Epigenetic Aging: Can It Be Slowed With Diet?

Having a faster rate of epigenetic aging, as measured by the epigenetic age metric, AgeAccelGrim, is associated with a significantly increased risk of death for all causes in a variety of cohorts, including the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study, the InChianti study, the Jackson Heart Study (JHS), and collectively, when evaluated as a meta-analysis (Lu et al. 2019):

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With the goal of minimizing disease risk and maximizing longevity, can epigenetic aging be slowed? Shown below is the correlation between dietary components with AgeAccelGrim. Dietary factors that were significantly associated  (the column labelled, “p”) with a younger epigenetic age were carbohydrate intake, dairy, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. In contrast, dietary fat intake and red meat were associated with older epigenetic ages (Lu et al. 2019):

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Note that dietary recall data as a means for identifying nutrient intake can be unreliable-a better measure of dietary intake is circulating biomarkers. Are there associations between circulating biomarkers of nutrient intake with epigenetic aging?

Higher blood levels of carotenoids, including lycopene, alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein+zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin were associated with a younger epigenetic age (Lu et al. 2019):

epi veg

If your goal is optimal health and longevity, eating foods that are rich in these nutrients may be an important strategy for slowing epigenetic aging. Which foods contain these nutrients? Carotenoids are found almost exclusively in vegetables and fruits. For example, lycopene is enriched in watermelon and tomatoes, alpha- and beta-carotene is high in carrots, orange vegetables (sweet potato, squash, pumpkin) and greens, lutein+zeaxanthin is prevalent in greens, and beta-cryptoxanthin’s highest levels are found in butternut squash and red bell peppers.

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Nutrient composition data: https://reedir.arsnet.usda.gov/codesearchwebapp/(S(ujsr52ygvp0tw13m1luk0rny))/CodeSearch.aspx

Lu AT, Quach A, Wilson JG, Reiner AP, Aviv A, Raj K, Hou L, Baccarelli AA, Li Y, Stewart JD, Whitsel EA, Assimes TL, Ferrucci L, Horvath S. DNA methylation GrimAge strongly predicts lifespan and healthspan. Aging (Albany NY). 2019 Jan 21;11(2):303-327. doi: 10.18632/aging.101684.

1 thought on “Epigenetic Aging: Can It Be Slowed With Diet?

  1. albedo

    The answer seems on the positive. Here we have a pilot study where a well defined Mediterranean diet was investigated under the scrutiny of DNA methylation biomarkers and has shown an impact somewhat dispersing the perception diet is not really impacting DNA methylation, actually here more impactful than genetics alone. The study is a follow on the large EU funded NU-AGE project. Note also the typical aging targets: “energy metabolism, regulation of cell cycle, and of immune functions”.

    “Mediterranean diet has been proposed to promote healthy aging, but its effects on aging biomarkers have been poorly investigated. We evaluated the impact of a 1-year Mediterranean-like diet in a pilot study including 120 elderly healthy subjects from the NU-AGE study (60 Italians, 60 Poles) by measuring the changes in their epigenetic age, assessed by Horvath’s clock. We observed a trend towards epigenetic rejuvenation of participants after nutritional intervention. The effect was statistically significant in the group of Polish females and in subjects who were epigenetically older at baseline. A genome-wide association study of epigenetic age changes after the intervention did not return significant (adjusted p value < 0.05) loci. However, we identified small-effect alleles (nominal p value < 10-4), mapping in genes enriched in pathways related to energy metabolism, regulation of cell cycle, and of immune functions. Together, these findings suggest that Mediterranean diet can promote epigenetic rejuvenation but with country-, sex-, and individual-specific effects, thus highlighting the need for a personalized approach to nutritional interventions."

    Gensous N, Garagnani P, Santoro A, et al. One-year Mediterranean diet promotes epigenetic rejuvenation with country- and sex-specific effects: a pilot study from the NU-AGE project. Geroscience. 2020



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