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Excellent Friday news: Aging can be reversed (at least a little bit)

DNA methylation analysis revealed remarkable effects from a healthy lifestyle program implemented over just eight weeks.

Excellent Friday news: Aging can be reversed (at least a little bit)
[Photo: McKinsey/rawpixel]
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In excellent Friday news, a new study on aging in the journal Aging shows that aging can be reversed—sorta. The word “age” appears in the study 106 times.

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The study followed 43 healthy adult men in Portland, Oregon, ages 50-72, as half of them embarked on an eight-week healthy lifestyle program that included coaching on diet, sleep, exercise, and relaxation, plus probiotic and phytonutrient supplements. The “dietary and lifestyle interventions” here were rather hardcore, including three servings of liver per week (“preferably organic”), seven daily cups of vegetables, and no food from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The researchers conducted DNA methylation analysis on the men’s saliva before and after the lifestyle upgrade, and found that the men’s epigenetic ages decreased by 3.2 years compared to the control group. Note that the men were already healthy, free of recent or chronic disease and recruited from places like gyms, meaning that this was a study of healthy men going even more healthy. 

DNA methylation levels have been found to correlate with mortality. In other studies, these epigenetic ages, on average, predict time to death more accurately than chronological age or lifestyle risks.

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Before you get too excited about age reversal, a couple caveats: The study was small, the participants were male and mostly white, and the study centers around a singular measure of aging—not actual lifespan or disease prevalence. Aging is a rather hard concept to define and study, like beauty or happiness or pandemic crazy. But for those of us crawling out of a pandemic lifestyle, this study provides hope that a few weeks of healthy living can turn things around, and opens the door for further research.