Certain people are prone to growing older three times faster than their ages suggest, according to a new study.
Others with “evergreen genes”, or subject to certain environmental influences, appeared to barely grow old at all, the US study claims.
Using 18 different measures, scientists at Duke University in North Carolina were able to determine the speed at which a person is ageing.
It found a group of 38-year-old participants to have biological ages ranging from 28 to 61.
Most studies of ageing look at seniors, but if we want to be able to prevent age-related disease, we’re going to have to start studying ageing in young people.
As we get older, our risk grows for all kinds of different diseases. To prevent multiple diseases simultaneously, ageing itself has to be the target.
Dr Dan Belsky, Duke University Centre for Ageing
The 871 participants had all been enrolled in the Dunedin Study, a major investigation tracking the health of around 1,000 New Zealanders born in 1972-73 in the town of Dunedin.
The 18 biomarkers were measured when the volunteers were 26, then again when they were 32 and finally at 38.
Combining the measurements allowed scientists to determine each person’s pace of ageing. For most participants, chronological age and biological age kept at roughly the same pace.
But some were found to have bodies ageing as fast as three years per chronological year, while others aged at zero years per year – not getting older at all biologically.
The findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.