It is October and it will soon be time to turn your clocks back—and there may be a way to do that to your biological clock as well. The results of recent studies challenge a long-held belief that biological aging only goes in one direction. According to co-senior study author James White of Duke University School of Medicine, biological age was thought to steadily increase over the life course, but it is now clear that biological age is not indelibly linked to chronological age. “The extent to which biological age undergoes reversible changes throughout life, and the events that trigger such changes, remain unknown,” says co-senior study author Vadim Gladyshev of Harvard Medical School.
To address this knowledge gap, researchers measured changes in biological age of humans and mice in response to various stressful stimuli. The results revealed that biological age may increase over relatively short time periods in response to stress, but this increase is transient and trends back toward baseline following recovery. Gladyshev said, “This notion immediately suggests that mortality may be decreased by reducing biological age and that the ability to recover from stress may be an important determinant of successful aging and longevity.”
While their study highlights a previously unappreciated aspect of the nature of biological aging, the researchers acknowledge some important limitations. Although they characterized the parabiosis model at multiple levels, they relied mainly on DNA methylation clocks to infer biological age because these tools are the most powerful aging biomarkers currently available. In addition, the findings are limited in their ability to probe the connections between short-term fluctuations in biological age and lifelong biological aging trajectories.
Further studies will be conducted, and results may be years away. However, it seems clear that stress reduction (in whatever form works for you) is good for your body and may help you live a long and better life. So, this October you may want to find ways to identify and reduce stress in your life and turn your biological clock back as well!