Ever wonder what the car exhaust and UV rays you soak up while walking to work and/or stuck in traffic are doing to your body? Bad news! They're very likely aging you before your time, just like your grueling work schedule and loud-ass neighbors.
TOXINS, my friend. TOXINS are all around.
According to Time, UNC researchers developed a way to test molecular age, based on the activity of a gene within a specific type of immune cells, which indicates how old and tired they are. (Click through for a more detailed, scientific explanation.)
Then, they ran a series of experiments on human and mouse cells to see what sorts of factors might actually contribute to faster aging. Guilty: certain chemo drugs, cigarette smoke and UV light. (HISSSS NOT THE SUN IT BURNS.) Not particularly guilty: a high-fat diet, which didn't put as much strain mouse cells. "Why we got that unexpected answer is unclear—it may be that the mice are different enough from humans, or it may be that the dose [of the high fat diet] wasn't sufficient," said senior author Dr. Norman Sharpless.
According to National Geographic (which goes into even more detail), the researchers call for more research (always) into potential age-accelerating "gerontogens," so people can avoid them where possible. "If you identify stuff in the environment that affects aging, that's knowledge we could use today," Sharpless explained. "If you did what we've done for carcinogens, where we've tested millions of compounds, you'd find stuff that you'd be really surprised were gerontogens," he added.
NatGeo throws out "arsenic in groundwater," "benzene in industrial emissions" and "suffering psychological stress" as potential for-instances.
But of course the stress from worrying about what's maybe aging you would probably age you, too. Sadly, time flows only one way.
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