DNA methylation patterns reflect critical control of gene expression. Out of millions of methylation sites on the human genome, only a few thousand have shown strong correlations with age and may be used to derive epigenetic age. Hypermethylation is generally (though not exclusively) associated with gene silencing and hypomethylation is usually linked to promotion of gene expression. Overall, however, neither increased nor decreased methylation correlates with age. This is because at certain genomic locations, gene silencing may be more adaptive for health during aging (such as in sequences that promote cytokine expression), whereas in others, hypomethylation may encourage expression of proteins with protective functions, such as antioxidant enzymes.
Chronologic age and accelerated biological aging are associated with heightened risk for cancer, neurodegenerative disease, cardiometabolic illness, and other conditions. In clinical and preclinical research, lifestyle factors have been shown to impact biological aging processes, healthspan, and epigenetic age. Dietary quality, nutrient and phytonutrient intakes, eating schedules, physical activity level, sleep quality, and stress management can directly or indirectly influence aspects of aging, and were addressed in this pilot project.
In this study, 43 males aged 50-72 years having no history of recent or chronic disease were randomized to receive either an epigenetic treatment program or no intervention. Prior to and during the treatment period, subjects were instructed to discontinue use of non-prescription supplements other than fish oil up to 1 g/day, vitamin D up to 6000 IU/day, vitamin C up to 1 g/day, vitamin E up to 400 IU/day, and low-dose multivitamins. At baseline, 5 weeks, and 9 weeks, epigenetic age was derived by Horvath DNAmAge evaluation of saliva, which is considered to provide high-quality DNA for analysis.
Targeted Lifestyle Intervention May Help Reduce Epigenetic Age
This pilot study demonstrates that lifestyle modification targeted at improving DNA methylation patterning can reduce epigenetic age (as measured by the Horvath DNAmAge epigenetic clock) after a relatively brief 8-week period of multi-modal intervention.