MIAMI • Ageing is typically studied in the elderly, but a new study says different rates of ageing can be detected as early as the mid-20s.
The authors of the study - of 954 people born in the same New Zealand town in 1972 or 1973 - say their findings pave the way for tests that will allow people to find out how fast they are ageing in their 20s, when they might be able to do something about it.
"That gives us some hope that medicine might be able to slow ageing and give people more healthy, active years," said senior author Terrie Moffitt, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University in North Carolina.
Researchers collected data on the subjects' kidney, liver and lung functions, dental health, the blood vessels in the eyes as well as their metabolism and immune system function at ages 26, 32 and 38. They also measured cholesterol, fitness levels and the length of telomeres.
Using 18 biological measurements, researchers determined a "biological age" for each participant at age 38 - with some registering under 30, and others, nearly 60.
When they looked closely at the ones who had aged more quickly, they found that signs of deterioration were apparent at age 26.
Most of those in the group were ageing at the expected rate of one biological year per chronological year, or even less. Others were ageing as fast as three biological years per chronological year.
When a group of students at Duke was asked to look at pictures of people in the group, they consistently rated as older those whose bodies were ageing more quickly.