Imagine having the power to peer into the future of your own health, to see whether your daily choices are keeping years off your age or stacking them on. Would you change the way you live if you knew? As healthspan and lifespan are making their way into our mainstream vocabulary, understanding our biological age becomes increasingly important.
Biological age, or physiological age, is a key measure of how our body is aging internally.
There are many biological age diagnostic tests available today, so consider factors such as price, accuracy, methodology, and the depth of information provided prior to committing to one.
The field of biological age testing is continuously evolving.
Telomere testing, once popular, has limitations, while epigenetic clocks, like Horvath's Clock, show promise but require further research. Newer approaches, like analyzing glycans, may provide predictive insights into future health conditions.
Biological age provides valuable insights into our overall health and can help us make informed decisions about our lifestyle choices. With advancements in science and technology, several biological age diagnostic tests are now available on the market. However, choosing the right test can be overwhelming, considering the various factors such as price, accuracy, scientific merit, and the information they provide.
If you’ve heard of Bryan Johnson, the renowned entrepreneur and visionary in the field of biotechnology, you know how far one can take their biological age reversal efforts. While chronologically 46 years old, Johnson claims to have the heart of a 37-year-old and the lungs of an 18-year-old through his Project Blueprint of data-driven personalized treatments, genetic interventions, and lifestyle adjustments.
While you might not want to go as far as Johnson, knowing your biological age can have a profound impact on how you navigate your everyday life, so let’s explore the key considerations when selecting a biological age diagnostic test.
Understanding biological age
Biological age, also known as physiological age, refers to the rate at which your body is aging internally. Unlike chronological age, which is linear and simply the number of years you have lived, biological age is a number that can fluctuate based on lifestyle, environmental, and medical influences.
Measuring biological age allows us to assess the impact of our lifestyle choices and identify areas where we can improve our health and longevity. By understanding our biological age, we can make informed decisions about our diet, exercise, and other health interventions that can potentially slow down the aging process and reduce the risk of age-related diseases.
Why biological age tests are becoming popular
In an interview with Healthnews, Dr. Varun Dwaraka, head of bioinformatics at TruDiagnostic, said that biological age tests are growing in popularity because aging is becoming more of a problem. "We have a rapidly aging population, and we know that age is the biggest risk factor of all chronic disease and death," he noted.
As our population ages, the disease burden is shifting toward chronic, non-communicable diseases. "These diseases are estimated to have caused 72.3% of deaths in the United States in 2016. A substantial part of life, and certainly most deaths, now occur in a period in the lifespan when the risk for frailty and disability increases exponentially," Dr. Dwaraka said, adding that as a consequence, there is a growing emphasis on healthy aging and an emerging body of research focusing on the biology of aging.
Factors to consider when choosing a biological age diagnostic test
When it comes to choosing a biological age diagnostic test, several factors should be taken into consideration. These factors can help you determine the accuracy and reliability of the test, as well as the value it provides in terms of actionable insights for improving your overall health.
Price is often a significant consideration when selecting a biological age diagnostic test. The cost can vary widely depending on the complexity of the test, the technology used, and the additional information provided. It's essential to find a test that aligns with your budget while still providing accurate and comprehensive results.
The accuracy of the test is crucial in determining the reliability of the results. Dr. Dwaraka recommends looking at two important metrics: the interclass correlation (ICC) value and hazard ratios to disease.
He explained that ICC values are measures of the precision of a test. For instance, if we test the same sample three times, how consistent are the results? "If it were the exact same every time, the ICC value would be one, which is ideal," he added.
On the other hand, hazard ratios describe the sensitivity of the test to disease.
"For aging, we want to see that aging clocks are predictive of all diseases. Together, we use these metrics to directly compare the various aging predictors"Dr. Dwaraka
Biological age diagnostic tests utilize various methodologies to assess biological age. Some tests analyze DNA methylation patterns, while others may incorporate metabolic data or clinical biomarkers, NAD levels, telomeres, or glycans. Understanding the methodology behind each test can help you determine which approach aligns with your specific needs and preferences.
Consider the type and depth of information provided by the test. Some tests may provide a simple numerical value representing biological age, while others may offer detailed reports and actionable insights based on the analysis of various biomarkers.
Some even offer consultation with an expert to help you interpret the results and apply them effectively through a data-driven intervention protocol to potentially work on reversing that biological age. Choose a test that provides the level of information you are comfortable with and find most useful for your health goals.
Validation studies play an important role in establishing the reliability and accuracy of a biological age diagnostic test. Dr. Dwaraka said, "Without this, biological age reports are akin to going to a fortune teller. You can choose to believe them, but it is better to have evidence that they are usually correct."
Look for tests that have been validated through independent research and have demonstrated their ability to predict health outcomes. These studies provide evidence of the test's effectiveness and can instill confidence in its results.
Privacy and security
Given the sensitive nature of genetic and biological data, make sure to consider the privacy and security measures implemented by the testing company. Ensure that the company adheres to strict data protection protocols, including encryption and secure storage to safeguard your personal information.
Customer reviews and reputation
Customer reviews and the reputation of the testing company can provide valuable insights into the overall experience and satisfaction of previous users. Look for testimonials and feedback from individuals who have used the test to gauge its effectiveness and reliability.
What the science says
The field of biological age testing is growing, but Dr. Gordon Lauc, molecular biologist and chief science officer at Glycanage, told Healthnews that keeping up with the latest science is key to understanding which test will give you the most value for your money, energy, and time.
