Reducing Measured Epigenetic Age by a Few Years with Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Epigenetic clocks assess changing patterns of DNA methylation at CpG sites on the genome that correlate well with chronological age, and to some degree with biological age. People who age more rapidly, as judged by a range of factors such as presence or risk of age-related conditions, tend to have a higher assessed epigenetic age. It remains unclear as to which processes of aging are reflected by any given set of DNA methylation markers, however. For example, the early clocks are insensitive to exercise and fitness. Sedentary people and fit people at any given age tend to measure the same epigenetic age.

Today's open access paper is interesting as a further data point regarding lifestyle interventions for one of the early epigenetic clocks. It involves a small human study using changes in diet, including the use of probiotics, and exercise, which we can probably discount as a meaningful factor given earlier data. The results suggest that diet can make a modest difference of a few years in measured epigenetic age. Unfortunately this still doesn't tell us whether the clock does in fact reflect effects on human life expectancy for this class of lifestyle intervention. The next step on the road to robustly establishing that connection is to calibrate the clock against life span studies in mice using this approach to diet.

Overall, however, this is a taste of what the future holds: every class of intervention clearly and rapidly tested for its ability to affect biological aging. The world in which we can do this is a world in which the best interventions rise to the top of the pile and attract greater investment more rapidly. That is very much needed at the moment: too many resources are devoted to projects in the biology of aging and related medical research and development that cannot possibly produce meaningful gains to healthy human life span.

Potential reversal of epigenetic age using a diet and lifestyle intervention: a pilot randomized clinical trial

Manipulations to slow biological aging and extend healthspan are of interest given the societal and healthcare costs of our aging population. Herein we report on a randomized controlled clinical trial conducted among 43 healthy adult males between the ages of 50-72. The 8-week treatment program included diet, sleep, exercise and relaxation guidance, and supplemental probiotics and phytonutrients. The control group received no intervention.

Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis was conducted on saliva samples and DNAmAge was calculated using the online Horvath DNAmAge clock. The diet and lifestyle treatment was associated with a 3.23 years decrease in DNAmAge compared with controls. DNAmAge of those in the treatment group decreased by an average 1.96 years by the end of the program compared to the same individuals at the beginning with a strong trend towards significance. Changes in blood biomarkers were significant for mean serum 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (+15%) and mean triglycerides (-25%).

To our knowledge, this is the first randomized controlled study to suggest that specific diet and lifestyle interventions may reverse Horvath DNAmAge epigenetic aging in healthy adult males. Larger-scale and longer duration clinical trials are needed to confirm these findings, as well as investigation in other human populations.


Well, perhaps the results are not so "modest" given the duration of the study. It appears that the participants reduced epigenetic aging by 2 years in just 8 weeks if I am understanding things correctly.

Posted by: Brad at April 25th, 2021 1:24 PM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.