‘Biological Age’ Tests: High-Tech Health Hack Or Pseudoscience Scam?

The genetic insight is becoming popular, but how much does it really reveal? ‘Biological Age’ Tests: High-Tech Health Hack Or Pseudoscience Scam? Giphy

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As more and more people gravitate toward technology as a way to help them stay healthy, a number of seemingly miraculous new services have begun to spring up — including a new class of tests aimed at determining a person’s “biological age.”

But as we’ve learned from supposed breakthroughs in the past, it’s important not to take big claims at face value.

What do the tests actually do?

Genetic material has long been used for other applications — from tracing genealogy to identifying vulnerabilities to hereditary diseases — and biological age tests are being marketed as the next step forward in this trend.

Broadly speaking, the purpose of the test is to identify the proliferation of methyl groups attached to DNA, which some scientists believe is an accurate gauge of how fast a person is genetically aging.

Steve Horvath developed one such test and said: “You can use methylation to measure time in all cells that contain DNA.”

Does it live up to the hype?

While scientists acknowledge that such DNA markers do increase over time, not everyone is convinced that measuring them is an accurate gauge of biological age.

Geriatrician Luigi Ferrucci, for example, cautioned that if someone were to take a test at this point, “it must be based on curiosity.

That doesn’t mean there’s no value to the results and the current crop of tests might end up being a big step toward identifying ways to help humans slow down the aging process. Of course, the big takeaway at this point is that leading an unhealthy lifestyle is, well, unhealthy.

Horvath touted the fact that his team “spent over 10 years trying to understand what factors accelerate your epigenetic clock.”

But you’d probably be able to guess the biggest culprits: smoking, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee February 6th, 2024
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