Scientists claim that simple adjustments to diet, exercise and sleep can reverse a person’s biological age in just eight weeks.
Researchers at the University of Virginia instructed six healthy women around the age of 58 to follow a diet rich in green vegetables, seeds and three servings of liver per week for two months.
Participants, who were anonymous, were also asked to exercise for 30 minutes five days a week, sleep at least seven hours a night, and do two 10-minute breathing exercises a day.
The results showed that the women’s biological age – the estimated age of their cells – fell by almost five years on average, from 56 to 51 years. One participant’s biological age fell by 11 years during the study, from 57 to 46 years.
Biohacking has exploded in popularity in recent years, with followers trying to lower their biological age — or how old their cells and tissues are — in order to live longer and prevent diseases such as heart disease.
The women were asked to follow the above diet and lifestyle plan for eight weeks. Their blood was tested for biomarkers of aging at the beginning and end of the study
The diet is designed to support DNA methylation, which helps keep cells in the body healthy.
However, as a person ages, DNA methylation generally becomes altered and less efficient, leading to faster aging of cells.
Scientists tracked how well participants followed the program, revealed this year in the magazine Agingthrough daily reports on an app.
Overall, participants adhered to the plan 82 percent of the time, but were more likely to adhere to their diet (84 percent) than their lifestyle (77 percent).
The research team, led by aging expert Dr Kara Fitzgerald, said in the paper: ‘The findings of this case series add to the existing evidence suggesting that widely accessible, cost-effective dietary and lifestyle interventions designed to support DNA methylation and generally considered safe, measures of biological aging can potentially reduce.
“This case series of female participants extends the earlier pilot study of this intervention in men, indicating that beneficial biological age changes may be achievable in both sexes.”
Before the diet, participants ate a lot of vegetables: two cups of dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach and mustard greens, two cups of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and three cups of colorful vegetables such as an eggplant each day.
They also received a daily serving of pumpkin and sunflower seeds, half a cup of berries or half a teaspoon of rosemary or turmeric.
Each was asked to eat six pounds of meat a day, and take probiotics and green powder supplements every 24 hours.
Per week, participants were also told to consume three ounces of liver and five to ten eggs.
For fluids, they were told to drink up to eight cups of water per day.
But they were also instructed on which foods to avoid, namely anything with added sugar or sweets, dairy products, grains, and legumes or beans.
The diet was meant to be eaten every day over a 12-hour period, which the scientists say should be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Participants also had to make lifestyle changes, which included 30 minutes of moderate-to-high-intensity exercise, such as running or cycling, five days a week, sleep at least seven hours a night, and do two ten-minute breathing exercises twice a day to combat stress.
Leafy greens, three servings of liver a week, and no sugar: A diet plan that helped six women biohack their age
Six women were tasked with following the diet and lifestyle regimen below for eight weeks.
Adherence was monitored via check-ins on an app, with the final results showing that participants followed the plan about 80 percent of the time. Below are the details of the diet and lifestyle changes:
Diet guidelines, per day:
- Two cups of dark leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and mustard greens;
- Two cups of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and arugula;
- Three cups of colored vegetables, except sweet corn and white potatoes;
- One to two medium beets;
- four tablespoons of pumpkin seeds;
- Four tablespoons of sunflower seeds;
- A serving of “methylation” adaptogens, such as half a cup of berries or half a teaspoon of rosemary or turmeric;
- six ounces of flesh;
- Two servings of low-glycemic fruits, such as berries, grapefruit, and apples;
- Serving of probiotics and green powder supplements;
- Drink eight cups of water.
And per week:
- Three servings of liver, each weighing three ounces;
- Five to ten eggs, ideally free-range or organic.
- Exercise five days a week for 30 minutes at moderate to high intensity, such as running or cycling;
- Sleep an average of seven hours per night;
- Ten minute breathing exercises twice a day.
- Eat something between 7pm and 7am before fasting for 12 hours;
- Any added sugar, candy, dairy, grains, legumes, or beans.
At the start of the study, the participants went for blood tests to check their biological age.
This was estimated using the Horvath DNAmAge clock, which uses DNA methylation to estimate a person’s biological age. It is based on a sample of more than 8,000 adults.
Participants had weekly sessions with trained nutritionists to ensure adherence, who were also available via an app to answer questions throughout the day.
They said their results built on the earlier study in men, which showed their biological age reversed an average of three years after they followed the same diet every week.
However, the study had several limitations, including that it was not clear what factor caused the reduction in biological age.
Some scientists suggest that this was probably diet, but previous research has suggested that when someone is already on a good diet, it has a limited effect.
Others suggest that adjustments to sleep patterns and exercise regimens may be much stronger catalysts for improving health.
Other limitations include the small sample size, meaning it was unclear whether another factor could have caused the reduction.