Centenarians, once a rare phenomenon, are now becoming more common in our society. In fact, they are the fastest-growing demographic group in the world, with their numbers doubling every ten years since the 1970s. The pursuit of understanding the secrets behind exceptional longevity has been an ongoing interest for centuries, with philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle discussing the aging process over 2,300 years ago. Unlocking the mysteries of long and healthy living is not an easy task and requires unraveling the complex interplay between genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors throughout a person’s life.
In a recent study published in GeroScience, researchers have discovered some common biomarkers that may hold the key to living past 90. Nonagenarians and centenarians have long been of intense interest to scientists as they provide valuable insights into living longer and aging in better health. Previous studies on centenarians have often been small-scale and focused on selected groups, excluding those living in care homes. However, this study is the largest of its kind, comparing the biomarker profiles of people who lived past 100 with their shorter-lived peers.
The study included data from 44,000 Swedes who underwent health assessments between the ages of 64-99. These participants, known as the Amoris cohort, were followed for up to 35 years through Swedish register data. Of the individuals, 2.7% lived to be 100 years old, with the majority of centenarians being female. The researchers examined twelve blood-based biomarkers related to inflammation, metabolism, liver and kidney function, as well as potential malnutrition and anemia.
Among the biomarkers studied, uric acid was found to be related to inflammation. Other markers included total cholesterol, glucose, alanine aminotransferase (Alat), aspartate aminotransferase (Asat), albumin, gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), alkaline phosphatase (Alp), lactate dehydrogenase (LD), creatinine, iron, and total iron-binding capacity (TIBC). The study found that, on average, those who lived past 100 tended to have lower levels of glucose, creatinine, and uric acid from their sixties onwards. However, the median values of most biomarkers did not significantly differ between centenarians and non-centenarians. It was also interesting to note that both groups had values outside the normal range set by clinical guidelines, which are primarily based on a younger and healthier population.
When examining the connection between biomarkers and the likelihood of reaching 100, all but two of the biomarkers showed a correlation. The study took into account age, sex, and disease burden. Individuals with lower levels of total cholesterol and iron had a lower chance of reaching 100 years, while those with higher levels of glucose, creatinine, uric acid, and liver function markers also had a decreased chance. Although the differences in biomarker levels between centenarians and non-centenarians were generally small, they suggest a potential link between metabolic health, nutrition, and exceptional longevity.
While this study provides valuable insights into the biomarkers associated with living to 100, it does not provide definitive conclusions about the lifestyle factors or genes responsible for these biomarker values. However, it is reasonable to speculate that factors such as nutrition and alcohol intake may play a role. Monitoring kidney and liver values, as well as glucose and uric acid, as we age, may be beneficial for maintaining good health. It is also important to acknowledge that chance likely plays a role in reaching an exceptional age. Nevertheless, the fact that differences in biomarkers can be observed long before death suggests that genes and lifestyle choices may also have an impact.
The study on centenarians and biomarkers of longevity offers valuable insights into the factors that may contribute to living past 100. As our understanding of the complex interplay between genetics and lifestyle factors continues to unfold, we may uncover more secrets to living a longer and healthier life. While there are no guarantees, taking care of our health, staying active, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle may increase our chances of reaching an exceptional age.