The test measures the length of your telomeres – the end caps on your chromosomes. The mail order test costs $89. The prices of telomere test has declined from $290 when I first wrote about this topic in 2014.
For the $89 you receive a calculation of your age in “telo years,” compared against the general population. The test has received attention in The Wall Street Journal. (WSJ Oct 24, 2016]
Cited in that news report is a meta-analysis of 24 studies involving 43,725 subjects that found those in the bottom third of telomere length had a 50% greater risk for cardiovascular disease than those in the top third. [British Medical Journal 2014]
But precisely what do long or short telomeres say about how well we are aging? Will we live longer if our telomeres are longer? That would be difficult to determine because there was no baseline test done years ago for comparison.
Telomere length is considered a reliable marker of oxidation and inflammation that can shorten telomeres. [Metabolism April 2016] In a study of nine food types (cereals, fruits, vegetables, dairy, poultry, red meat, fish, sweets and salty snacks) and eight beverages (juice, coffee, tea, mineral water, alcohol drinks and sweetened carbonated drinks), only intake of iron-rich red meat correlated with telomere length. [Nutrition Journal July 14, 2016] In another study, processed (preserved) meat but not red meat was associated with telomere shortening. [Journal Nutrition Oct 2016]
Telomere length is a marker rather than a cause of disease. [Experimental Gerontology Sept 2016] Telomere length is a “perfect sensor” of oxidation that damages DNA. Telomeres acquire DNA damage faster than other parts of the genetic machinery. Telomere shortening is accelerated as cells are exposed to reactive oxygen species [Free Radical Medicine Biology Jan 1, 2000]
A critical analysis revealed telomere length was not as accurate in predicting mortality or survival over other biological markers such as C-reactive protein, serum creatinine or glycosylated hemoglobin. [PLoS One April 6, 2016] It is known that telomeres shorten more slowly in slow-aging wild animals than fast-aging ones. [Experimental Gerontology Nov 2015]
Almost two decades ago it was shown that telomerase deficient mice do not age prematurely. [Cell Oct 3, 1997]
However, the addition of antioxidants (selenium, lycopene, lutein, vitamins E and D, astaxanthin, CoQ10 and omega-3 oils increased the level of telomerase, the enzyme that facilitates DNA repair, but did not lengthen telomeres. [Molecules Sept 17, 2014]
Correlation between telomere length and mortality is poor. [Journal Danish Medical Assn. Oct 4, 2010] Telomere shortening was not found to relate to mortality among men over age 70. [Journal Gerontology A Biology Science Medicine Jan 2011]
Telomere length is not consistent in biology. Biologists observe that telomeres of certain sea birds tend to lengthen as they age! [Molecular Ecology Sept 2004] Contrary to what was anticipated, when lab researchers intentionally shortened telomeres in yeast cells, this actually led to a significant extension of life. [Proceedings National Academy Science Sept 1997]
Centenarians and their offspring are able to maintain long telomeres, but telomere length was not found to be a predictor of successful ageing in centenarians and semi-super-centenarians. [EBiomedicine July 29, 2015]
A study was measured telomere length among centenarians. Here were the results of their study [E Biomedicine July 29, 2015]