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A Quick Intro To Epigenetic Aging And What It Means For Longevity

We have previously discussed the important role that the fast-evolving field of aging clocks is playing in the advancement of longevity science. In turn, this is leading to the development of effective strategies to improve healthspan and perhaps even reverse aging. While the science behind these technologies is quite complex, we think it is important for everyone to understand the basics at play as there is no doubt in our minds that in the near future we will all be tracking our biological age and implementing strategies to improve it (in fact, you can already use a number of products to measure this, see below).

So, we were happy to find this excellent, 4-minute explainer video by the always-energetic Dr. Rhonda Patrick discussing epigenetic aging and how our genes might be the key to speeding up or slowing down our biological aging process:

Here Is Our Summary / Key Takeaways:

  • We all have both a chronological and a biological age. While chronological age moves at the same rate for everyone, biological age differs from person to person based on genetics and lifestyle
  • Age-related risk for chronic disease is related to your biological age
  • Epigenetics—the process by which your genes are expressed based on your DNA as well as exogenous environmental and lifestyle factors—directly affects your biological aging process.
    • DNA methylation—the process of adding or removing methyl groups from the DNA structure—turns genes on or off and is a common way to measure epigenetic change. As we age, the speed of methylation is predictable and differs between individuals depending on genetics and lifestyle
  • Dr. Steve Horvath was the first to invent a clock that measures epigenetic age based on DNA methylation and found that:
    • Epigenetic age can be an indication of biological age 
    • Epigenetic age acceleration describes a situation in which your biological age is higher than your chronological one 
    • Examining epigenetic age can help determine how your body is aging and which parts are aging faster than others 
    • Subsequently, Dr. Horvath invented the GrimAge Clock that predicts your chronic disease risk and your time-to-death, even in young people
  • While it’s unknown whether epigenetic age can be used to turn back biological age, a promising field of research is the use of epigenetic treatments to help slow or even reverse the aging process in the future.
    • For example, one recent study showed that an anti-aging cocktail of rhGH (growth hormone), DHEA, and metformin taken for one year reduced participants' biological age by 2.5 years (😲) and rejuvenated their immune systems. 
  • Despite the unknowns, one thing is sure: studying epigenetic age is helping scientists to better understand the aging process, particularly at the cellular level.

Go Deeper: 

  • Watch the recent conversation between Dr. Steve Horvath and Dr. Rhonda Patrick where they dive deep into the use of epigenetic aging to predict healthspan
  • Listen to the latest advances in using artificial intelligence to the development of more accurate aging clocks in this episode of the Quantified Health, Wellness & Aging podcast: Deep Biomarkers of Aging and Longevity
  • Curious to know your biological age? Check out these options from Elysium and Viome. These tests will set you back quite a few dollars, but may be worth a try. For an alternative, more budget-friendly option, you can check out NBT which uses blood markers (instead of epigenetic sequencing) and AI to estimate your biological age 

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