How can we test if a food really slows aging? A newly discovered biomarker may give us the chance

Wouldn't it be nice to know if the 20 miles you bike a day, the two cups of green tea, and the blueberries at breakfast really turn our internal clocks back? Now, thanks to a new discovery at UNC Medical School, you may be able to get an answer to that question with a simple blood test.

The biomarker researchers have discovered is the expression of a particular protein P16INK4a which increases exponentially with age. This increase allows researchers to distinguish between age ranges down to the decade. For example, it is possible to tell if someone who is chronologically 30 really has the body of a 20 year old.

The protein, P16INK4a, also functions as a cancer suppressor, suggesting that aging occurs to quell cells that might turn cancerous. Thus aging exists as the body's cancer suppressor. This relationship between aging and cancer suggests that lifestyle habits which prevent cancer are also likely to slow aging.

The researchers have already correlated expression of the protein with several lifestyle habits and have found that it is highly expressed in people who smoke, adding further evidence that smoking accelerates the aging process.

Surprisingly, the researchers found no correlation with BMI, but did find that expression is lower in people who engage in active exercise. This is just the beginning however, and the door is now open for further tests. What will be the optimal lifestyle to slow aging?


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