Changing the conversation about health

Healthy diet rich in leafy greens can turn back genetic clock, finds US study

A new study by US scientists says eating dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach and swiss chard can spark changes in DNA that can reverse ageing by up to two years.

Doctors leading the research said the results of the study offered further evidence that what we eat contributes not only to day-to-day well-being but may also increase lifespan and help protect against diseases including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, dementia and high blood pressure.

Time to eat those greens: Doctors leading the research said the results of the study offered further evidence that what we eat contributes not only to day-to-day well-being but may also increase lifespan (Picture: Pixabay/Pompi)

Researchers at the Institute for Functional Medicine in Washington found that age-related biological processes – effectively our genetic clock – were slowed by diets that were rich in leafy green veg.

The two-month study, reported in The Times, asked healthy men aged between 50 and 72 to follow advice on diet, sleep, exercise and relaxation with their weekly food intake including 9oz of dark leafy greens, the same amount of cruciferous vegetables (eg broccoli or cauliflower) plus 13.5oz of vegetables that were deemed ‘colourful’ such as carrots and squashes.

They were also asked to consume three servings of liver, up to ten eggs, two beetroots, and take a fruit and vegetable powder and a probiotic.

When the scientists compared the diet’s effects on the body with those who ate normally, they found the healthy eating group received a DNA methylation score that was, on average, 3.23 years younger than their peers on a less controlled diet.

DNA methylation works by assessing biological ageing by looking at how chemical tags known as methyls stick to molecules of DNA, which affects processes within the body including cell turnover.

READ MORE STORIES

Lead author on the study, Dr Kara Fitzgerald, told the journal Aging: “What is extremely exciting is that food and lifestyle practices, including specific nutrients and food compounds known to selectively alter DNA methylation, are able to have such an impact on those DNA methylation patterns we know predict ageing and age-related disease.”

Dr Moshe Szyf, co-author, added: “This study provides the first insight into the possibility of using natural alterations to target epigenetic processes and improve our well-being and perhaps even longevity and lifespan.”

Institute for Functional Medicine in Washington