In the quest to find the fountain of youth, scientists may one day look to Latinos to find the answer, as a new study shows they age at a slower rate than individuals of other ethnicities. The findings, published in Genome Biology, used several biomarkers to study changes linked to aging in the genome.
“Latinos live longer than Caucasians, despite experiencing higher rates of diabetes and other diseases,” Steve Horvath, lead author and professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, said in a news release. “Our study helps explain this by demonstrating that Latinos age more slowly at the molecular level.”
The biomarkers evaluated included an “epigenetic clock” developed by Horvath that tracks an epigenetic shift linked to aging in the genome. Epigenetics is the study of changes to the DNA molecule that influence which genes are active but don’t alter the DNA sequence itself.
Researchers used 18 sets of data on DNA samples from nearly 6,000 people that represented seven ethnicities, including two African groups, African-Americans, Caucasians, East Asians, Latinos and an indigenous people genetically related to Latinos called the Tsimane.
After accounting for differences in cell composition, the scientists noticed that the blood of Latinos and the indigenous group aged more slowly than the others. Horvath said the study’s results offer an explanation for why Latinos in the U.S. live an average of three years longer than Caucasians.
"We suspect that Latinos' slower aging rate helps neutralize their higher health risks, particularly those related to obesity and inflammation," Horvath said. "Our findings strongly suggest that genetic or environmental factors linked to ethnicity may influence how quickly a person ages and how long they live."
The study also revealed that the Tsimanes aged even more slowly than Latinos, which researchers said reflects the group’s minimal signs of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity or clogged arteries.
“Despite frequent infections, the Tsimane people show every little evidence of the chronic disease [DISEASES?] that commonly afflict modern society,” Michael Gurven, study coauthor and a professor of anthropology at University of California, Santa Barbara, said in the news release. “Our findings provide an interesting molecular explanation for their robust health.”
Researchers next plan to study the aging rate of other human tissues and to identify the molecular mechanism that protects Latinos from aging.