Measuring telomere length to quantify the value of longevity supplementation

08/21/2015 - 04:42

Corey McCarren

The desire to live longer, healthier lives extends throughout history, as countless societies and individuals have used potions, wizardry, and sometimes even savagery in a bid to lengthen the human lifetime. The efforts continue to this day, as many supplement manufacturers offer pills claiming to add years to people’s lives. Such pills often claim to increase telomere length as a mechanism for longevity; in this post, we will see whether such a strategy even makes sense, and whether or not there is a method to test the efficacy of such pills, if it does make sense.

Telomeres – the protective end-caps of chromosomes – are the most influential biomarker when it comes to the lifetime of an individual cell. Since telomeres become shorter with each cell division, their length is directly associated with cellular longevity. Not only a marker, telomeres are also responsible for cellular lifetime as they are charged with protecting genetic material in a chromosome during cell division. When the telomere becomes too short, the cell no longer properly divides, whereas it becomes senescent and dies.

The remaining questions are whether or not telomere length can also be used as a predictor of human longevity, and whether telomere length is a cause or an effect of ageing overall.

What is not up for debate is the fact that telomeres can be lengthened by increased telomerase exhibition; telomerase is the enzyme responsible for increasing the length of telomeres. There are countless studies correlating positive lifestyle choices, like aerobic exercise, meditation, quitting smoking, and a healthy diet to an increase in telomerase activity.

Now we can say that longer telomeres cause a longer cellular lifespan, and that telomeres can be elongated with various lifestyle choices. But before we go any further, we must answer the question posed before: is there even evidence that shorter telomeres are a cause of ageing, and that lengthening them can extend human life?

As with the effect of positive lifestyle choices on telomere length, countless studies have looked into the question of whether telomere length is a predictor of human longevity, and the result is a strong suggestion that it is.

A study conducted in 2012 placed birds (Zebra Finches) in a controlled environment, removing environmental factors from the equation, over the course of their lifespan. At just 25 days of age, researchers measured the length of telomeres in the individual birds, and found that a 50% increase in telomere length resulted in a 50% longer lifespan – a direct causal relationship.

But what about people? Another study looked at the telomere length in humans, starting at age 60, and found that (with over 99% certainty) longer telomeres meant a longer lifespan.

When considering the mechanism for telomere length and human longevity, it appears to be related to the role of short telomeres with early onset of age-related diseases. Studies have shown that shorter telomere length is likely a cause of developing ailments such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Based on this evidence, and the desire to allow supplement users to test the value of their interventions, Titanovo has recently launched its own telomere length test.

The question that remains unanswered comes when we look at emerging interventions to improve cellular health. There are a number of supplements which claim to increase human longevity, and as a highly unregulated industry, can make such claims without much evidence. At the same time, there may be supplements that do in fact improve cellular function.

These supplements, which may or may not be effective and many of which claim to increase telomere length (thus increasing human lifespan), can easily cost users hundreds of dollars a month. By measuring supplement users telomere length over time, we can quantify whether such supplements are having any measurable effect on cellular health.

We have tested our method on 200 users as part of our pre-market technology evaluation. It was pleasing for us to find that our telomere test, which is done using a cheek swab, found a statistically significant 0.23 R-square correlation on telomere length with age. By offering a survey in conjunction with our test, the data can be further parsed to consider the effect of lifestyle, genetic, and regional factors on telomere length.

By taking our telomere test over time, users are able to measure the rate of shortening (or increase in length) of their telomeres, and make educated decisions on whether their supplementation and lifestyle choices are beneficial to their health.

Interested in measuring your telomere length? Find it online at