A healthy, specially developed diet, combined with lifestyle recommendations, especially in terms of sleep, stress, and physical activity, could help individuals turn back time by a few years, thanks to a positive impact on biological aging mechanisms — or, in other words, significantly reduce one’s “biological age”. This is what recent research by American scientists from the Institute for Functional Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the American Nutrition Association reveals [1]. Researchers sought to determine whether a lifestyle that favors DNA methylation, a biological mechanism that plays a key role in certain aspects of aging, could favorably influence biological age.

Case study

Published in the journal Aging, the researchers’ investigation took the form of an eight-week case study in which six women undertook a specific program of eating and lifestyle practices. This included advice on diet, sleep, exercise, relaxation, probiotic and phytonutrient consumption. All of this was accompanied by comprehensive nutritional coaching.

The whole study was based on the “biological age”, which is measured through the biological age clock, or “epigenetic clock” method, a biochemical test based on DNA methylation levels, measuring the accumulation of methyl groups to one’s DNA molecules.

The scientists specify that they analyzed DNA methylation and biological age at the beginning and end of the program via blood samples. And the result is surprising since the participants in the study, all women, managed to reduce their biological age by more than four years on average.

The researchers explain that five of the six participants showed a decrease in biological age by between 1.22 and 11.01 years at the end of the program. More generally, they state that after the study, the average biological age of the participants was 51.23 years, compared to 55.83 years before the study, a decrease of 4.6 years on average following the eight weeks of intervention.

Some caveats

Before getting overly excited, be aware that there are some limitations to the study to be taken into account, starting with the sample. Only six women participated in this research, which is an extremely small panel, even though most of the participants saw their biological age decline. More research is needed in a larger population to determine exactly whether diet and healthy lifestyle can reverse aging.

It should be noted that this work does support the results of a pilot clinical trial [2], presented in 2021, and carried out that time with 43 men aged between 50 and 72 years, who followed the same program, and saw a drop in biological age of 3.23 years on average compared to the control group.

"This case series of women participants study extends the previous pilot study of this intervention in men, indicating that favorable biological age changes may be achievable in both sexes. In addition, the investigation of otherwise-healthy individuals, rather than those with diagnosed disease, suggests an influence directly on underlying mechanisms of aging instead of disease-driven aging," the study authors explain in a statement.

The impact of lifestyle on aging has been the subject of several research investigations for many years. Recently, American scientists have been investigating the deleterious effects of stress on the aging of the body, concluding that stress management, or other external factors, can indeed play a role in biological age, although the damage observed in the body is not always permanent. A start-up based in the United States, Turn Biotechnologies, co-founded by Vittorio Sebastiano, a scientist from Stanford University known for his work on cellular reprogramming, goes even further by claiming to be able to promote the rejuvenation of several types of human cells, including stem cells.

Advances in research on the biological mechanisms of aging are of course of high interest to cosmetics brands. For instance, French beauty brand Dior (LVMH) recently announced at the Aesthetic & Anti-Aging Medicine World Congress (AMWC) its will to invest in the field of reverse aging, with the creation of the first International Reverse Aging Scientific Advisory Board (RASAB), with the aim to "better understand the mechanism of skin rejuvenation."