Epigenetic clock analysis of diet, exercise, education, and lifestyle factors

Austin Quach, Morgan E. Levine, Toshiko Tanaka, Ake T. Lu, Brian H. Chen, Luigi Ferrucci, Beate Ritz, Stefania Bandinelli, Marian L. Neuhouser, Jeannette M. Beasley, Linda Snetselaar, Robert B. Wallace, Philip S. Tsao, Devin Absher, Themistocles L. Assimes, James D. Stewart, Yun Li, Lifang Hou, Andrea A. Baccarelli, Eric A. WhitselSteve Horvath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Behavioral and lifestyle factors have been shown to relate to a number of health-related outcomes, yet there is a need for studies that examine their relationship to molecular aging rates. Toward this end, we use recent epi genetic biomarkers of age that have previously been shown to predict all-cause mortality, chronic conditions and age-related functional decline. We analyze cross-sectional data from 4,173 postmenopausal female participants from the Women's Health Initiative, as well as 402 male and female participants from the Italian cohort study, Invecchiare nel Chianti. Extrinsic epigenetic age acceleration (EEAA) exhibits significant associations with fish intake (p=0.02), moderate alcohol consumption (p=0.01), education (p=3x10-5), BMI (p=0.01), and blood carotenoid levels (p=1x10-5)-an indicator of fruit and vegetable consumption, whereas intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration (IEAA) is associated with poultry intake (p=0.03) and BMI (p=0.05). Both EEAA and IEAA were also found to relate to indicators of metabolic syndrome, which appear to mediate their associations with BMI. Metformin-the first-line medication for the treatment of type 2 diabetes-does not delay epigenetic aging in this observational study. Finally, longitudinal data suggests that an increase in BMI is associated with increase in both EEAA and IEAA. Overall, the epigenetic age analysis of blood confirms the conventional wisdom regarding the benefits of eating a high plant diet with lean meats, moderate alcohol consumption, physical activity, and education, as well as the health risks of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-446
Number of pages28
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Aging
  • Alcohol intake
  • DNA methylation
  • Diet
  • Epigenetic clock
  • Fish intake
  • Lifestyle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


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