How can we slow down and even wind back our epigenetic clock?
Epigenetic clocks are aging clocks that measure how old you really are. They measure your “biological age” (bioage).
Your biological age is your “real age” in the sense of your risk for chronic diseases of aging, mortality, and your ability (or inability) to perform physiologically.
Your chronological age, on the other hand, is the number of years you have been alive.
For example, one can be 50 years old (chronological age), but if that person lives unhealthily, he can be biologically 58 years old (biological age).
If your biological age is higher than your chronological age, you have a greater risk of dying and getting aging-related diseases. Chances are you also look older for your age.
The converse is also true: if you have lived a healthy lifestyle, you may be biologically younger, and look it, too!
Various aging clocks are currently being developed to measure your biological age, such as epigenetic clocks, transcriptomic clocks, proteomic clocks, ribosomal clocks, microbiome clocks, and so on.
However, currently the best and most accurate aging clocks are epigenetic clocks, which look at the methylation patterns on your DNA to determine your biological age.
We explain more on how epigenetic clocks work here.
It makes sense that epigenetic clocks are the best aging clocks, given dysregulation of the epigenome plays an important role in the aging process, as we explain here.
When our epigenome does not work properly, we start to age.
These changes in the epigenome can be read by epigenetic aging clocks to determine your real biological age.
Curious about your biological age? Learn more about NOVOS Age, which contains the most powerful and accurate biological age clock available.
How to slow down epigenetic aging
How can you become biologically younger, or at least, slow the rate at which you age? One important way is by maintaining your epigenome properly.
The epigenome plays a very important role in health and aging. Put simply, the epigenome determines which genes are active and which ones are not.
When the epigenome becomes dysfunctional, various genes are switched on that should be switched off (like pro-cancer genes), while other genes are switched off that should be switched on (like genes responsible for proper cellular housekeeping and repair).
There are many ways to improve your epigenetic health, to reduce your epigenetic age and thereby help your aging clock tick more slowly.
Specific supplements, foods, and other lifestyle interventions can slow down your epigenetic aging process. Let’s dig in.
A. Longevity supplements to slow down your epigenetic clock
Longevity supplements slow down the aging process.
Various substances that can slow down aging do so by modifying the epigenome (among other things), which makes sense, given the importance of epigenetic dysregulation in aging.
Examples of such epigenetic longevity supplements include:
1. Calcium alpha-ketoglutarate (calcium AKG)
Alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG) is a small molecule that is naturally present in our bodies.
AKG supports proper maintenance of the epigenome. For example, AKG is a substrate for the TET enzymes, which are important epigenetic enzymes (R,R,R).
During aging, levels of alpha-ketoglutarate decline. Taking alpha-ketoglutarate has been shown to slow down aging and extend lifespan in multiple species (R,R,R,R,R).
Learn more about calcium alpha-ketoglutarate and longevity here.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C has various important epigenetic effects. For example, it works synergistically with alpha-ketoglutarate to help important epigenetic enzymes (like the TET enzymes) to carry out their function (R).
Learn more about vitamin C and longevity here.
3. Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN)
NMN boosts the production of NAD+, a very important substance needed in cells to maintain their epigenome, among other things. NMN has been shown to mitigate various aspects of aging in mice (R,R,R), such as improving metabolism, epigenetic stability, DNA damage and stem cell health, as well as improving aspects of aging in humans, like insulin sensitivity and exercise capacity, and promoting healthy muscle function (R,R,R).
Learn more about NMN and longevity here.
4. Microdosed lithium
Microdosed lithium has various epigenetic effects, including upregulating the gene expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which improves brain function and brain aging. Micro-dosed lithium has been associated with longer lifespans in humans (R,R,R,R), fewer neurodegenerative diseases (R,R), and an extended lifespan in multiple species (R,R,R,R).
Learn more about lithium and longevity here.
Fisetin impacts the epigenome in various ways, for example by influencing specific enzymes involved in methylation that help the body to better deal with inflammation (R).
Fisetin also activates sirtuins, which are important enzymes that help to maintain the epigenome (R,R). Fisetin has been shown to extend lifespan (R).
Learn more about fisetin and longevity here.
Given the large amounts of scientific studies behind these ingredients, and their important role in epigenetic health and longevity, these ingredients (and eight others) have been selected to be included in NOVOS Core and NOVOS Boost.
Learn more about the best longevity supplements here, and what makes NOVOS Core the best longevity formulation available here.
B. Health supplements to make your epigenetic clock tick slower
Health supplements are vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients that are needed for proper health and cellular functioning.
So while “longevity supplements” slow down aging and extend lifespan by acting on fundamental aging processes, “health supplements” are needed for proper functioning of the body.
