Lifestyle changes in diet, sleep and exercise, coupled with interventions such as relaxation exercises and supplements, could reverse the aging process, according to new research. Getty Images
Lifestyle changes in diet, sleep and exercise, coupled with interventions such as relaxation exercises and supplements, could reverse the aging process, according to new research.
Six women aged 46 to 65 underwent an eight-week program that included changes in diet, sleep and exercise. They also received guidance on relaxation, probiotic and phytonutrient supplements, and nutritional coaching.
Blood tests showed a decrease in biological age of up to 11 years in five of the six women, with the average participant experiencing a decrease of 4.6 years, according to the study, published in March in the journal Aging.
The participants had a mean chronological age of 58 at the start of the study, and all but one were of a younger biological age. For this reason, the decrease in biological age experienced by most participants during the study is unlikely to be due to improvement in disease. Instead, the improvement could be attributed to underlying age mechanisms, wrote the authors from the universities of Washington, Virginia and Illinois.
biological age vs. chronological
What is the biological and chronological age difference? Simply put, chronological age is how long you’ve been alive, while biological age is the age of your cells, according to Northwestern Medicine.
Biological age is also called epigenetic age. The epigenome is made up of chemical compounds that modify, or mark, the genome in a way that tells it what to do, where to do it and when to do it, according to the US National Institutes of Health. Those changes influenced by environmental factors such as stress, diet, medications and pollution can be passed on from cell to cell as they divide and from generation to generation.
They are also reversible, as this study seems to demonstrate.
Lifestyle changes that appeared to reverse aging
As part of the study, participants were asked to consume the following foods daily:
- 2 cups of dark green leafy vegetables
- 2 cups of cruciferous vegetables
- 3 cups of colorful vegetables
- cup of pumpkin seeds
- cup of sunflower seeds
- 1 or 2 beets
- Liver or liver supplement (three 3-ounce servings per week)
- 1 portion of eggs (5-10 per week)
They were also asked to eat two servings a day of methylation adaptogen foods that support DNA methylation, a process that controls gene expression. Examples of a portion of such foods include:
- berries, preferably wild
- 2 medium cloves of garlic
- 2 cups of green tea, brewed 10 minutes
- 3 cups oolong tea, brewed for 10 minutes
- teaspoon of rosemary
- teaspoon: turmeric
Participants were also asked to make the following daily lifestyle adjustments:
- Take 2 probiotic capsules
- Take 2 servings of vegetable powder
- Drink 8 cups of water a day
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes
- Practice the breathing exercises twice
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep
- Fasting 12 hours after the last meal of the day
None of the women completed all of their tasks every day, and that’s okay, the researchers wrote. Improvements in biological age were observed among women who joined the program an average of 82% of the time. The relatively high level of compliance among patients was likely due in large part to the nutritional coaching provided, they added.
The effect of stress on biological age
A seventh participant, a male, withdrew from the study due to a family emergency. Prior to the study, he had a chronological age of 71 and a biological age of 57.6. His biological age was retested at eight weeks, although he withdrew from the study, and had increased to 61.6 years. Previous research has documented a sudden acceleration of biological age due to several stressful events, even as aging reverses when the stressor resolves, the authors noted.
For some, however, stress is not transient and shows a more permanent effect on aging. Those with long-standing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder are routinely biologically older than their chronological age, according to recent research presented at the European Congress of Psychiatry in Paris.
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