Serum Albumin Decreases During Aging: Can Diet Help?

Levels of serum albumin peak at about 20 years old (~4.6 g/dL for males, ~4.4 g/dL for females), then decrease during aging, as shown for the 1,079,193 adults of Weaving et al. (2016):

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 1.19.29 PM.png

Similar age-related decreases for serum albumin albumin have also been reported in smaller studies: Gom et al. 2007 (62,854 subjects); Dong et al. 2010 (2,364 subjects); Le Couteur et al. 2010 (1,673 subjects); Dong et al. 2012 (1,489 subjects).

Why is it important that serum levels of albumin decrease during aging? Reduced levels of albumin are associated with an increased risk of death from all causes. For example, in the 1,704,566 adults of Fulks et al. 2010, serum albumin levels > 4.4 g/dL and 4.5 g/dL for females and males, respectively, were associated with maximally reduced risk of death from all causes, regardless of age (younger than 50y, 50-69y, or 70y+):

albumin mort.png

The association between reduced levels of serum albumin with an increased risk of death from all causes have also been found in smaller studies. In a ~9 year study of 7,735 men (age range, 40-59y), when serum albumin was less than 4 g/dL, the mortality rate was 23/1000/per year, compared with 4/1000/per year for subjects with values greater than 4.8 g/dL (Phillips et al. 1989):

albumin 3 mort

Similarly, in older adults (average age, ~80y, 672 subjects), serum albumin levels  greater than 4.5 g/dL (equivalent to 45 g/L) were associated with significantly reduced all-cause mortality risk, when compared with compared with < 4.1 g/dL (equivalent to 41 g/L, Takata et al. 2010):

albumin 2 mort

Decreased levels of serum albumin (less than 4 g/dL) being associated with an increased all-cause mortality risk was also identified in a 12-year study of 287 older adults (average age, ~75y, Sahyoun et al. 1996).

Can the age-related decrease in serum albumin be minimized, or prevented? Shown below is my data for serum albumin since 2005, when I was 32y:


First, note the period from when I was 32y until 40y. No age-related decrease! My average albumin value over 7 measurements was 4.74 g/dL. Unfortunately, I didn’t track my dietary info during that time.

Also note the period from 43y to 45y. First, my albumin levels are significantly higher than the first period, 4.92 g/dL (p=0.027)! Second, again note the absence of an age-related decrease. Based on the data of Weaving et al. (2016), my albumin levels should be around 4.4 g/dL, but I’ve got them going in the opposite direction! How have I been able to do that?

Since April 2015, with use of a food scale, I’ve been tracking my daily dietary intake, including macro and micronutrients (54 variables). For each orange data point in the second period, I have an average dietary intake for each of the 54 variables that I can use to correlate with serum albumin. Based on that data, I can make an educated guess at what could potentially increase, or decrease it.

Of the 54 dietary variables that I track, only 3 were significantly correlated with albumin: positive associations for alpha-carotene (r = 0.66, p = 0.027), beta-carotene (r = 0.75, p =0.007), and a negative association for Vitamin K (r = -0.64, p = 0.03). Shown below is the strongest correlation of the three, beta-carotene, vs. serum albumin.

bcarot alb.png

The majority of my alpha and beta-carotene intake comes from carrots, with a smaller amount coming from butternut squash. Interestingly, beta-cryptoxanthin, a Vitamin A metabolite that is abundant in butternut squash, was not significantly associated with serum albumin. Butternut squash is also a good source of alpha- and beta-carotene, so if  butternut squash was driving the correlation between the carotenes with albumin, I’d expect beta-crypoxanthin to also be significantly associated with it. However, since it’s not, carrots are the most likely source driving the association. Also note that the my average intake of Vitamin K is dramatically higher (1410 mcg; range, 1080-2203 mcg) than the RDA or AI, which are ~100-120 mcg/day. The negative association between my Vitamin K intake with albumin suggests that I should keep it closer to 1100 mcg/day to potentially keep my albumin levels high.


If you’re interested, please have a look at my book!



