There is only one thing in this life that's certain, and that's the fact that we will all die one day. (Happy Monday!) Though we all know that our mortality is imminent, we don't really have firm data to show how or when we will die — but new research is suggesting that one weird test might predict when you'll die. The test in question looks for antibodies in your saliva, the presence or absence of which might show whether you have an elevated risk of dying as compared to your peers. It might be useful... but at the same time, it might fall under the heading of "Things You Might Not Really Want To Know." Proceed with caution.
There is a lot of solid research that exists about dying and death, but there are also many not-so-solid resources floating around the internet that claim to predict your death. The Death Clock, for example, uses your BMI, cigarette and alcohol consumption, and height to calculate your death; however, it's been shown that BMI isn't a great measure of health, so the Death Clock may not be super reliable.
It seems that if anything is going to predict mortality, it would be the result of a series of complex algorithms and involve data beyond just "height," "weight," and "smoker or non-smoker" — which is precisely where your saliva and DNA come in. Here's how the research breaks down:
Starting in 1995, a team of researchers at the University of Birmingham took 639 people who were 63 years old or older and measured an antibody commonly found in saliva called secretory immunoglobin A, or IgA. These participants were then tracked for mortality over the following years until 2014, to see if there was an association between the antibody and mortality rate. Factors such as gender, occupational group, smoking habits, and medication use were also all taken into consideration.
Researchers found that lower levels of IgA correlated with an elevated risk of mortality. Though they couldn't predict whether someone would develop a sudden illness or get into a fatal accident, the antibody levels in the saliva were able to show the natural progression as a person's body aged. In addition to mortality rates in people, the study also shed light on cancer mortality in many non-lung cancers and how the lifespan of cancer can be detected in a person's body in relation to their IgA.
So What's Next?
Researchers hope to use these findings to build further connections between these antibodies, mortality rates, and infectious diseases, as well as how the progression of cancer affects the antibody and what the antibody itself can tell us about certain types of cancer. In fact, the link between the antibody and cancer is pretty interesting — it could enhance how doctors and researchers are able to predict how particular cancers will play out in different people, depending in their IgA levels.
This is one of the many recent studies being done on mortality prediction, including a study recently popularized about the rising mortality rates in middle-aged white Americans. Another study done by researchers at Uppsala University led to the creation of a tool that helps to predict risk of mortality within the next five years. So while we may not be have unlocked the secrets of immortality yet... well, hey, anything could happen, right?