Lack of grip strength may indicate premature aging, research suggests

Lack of grip strength may indicate premature aging, research suggests

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Research suggests that grip strength, an indicator of overall muscle strength, is a biomarker of biological age. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
  • A new study builds on existing evidence suggesting that grip strength is a biomarker of their biological age.
  • According to the researchers, grip strength aligns with epigenetic clocks that gauge a person’s DNA age.
  • Grip strength is an indicator of overall muscle strength, the lack of which has been implicated in accelerated aging.

Chronological age is different from biological age since it encompasses the time that has elapsed between birth and a given date.

Biological age refers to the rate at which your body actually ages, which can depend on a host of variables including genetics, behavior, the environment you live in, and your demographic identity.

Rather than focusing on age in terms of the number of years since birth, experts are studying biomarkers of aging that can help more accurately gauge an individual’s aging. The goal is to get clearer information to help people, where possible, proactively manage their current or impending health conditions and predict longevity.

A new study by Michigan Medicine researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, provides new evidence that grip strength in a person’s hands is one such biomarker of age. organic.

The study found an association between weak grip strength and accelerated DNA aging.

The study’s lead author, Mark D. Peterson, Ph.D. associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation research at Michigan Medicine, told Medical News Today:

“Grip strength has long been considered a biomarker of aging. However, very few studies have attempted to understand the biological mechanism(s) that associate weakness with negative health outcomes (including mortality). On the positive side, it is likely that greater grip strength is associated with lifestyles such as exercise and healthy eating habits. On the negative side, it is likely that lower grip strength is associated with chronic diseases related to obesity, other non-communicable diseases and sedentary lifestyles.

The study has just been published in the Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle Diary.

The researchers studied the correlation between low grip strength and DNA methylation, or mDNA, a process that affects gene expression.

In methylation, a methyl chemical group consisting of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms is added to one of the four main chemicals in DNA, cytosine.

At places in the body called CpG sites, methylation levels decrease over the course of a person’s lifetime and thus represent a way of assessing biological age.

Dr. Elina Sillanpää, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Jyväskylä in Vuokatti, Finland, and an expert in quantitative genetics and biological aging, not involved in the current study, has previously investigated the use of mtDNA as an indicator of aging.

“In our studies, we used mDNA-based algorithms that summarize methylation levels at specific CpG sites and produce an estimate of a person’s biological aging rate,” she said. DTM. “These methylation changes are correlated clockwise with aging or are associated with lifestyle factors.”

“You can describe this measured biological aging rate using these algorithms – called”epigenetics clocks” – sums up the cumulative burden of your past lifestyles and environmental hazards, but also reflects the genetics behind it. CpG sites included in epigenetic clocks associate with classical features of aging.

– Elina Sillanpää, Ph.D., researcher in biological aging and genetics

Dr. Peterson added that epigenetic phenomena, such as DNA methylation, are strongly implicated in the rate of biological aging and the development of chronic diseases.

“Since methylation profiles are modifiable by lifestyle and other environmental factors, mtDNA age has been proposed to be a robust biological aging clock, providing a superior estimate of age actual biological versus chronological age,” Dr Peterson said.

The new study compared grip strength values ​​to three epigenetic clocks, whose algorithms are trained on various health outcomes.

Pheno Age

According to Dr. Peterson, PhenoAge uses “composite clinical biomarkers combined in a multi-system measure of biological age”, which was “developed to estimate an individual’s mortality risk using markers of function tissue and immune and age”.

He stated that PhenoAge has a demonstrated ability to predict several aging outcomes such as:

  • mortality
  • cancer
  • lifetime
  • physical function
  • Alzheimer’s disease


Dr Peterson explained that GrimAge is trained on “surrogate mDNA biomarkers of physiological risk and stress factors”, combined with a measure of years of smoking to estimate a composite biomarker of a person’s lifespan.

“High values ​​of this measure are associated with risk of morbidity and mortality,” he added.


Dr. Peterson explained that the third epigenetic clock, DunedinPoAm, tracks 18 biomarkers that measure the rate of aging in the following physiological systems:

  • cardiovascular
  • metabolic
  • renal
  • hepatic
  • pulmonary
  • periodontal
  • immune system

The researchers analyzed data from 1,275 people participating in the Longitudinal Health and Retirement Study (HRS).

Participants were 50 and older in 2006 and 2008 when data collection began, followed for 8-10 years by HRS. Interview transcripts, grip strength data, and biological measurements were available for each of them.

Methylation values ​​were collected from 4,018 of these participants in the 2016 Venous Blood Health and Retirement Study.

The analysis revealed that the decrease in grip strength correlated strongly with all three clocks, although there were differences between men and women.

“The association between muscle strength and epigenetic aging is likely related to mechanisms regulating general health,” Dr. Sillanpää said.

Dr Peterson noted: “We have also recently demonstrated that muscle weakness and testosterone deficiency are strongly correlated and independently associated with multimorbidity in young and older men.

“In our current study, there appeared to be a more pronounced cross-sectional/robust association [a comparison of a population] between weaker grip strength and accelerating age in men. However, the reverse was true for the longitudinal association [a comparison over time], which was more pronounced/robust in females. We cannot speculate on what drives this difference.

– Mark D. Peterson, Ph.D., study lead author

DTM asked Dr. Peterson if people should focus on developing grip strength based on this study:

“No, there is no plausible reason to suspect that increasing grip strength alone would lead to increased health or longevity,” he said.

“Grip strength is an indirect indicator of overall muscle strength, which means that it is highly correlated with other measures of strength. Thus, simply increasing grip strength would not result in any change for health or longevity.

Still, weak muscles overall can speed up the aging process in some people.

Dr. Peterson noted that activities that improve overall strength capacity and help maintain a healthy weight are well-known drivers of healthy aging and longevity. These lifestyle interventions include:

  • Aerobic exercise
  • strength training
  • healthy eating habits

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