Dong MH, Bettencourt R, Barrett-Connor E, Loomba R. Alanine aminotransferase decreases with age: the Rancho Bernardo Study. PLoS One. 2010 Dec 8;5(12):e14254.

Dong MH, Bettencourt R, Brenner DA, Barrett-Connor E, Loomba R. Serum levels of alanine aminotransferase decrease with age in longitudinal analysis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Mar;10(3):285-90.e1.

Gom I, Fukushima H, Shiraki M, Miwa Y, Ando T, Takai K, Moriwaki H. Relationship between serum albumin level and aging in community-dwelling self-supported elderly population. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2007 Feb;53(1):37-42.

Dong MH, Bettencourt R, Barrett-Connor E, Loomba R. Alanine aminotransferase decreases with age: the Rancho Bernardo Study. PLoS One. 2010 Dec 8;5(12):e14254.

Fulks M, Stout RL, Dolan VF. Albumin and all-cause mortality risk in insurance applicants. J Insur Med. 2010;42(1):11-7.

Le Couteur DG, Blyth FM, Creasey HM, Handelsman DJ, Naganathan V, Sambrook PN, Seibel MJ, Waite LM, Cumming RG. The association of alanine transaminase with aging, frailty, and mortality. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2010 Jul;65(7):712-7.

Phillips A, Shaper AG, Whincup PH. Association between serum albumin and mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes. Lancet. 1989 Dec 16;2(8677):1434-6.

Sahyoun NR, Jacques PF, Dallal G, Russell RM. Use of albumin as a predictor of mortality in community dwelling and institutionalized elderly populationsJ Clin Epidemiol. 1996 Sep;49(9):981-8.

Takata Y, Ansai T, Soh I, Awano S, Sonoki K, Akifusa S, Kagiyama S, Hamasaki T, Torisu T, Yoshida A, Nakamichi I, Takehara T. Serum albumin levels as an independent predictor of 4-year mortality in a community-dwelling 80-year-old population. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2010 Feb;22(1):31-5.

Weaving G, Batstone GF, Jones RG. Age and sex variation in serum albumin concentration: an observational study. Ann Clin Biochem. 2016 Jan;53(Pt 1):106-11.

Circulating Liver Enzymes: AST and ALT, What’s Optimal For Health?

Two blood markers of liver health are aspartate aminotransaminase (AST) and alanine aminotransaminase (ALT). AST and ALT are proteins that are usually found inside liver cells, but when there is liver cell damage, they’re released into the blood. It’s important to note that these proteins can also be elevated in the blood because of muscle damage. The reference range for AST is 10-40 U/L, and 7-56 U/Lfor ALT, but are these values optimal for health and longevity?

In a meta-analysis that included ~9 million adults (average age, 51y) that were followed for up to 20 years, Kunutsor et al. (2014) reported the association between AST and ALT with all-cause mortality risk. For AST (4 studies, 9,046,609 subjects), 10-15 U/L was associated with maximally reduced all-cause mortality risk:

ast acm.png

For ALT (8 studies, 9,087,436 subjects), 12-15 U/L was associated with maximally reduced all-cause mortality risk:

alt acm

While these studies are relevant for middle-aged adults between ~50-70y, what about at older ages? Shown below are the AST and ALT values for adults older than 100 years (centenarians):

ast alt cent.png

Interestingly, the centenarians’ AST and ALT values are not far from the meta-analysis data for middle-aged adults. For example, the centenarians’ AST values range from 17-23, and their ALT values from 9-14.

What are my my AST and ALT values? As shown below, I’ve measured them 9 times in the past 10 years. Based on the all-cause mortality and centenarian data my AST and ALT values are too high!

my ast alt

What am I doing to reduce my AST and ALT? Fructose is metabolized by the liver, where high amounts can increase liver cell damage, resulting in increased circulating AST and ALT (Le et al. 2009, Perez-Pozo et al. 2010). Therefore, I’ve reduced my total dietary fructose intake from ~16-18% during the 3 months prior to my last blood test (August, 2015), to ~11-14%. I plan on retesting within the next 2 months, to see if this approach works!

3/23/2016 Update: My average daily fructose intake, expressed as a percentage of total calories, for the 3-month period before my August 2015 blood test was 15.9%. During the 3-month period before my latest blood test (3/2016), my average daily fructose intake was 12.9%. Although a 3% decrease doesn’t seem like much, the difference between these 2 values is highly statistically significant (p value = 7.5E-12). Nonetheless, my liver enzymes didn’t change, with AST and ALT values of 28 and 30, respectively.

My next attempt to reduce my liver enzymes involves reducing my daily green tea intake.  High doses of green tea have been shown to negatively affect the liver (Mazzanti et al. 2009). I currently drink ~6 cups of green tea per day, which may be too much. To test that hypothesis, I’ll reduce my daily green tea to 4 cups/day, and retest my liver enzymes in a few months.

12/8/2017 Update: Since 3/2016, I’ve tested my blood 7 times, and on each measurement, my ALT and AST were both still in the mid 30’s (or higher!). The green tea reduction experiment didn’t work, nor did ~30g of milk thistle seeds/day for 30+ days, nor did reducing my fructose intake to ~9% of total calories. Because I’ve tracked my nutrition in concordance with blood testing, I can look at which nutrients correlate with my liver enzymes, and reduce/increase certain foods that may impact them. Interestingly, my dietary niacin levels (x-axis), which average 41 mg/day (including all data since 2015) were strongly correlated with ALT (y-axis; r = 0.7, R^2=0.50):

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 1.21.59 PM

Note that the RDA for niacin is ~15 mg/day for males, and my average niacin intake in more than 2-fold higher than that! This may be a case where higher than the RDA is not optimal for health. Niacin in high doses, albeit in grams, not milligrams, is well known to induce liver damage, so isn’t it possible that my 2-fold higher than the RDA niacin intake is inducing liver damage? Sometime in January, I’ll retest my liver enzymes (and everything else, of course) while reducing my dietary niacin intake from the low 40’s to the low 30’s. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I eat lots of mushrooms, around 300 grams at a time, which supply around 11 mg of niacin. That’s atop the list to reduce my niacin intake. Stay tuned for the data!

1/6/2018 Update: Finally, progress! On my 1/3/2018 blood test, I was able to reduce my ALT from my average 37 U/L (over 9 different tests) value to 29! To reduce it, I tried two main things: reducing my dietary niacin intake, and increasing my selenium intake.

First, as noted above, the moderately strong correlation between my dietary niacin intake with ALT suggested that reducing it may also reduce my ALT. From 12/6/2017 to 1/2/2018, I reduced my average daily niacin intake from 41 mg/day to 33.1 mg. Interestingly, in adding that data to my 9 other blood test measurements over the last 27 months, the correlation between my niacin intake with my ALT remained strong (r = 0.75, R^2 = 0.58).

Second, I also increased my dietary selenium intake, which may be involved in affecting my ALT levels. Superficially, when examining the correlation between my average selenium intake (186 mcg/day; x-axis) with ALT (y-axis), we see a very weak negative correlation (r = -0.24, R^2 = 0.06):
Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 1.43.33 PM.png

Then why did I increase my daily selenium intake from an average value of 186 mg/day to 207 mg/day for the 1-month period that preceded my latest blood test? I discovered that the correlation between dietary selenium density (selenium intake/100 calories) with ALT was strong (= -0.69, R^2 = 0.47):

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 1.37.32 PM

Why did I look at dietary selenium density instead of its absolute value? If I eat more calories, one would expect higher levels of selenium (or other nutrients), assuming I’m not eating junk. By accounting for my calorie intake, I may be better able to see how dietary nutrients affect my circulating biochemistry, rather that only looking at the absolute values for each nutrient. Also note that the correlation between niacin density (mg niacin/100 calories) was not as strong (= 0.53, R^2 = 0.28) as the correlation between selenium density with ALT.

Is my ALT sensitive to changes in niacin, selenium, or both? Alternatively, maybe it wasn’t niacin or selenium, but an aberrant reading? I’ll keep my niacin relatively low, and my selenium relatively high, so let’s see on my next test at the end of the month.

If you’re interested, please have a look at my book!


Arai Y, Takayama M, Gondo Y, Inagaki H, Yamamura K, Nakazawa S, Kojima T, Ebihara Y, Shimizu K, Masui Y, Kitagawa K, Takebayashi T, Hirose N. Adipose endocrine function, insulin-like growth factor-1 axis, and exceptional survival beyond 100 years of age. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2008 Nov;63(11):1209-18.

Davey A, Lele U, Elias MF, Dore GA, Siegler IC, Johnson MA, Hausman DB, Tenover JL, Poon LW; Georgia Centenarian Study. Diabetes mellitus in centenarians. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 Mar;60(3):468-73.

Kunutsor SK, Apekey TA, Seddoh D, Walley J. Liver enzymes and risk of all-cause mortality in general populations: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Epidemiol. 2014 Feb;43(1):187-201.

Lê KA, Ith M, Kreis R, Faeh D, Bortolotti M, Tran C, Boesch C, Tappy L. Fructose overconsumption causes dyslipidemia and ectopic lipid deposition in healthy subjects with and without a family history of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;89(6):1760-5.

Lio D, Malaguarnera M, Maugeri D, Ferlito L, Bennati E, Scola L, Motta M, Caruso C. Laboratory parameters in centenarians of Italian ancestry. Exp Gerontol. 2008 Feb;43(2):119-22.

Mazzanti G, Menniti-Ippolito F, Moro PA, Cassetti F, Raschetti R, Santuccio C, Mastrangelo S. Hepatotoxicity from green tea: a review of the literature and two unpublished cases. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2009 Apr;65(4):331-41.

Perez-Pozo SE, Schold J, Nakagawa T, Sánchez-Lozada LG, Johnson RJ, Lillo JL. Excessive fructose intake induces the features of metabolic syndrome in healthy adult men: role of uric acid in the hypertensive response. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Mar;34(3):454-61.

Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Wang NC, He Q, Rosenbaum M, Suzuki M. Life at the extreme limit: phenotypic characteristics of supercentenarians in OkinawaJ Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2008 Nov;63(11):1201-8.

Vasto S, Scapagnini G, Rizzo C, Monastero R, Marchese A, Caruso C. Mediterranean diet and longevity in Sicily: survey in a Sicani Mountains population. Rejuvenation Res. 2012 Apr;15(2):184-8.

BMI: What’s Optimal For Longevity?

Is there a BMI that is associated with maximally reduced risk of death from all causes? Let’s have a look at the data!

In a meta-analysis of 19 studies that included 1,460,000 adults (median age, 58 years) a BMI between 20-25 kg/m2 was associated with maximally reduced all-cause mortality risk (Berrington de Gonzalez et al. 2010):

both gend nonsmok bmi mort

However, in a meta-analysis of 32 studies that included 197,140 older adults (65 years+), a BMI between 24 and 31 kg/m2 was associated with maximally reduced all-cause mortality risk (Winter et al. 2014). More specifically, a BMI between 26-26.9 kg/m2 was associated with maximally reduced all-cause mortality risk for never-smokers (Winter et al. 2014):

acm 65

So what’s optimal for longevity in terms of BMI, is it 20-25 kg/m2, or potentially higher, as reported in older adults? For additional insight about the association between BMI with all-cause mortality, I looked up the published BMI data for centenarians:

bmi cent

In these 11 studies that included 1075 centenarians, the BMI range was between 19.3-24.4 kg/m2, with an average BMI of 21.8. Shouldn’t that be the BMI reference range for those interested in living past 100?

If you’re interested, please have a look at my book!


Arai Y, Hirose N, Yamamura K, Shimizu K, Takayama M, Ebihara Y, Osono Y. Serum insulin-like growth factor-1 in centenarians: implications of IGF-1 as a rapid turnover protein. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001 Feb;56(2):M79-82.

