Scientists in the US found a plant-centred diet supplemented with a fruit and vegetable powder along with a probiotic (Lactobacillus plantarum 299v. L. plantarum) appeared to alter DNA methylation, a mechanism used to assess the rate of aging.
"The program was designed to target DNA methylation patterns identified as highly predictive of biological age,” explains Dr Kara Fitzgerald, study lead author, who is based at the Institute for Functional Medicine in Washington DC.
“We suspect that this focus was the reason for its remarkable impact. These early results appear to be consistent with, and greatly extend, the very few existing studies that have so far examined the potential for biological age reversal.
“And it is unique in its use of a safe, non-pharmaceutical dietary and lifestyle program, control group, and the extent of the age reduction. We are currently enrolling participants for a larger study which we expect will corroborate these findings."
The randomised controlled clinical study enrolled 43 healthy adult males between the ages of 50-72, where they received diet, sleep, exercise and relaxation guidance during the 8-week treatment program.
The plant-centred dietary intervention included a high intake of nutrients (folate, betaine, alpha ketoglutarate, vitamin C and vitamin A, curcumin, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), rosmarinic acid, quercetin and luteolin.
The diet was also supplemented daily with a fruit and vegetable powder and a probiotic providing 20 billion colony forming units (CFU) of Lactobacillus plantarum 299v. L. plantarum. The control group received no intervention.
Findings pointed towards changes to DNA methylation, a process in which a methyl group is added to certain areas on a chromosome.
Compared to the 20 participants in the control group, participants in the treatment group scored an average 3.23 years younger at the end of the eight-week program according to the Horvath DNAmAge clock.
Those in the treatment group ( sample size - 18) scored an average 1.96 years younger, at the end of the program compared to the same individuals at the beginning with a strong trend towards significance.
Control participants scored an average of 1.27 years older at the end of the study period, though this within-group increase was not statistically significant.
“What is extremely exciting is that food and lifestyle practices, including specific nutrients and food compounds known to selectively alter DNA methylation, are able to have such an impact on those DNA methylation patterns we know predict aging and age-related disease,” adds Dr Fitzgerald.
“I believe that this, together with new possibilities for us all to measure and track our DNA methylation age, will provide significant new opportunities for both scientists and consumers."
What is DNA methylation?
Currently, the best biochemical markers of an individual’s age are all based on patterns of methylation.
This has led some researchers to propose that aging itself has its basis in epigenetic changes (including methylation changes) over time.
One of the best-studied methylation-based mechanisms is the multi-tissue DNAmAge clock, which predicts all-cause mortality and multiple morbidities better than chronological age.
DNAmAge clock specifically demonstrates about 60% of CpG sites losing methylation with age and 40% gaining methylation.
Co-author of the study Dr Moshe Szyf, an epigeneticist at McGill University adds, “The uniqueness of Dr Fitzgerald approach is that her trial devised a natural but mechanistic driven strategy to target the methylation system of our body.
“This study provides the first insight into the possibility of using natural alterations to target epigenetic processes and improve our wellbeing and perhaps even longevity and lifespan.”
Published online: DOI: 10.18632/aging.202913
“Potential reversal of epigenetic age using a diet and lifestyle intervention: a pilot randomized clinical trial.”
Authors: Kara Fitzgerald et al.