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Advancement in human knowledge through science has so far allowed us to understand how the universe works, and also how the science that allows us to exist. Speaking of existence, scientists have been curious to understand the process of aging and particularly the reasons behind the fact that people age differently.

Anthropologists from UC Santa Barbara embarked on a mission to learn more about physiological aging through a study whose findings were recently published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B journal. The study focused on understanding the evolution of aging in primates, with a narrowed down focus on physiological dysregulation.

Physiological dysregulation is the process through which the body gradually loses its ability to recover from damage, stress, and other types of adversities. A classic example of physiological dysregulation is the loss of the ability to regulate blood sugar with age, leading to diabetes.

“We’re only now able to start piecing together what physiological aging looks like holistically in subsistence populations of foragers and farmers,” stated Thomas Kraft, a postdoctoral researcher involved in the physiological dysregulation study.

The researchers came up with a scale for physiological dysregulation in humans and then they compared it with that of other primates. They found that humans have much lower physiological dysregulation rates and lower mortality rates than other primates. The study observed 40 biomarkers in 5,658 and they compiled the many biomarkers to create a better snapshot that constitutes the metric that they used to determine biological age.

Comparing physiological dysregulation differences between the modern world and an indigenous tribe

They also compared the strangeness of an individual’s biomarkers compared to the combined biomarkers collected from a healthy population subset from the adult population of the Tsimane. The latter is an indigenous tribe of people that live in the Bolivian Amazon.

The researchers also discovered that there was a marginal increase in physiological dysregulation and mortality rates related to post-urban lifestyles and industrialization compared to the Tsimane. The researchers did, however, observe that adults in the developed world are more likely to die due to chronic diseases that come with aging such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. These diseases are rare among the Tsimane.