How old am I on the inside?
Is your age as simple as the number of candles on your birthday cake? Georgia Mills spoke to Marija Perez from the company GlycanAge about the difference between our biological and chronological ages.
Marija - When we think of ageing, we usually talk about chronological age: the time that has passed since our birth, but all of us have seen or know people that appear much older or much younger than their chronological age. This is because their organism is actually healthier/younger, or sicker/older than other people of their chronological age.
Georgia - This is Marija Pezer. The head of product development at a company called Glycanage. They offer a service purporting to measure our biological age. The test, which uses a sample of blood, looks for something inside called glycan structures which are found on the end of certain proteins...
Marija - They are an important structural and functional element of the majority of all our proteins. In short, this means glycans are involved in virtually all physiological processes that take place in our bodies.
Unlike proteins, the structures of glycans are not hardwired in our DNA. This means that they do not have a genetic template but they can include not just what we inherit, but are crucially affected by all that we have done in our lives. So they are basically impacted by a variety of biological and environmental factors.
Georgia - How do we know they’re these indicators of what’s going on inside us; where does the evidence for this come from?
Marija - This test is based on twenty years long research period by our multidisciplinary team of scientists that are working in the field of glycan biology and ageing. We have published over 100 peer reviewed scientific publications, and in these studies that we performed on over 40,000 individuals worldwide we found that as we age, and as we suffer from different types of diseases, our IgG glycan pattern changes.
Georgia - So someone who is slightly less healthy would have an older biological age than their chronological age and visa versa. You mentioned there’s a genetic component - what in your lifestyle can affect this?
Marija - We are currently in the process of researching what lifestyle interventions can change our biological age and what it is that influences them. We have some hints that basically, all the factors that we know are necessary for a healthy lifestyle are involved in this 50% component that comes from the environment.
This means healthy eating, healthy sleep habits, stressful or stressless environment, exercise, not drinking alcohol, not smoking, so there is nothing new to that. But the glycan age really serves as a kind of wakeup call for the people that might think that they are healthy, that believe themselves to be leading a healthy lifestyle and then maybe they’re not always as healthy as they think they are.
Georgia - I got my glycan age tested. I sent off some blood a couple of weeks ago and I believe you have the result, so I guess give it to me straight Doc…
Marija - Okay. Are you sitting?
Georgia - Yes, I’m sitting down.
Marija - So Georgia - your glycan age result is 38, which means that your biological age is 11 years higher than your chronological age. It’s not so good but it could be worse so you still have much time and room to improve.
This might be influenced by your lifestyle which seems to be pretty stressful.
Georgia - Oh really, stressful. Is it all these radio programmes I’m producing are ageing me?
Marija - Yeah. I guess this is not really helping is it.
Georgia - I’m quite surprised by how bad they are. How far apart do you see in people’s results the difference between the chronological age and the biological age?
Marija - I was serious when I said your results were not that bad really because we do see much worse glycosylation patterns than yours. We had some people that turned out 30+ older than their chronological age was, and then they were pretty worried and started examining their lifestyle choices.
Georgia - How often do you get it the other way round where someone’s doing ten years younger than they should be?
Marija - Yeah we do get - that’s me thank you.
Georgia - Oh, amazing. So you’re quite happy with your results then?
Marija - Yeah, so I’m not going to repeat the test ever again! I’m just happy with the way it turned out the first time.