Grip strength is a reliable biomarker of biological age

My presence at social gatherings and parties is somewhat dreaded by the hosts (even if friends) due to the “scary stories” I tend to tell. One of the scariest stories I have been telling for the last couple of years is that there are no young people any more. Of course, what I mean by that is in terms of biological age. Over the last 5-8 years numerous studies have demonstrated that people in their 20s and 30s have rates of serious chronic diseases rivaling those of people in their 50s and 60s. Cancer, and especially colon cancer, is perhaps the most striking example since its rates have grown almost exclusively in the under-40 crowd over the last 10 years while the rates have been declining in the over-50 crowd. This is the exact opposite situation of what was experimentally observed up until 10-15 years ago, which is why the official guidelines for conducting a colonoscopy were to do the first one at age 50. Add to that the rising rates of strokes and heart attacks in the under-40 crowd, the close to 50% infertility, close to 50% mental illness in young women, the ~70% decline of male testosterone levels since the 1970s, the highest suicide rate (and rising) ever recorded in the young, diminishing physical strength, etc and it becomes scarily obvious just how much the quality of human life has declined in just 1-2 decades. Speaking of physical strength, frailty has always been associated with poor physical and mental health, however direct studies tying physical condition to biological age are rare partly due to the difficulty of coming up with a measure of general frailty. The study below shows that a simple measurement of hand grip strength is a very reliable biomarker of a person’s biological age, and given its simplicity and ease of measurement, it may become one of the most widely used biomarkers of health in the years to come. So, to ruin the party once again, grip strength in young people (both men and women) has been steadily declining over the last 30-40 years and currently sits at an all-time (since record keeping began) low. This not only corroborates the favorite millennial phrases that “40 is the new 20” and “50 is the new 30”, but…it makes the reverse also true – i.e. twenty is indeed the new forty and thirty is fifty, and not in a good way.

“…Chronological age is different from biological age since it encompasses the amount of time that has passed between birth and a given date. Biological age refers to the rate at which your body is actually aging, which may depend on a host of variables, including genetics, behavior, the environment in which you live, and your demographic identity. Rather than focusing on age in terms of how many years have passed since birth, experts are investigating aging biomarkers that can help assess more accurately how an individual is aging. The goal is to gain clearer insights to help people, where possible, proactively manage their current or imminent health issues and predict longevity. A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, MI, provides new evidence that grip strength in a person’s hands is one such biomarker of biological age. The study found an association between low grip strength weakness and accelerated DNA aging.

“…The researchers analyzed data from 1,275 individuals participating in the longitudinal Health and Retirement Study(HRS). Participants were 50 and over in 2006 and 2008 when data collection began, followed for 8–10 years by the HRS. Interview transcripts, grip strength data, and biological measurements were available for all of them. Methylation values were collected from 4,018 of these participants in the 2016 Health and Retirement Venous Blood Study. The analysis revealed that decreasing grip strength aligned strongly with all three of the clocks (PhenoAge, GrimAge, DunedinPoAm), although there were differences between men and women. “The association between muscle strength and epigenetic aging is likely related to the mechanisms regulating general health,” Dr. Sillanpää said. Dr. Peterson noted: “We have recently also demonstrated that muscle weakness and testosterone deficiency were highly correlated and independently associated with multi-morbidity in young and older men.”

Author: haidut