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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 08, 2009

Real Age Quiz

By Worker Bee
29 Comments

So, you’re 56 – or 36. Maybe 27 or 42. Perhaps 68. (You get the idea.) Your driver’s license says it all (whether you want it to or not). But the buzz lately says there’s age and then there’s “Real Age.” Yes, your kitchen cabinets, weight set, medicine cabinet, diploma, car, even your speed dial apparently tell the real story your driver’s license (or dear mother) can’t.

The real story here is your “real” biological age as supposedly determined by your responses to approximately 150 questions. They run the gamut – from exercise routine to driving habits to nutrition to stress factors. At the end of the quiz, you receive a number as well as a rundown of practices that added to or reduced your biological age. According to the site, the quiz was based on “125 different factors that can influence the rate of aging” as determined by review of 25,000 medical studies. Some 27 million people have taken the quiz.

Hmmm. 27 million people. That’s a lot of buzz. (Oprah’s doing, in part.) We don’t have anything against tests that can offer relatively harmless entertainment and/or some useful advice. Let’s check it out, we thought. Initial thoughts? Not surprisingly, a mixed bag. We liked the emphasis on strength training, muscle mass maintenance and everyday rigorous activity (Grok’s specialty). The health history section is more detailed than most. Additionally, for each reported health issue, the quiz asked if you were treating the condition with not just prescription medication but diet and exercise as well as herbs and supplements. (Not that it’s an exhaustive list, but still….) We liked the social wellness questions. Some attention was given to stress, particularly financial stress (timely, we thought).

On the other hand, there’s the cholesterol hobby horse – even ye olde “total cholesterol” number. No mention of triglycerides. Nothing about blood sugar or inflammation markers. (Sure, these aren’t standard tests like cholesterol, but we’ve taken issue with that point in the past.) Although it asks questions to determine your BMI, it doesn’t ask for body fat (again, many respondents might not know their numbers) or even frame size. And while we liked the supplement section and emphasis on amount of each vitamin/mineral, we wondered why the list was a measly 5 nutrients long. No questions about fish oil or any other supplement (e.g. aspirin, etc.) for that matter. Hmmm…

Oh, the nutrition section. (Did you think we possibly wouldn’t have anything to say about this one?) There’s the obligatory emphasis on whole grains. Are you getting your 6-11 servings a day? Uh, no. That earned us a big red “X” in our health plan. Do you eat red meat more than once a week? Another big “X.” (Yet another demonization of a perfectly good food.) Little to no attention was given to sugar intake, processed foods, or food quality (pesticides/hormones/antibiotics/grain versus grass-fed/etc.). There was no mention of chemical load from our personal environments (lawn treatments, urban residence, occupational chemical exposure, etc.). Likewise, no questions about relaxation techniques – practices that would counteract the physiological impacts of psychological stress.

But our biggest surprise and serious beef about the quiz wasn’t to be found anywhere in the test itself. It was in learning that RealAge.com sells its members’ answers (health profiles, essentially) to pharmaceutical giants and then relays drug pitches to members as selected by the pharmaceutical companies. In fact, drug companies are able to target members based on reported symptoms alone – before conditions have been diagnosed by medical professionals. RealAge, the marketing “middleman” accepts the pharmaceutical giants’ promotion lists and sends members informative, pharmaceutical sponsored email “newsletters” tailored to their medical concerns. Members are generally left in the dark about this relationship, agreeing to only a simple (and vague) statement, “We will share your personal data with third parties to fulfill the services that you have asked us to provide to you.” Needless to say, we object to the conflict of interest in this picture: pharmaceutical industry involvement in (and profit from) a site that presents itself as pure, impartial science and health education. (By the way, you can take the test without becoming a member and subjecting yourself to this marketing ploy.)

As juicy as they are, let’s put aside pharmaceutical interests and divergent thinking on healthy practices for a moment to look at the final result – or how it’s presented at least (the magic number!). Surely, the test stretches the realm of scientific validity. (In fact, that puts it very generously.) This kind of basic, fractional survey might be able to pinpoint areas of concern/positive effort (in the context of conventional thinking), but it just can’t provide an accurate picture of true health let alone a specific age to represent that relative state of healthfulness.

In the end, maybe it’s also the concept of “dialing back” age that doesn’t sit well from a rational or more personal perspective. An ideally healthy person of 42 years can consider himself 38, 33, or 48? Who decided how healthy a 42-year-old is supposed to be? Or a 33-year-old for that matter? Why does a healthy 56-year-old need to consider himself anything other than 56. Does health really need to have an age assigned to it? This relative framework seems, on some level, to miss the point.

