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What Biological Age Tests Really Look For (and Whether You Should Be Concerned!)

Are you 80 on the inside?

I'm sure you've probably heard of those specialized tests that promise to measure your Biological Age - the speed at which your body is aging on a cellular level, compared to your calendar years.

They've been increasing in popularity over the last decade, especially as we become more conscious of the wear & tear we inflict on our bodies as a result of using (and abusing) 'em... And apparently science now has a metric for measuring how old you are on the inside.

But what do these tests really look for? And what information can they reveal about us? Furthermore, if your biological age clocks in older than your actual age, is it something to be worried about?

First, let’s get up to speed with the concept of biological age:


What Does "Biological Age" Mean? 

To clearly convey what exactly is meant by "biological age", it’s helpful to start by distinguishing what it is not: Your biological age is not your age in the traditional sense of the term—the one you inevitably celebrate (or tactically ignore) every calendar year on the same day, much to your delight or dismay. This is your chronological age, and it ultimately only tells you one thing: How many revolutions around the sun for which you’ve existed on Earth.

When it comes to your biological age, or the amount of "wear and tear" that has manifested in your cells, however, there are a plethora of factors which determine this rate of physical aging - some of these including genetics, demographics, and lifestyle factors like diet and exercise habits.

The idea is not only to be able to predict one’s lifespan and mortality, but also to have a better understanding of the body’s aging process and what can be done to slow it down.

What Do Biological Age Tests Look For? 

From free online questionnaires, to at-home DNA tests marketed in the hundreds of dollars - Biological age tests vary greatly in terms of method, accuracy, accessibility and price point.

Some of the more prominent methods involve:

  • Detecting certain molecules in your blood
  • Tracking various biomarkers throughout your body
  • Measuring telomeres which serve as a protective ‘coating’ on chromosomes
  • and compiling data on determining factors like genetics, demographic, and lifestyle.

Gaining the general consensus as the gold standard among longevity scientists, however, is the Epigenetic Clock - a scientific theory and method developed by Dr Steve Horvath.

This test is based on DNA methylation levels (measuring the accumulation of methyl groups to one's DNA molecules) to determine one’s DNA methylation age, or "DNAm age". 

So, What’s the Catch?

While these advancements in the field of biological aging and longevity are certainly exciting, the truth is, we’re still a long way from drawing any reliable, meaningful, and actionable information from these tests, at least in the context of everyday life

The man behind the method himself has expressed mixed feelings about marketing these tests for the masses…

“Currently these clocks are not useful for the average person because we don’t have an intervention to slow aging,”  Dr Horvath said.

Besides conventional health advice you should already know—eat your veggies, exercise, prioritize sleep, you know the drill—there’s little a biological age test has to offer in terms of actionable advice as things currently stand.

In other words: You probably don’t want to know, at least not for now. 

Thanks for reading - stay strong, warrior.

Maggie Johnson | MME Lifestyle Contributor

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