Various health supplements also contribute to the functioning and maintenance of the epigenome:
1. B vitamins
Many B vitamins are involved in epigenetic functioning, such as the methylation process, in which methyl groups are put on the DNA.
Examples of such B vitamins are vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid), vitamin B12, and vitamin B6.
It’s best to take a “vitamin B complex,” which contains all B vitamins (vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, vitamin B12, and others), given many B vitamins work synergistically.
We highlight the best health supplements (and the best supplement routine) in this article.
2. Methyl donors
Methyl donors are substances that provide the methyl groups that are put on the DNA in order to deactivate specific parts of the DNA, for example.
Examples of methyl donors are phosphatidylcholine, trimethylglycine (TMG), and choline.
To improve methylation, one can take phosphatidylcholine with choline.
We explain more about the best methyl donors in our “The 11 best supplements to take” article (scroll down to the part about “choline”).
Zinc plays an important role in the epigenome. Many proteins involved in epigenetic regulation need zinc to function properly (these epigenetic proteins have zinc binding domains [ZBDs]). Deficiencies in zinc can lead to reduced epigenetic functioning. For example, a deficiency in zinc leads to less methylation (and thus less repression) of genes that promote inflammation, such as interleukin 6, leading to chronic inflammation.
4. Vitamin D
People who are vitamin D deficient show accelerated epigenetic aging. Vitamin D binds to the vitamin D receptor, a protein that regulates the activity of various genes involved in calcium uptake, inflammation, oxidation, and cell proliferation. The vitamin D receptor impacts the epigenome in many regions of our DNA.
C. Foods for epigenetic rejuvenation
Various foods improve and help to maintain the epigenome. For example, these foods contain substances (micronutrients) that enzymes need for maintaining the epigenome.
These are some great epigenetic longevity foods:
Fruits such as apples, citrus fruits, blueberries, grapes, and strawberries contain many compounds that improve epigenetic health. For example, ursolic acid in apple peels and blueberries can demethylate the promoter region of the NRF2 gene, increasing the production of NRF2, a master regulator of the antioxidant stress response and other damage.
Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, arugula, kale, and brussel sprouts contain substances needed for proper epigenetic functioning. For example, broccoli contains sulforaphane, which is a histone deacetylase inhibitor, which means it can switch on healthy or protective genes.
Oysters, mussels, shrimp, and lobster contain high amounts of zinc, vitamin B12, betaine, and other substances that are important for proper maintenance of the epigenome.
Parsley, turmeric, ginger, garlic, and fennel are herbs that have epigenetic effects. Garlic contains diallyl sulfide, which increases histone acetylation, impacting the activity of many health-promoting genes. Ginger is known for its various epigenetic effects, like influencing the activity of genes that are involved in inflammation and neuroprotection. Turmeric has histone deacetylase inhibiting activities, which can suppress inflammation by impacting genes involved in inflammation.
5. Follow a longevity diet
Your diet has a big impact on your epigenome. A healthy diet helps the body to maintain a healthy epigenome. These are some of the most important tips:
- Reduce your intake of animal protein, especially processed red meat such as sausages, salami, bacon, ham, hot dogs, patés, etc.
- Replace red meat (e.g., beef, pork, mutton, veal) with white meat (poultry), fatty fish (e.g., salmon, herring, mackerel), and meat substitutes (based on tofu, pea or mushroom protein).
- Consume lots of vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Vegetables should be the basis of your diet (not potatoes, pasta, rice, or bread).
- Reduce your intake of starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. Replace them with vegetables, legumes, mushrooms or quinoa.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks as much as possible, including sodas, fruit juices, candy, cookies, sweets, cake, pastries, doughnuts, candy bars, chocolates, and so on.
- Avoid trans fats, which can be found in fried foods, fast-food, bakery products (e.g., crackers, cookies, cakes), and vegetable shortenings.
- Significantly reduce your intake of omega-6-fat-rich foods, such as corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, margarine, sesame oil, mayonnaise, and most salad dressings.
- Consume more healthy fats, by consuming more olives, olive oil, walnuts, avocados, flax seed, chia seed, fatty fish, and so on. Make sure your diet is rich in omega-3 fish oils, DHA and EPA.
- Consume foods that have come straight from nature and processed as little as possible, like foods your great-grandmother would recognize.
- Consider consuming a daily, freshly-made smoothie with vegetables and low-glycemic index fruits, such as blueberries.
- Eat specific foods that can slow down aging,: like green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kale), blueberries, dark chocolate (containing at least 70% cacao), salmon, walnuts, pomegranate, etc. Learn more about some of the best anti-aging foods here.
