Latinos age slower than other ethnic groups – study

18 Aug 2016

An intriguing piece of research from the US appears to provide evidence that Latinos age slower, at a molecular level, than other ethnic groups.

The ‘Hispanic paradox’ is the premise behind a new piece of research coming out of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), with scientists investigating why Latinos outlive other ethnic groups in the US.

A team of geneticists think they’ve gotten to the root of the problem, claiming to find slower molecular ageing among Latinos in comparison to African, African-American, Caucasian and East Asian people.

Using biomarkers to monitor blood samples from thousands of subjects, an ‘epigenetic clock’ was used to display changes in the genome linked to ageing. The clock was developed by lead author Steve Horvath, a professor of human genetics at UCLA

“Latinos live longer than Caucasians, despite experiencing higher rates of diabetes and other diseases. Scientists refer to this as the ‘Hispanic paradox,’” said Horvath, whose study is featured in Genome Biology. “Our study helps explain this by demonstrating that Latinos age more slowly at the molecular level.”

Taking 18 sets of data from DNA samples of almost 6,000 people, Horvath and his colleagues found that a group of people from Bolivia called Tsimane, who are genetically related to Latinos, aged even slower.

The epigenetic clock calculated the age of their blood as two years younger than Latinos and four years younger than Caucasians. This reflects the group’s minimal signs of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity or clogged arteries, the researchers said.

“Despite frequent infections, the Tsimane people show very little evidence of the chronic diseases that commonly afflict modern society,” said co-author Michael Gurven, a professor of anthropology at UC Santa Barbara. “Our findings provide an interesting molecular explanation for their robust health.”

It wasn’t just ethnicity that determined ageing speed, with men having higher epigenetic ageing rates than women in blood, saliva, and brain tissue samples across all tested subjects.

“Epigenetic ageing rates are significantly associated with sex, race/ethnicity, and to a lesser extent with coronary heart disease risk factors,” concluded the paper.

Main composite image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic