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RealAge redux


Ok, so I broke down and took Hearst’s RealAge test for research purposes. But I’m pretty sure the results are stuck in Public Citizen‘s spam filter. The gist of it is that you take RealAge’s online quiz about your health history and habits, and it cranks out your “real” age for you, plus or minus a few years. Predictably, couch potatoes and bacon eaters have years subtracted, while folks with clean medical histories have years added.

And then RealAge sells your info and email to pharmaceutical companies, as the New York Times reported yesterday. Our friends at the CL&P blog have a great post on this, questioning the legality of this business model.

Anyway, RealAge’s questionnaire is unremarkable. It asks your height, weight, medical history, etc. One question I thought was interesting in its fairly impressive bias against vegetarians and folks who don’t eat much meat was this one:

How many servings of nuts and legumes, such as WALNUTS,


Serving-Size Example »


1 or fewer servings per week

More than 1 serving per week

Really? Maybe I’m a little weird – I practically live on lentil and bean-based dishes, and there are walnuts in my homemade cereal – but is there no “real,” meaningful distinction between my probably 20 servings per week and more than one per week?

So not only do they sell your info to big pharma – it also feels like they’re biased toward a particular kind of “American” middle-class lifestyle (as influence by the U.S. food industry). Thumbs down.

(A few hours later) Ok, got my results. 35? How the heck did I get 7 years added?

Well, I lost points for not knowing my cholesterol and blood pressure off the top of my head – which I don’t know because I don’t memorize this kind of information (had it tested recently, all within normal range).

I also lost points because when I drive, it’s in a very small car. “A large motor vehicle provides more protection in a serious accident than does a small motor vehicle,” said my results. A different response could have suggested more public transportation or walking. Of course, this wouldn’t be a problem if Public Citizen’s efforts push for tougher fuel economy standards results in smaller cars overall. I’m just sayin’.

And I lost points for moving to a different state and being unemployed in the last year.

I really don’t understand why I lost so many food points – I eat very well (see above), but maybe my lack of eating red meat makes it look like I don’t eat? I don’t know. My instincts tell me their interest is in saying users aren’t getting enough folates, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, potassium, etc. so they can tell you that you should buy vitamin supplements. My diet of mostly legumes typically goes with fresh and frozen vegetables. From what I know about nutrition, I should be fine. Thumbs way down.

That said, I also lost points for not flossing every day and driving too fast. And for hardly exercising at all, and so on. That’s fair. In the end, though, the site tells me my “real age” is a good 7 years older than I am. That’s kind of ridiculous.

So thanks RealAge for taking away my youth. Now all I have to do is sit and wait for your big pharma pals to try to sell it back to me.

flickr photo by bensons