AGING: Slowing it down through epigenetics

The aging of populations implies thinking about the conditions for healthy ageing. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by 2050, 2.1 billion people worldwide will be over 60, which is a drastic increase from the 1 billion people in the same age bracket. age in 2019.

Approaching health promotion from an epigenetic perspective

In response to environmental factors, epigenetic changes occur in each subject that impact gene expression. Many studies have already attempted to identify these epigenetic changes that accumulate with exposure and aging. Based on a review of the literature, the researchers are trying to identify how exactly aging affects epigenetics, and how nutrition and physical exercise can positively impact this aging process, from the point of view epigenetics. In particular, the team identifies the key role of a compound, chromatin: epigenetic studies show that aging is associated with decondensation of chromatin, which leads to an alteration in the structure of heterochromatin, which promotes accumulation of errors.

Reverse or delay these changes through nutrition, caloric restriction and sustained physical activity?

The literature review published on the subject, reveals that:

  • with age, canonical histones, proteins located in the nucleus of cells, involved in several biological processes including transcription, replication and DNA repair are replaced by histone variants involved in the remodeling of the chromatin;
  • aging is also associated with a deregulation of gene expression – generally ensured by non-coding RNAs – leading both to the repression of previously transcribed genes and to the transcription of previously repressed genes;
  • these age-associated gene expression changes are less common in people with a healthy lifestyle;
  • a balanced diet, such as caloric restriction or physical exercise, can reduce these age-related epigenetic changes;
  • Specifically, a balanced diet, such as caloric restriction or exercise promotes more tightly condensed chromatin, barring post-translational histone modifications or epigenetic modifications.

This work, which opens up the original perspective of the study of epigenetics to combat aging, marks a step towards a better understanding of these modifications linked to age and life exposures, and designates the first targets for a healthier aging.

Finally, the analysis confirms the benefits of a balanced diet and the practice of exercise against the accumulation of epigenetic marks characteristic of age.

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