- Don’t drink milk —– milk accelerates aging.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol: this means a maximum of one glass per day, ideally with alcohol-free days. Even better: drink very little or no alcohol, as the latest studies have found that it confers no health benefits.
- Drink at least 1.5 liters of fluids per day: that’s 8 glasses per day. Drink mostly water. Good drinks for longevity are green, white, ginger and chamomile teas, or coffee (yes, coffee can reduce the risk of various aging-related diseases). Add spices (e.g., mint), citron, or NOVOS Core to add taste to your water.
To have a clear overview of the best longevity diet, download the NOVOS Longevity Diet Poster here. You can print the poster and stick it on your refrigerator!
D. Exercise for epigenetic rejuvenation
Engaging in regular exercise, ideally at least 4 times per week for at least 20 minutes at a time, can improve your epigenetic age.
Try to do the following kinds of exercise:
- Aerobic exercise: speed walking, running, swimming, dancing, cycling, jumping rope.
- Anaerobic exercise: weight lifting, climbing, high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
- Stretching and posture exercises: pilates, Alexander technique, yoga.
E. Sleep for epigenetic health
Regular and sufficient sleep is important for epigenetic health and longevity in general. Some tips to improve sleep:
- Magnesium is a mineral that naturally occurs in our bodies. Magnesium can calm the mind, reduce stress, and help us to fall asleep faster (R). Besides its relaxing effects, magnesium also has various other health effects, such as protecting (stabilizing) DNA, improving the epigenome, improving heart health, reducing the risk of diabetes, and improving blood pressure. Unfortunately, studies show that up to 70 percent of people are deficient in magnesium. Make sure you take the right form of magnesium.
- Calcium is an essential mineral that has an inhibiting effect, especially for nerve and muscle cells. It is calming and promotes sleep (R). Take 300 to 400 mg of calcium before bedtime.
- Glycine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in our bodies. Glycine helps us to relax and to feel calmer. Glycine can also promote sleep (R). Take 1 to 2 grams just before you go to bed. Interestingly, glycine can also extend lifespan. NOVOS Core contains 2 grams of glycine.
- Theanine (do not confuse it with theine) is a natural substance found in green tea. It is one of the reasons why green tea is healthy. Theanine can improve both concentration and sleep (R). It also has various health benefits and can extend lifespan. That is why NOVOS Core contains theanine.
- Valerian is an herb that has been shown to improve sleep (R). Valerian contains substances that increase levels of GABA in the brain. GABA is an important inhibitory neurotransmitter that has a calming effect.
- Melatonin (taken in the right form and right way) is a small neurotransmitter-like substance (it looks a lot like serotonin) that the brain produces to make you feel sleepy. It has also been shown to extend lifespan and slow down aging. However, make sure you take the right dose and form of melatonin (extended release; 300 to 1,000 micrograms, not milligrams). We explain more here.
- Chamomile tea. Scientific research shows that chamomile tea contains substances that relax the mind (R,R). Chamomile tea also contains substances that bring about various healthy effects and can delay aging (R,R). You can make yourself a cup of chamomile tea and add, for example, magnesium malate powder or glycine to it.
- Expose yourself to daylight in the morning. Make sure to spend some time outside each day, at least 30 minutes, ideally in the morning. Exposure to outside light during the day adjusts your body’s circadian clock. This clock needs daylight to function properly and calibrate itself. People who are sufficiently exposed to bright light during the day significantly improve their sleep efficiency, according to various studies (R). Older people who were exposed to bright light for two hours a day stayed awake almost two fewer hours at night on average (R).
- Keep your body cool. To fall asleep, your body needs to cool down. It’s this drop in temperature that sends a signal to the brain to fall asleep. So, make sure you do not have too many blankets. Some people even put one leg out of bed: this way, they can cool down better, helping them to fall asleep faster (R). If you have taken a warm bath before bed, the fact that your body will work to cool you down can contribute to improved sleep.
- Wear blue-light blocking glasses before you go to bed. These glasses block blue light. That way, your brain thinks it’s evening, and starts to produce melatonin, the small messenger molecule that makes you feel sleepy. Wear blue-light glasses for one hour to 30 minutes before you go to sleep. An example of (not too expensive) blue-light-blocking -glasses can be found here. These blue-light- blocking glasses are very important if you keep lights or screens on at night, and often work much better than blue-light filters on the screen of your smartphone or computer.
We listed 50+ tips to sleep better in this article.
F. Other ways to turn back your epigenetic clock
- Avoid alcohol. Drink at most one glass of alcohol per day, ideally with alcohol-free days.
- Do not smoke. Smoking significantly accelerates epigenetic aging.
