Why is high age and good health inherited?
For more than a decade oldest-old Danes and Americans and their children have been investigated in the Long Life Family Study. Now the researchers in the study has raised no less than 68 million dollars from NIH to continue the study and include the grandchildren of the oldest-old individuals.
AGE AND HEREDITY: It is a success story. The exceptional health and survival tracks over generations. For once, this is medical research with a positive starting point and not a problem to be solved.
In 2006, the researchers visited families who at that time had two or more living siblings over 90 years, and both the siblings and their children were included in the study. Prior to these visits, the researchers had made a tremendous detective work of reviewing church books. In total, almost 5000 individuals participated in the study – more than 1200 from Denmark.
What are the biological, behavioral and demographic characteristics of these longevity-enriched families?
This is the key question that Kaare Christensen, professor of epidemiology at the Danish Aging Research Center at SDU, and his research colleagues are trying to answer. Since 2006, they have examined the participants and their children twice.
"We have now received a new US grant to conduct a third visit and to now also include the grandchildren in some of the families. Our preliminary studies suggest that the good health is tracking three generations, and including the grandchildren will increase our chances to identify the underlying mechanisms
During the 13 years the project has been underway, the researchers have – as expected – not found a single “magic bullet” or “the secret of a long and good life”, but several of the pieces in the very large puzzle of a long and healthy life.