Telomeres have fallen short
There has been a lot of research done on telomeres.
"The consensus in the field now is that telomeres do not predict any health-related events. So measuring telomeres does not provide useful information"Dr. Lauc
In some cases, longer telomeres are a risk for diseases like cancer, he noted.
Research continues on epigenetic clocks
Another well-researched area of biological age testing is related to epigenetics. One well-known research study connects it to Horvath’s Clock. Developed by Dr. Steve Horvath, such tests examine changes in DNA methylation patterns, which can serve as a reliable indicator of biological age. DNA methylation is known to change with age, and analyzing these patterns can provide valuable insights.
Epigenetic tests require a blood sample for analysis, but there’s a catch. Dr. Lauc explained, "The epigenome is very different in different tissues, in different components of the blood." What this means is that getting blood at one given moment may result in a different biological age outcome than if analyzed several days or weeks later. "So I think that epigenetic testing is still in the research phase," he noted.
This is where the ICC values come in handy. Adding to that uncertainty, Dr. Dwaraka mentioned, "In previous clocks, different types of T cells from the same person could vary up to 15–20 years in the same individual." The ICC values were below 0.5, which is considered poor reproducibility.
With advanced technology though, TruDiagnostic was able to develop an algorithm, called OMICmAge, that uses DNA methylation data and has an ICC of 0.995. "This means that there is generally less than a 0.5% difference between measurements of the same blood sample," he explained.
TruDiagnostic developed the OMICmAge algorithm through extensive research. Dr. Dwaraka shared, "We measured over 3,200 metabolites [small molecules like neurotransmitters, hormones, and environmental chemicals], 28,000 peptides and proteins, 61 clinical variables, full genome sequencing, and more."
The research is ongoing. Dr. Dwaraka underscored that they have more than 30 clinical trials currently underway in order to better understand how these biological age measures respond to various interventions. "This betters our understanding of what information we can glean from these clocks," he said.
Can glycans predict the future?
Dr. Lauc explained that biological age is a moving target and there’s no single test that will give you everything. "Multiple tests will enable us to tune our lifestyle to postpone diseases and live longer," he said, noting that his more than 30 years of research in the area has pointed to how glycans can help predict future disease states.
Glycans often enter the conversation in reference to IgG glycosylation and the term "inflammaging," as they may help us quantify the level of inflammation in the body. They are attached to the most abundant antibody in the immune system, which directly correlates with one's level of inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is considered the underlying issue in many age-related diseases, hence its predictive potential with certain health conditions. "What we discovered maybe five [to] six years ago is that if you look at glycans today, you have a very good prediction of, for example, heart attack and stroke five to ten years in the future," Dr. Lauc said.
Age-related diseases develop over a period of years when the body is trying to compensate, but when compensation fails, the disease will manifest. "Glycans are a mechanism to measure that compensation. Changes in glycans are an attempt of our body to compensate for some kind of pressure from the wrong direction," Dr. Lauc explained, adding that knowing your Glycanage may give you time to respond and intervene early.
Comparison of biological age diagnostic tests
When it comes to biological age diagnostic tests, several options stand out for their accuracy and comprehensive analysis. Let's compare six prominent tests, considering factors such as price, sample collection method, results turnaround time, and the unique features they offer:
|Test name||Cost||Collection method||Results turnaround||Unique offering|
|TruDiagnostic||$229–$499||Finger prick blood test||4–6 weeks||Receive a 30+ page report detailing each factor that influences your biological age. Advanced, highly accurate DNA methylation and epigenetic clock analysis.|
|Glycanage||$348||Finger prick blood test||3–5 weeks||The test analyzes 27 glycans (which represent over 99% of the glycan structures on IgG). Offers free video consultation with a healthcare professional to help interpret results.|
|Index by Elysium Health||$299||Saliva||6 weeks||Measures 10 different aspects of aging and offers personalized comparison to other users and enrollment in Elysium's Translational Initiative to Map Epigenetics in Aging (TIME-A) research program.|
|Novos Age||$349||Finger prick blood test||4 weeks||Comprehensive 55-page report with DunedinPACE Rate of Aging Clock and telomere length analysis. Backed by leading scientists from Harvard and MIT.|
|myDNAge||$299||Blood or urine||4–6 weeks||Based on Dr. Steve Horvath's Epigenetic Aging Clock, includes analysis of more than 2,000 biomarkers and provides personalized risk assessments for metabolic and age-related disorders.|
|TallyAge||$229||Cheek swab||4–6 weeks||Includes a comprehensive assessment of aging, incorporating lifestyle and health factors. Offers personalized lifestyle guidance and access to longevity research programs.|
How to choose a biological age diagnostic test
Knowing your biological age empowers you to make informed decisions about your lifestyle, ultimately leading to a healthier and more fulfilling life. Making a decision as to which biological age diagnostic test to choose can be overwhelming. With many science-dense options available at varying price points and offerings, choosing not to choose may be the easiest way out.
However, lots of science is a good thing. Transparency and commitment to scientific rigor are very important and demonstrate the company's dedication to providing accurate and reliable results. Many tests today offer clinical guidance and various resources to help you best interpret your data and develop interventions to help you increase not only your lifespan but your health span too.
Dr. Lauc pointed out that specialists at over 700 clinics globally have been helping people reverse their age through personalized plans, and many work great. "We see huge differences," he said. "There are some clinics that are really good, and people become 10, 20, 30 years younger [biologically] within a year of therapy."