In our culture, we’re supposed to want to feel and look younger. Shedding the years (however symbolically) might make us feel better (or worse) in the moment, but it’s ultimately a gimmick. While it might startle a few people into action, it seems like a distraction from the impact of our habits on health. (At best, it’s a serious simplification.)

Final assessment? We admit, quizzes like this can be fun, and they can offer people a very general idea of the road they’re on (good or bad). But that’s as charitable as we’re able to be. Our advice: take the quiz if you’re so inclined (wisely declining the membership option), but take it with a healthy grain of salt.

Have you taken the Real Age quiz? What are your thoughts on this test or informal assessments like this? Weigh in on the discussion.

Further Reading:

The Truth on Truvia

Have You Decided to Be Healthy?

The 10 Rules of Aging Well

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26 Comments on "Real Age Quiz"

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Jane
Jane
7 years 7 months ago

I tend to avoid internet tests like the RealAge quiz… BMI equations (soley height vs. weight)… IQ tests… who’s your soul-mate… you get the idea. They tend to all be generic tests with generic answers and hidden clauses/motivations/marketing ploys that often times just work people up needlessly.

Christina
Christina
7 years 5 months ago
I agree. Especially the Real Age quizzes, I’ve tried them before but it always seems to me that they ask the wrong questions. They assume that in order to be a Kid at heart you have to completely avoid any foods but desserts and cry when you don’t get your way. However I don’t know many people AT ALL who do that. And if you just so happen to be busy and understand politics and such, automatically you must be at least 30. They’re generic and stereotypical. I think the only person who knows about how you act and your… Read more »
SuperMike
SuperMike
7 years 7 months ago

I started taking the test sometime ago and got suspicious part way through. I felt like I was giving free research to somebody. I stopped the test and decided that I would be happy with being 55.

Sabrina
Sabrina
7 years 7 months ago

Six months ago, I definitely would have been suckered into taking the quiz had I passed by happily surfing the web. Afterward, I would have made a big “should do” list in my head, stressing me out and according to the quiz, aging me even more. But now, I’m a primal mama of 5 who thinks my 37 years look just fine on me.

Shame, shame on big pharma for buying people’s info to sell, sell, sell. Not a big surprise though.

George
7 years 7 months ago

I’m 19 on Wii-Sports, all I care about.

Dangeruss
Dangeruss
7 years 7 months ago
So after you posted this I had to take the test, to help avoid writing a research paper, and I have to laugh at the results. Calender age 21.7, real age 22.5. They say I don’t get enough vitamin D or Calcium, even though I drink like 3 glasses of milk a day, and I have never broken a bone (I’m unbreakable!). Apparently even though I eat at least 3 to 4 servings of fruit each day and at least 5 servings of vegetables, because I don’t take a multi-vitamin every day there is no way I can be getting… Read more »
Manatoa
Manatoa
7 years 7 months ago
I just took the quiz out of curiosity, too. I’m 28 and have been living the Primal lifestyle for a couple years now. The quiz told me I’m 18.5. Even though the test seems like a bunch of hogwash I must admit that seeing that 18.5 score felt kind of good. This must be the allure. I’m sure people fudge certain questions, too, so that they get to see that despite being their age they are defying mortality and are in fact younger by Real Age standards. I wonder if on the whole the Real Age quiz is skewed one… Read more »
Marc Feel Good Eating
7 years 7 months ago

There was a time when the “Fuming Fuji” would have had some choice words to say about this…….

Marc

nonegiven
nonegiven
7 years 7 months ago

Try this one, it’s different

http://www.peterrussell.com/Odds/VirtualAge.php

John
John
7 years 7 months ago

Given the popularity of these kinds of quizzes, it seems clear to me that there should be some kind of Grok quiz that gives you a primal score!

Scott N
Scott N
7 years 7 months ago

The questions are too vague. I know its gonna dock off points for questions about how often I eat grains and breakfast

