In the pursuit of understanding the secrets behind exceptional longevity, scientists have long been fascinated by centenarians and nonagenarians. These individuals who live beyond the age of 90 not only provide insights into how to live longer but also offer clues on how to age in better health. While previous studies on centenarians have been limited in scale and scope, a recent groundbreaking study has shed new light on the biomarkers associated with exceptional longevity.
Conducted by a team of researchers and published in GeroScience, this study represents the largest comparison of biomarker profiles between long-lived individuals and their shorter-lived peers to date. The researchers analyzed data from the Amoris cohort, which consisted of 44,000 Swedes who underwent health assessments between the ages of 64 and 99. These participants were then followed for up to 35 years through Swedish register data. Among the cohort, 1,224 individuals, or 2.7%, lived to be 100 years old, with the majority being females.
The study examined 12 blood-based biomarkers associated with inflammation, metabolism, liver and kidney function, as well as potential malnutrition and anemia. These biomarkers have previously been linked to aging and mortality. One notable biomarker investigated was uric acid, a waste product produced during the digestion of certain foods, which is related to inflammation. The study also explored markers related to metabolic status and function, such as total cholesterol and glucose, as well as those associated with liver function, including alanine aminotransferase (Alat), aspartate aminotransferase (Asat), albumin, gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), alkaline phosphatase (Alp), and lactate dehydrogenase (LD). Furthermore, markers linked to kidney function (creatinine) and anemia (iron and total iron-binding capacity) were examined.
Although the median values of most biomarkers did not significantly differ between centenarians and non-centenarians, certain patterns emerged. Individuals who reached the age of 100 tended to exhibit lower levels of glucose, creatinine, and uric acid from their sixties onwards. Furthermore, centenarians rarely displayed extremely high or low values for these biomarkers, suggesting that maintaining a moderate range throughout life may be beneficial.
When assessing the likelihood of reaching 100 years old, all but two of the 12 biomarkers showed a connection, even after considering factors such as age, sex, and disease burden. Notably, individuals in the lowest groups for total cholesterol and iron levels had a lower chance of becoming centenarians compared to those with higher levels. Conversely, higher levels of glucose, creatinine, uric acid, and markers for liver function were associated with decreased odds of exceptional longevity.
While the observed differences in biomarkers were generally small, they highlight a potential link between metabolic health, nutrition, and exceptional longevity. It is important to note that this study does not draw definitive conclusions regarding the specific lifestyle factors or genes influencing the biomarker values. However, it is reasonable to assume that nutrition and alcohol intake may play a role. As individuals age, it is advisable to monitor kidney and liver values, as well as glucose and uric acid levels, to promote overall health and well-being.
Although chance likely plays a role in achieving exceptional longevity, the fact that differences in biomarkers can be observed long before death suggests that both genes and lifestyle factors are influential. By understanding the biomarkers associated with exceptional longevity, individuals can make more informed decisions about their health as they age. While no magic formula guarantees a long and healthy life, adopting a nutritious diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle may increase the likelihood of living beyond 90 years.
As centenarians become more commonplace in our society, the scientific community continues to delve into the factors contributing to exceptional longevity. This groundbreaking study provides valuable insights into the biomarker profiles of long-lived individuals and their peers, shedding light on the importance of metabolic health and nutrition. As we navigate the journey of life, understanding these biomarkers can guide us in making choices that promote overall well-being and increase our chances of living a long and healthy life.