Dr. Jennifer Kovacs-Nolan, goop is the director of science and research. He has a sharp shit detector, he always knows what to say and he has a great and useful knowledge about wellness products that work.
I mostly keep things pretty healthy. I eat well and love a good walk around the area to speed up my heart rate. I deal with stress and, in non-COVID times, I see friends. (COVID, of course, has changed things, but I keep the habits that are most important at the moment – like getting plenty of sleep – and give myself enough room to blink at negotiations: If I don’t get a bunch of vegetables at every meal, that’s fine.) and health seekers. When I exercise, I monitor my activities on my Apple Watch – it’s great to see a visual representation of what’s happening to your body based on data to help you meet your goals. Technology is there, so why not take advantage of it?
Which brings me to Elysium Health, a health science company that produces some of the most innovative biological data technologies I’ve seen there. Elysium’s overall mission is to take critical scientific advances and turn them into something you don’t have to be a scientist – or visit a doctor – to use. The company’s scientific advisory board includes twenty-five world-renowned researchers and clinicians, including eight Nobel Prize-winning scientists. (Casually.) One of the most popular and attractive offerings is a test called Index, developed by an expert in aging and pathology Morgan Levine, Ph.D.. The index looks at specifics epigenetic markers on your DNA – how many there are, where they are – to determine if you are aging faster or slower than expected.
I’m Goop’s director of science and research, so when Index landed on my desk, I was able to do a detailed review of the science behind it. And although I won’t go into more detail here – the algorithm it uses is beyond the scope of this article – I will say that I was impressed by the test itself. The research behind it is complex and well researched, and the results it gives are simple, immediate and can be easily understood by almost anyone.
Part of my assessment was trying to index myself. After the order was sent, I received a box in the mail with everything needed to conduct the test. It was surprisingly simple. (Complicated things come later, at Elysium’s labs.) The index test comes with a series of fairly detailed instructions, a small collection bottle, a small funnel, a tray, and everything you need to pack when you’re done. I made sure to follow the instructions exactly as they were set, which was easy in the end. Essence: Spit into the tube, close it and return it by mail to the laboratory.
After I sent my sample in the mail, Elysium informed me via email and through my web portal, confirming that they had received my sample, that it had passed quality control, that they had taken my DNA and read methylation samples and analyzed my data. (None of this required any action on my part, but I loved knowing what was going on.)
When the email arrived with the results, I have to admit I was nervous. I crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t show that I was aging dramatically faster than I should. Turns out I didn’t, which I’m pretty happy with: My assessment biological age– the number they use to represent the approximate age at which your body seems to function, not how many years have passed on this planet – came out four years younger than my chronological age. (Chronological age Elysium calls the number of years since you were born, which does not always coincide with the aging of your body.) That biological age divided by my chronological age made my cumulative age 0.93. That is, my body ages 7 percent slower than expected. That’s a good thing. While Index can’t promise about my longevity, this test was a confirmation that the mostly healthy lifestyle I love to live works right next to me.
I liked the index results. And ever since I got them, I’ve been thinking about what it would be like if my results stated the opposite – that my body had biologically passed my actual years. While this is not the result I would like, I would remind myself that the biological age determined by this test is not fixed. The kit says: You can change your habits and potentially change the result over time. I’m not saying your complete overhaul of habits would drop in a few months. But in the long run, all the healthy habits you are able to maintain add up.
That’s why your results come with a digital guide to living that goes over healthy habits that can improve the rate of aging, whether your biological age is lower or higher than your chronological one. It includes the usual things – a balanced diet, regular exercise, quality sleep, active social life and a careful look. While these tips are general, they are not unimportant. The idea is that these are ways to manage the stressors on your body that can contribute to your aging rate. And if you would like to take the test again, you may improve your results.
At the end of the day, the biological age you received from the Index is a data point. Like other daily health data you could collect (your daily steps, resting heart rate, your sleep results), and you think of them. Ever since I achieved results, I have been living the same way as usual. There are no extensive health resolutions here. I look forward to returning to the momentum of regular life, where I move a little more and nibble a little less, whenever that happens. But in the meantime, I don’t worry. I am glad that I have built the foundations of healthy habits and I am excited to continue to upgrade them. And in a few years, I might be doing Index again – even just to update my data.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article contains the advice of a physician or physicians, the views expressed are those of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of the goop.