riceball
riceball
7 years 7 months ago
I’m asian so people in the western culture automatically reduce my age by avg of 3 years when they are taking a guess. But that never happens when asian people are asked. =P but does that really matter? Mark you raise a really good question, who decide what should a healthy #$*& year old person look or be like anyways? what’s the bench mark? I always wanted to have a wiser and older mentality , is that unhealthy in accordance with their study? and to add on the questions u’ve raised about their check points… does health really measure age?… Read more »
Karen
Karen
7 years 7 months ago
I found the quiz mindless. First it told me to get a dog because I’d have to walk it, which would get me some exercise. That was despite my telling it I work out more than two hours a day. Later it told me to reduce my workout. And it told me to up my vitamin D. I happen to take 4000 units a day but it didn’t know that because it had never asked whether I supplemented vitamin D or not. Then they dinged me for not having a pneumonia shot every year. But that’s a one and done… Read more »
Scott N
Scott N
7 years 7 months ago
Oh P.S. this is what it said about grains so im not gonna take it too seriously. Eat more grains. Make whole grains a bigger part of your diet by eating 6 to 11 servings a day of whole-grain bread, cereals, rice, and pasta. Here’s why: Foods made largely from unprocessed grains contain more fiber and micronutrients that help protect against diseases like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, and gum . . . disease. They also help you maintain a healthy weight. How? They’re absorbed more slowly than foods made from enriched or bleached flour, so they keep you… Read more »
Son of Grok
7 years 7 months ago

Lol funny you posted this. I took the quiz the other day. Apparently I eat too much reed meat, dont get enough fiber from whole grains and a slew of other bs. Bonus was my good cholesterol and blood pressure… I wonder how they would feel if they knew the red meat and no grains was the reason for my good healthy blood and heart! lol

Oh and that peeves me about the sale of info to big pharma!

The SoG

Kash
Kash
7 years 7 months ago

Even though quizzes like this tend to take awhile and usually don’t have alot of relevance, i took this one and found it kinda funny… my real age is 15.7, with a birthday in may 9th, turning 16 its actually almost bang on. i agree its almost impossible to be able to qualify a person to an age, it makes little sense. i guess the idea or looking at habits and peoples diets is an alright idea, i found the idea of every ones lifestyles having “pros” and “cons” pretty interesting…. P.S i guess i could floss my teeth more!

David Young
David Young
7 years 7 months ago
Well I took the test for fun and answered completely honestly – real age is 61, I came out at 50 ! So obviously it’s a very good test ( just kidding ). Although anecdotally that’s about where most people place me if they don’t know my age ( and they’re not being polite – this is Holland, and the Dutch don’t do politeness ). Needless to say I should eat breakfast ( I do IF ) and eat grains. What I did find fascinating is the assumptions behind the questions – it’s clear that the Real Age people assume… Read more »
alex
alex
7 years 7 months ago

“Why does a healthy 56-year-old need to consider himself anything other than 56”

spot on!

janice
janice
7 years 7 months ago

Took the test (a while ago while in my 40’s)) and my score came out 10 years older than I really am. Then I did it again leaving out the family history of breast cancer. I came out as being 10 years younger. No where in the recommendations for a healthier life did it say to divorce myself from my mother and my sister (both living well after surgery and no post op drugs I might add)!

Do the test put out by the insurance industry. You’ll feel much better about yourself. It’s based on only statistics.

Marie
Marie
7 years 7 months ago

I took the test. Don’t even remember my “real age”. However, I did notice the ads that came to my inbox. I guess I didn’t read the fine print that said this was a ploy to get my email address to big pharma.

Trinkwasser
Trinkwasser
7 years 7 months ago

“Make whole-grain bread baked with sunflower seeds part of your healthy-eating plan and you may avoid diabetes.”

Shudder, that is complete medicine balls! Like SOG I’ve never been healthier since I started doing the opposite of what the dietician told me. My doctor loves the improved numbers, just not how I achieved them.

Katie
Katie
7 years 7 months ago

Wow, I just took that test and while the answer was essentially the same as my biological age, I was a bit miffed with some of their suggestions. Especially for dealing with depression. Really, if it was that easy to deal with depression, I would no longer be dealing with that or an eating disorder. And “only doing the bare minimum” for exercise? I’m sorry, I thought the fact that I nearly fell over being tired and sweaty meant that I was actually working hard.

Son of Grok
7 years 7 months ago

I forgot to add that the only reason I met the dairy requirement was because they counted eggs as dairy (how old school is that?). Otherwise I would have failed that too.

The SoG

geeperscreepers
geeperscreepers
7 years 7 months ago

Is this article for real?? This quiz has been around for years!!

mardona
mardona
7 years 5 months ago

This from “dose of digital” blog and confirmed by Times: UPDATE: June 4, 2009. I’ve updated this post to correct a fact about RealAge. RealAge does not sell email addresses to any third party. However, as described originally by the New York Times, “RealAge sends the selected recipients a series of e-mail messages about a condition they might have, usually sponsored by a drug company that sells a medication for that condition.”

Mark Gaines
Mark Gaines
5 years 8 months ago

There’s a much better quiz based more on paleo principles in the recently released book “The Immortality Edge”. Recent research as discussed in that book is providing scientific evidence that the diet and lifestyle advocated on websites such as this is much better than most mainstream medical advice.

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