• Biological age reductions ranged from 1.22 and 11.01 years in five out of six participants with an average decline of 4.60 years after eight weeks of the program.
  • The study’s dietary program included the consumption of foods that promote DNA methylation, including rosemary, turmeric, and green tea.
  • The study participants’ exercise prescription entailed 60% to 80% maximum intensity exercise for 30 minutes for at least five days per week.

Approximately 60% of adults have a chronic, incurable disease that often reduces the number of years lived in good overall health. Aging itself has been identified as a driver of these chronic diseases and presents an important target to extend years lived without disease. Attempting to find ways to fight aging, researchers have developed biological age clocks based on DNA methylation to assess the effectiveness of health interventions on biological age – an estimate of one’s physiological condition compared to their chronological age.

Reported in Aging, Hodges and colleagues from the American Nutrition Association show that administering a DNA methylation-promoting dietary regimen and exercise routine to aged women reduces their average biological age by 4.60 years. The DNA methylation-promoting diet included methylation adaptogens – nutrients derived from plants that drive DNA methylation – including rosemary, turmeric, and green tea. The exercise routine prescribed entailed exercising at 60% to 80% maximum exertion for 30 minutes at least five times per week. The study’s findings suggest that certain dietary alterations and exercise improvements could reverse our biological age.

Diet and Exercise Reverse Biological Age Measured with DNA Methylation

Hodges and colleagues measured the biological ages of six women between ages 46 and 65 using a DNA methylation-based analysis – the Horvath DNAmAGE Clock. The average age measured for the participants at the beginning of the eight-week study was 55.83 years and dropped to 51.23 years at the study’s completion – an average 4.60-year biological age reduction. These findings show that consuming a DNA methylation-promoting diet along with an exercise routine can reverse aging, according to the Horvath DNAmAGE Clock.

(Fitzgeral et al., 2023 | Aging) The study’s women showed significantly reduced average biological age following eight weeks of a DNA methylation-promoting dietary and exercise program. The average biological age started at 55.83 years and diminished to 51.23 years, a 4.60-year decline, after eight weeks of a DNA methylation promoting diet and exercise routine.

The biological age of five of the six women studied was less than their chronological age (age in years). Since disease usually drives the biological age higher than the chronological age, this observation suggests that the biological age reductions weren’t due to disease condition improvements. In other words, the study participants were healthy, and the observed average biological age reduction was likely from improvements to underlying physiological contributors to aging.

The diet which the study participants adhered to included nutrients referred to as “epinutrients” that provide the molecular building blocks necessary for methylation along with enzymes with key roles in DNA methylation. Some of these nutrients found in certain foods include folate, betaine, alpha-ketoglutarate, vitamin C, vitamin A, and curcumin. The participants’ average biological age reduction suggests that consuming these nutrients in conjunction with exercising can reverse one’s biological age based on measuring DNA methylation patterns.

(Fitzgeral et al., 2023 | Aging) The study’s dietary and lifestyle program included epinutrients promoting DNA methylation, supplements, exercise, a sleep prescription, and stress management directions. The dietary regimen included various vegetables, eggs, animal proteins, methylation adaptogens (nutrients that induce DNA methylation), and other supplements. Exercising included 60% to 80% maximal exertion for 30 minutes at least five times per week. At least seven hours of sleep per night were prescribed, along with a breathing exercise to manage stress.

Possible Physiological Meaning Behind DNA Methylation-Based Biological Age Reversal

Hodges and colleagues’ study gave similar results to one that showed a DNA methylation-promoting diet and exercise regimen reduced the average biological age by 3.23 years in 50 to 70-year-old men. That particular study used the Horvath DNAmAGE Clock to measure biological age as well. The findings mean that a dietary regimen and exercise routine with sufficient sleep (at least seven hours per night) can reverse biological age in men and women according to a DNA methylation-based aging clock.

It’s difficult to tell what physiological application these findings have. The biological aging clock based on DNA methylation predicts patterns of gene activation. Having gene activation patterns associated with a lower biological age could reap health benefits, but whether it actually does will require further study.

Limitations to the study include that no healthy participants who didn’t undergo the dietary and exercise regimens (controls) were used for comparison. Using these healthy participants for comparison is important to tell whether other factors in the study aside from the dietary regimen and exercise routines influenced biological age. Another limitation is that the study only used six participants, so it’s difficult for the statistical findings to have much meaning. Future biological age research should include healthy controls for comparison and larger groups of study participants to improve significance of statistical findings. Moreover, assessments of physiological function, such as insulin sensitivity, should be included in future studies to find whether a reduced DNA methylation-based biological age translates to health improvements.