Determining your biological age

Brent R. Stockwell, Ph.D.
2 min readJun 5, 2023

Metabolite profiling reveals biological age of tissues

Age is an ephemeral concept. The number of years on our aging clock doesn’t always match the biological status of our tissues. Indeed, our functional biological age is influenced by genetics, environmental exposure, and lifestyle. Wouldn’t it be powerful if you could measure your biological age, which might help maintaining motivation for healthy life style choices?

Woman looks in mirror at an older version of herself
Biological versus chronological age (generated with Microsoft Image Creator)

A recent paper showed that the technology known as metabolomics could be used to determine biological age:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/acel.13813

In this study, the authors analyzed blood samples from 10,000 apparently healthy individuals over a four-year period. They detected small molecule metabolites present in each individual’s blood and used these to predict the chronological age of each individual with fairly good accuracy.

Among the most predictive metabolites with some that were already known to be predictive of biological age, such as kynurenine, indole-3-aldehyde, and acylcarnitines, as well a new cyclic dipeptide: cyclo(leu-pro).

A related study in 2022 found similar results, in terms of the metabolome, the collection of metabolites present in a tissue, being predictive of chronological age:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32363781/

Another paper showed that the metabolome predicts age in flies as well:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35019203/

A study last year found that different tissues and organs can have different aging clocks, but that these can all be measured:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35263580/

Moreover, biological age measurements were predictive of mortality in this last study.

I can see biological age measurements being used in the future as a clinical test to help individuals determine their health status. This could provide a quantitative, general measure of health. The interesting question will be whether biological age measured using metabolomics can be reversed by diet and drug interventions or lifestyle changes.

Picture of a man half old and half young with metabolites visible
Will metabolomics be used to check general health?

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Brent R. Stockwell, Ph.D.

Chair and Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. Top Medium writer in Science, Creativity, Health, and Ideas