Blood of people with exceptionally long lifespans reveals key differences: ScienceAlert

Blood of people with exceptionally long lifespans reveals key differences: ScienceAlert

Centenarians, once considered rare, have become commonplace. In fact, they are the fastest-growing demographic group in the world’s population, doubling in numbers roughly every decade since the 1970s.

How long humans can live, and what defines a long and healthy life, has been a subject of interest for as long as we know. Plato and Aristotle discussed and wrote about the aging process more than 2,300 years ago.

However, seeking to understand the secrets behind exceptional longevity is not easy. It involves unraveling the complex interplay between genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors and how they interact throughout a person’s life.

Now our latest study, published in the journal GeroScience, has revealed some common biomarkers, including cholesterol and glucose levels, in people over the age of 90.

Super-lifers and centenarians have long been of great interest to scientists because they may help us understand how to live longer, and perhaps even how to age healthier. To date, studies on centenarians have often been small-scale and focused on a select group, for example, excluding centenarians living in care homes.

Huge data set

Our study is the largest study to compare biomarker profiles measured across the lifespan between exceptionally long-lived people and their shorter-lived peers to date.

We compared the vital sign profiles of people over the age of 100, and their peers who lived shorter than that, and looked at the relationship between the profiles and the chance of becoming centenarians.

Our research included data from 44,000 Swedes who underwent health assessments at ages 64-99 – a sample of the so-called Amores cohort.

These participants were then followed through Swedish registry data for up to 35 years. Of these people, 1,224, or 2.7%, lived to be 100 years old. The vast majority (85%) of centenarians were female.

Twelve blood-based biomarkers related to inflammation, metabolism, liver and kidney function, as well as possible malnutrition and anemia were included. All of these things have been linked to aging or mortality in previous studies.

The biomarker associated with inflammation was uric acid, a waste product in the body resulting from the digestion of certain foods.

We also looked at markers related to metabolic status and function, including total cholesterol and glucose, and those related to liver function, such as alanine aminotransferase (Alat), aspartate aminotransferase (Asat), albumin, gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), and alkaline phosphatase. (Alp) and lactate dehydrogenase (LD).

We also looked at creatinine, which is linked to kidney function, and iron and total iron binding capacity (TIBC), which is linked to anemia. Finally, we also studied albumin, a biomarker associated with nutrition.

the findings

We found that, in general, those who reached their 100th birthday had lower levels of glucose, creatinine and uric acid from their 60s onwards. Although mean values ​​did not differ significantly between centenarians and noncentenarians for most biomarkers, centenarians rarely showed very high or low values.

For example, very few centenarians had a glucose level higher than 6.5 earlier in life, or a creatinine level higher than 125.

For several biomarkers, both centenarians and noncentenarians had values ​​outside the range considered normal in clinical guidelines. This may be because these guidelines were developed based on a younger, healthier population.

When exploring biomarkers associated with the likelihood of reaching age 100, we found that all but two of the 12 biomarkers (instruments and albumin) showed an association with the likelihood of reaching age 100. This was even after taking into account age, gender and disease burden. .

People in the bottom five groups for total cholesterol and iron levels had a lower chance of reaching 100 than those with higher levels. Meanwhile, people with higher levels of glucose, creatinine, uric acid and markers of liver function also had a reduced chance of becoming centenarians.

In absolute terms, the differences were rather small for some biomarkers, while for others the differences were somewhat more substantial.

For uric acid, for example, the absolute difference was 2.5 percentage points. This means that people in the group with the lowest uric acid levels had a 4% chance of reaching 100 years of age while in the group with the highest uric acid levels, only 1.5% reached 100 years of age.

Even if the differences we found are fairly small overall, they suggest a potential link between metabolic health, nutrition, and exceptional longevity.

However, the study does not allow any conclusions about lifestyle factors or genes responsible for biomarker values.

However, it is reasonable to believe that factors such as nutrition and alcohol intake play a role. Keeping track of your kidney and liver values, as well as your glucose and uric acid as you age, is probably not a bad idea.

However, chance may at some point play a role in reaching an exceptional age. But the fact that differences in biomarkers can be observed long before death suggests that genes and lifestyle may also play a role.Conversation

Karen ModigAssociate Professor of Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A previous version of this article was published in October 2023.

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