- Stress and unhappiness accelerate epigenetic age. Find the best tips to reduce stress and increase happiness in this article.
- Brush and floss your teeth at least twice per day. Bad bacteria in the mouth release proinflammatory and other unhealthy substances into the bloodstream that accelerate aging.
- Use high-concentration retinol creams (over-the-counter) or prescription-grade tretinoin creams for your face. Retinol and tretinoin creams reduce wrinkles by having epigenetic effects on the skin. Learn more on how to rejuvenate your skin here.
- Have a purpose and goals in life (feeling useful is important for humans).
- Be social.
- Challenge your mind every day.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
Find an overview of 60+ tips to live longer here.
Tracking your Epigenetic Health
It’s difficult to improve something that you don’t measure. Just as a scale is a helpful tool for a weight loss plan, a biological age test is ideal for a Longevity Journey.
That’s why we launched NOVOS Age: the world’s best longevity test kit, validated in more than 45 studies at 30 independent research labs across the world.
Curious about what makes NOVOS Age so good? We’ll leave you with the below list of facts about NOVOS Age vs. alternatives. Want to learn more? We’ve got you covered in this article.
NOVOS Age vs. Other Biological Age Clocks
|Attribute||NOVOS Age Clock||Saliva-based Clock by Celebrity Scientist's New Startup||Other tests|
|Tissue Collection||Blood from a small poke of a finger, a method that is more accurate than via saliva||Saliva from a cheek swab, a method that is generally not very accurate||Blood collection methods that are invasive and far more uncomfortable that via small pokes of fingers|
|Sample Size||Samples from more than 20,000 humans||Samples from more than 8,000 humans||Samples typically from fewer than 2,500 humans|
|DNA Methylation Technology||Built using the modern MethylationEPIC array that measures 850,000 DNA sites and tests your sample on that same technology||Built using the modern MethylationEPIC array that measures 850,000 DNA sites but does not test your sample on that same technology||Built using older arrays that only capture 27,000-450,000 DNA sites|
|Chronological Age Range||8-102 years||18-100 years||Less expansive age range often lacking individuals 90+ years of age|
|Diversity||Significant diversity across ethnicity, race, and sex, all supported by many peer reviewed publications||Diversity across ethnicity, race, and sex, but without support of peer reviewed publications||Insufficient representation across ethnicity, race, and sex and without support of peer reviewed publications|
|Test Reliability||Optimized to be reliable across repeat measurements, with published and peer reviewed best-in-class ICC values (accuracy) >.96 for all three algorithms||Claims of being optimized to be reliable across repeat measurements without disclosing ICC values||Exhibit high test-retest error rates|
|Model Type||3rd generation (latest) clock, the only one trained on longitudinal analysis (people across their lifetimes), the best way to track biological age as shown in publications and tested via peer review||Self-claimed "novel" method-based model that lacks publications, peer review, and head-to-head comparisons against other clocks||1st generation (oldest) model trained to simply estimate chronological age instead of biological aging|
|Outputs and Analysis||Three: 1) 3rd generation Pace of Aging via DunedinPACE, 2) Biological Age, and 3) Telomere Length||One: A less accurate output of biological age||A single, less accurate output of biological age|
|Creators of Clock||A top team of Duke University and Columbia University scientists with peer reviewed publications||A start up company without publication of the algorithms, thus lacking scientific scrutiny|
|Number of Studies||45+ published studies by 30+ longevity scientists' labs across the world||Zero published studies|
|Immune Cell Controls||Published and Patented Advanced 12-cell immune deconvolution methods (cell changes won't impact accuracy, which is common in saliva and makes blood samples better)||No controls||No controls|
|Studies that prove accuracy in different ethnic groups||Algorithms validated in the Family and Community Health Study of African American Families study, MESA (Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis), Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS Phillipines), Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 Study, Health and Retirement Study, the Normative Aging Study, the Framington Heart cohort, TILDA (the Irish Longitudinal Study of Aging), and many more.||No studies||No studies|
|Studies that show relatonship to outcomes||Algorithms have been validated in the Health and Retirement Study, the Normative Aging Study, the Framington Heart cohort and more.||No studies||No studies|
|Studies that show change with validated anti-aging interventions||The only algorithm proven to respond in a significant way to validated anti-aging interventions such as caloric restriction (Published in Nature)||No studies||No studies|
|Include Clinical Covariates||21 clinical covariates and telomere length||No clinical covariates||No clinical covariates|
|Comparisons to other algorithms||Comparisons in the FHS study and in the Health and Retirement Study show superior results||No published comparisons||No published comparisons|
|Shares actual data on precision (ICC values)||See ICC values with comparisons in the FHS study.||No data||No data|