Don't Be So Quick to Trust Companies That Claim to Know Your 'Cellular' Age

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Coinciding with the popularity of DNA testing kits, companies that claim to be able to tell your “cellular age” from a drop of blood have also attracted quite a few customers.

However, their results can’t always be trusted, according to Science News. Oncologist and Johns Hopkins researcher Mary Armanios told the website that the tests can do more harm than good by sending perfectly healthy customers into a panic. 

“The telomere belongs in the clinic and should not be used as a form of molecular palm reading,” Armanios tells Science News. For instance, Armanios shared the story of one man in his forties who learned he supposedly had the telomeres of an 80-year-old. In hopes of making the most of his remaining time, he quit his job, sold his house, and put off surgery that he believed would further shorten his telomeres.

For a cost of roughly $100, some companies claim to not only be able to tell you your cellular age, but also tell you how to improve your health so that you can live longer. They measure the length of telomeres, the cap at the ends of your chromosomes, in order to determine your biological age. Telomeres shorten with age, but other factors—like diet—can also chip away at them, potentially causing disease and other health-related problems. (On the other hand, telomeres can get longer in outer space, as astronaut Scott Kelly learned.)

However, as Science News notes, this isn’t always the most accurate indicator of health or life span because what’s considered “normal” encompasses a wider range than what those companies would have you believe. Extra-long telomeres may be associated with a higher cancer risk, and on the flip side, shorter telomeres don’t necessarily mean you’ll keel over tomorrow.

Indeed, the tests used by these companies have a 20 percent variability rate, meaning they can produce different results on different days, and not all scientists agree that telomere length can be used as a “biomarker” of age. The National Institute of Aging reached the conclusion that biomarkers for aging could not be scientifically validated, according to WIRED.

Research on telomere length can do a lot of good, though, when done correctly in a lab. These tests can be used to diagnose rare disorders and help patients get the care they need.

[h/t Science News]

Why Is Pee Yellow?

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Do you have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

Your body is kind of like a house. You bring things into your body by eating, drinking, and breathing. But just like the things we bring home to real houses, we don’t need every part of what we take in. So there are leftovers, or garbage. And if you let garbage sit around in your house or your body for too long, it gets gross and can make you sick. Your body takes out the garbage by peeing and pooping. These two things are part of your body’s excretory system (ECKS-krih-tore-eee SISS-tem), which is just a fancy way of saying “trash removal.” If your body is healthy, when you look in the toilet you should see brown poop and yellow pee.

Clear, light yellow pee is a sign that your excretory system and the rest of your body are working right. If your pee, or urine (YER-inn), is not see-through, that might mean you are sick. Dark yellow urine usually means that you aren’t drinking enough water. On the other hand, really pale or colorless pee can mean you might be drinking too much water! 

Your blood is filtered through two small organs called kidneys (KID-knees). Remember the garbage we talked about earlier? The chemicals called toxins (TOCK-sins) are like garbage in your blood. Your kidneys act like a net, catching the toxins and other leftovers and turning them into pee.

One part of your blood is called hemoglobin (HEE-moh-gloh-bin). This is what makes your blood red. Hemoglobin goes through a lot of changes as it passes through your body. When it reaches your kidneys, it turns yellow thanks to a chemical called urobilin (yer-ah-BY-lin). Urobilin is kind of like food coloring. The more water you add, the lighter it will be. That's why, if you see dark yellow pee in the toilet, it's time to ask your mom or dad for a cup of water. 

To learn more about pee, check out this article from Kids Health. 

Why Do Grown-Ups Have Wrinkles?

Chloe Effron / iStock
Chloe Effron / iStock

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Do you have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

Our skin is supposed to stretch. We do it every day when we squint in the sunlight, make a silly face, smile, laugh, pout, or furrow our eyebrows. Each time our skin stretches, tiny lines and grooves start to form below the surface. Over time, the outside skin gets thinner and dryer, and it falls deeper into those little grooves. As we get older, we also lose some of the stuff in our skin that helps it to stretch and then return to its normal place. 

First, let’s talk about our three layers of skin. The outside part is called the epidermis (eh-pih-DER-mis). That’s the part you can see. Under that is our dermis, where we have stretchy fibers called elastin that let our skin stretch and then go back to its normal position, just like an elastic hair band. The dermis layer also has collagen (KAHL-uh-jen), a protein that helps it stay sturdy and grow new skin cells. Under the dermis is the deep subcutaneous (sub-kyoo-TAY-nee-us) layer, which stores fat. As we get older, we start to lose collagen, elastin, fat, and oils made by our skin that keep it moisturized, or less dry.

There are lots of reasons. Our bodies make less of these things as we age, so our skin gets thinner, drier, and less stretchy. The Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light also breaks down collagen and elastin fibers. This causes more lines and wrinkles. But wrinkles are just a part of life. One day, you’ll have them too. Take good care of your skin by wearing sunscreen and drinking plenty of water to help your skin stay moisturized.

For further reading, visit Kids Health.


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