Could our blood reveal the “secrets” to longevity?

A study from the Institute of Environmental Medicine suggests it might.

Researchers examined the health records of 44,000 Swedes born between 1893 and 1920, analyzing blood samples taken from the participants when they were between 64 and 99. The scientists then tracked the participants’ health until they turned 100 or died.

During this time, they focused on 12 “biomarkers,” blood-based indicators linked to vital physiological processes, such as inflammation, metabolism, and liver function.

Here’s what they found. 

The Results

Of the 12 biomarkers, 10 correlated with reaching the age of 100. These associations remained even after accounting for variables like age, sex, and health.

Centenarians typically had lower levels of glucose (blood sugar), creatinine, and uric acid from their mid-sixties onward compared to non-centenarians. And while the average levels of these biomarkers didn’t differ drastically between the two groups, levels among centenarians were less likely to be extremely high or low.

Additionally, those with higher levels of total cholesterol (TC) and iron and lower levels of aspartate aminotransferase (ASAT), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), lactate dehydrogenase (LD), and total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) had a higher chance of reaching 100. 

These results are particularly interesting as they contradict what many clinical guidelines deem “normal,” suggesting we may need to reconsider current standards to maximize longevity.

A further layer of nuance emerged when the scientists analyzed the nutritional habits of centenarians.

Among those that reached 100, two nutritional “profiles” stood out: “Higher nutrition” and “lower but sufficient nutrition.” Both groups had “normal” TC, albumin, and TIBC levels, though the “lower but enough nutrition” group’s levels were lower than that of the “higher nutrition” group.

Counterintuitively, this meant that the “higher nutrition” group had profiles similar to non-centenarians. In comparison, the “lower but sufficient nutrition” group had generally better biological indicators of nutrition, inflammation, liver function, and anemia.

Without delving into too much detail, these differences suggest that diet and inflammation play a critical role in determining who reaches age 100.

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What This Means for You

While this study offers rich insights into some biological factors that influence longevity, it isn’t a definitive guide to achieving exceptional age.

For instance, it doesn’t pinpoint specific lifestyle or genetic factors that promote a favorable biomarker profile.

Nevertheless, there are some takeaways worth considering:

  1. Your diet and lifestyle choices matter: Making lifestyle choices that optimize your nutrition status and minimize inflammation, such as limiting alcohol intake, eating nutritious foods, exercising, and reducing stress, may promote longevity.
  2. Regular health checks may be beneficial: Monitoring your kidney and liver health, as well as levels of glucose and uric acid, could be beneficial as you age. Consider regular check-ups with your healthcare provider about these biomarkers.
  3. Genetics aren’t everything: While you can chalk up some aspects of longevity to good genes or luck, your decisions about health and lifestyle in your younger years influence your lifespan.

Understanding the health of centenarians offers clues for our own paths. By paying attention to these insights and making informed choices, you can take proactive steps towards better health and potentially a longer life.

And if you want an entire fitness program and diet plan designed to help middle-aged and older people get fit and healthy, check out my book, Muscle for Life.