Arai Y, Takayama M, Gondo Y, Inagaki H, Yamamura K, Nakazawa S, Kojima T, Ebihara Y, Shimizu K, Masui Y, Kitagawa K, Takebayashi T, Hirose N. Adipose endocrine function, insulin-like growth factor-1 axis, and exceptional survival beyond 100 years of age. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2008 Nov;63(11):1209-18.

Baranowska B, Bik W, Baranowska-Bik A, Wolinska-Witort E, Szybinska A, Martynska L, Chmielowska M. Neuroendocrine control of metabolic homeostasis in Polish centenarians. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2006 Nov;57 Suppl 6:55-61.

Barzilai N, Atzmon G, Schechter C, Schaefer EJ, Cupples AL, Lipton R, Cheng S, Shuldiner AR. Unique lipoprotein phenotype and genotype associated with exceptional longevity. JAMA 2003;290:2030–40.

Berrington de Gonzalez A, Hartge P, Cerhan JR, Flint AJ, Hannan L, MacInnis RJ, Moore SC, Tobias GS, Anton-Culver H, Freeman LB, Beeson WL, Clipp SL, English DR, Folsom AR, Freedman DM, Giles G, Hakansson N, Henderson KD, Hoffman-Bolton J, Hoppin JA, Koenig KL, Lee IM, Linet MS, Park Y, Pocobelli G, Schatzkin A, Sesso HD, Weiderpass E, Willcox BJ, Wolk A, Zeleniuch-Jacquotte A, Willett WC, Thun MJ. Body-mass index and mortality among 1.46 million white adults. N Engl J Med. 2010 Dec 2;363(23):2211-9. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1000367. Erratum in: N Engl J Med. 2011 Sep 1;365(9):869.

Bik W, Baranowska-Bik A, Wolinska-Witort E, Kalisz M, Broczek K, Mossakowska M, Baranowska B. Assessment of adiponectin and its isoforms in Polish centenarians. Exp Gerontol. 2013 Apr;48(4):401-7.

Chan YC, Suzuki M, Yamamoto S. Dietary, anthropometric, hematological and biochemical assessment of the nutritional status of centenarians and elderly people in Okinawa, Japan. J Am Coll Nutr. 1997 Jun;16(3):229-35.

Hausman DB, Johnson MA, Davey A, Poon LW. Body mass index is associated with dietary patterns and health conditions in georgia centenarians. J Aging Res. 2011;2011:138015.

Magri F, Muzzoni B, Cravello L, Fioravanti M, Busconi L, Camozzi D, Vignati G, Ferrari E. Thyroid function in physiological aging and in centenarians: possible relationships with some nutritional markers. Metabolism. 2002 Jan;51(1):105-9.

Montoliu I, Scherer M, Beguelin F, DaSilva L, Mari D, Salvioli S, Martin FP, Capri M, Bucci L, Ostan R, Garagnani P, Monti D, Biagi E, Brigidi P, Kussmann M, Rezzi S, Franceschi C, Collino S. Serum profiling of healthy aging identifies phospho- and sphingolipid species as markers of human longevity. Aging (Albany NY). 2014 Jan;6(1):9-25.

Paolisso G, Ammendola S, Del Buono A, Gambardella A, Riondino M, Tagliamonte MR, Rizzo MR, Carella C, Varricchio M. Serum levels of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and IGF-binding protein-3 in healthy centenarians: relationship with plasma leptin and lipid concentrations, insulin action, and cognitive function. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1997 Jul;82(7):2204-9.

Vasto S, Scapagnini G, Rizzo C, Monastero R, Marchese A, Caruso C. Mediterranean diet and longevity in Sicily: survey in a Sicani Mountains population. Rejuvenation Res. 2012 Apr;15(2):184-8.

Winter JE, MacInnis RJ, Wattanapenpaiboon N, Nowson CA. BMI and all-cause mortality in older adults: a meta-analysisAm J Clin Nutr. 2014 Apr;99(4):875-90.