Research into centenarians

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A centenarian is a person who has attained the age of 100 years or more. Research on centenarians is becoming increasingly widespread with clinical and general population studies now having been conducted in France, Hungary, Japan, Italy, Finland, Denmark, the United States, and China.[1] Centenarians are the fastest-growing demographic in much of the developed world. By 2030 it is expected that there will be around a million centenarians worldwide.[2] In the United States, a 2010 Census Bureau report found that more than 80 percent of centenarians are women.[3]

Biochemical factors[edit]

Research carried out in Italy suggests that healthy centenarians have high levels of vitamin A and vitamin E and that this seems to be important in guaranteeing their extreme longevity.[4] Other research contradicts this and has found that these findings do not apply to centenarians from Sardinia, for whom other factors probably play a more important role.[5] A preliminary study carried out in Poland showed that, in comparison with young healthy female adults, centenarians living in Upper Silesia had significantly higher red blood cell glutathione reductase and catalase activities and higher, although insignificantly, serum levels of vitamin E.[6] Researchers in Denmark have also found that centenarians exhibit a high activity of glutathione reductase in red blood cells. In this study, those centenarians having the best cognitive and physical functional capacity tended to have the highest activity of this enzyme.[7]

Some research suggests that high levels of vitamin D may be associated with longevity.[8]

Other research has found that people having parents who became centenarians have an increased number of naïve B-cells.[9]

It is believed that centenarians possess a different adiponectin isoform pattern and have a favorable metabolic phenotype in comparison with elderly individuals.[10]

Genetic factors[edit]

Research carried out in the United States has found that people are much more likely to celebrate their 100th birthday if their brother or sister has reached the age.[11] These findings, from the New England Centenarian Study in Boston, suggest that the sibling of a centenarian is four times more likely to live past 90 than the general population.[12] Other research carried out by the New England Centenarian Study has identified 150 genetic variations that appeared to be associated with longevity which could be used to predict with 77 percent accuracy whether someone would live to be at least 100.[13]

Research also suggests that there is a clear link between living to 100 and inheriting a hyperactive version of telomerase, an enzyme that prevents cells from ageing. Scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the US say centenarian Ashkenazi Jews have this mutant gene.[14]

Many centenarians manage to avoid chronic diseases even after indulging in a lifetime of serious health risks. For example, many people in the New England Centenarian Study experienced a century free of cancer or heart disease despite smoking as many as 60 cigarettes a day for 50 years. The same applies to people from Okinawa in Japan, where around half of supercentenarians had a history of smoking and one-third were regular alcohol drinkers. It is possible that these people may have had genes that protected them from the dangers of carcinogens or the random mutations that crop up naturally when cells divide.[15]

Similarly, centenarian research carried out at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that the individuals studied had less than sterling health habits. As a group, for example, they were more obese, more sedentary and exercised less than other, younger cohorts. The researchers also discovered three uncommon genotype similarities among the centenarians: one gene that causes HDL cholesterol to be at levels two- to three-fold higher than average; another gene that results in a mildly underactive thyroid; and a functional mutation in the human growth hormone axis that may be a safeguard from aging-associated diseases.[16]

It is well known that the children of parents who have a long life are also likely to reach a healthy age, but it is not known why, although the inherited genes are probably important.[17] A variation in the gene FOXO3A is known to have a positive effect on the life expectancy of humans, and is found much more often in people living to 100 and beyond - moreover, this appears to be true worldwide.[18]

Some research suggests that centenarian offspring are more likely to age in better cardiovascular health than their peers.[19]

General observations[edit]

Several studies have shown that centenarians have better cardiovascular risk profiles compared to younger old people. The contribution of drug treatments to promote extreme longevity is not confirmed and centenarians in general have needed fewer drugs at younger ages due to a healthy lifestyle.[20] A study by the International Longevity Centre-UK, published in 2011, suggested that today's centenarians may be healthier than the next generation of centenarians.[21]

Ninety percent of the centenarians studied in the New England Centenarian Study were functionally independent the vast majority of their lives up until the average age of 92 years and seventy-five percent were the same at an average age of 95 years.[22] Similarly, a study of US supercentenarians (age 110 to 119 years) showed that, even at these advanced ages, 40% needed little assistance or were independent.[23]

A study supported by the US National Institute on Aging found significant associations between month of birth and longevity, with individuals born in September–November having a higher likelihood of becoming centenarians compared to March-born individuals.[24]

