Are Teloyears a scam?

"Teloyears" is now being hyped on tv commercials, with an an attractive model claiming "Teloymeres are those caps on the ends of your dna that tell how well you're aging".  So, the company claims, you shoud pay them $99 and send them a a drop of blood.  They say you can use your results to  change your lifestyle to improve.  Hmm, that got us wondering...

  1. Is this real?  Are "Teloyears" real?
  2. Are the claims true?
  3. Is the test accurate?
  4. And even if so, will knowing the results allow you to improve the length or quality of your life and health in any meaningful ways that you couldn't do otherwise... without the test?

1. Are "Teloyears" for real? What are Telomeres?Telemeres

One of the first things you find in searching and researching "Teloyears" is the Wall Street Journal, a reputable major business newspaper.  One of their journalists recently did an article on the subject of Teloyears and the company behind it.. And a number of other journalists wondered the same.

Telomeres are the DNA caps at the ends of chromosomes (the DNA packages of genetic code that control many attributes of every living organism). The caps are belived to protect the chromosomes from injury during cell division. These caps shorten as cells divide until they become too short to work and the individual cell dies.  This much is fact, as establish by a Nobel prize granted for the research in 2009. See this article in Nature Magazine for more.

2. Are the claims true?

A review from 2010 listed 10 studies of telomere length and early death, of which five found no association whatsoever. Different groups also tried and failed to link the length of telomeres with patients' blood pressure, lung function, and grip strength (an indicator of overall health). Some studies did find that shorter telomeres predicted cognitive impairment—cellular aging might predispose you to dementia, for example—but other analyses found the opposite.

Here's what the NIH says:

Telomere Length: Health Span vs. Lifespan?
Aging biologists are investigating whether humans' telomere length is associated with lifespan, health span, or both. In one study of people age 85 years and older, researchers found telomere length was not associated with longevity, at least not in the oldest-old. In another study, researchers analyzing DNA samples from centenarians found that telomeres of healthy centenarians were significantly longer than those of unhealthy centenarians, suggesting that telomere length may be associated with health span.

Daniel Engber a write for Slate,quotes a study from The Journal of Gerontology:

A review from 2010 listed 10 studies of telomere length and early death, of which five found no association whatsoever. Different groups also tried and failed to link the length of telomeres with patients' blood pressure, lung function, and grip strength (an indicator of overall health). Some studies did find that shorter telomeres predicted cognitive impairment—cellular aging might predispose you to dementia, for example—but other analyses found the opposite.

3. Are the tests accurate?

We have seen nothing to indicate that the coimpanies who provide this testing do not report accurately the length of your teleomeres. This science is established enough to believe that could be accurately measures. Buit likewise, we have seen no evidence from independent auditing companies to ensure that their tests ARE accurate.

4. Is this testing service worthwhile?

We would c limain, emplhatically NO. Paying $99 to have a drop of blood analyzed to determine the length of a chromosonal cap, seems downright idiotic. Or to put another way, have you altready taken all the actions you can to improve the quality of your health? 

Some examples:

  • Have you stopped smoking? 
  • Are you exercising 30 minutes per day? 
  • Are you eating healthy? 
  • Do you maintain a health weight and is your body fat in a healthy range? 
  • Do you drink alcohols in moderation?
  • Have you had a colonoscopy if you are 40 or older?
  • If you are a woman, are you doing routine breast exams?
  • If you are an man, have you had your PSA checked annually?
  • Do you get an annual physical exam?

Obviously, if you have not or are not doing these things, the telo test is pointless. They will obviously tell you you need to do the things on the list above, because these are the steps that medical science says wil increasse your longevity.

Conclusion: So what?

The Dallas News "Debunked" series also looked at this service and they said:

Most companies selling telomere tests say they do not diagnose diseases or predict the likelihood of illness. By repeating tests, they say users can see how their telomeres are shortening over time and make lifestyle changes to slow their decline. That could encourage test users to eat a healthier diet and take more exercise. But what telomere tests tell us about the lifespan of a cell may not translate to the lifespan of an individual. Most experts say it's too soon to make sense of these results.

Until they come up with a way to fix the caps on your telemere, save the $99 and starting living a healthier lifestyle.  We rate Teloyears.com and similar testing services as pointless waste of your money.

But don't take our word for it.  Just read the disclaimer in tiny print on the Teloyears website:

The TeloYears test is not intended for screening, diagnosing, treating or preventing diseases or medical conditions. The site does not offer medical advice and nothing contained in the content is intended to constitute professional advice for medical diagnosis. The TeloYears genetic test may indicate the possibility of identifying a rare telomere syndrome associated with extremely shorter or longer average telomere length (ATL). In these rare cases, further testing and consultation with a doctor to rule in or rule out a telomere syndrome is recommended. The test is available for individuals between the ages of 20 to 80 within the United States, except for the state of New York. The information provided by the TeloYears test should not be used to replace medically appropriate screening tests recommended based upon actual age or other risk factors, nor should the information be used to make decisions about diagnosis or treatment of diseases or medical conditions. The Telomere Diagnostics lab is regulated under the Clinical Laboratory improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) as qualified to perform high complexity clinical testing. The performance characteristics of this test were determined by Telomere Diagnostics. It has not been cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

You already know what you need to do to live longer and better. Start doing it.

 

Other references (not included above)

  1. Nature.com
  2. Customer reviews of the service

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