Assessing our biological age

Wouldn’t it be wonderful and possibly even scary if there were investigations we could undergo to inform us about our biological age, how rapidly or hopefully slowly we are ageing on the inside, and then provide us with interventions to slow this down or augment what is benefitting us?  I regularly get quizzed by my patients about these sorts of tests some of whom investing in analyses marketed online using stool and blood samples to estimate their biological age often claimed to be way in excess of their actual age.  While this all sounds very plausible we don’t yet have sound scientific research which supports this.

 For example, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is a substance that is central to the production of energy and DNA repair, two key metabolic processes that lapse into age-related decline, along with our body’s capacity to manufacture this protein.  Nutrients such as nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) and nicotinamide riboside, available as supplements, have been shown to increase NAD+ levels and in mice to boost energy production and fat burning.  But this has yet to be convincingly documented in humans.  Research also cautions that an aggressive brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme might be facilitated when NAD+ production is stimulated by NMN and therefore we need to be careful when supplementing with this nutrient.  Nutritional know how suggests that taking extra vitamin C when using NMN might temper its cancer-provoking downside but this is speculation rather than slam dunk proven wisdom. 

 Measuring NAD+ is not commercially available yet.

 Fat burning, which many of us have discovered to our chagrin, happens less efficiently as we age.  This leads to the accumulation of certain fatty acids in our bloodstream which provides an ageing signature of our body’s ability or lack thereof to execute this process.  Saturated fat, the kind found in red meat, butter and cheese but also located in our cells tends to increase with ageing while unsaturated fat found in olives, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds and avocado tends to decrease.  Eating more of the latter and less of the former might promote a fatty acid profile that is more age friendly.

 A far simpler tool available to all of us is the good old cholesterol assessment.  When cholesterol is quantified what is also measured is LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, HDL, the beneficial fat and triglyceride, another form of fat, that is connected with heart disease.  But there are different types of LDL, some more malicious called small dense LDL while large, buoyant LDL is relatively benign.  The presence of these can be obtained if your doctor requests LDL subfractions next time you have a cholesterol test.  Research shows that longevity in men is associated with higher levels of large LDL, whereas in women lower triglyceride status correlated with longevity.

  Knowing your biological age sounds enticing but for the time being the old standard cholesterol measurement can provide some useful insights into how efficiently our bodies are ageing.

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