In the United States, a 2010 Census Bureau report found that more than 80 percent of centenarians are women.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mental Health of the Oldest Old: The Relevance of Centenarian Studies to Psychogeriatric Research International Psychogeriatrics (1998), 10:1:7-9 Cambridge University Press. Published 1998. Accessed February 7, 2009.
  2. ^ Secrets of the centenarians: Life begins at 100 New Scientist. Published September 7, 2009. Accessed September 14, 2009.
  3. ^ 2010 Census Report Shows More Than 80 Percent of Centenarians are Women U.S. Department of Commerce, United States Census Bureau press release. Published December 10, 2012. Accessed December 12, 2012.
  4. ^ Mecocci P, Polidori MC, Troiano L, et al. (Apr 2000). "Plasma antioxidants and longevity: a study on healthy centenarians". Free Radic Biol Med. 28 (8): 1243–8. doi:10.1016/S0891-5849(00)00246-X. PMID 10889454.
  5. ^ Polidori MC, Mariani E, Baggio G, et al. (Jul 2007). "Different antioxidant profiles in Italian centenarians: the Sardinian peculiarity". Eur J Clin Nutr. 61 (7): 922–4. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602596. PMID 17228351.
  6. ^ Kłapcińska B, Derejczyk J, Wieczorowska-Tobis K, Sobczak A, Sadowska-Krepa E, Danch A (2000). "Antioxidant defense in centenarians (a preliminary study)" (PDF). Acta Biochim. Pol. 47 (2): 281–92. doi:10.18388/abp.2000_4008. PMID 11051193.
  7. ^ Andersen HR, Jeune B, Nybo H, Nielsen JB, Andersen-Ranberg K, Grandjean P (Sep 1998). "Low activity of superoxide dismutase and high activity of glutathione reductase in erythrocytes from centenarians". Age Ageing. 27 (5): 643–8. doi:10.1093/ageing/27.5.643. PMID 12675104.
  8. ^ Levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in familial longevity: the Leiden Longevity Study CMAJ November 5, 2012 First published November 5, 2012, doi:10.1503/cmaj.120233
  9. ^ Blood tests 'could be used to predict lifespan' Daily Telegraph, UK. Published June 25, 2008. Accessed February 7, 2009.
  10. ^ Bik W, Baranowska-Bik A, Wolinska-Witort E, Kalisz M, Broczek K, Mossakowska M, Baranowska B (2013). "Assessment of adiponectin and its isoforms in Polish centenarians". Exp Gerontol. 48 (4): 401–7. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2013.01.015. PMID 23396152.
  11. ^ Family link to long life BBC News. Published June 10, 2002. Accessed February 4, 2009.
  12. ^ The secrets to longevity USA Today. Published February 22, 2004. Accessed February 7, 2009.
  13. ^ Study shows genes are key in living to be 100 San Francisco Chronicle. Published July 2, 2010. Accessed July 2, 2010.
  14. ^ Mutant genes 'key to long life' BBC News. Published November 15, 2009. Accessed January 9, 2010.
  15. ^ Lessons in Longevity: Growing Life Spans Pose Social, Ethical and Economic Dilemmas Hartford Courant. Published October 21, 2009. Accessed January 9, 2010.
  16. ^ In the Science of Aging, Oldest New Yorkers Hold the Key Wall Street Journal. Published July 13, 2011. Accessed July 18, 2011.
  17. ^ Blood tests 'could be used to predict lifespan' Daily Telegraph, UK. Published June 25, 2008. Accessed June 30, 2008.
  18. ^ Living longer thanks to the 'longevity gene' Published February 3, 2009. Accessed February 4, 2009.
  19. ^ Adams ER, Nolan VG, Andersen SL, Perls TT, Terry DF (Nov 2008). "Centenarian offspring: start healthier and stay healthier". J Am Geriatr Soc. 56 (11): 2089–92. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2008.01949.x. PMC 2892731. PMID 18811609.
  20. ^ Galioto A, Dominguez LJ, Pineo A, Ferlisi A, Putignano E, Belvedere M, Costanza G, Barbagallo M (2008). "Cardiovascular risk factors in centenarians". Exp Gerontol. 43 (2): 106–13. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2007.06.009. PMID 17689040.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Overview, New England Centenarian Study website Accessed February 7, 2009.
  23. ^ Half of babies 'will live to 100' BBC News, UK. Published October 2, 2009. Accessed October 2, 2009.
  24. ^ Season of Birth and Exceptional Longevity: Comparative Study of American Centenarians, Their Siblings, and Spouses Journal of Aging Research, Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 104616, doi:10.4061/2011/104616. Published September, 2011. Accessed July 14, 2012.
  25. ^ 2010 Census Report Shows More Than 80 Percent of Centenarians are Women U.S. Department of Commerce, United States Census Bureau press release. Published December 10, 2012. Accessed December 12, 2012.
  26. ^ Remote Italian Village Could Harbor Secrets of Healthy Aging, UC San Diego Health, March 29, 2016

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