clinically proven' hooks to market 'scientifically' endorsed products or methods.

Absolutely agree.

I think there is fudgey murky line where developing science and understanding butts into business and financial marketplaces, both in regulated drug/pharma business and the unregulated wild West wellness quackery and alternative medicine space.

It's hard to tune your aerial to get a clear picture.
 
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