09.01.2024 change 09.01.2024

Yoga and coffee have positive effect on epigenetic rejuvenation

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Practicing yoga and drinking up to three cups of coffee a day are among the factors that have a positive impact on epigenetic rejuvenation, say researchers working on the epigenetics of ageing within the EPIGENOM project.

This is the first study of epigenetic (biological) clocks in Poland conducted on such a large scale.

'In the EPIGENOM project, conducted since 2019, we focus on the epigenetics of ageing: we study the relationship between epigenetic changes, i.e. chemical modifications of DNA, lifestyle and the rate of ageing. One of the goals of the project was a broad analysis of epigenetic clocks, to put it simply - biological clocks in the Polish population', says Dr. Hab. Ewelina Pośpiech from the Department of Forensic Genetics at the Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin.

She explains that the study, carried out on approximately one thousand samples, was the first study of epigenetic clocks on such a large scale in Poland.

'In recent years, it has been suggested that a population rejuvenation strategy is a better investment than spending on disease treatment. It is no secret that we have been interested in the mechanisms behind ageing for many years, but to objectively analyse this process, we need to have good ageing biomarkers, ones that will comprehensively tell us how we age,’ the researcher says.

She points out that chronological age is only an approximate measure of the ageing process - the rate of ageing in people of the same chronological age may differ significantly, and they may have a completely different susceptibility to developing age-related diseases.

'Over the last 10 years, it has been shown that our ageing is very strongly associated with DNA methylation. This is a type of epigenetic variability - different than changing the nucleotide sequence in the genome, which we most often talk about. This is a variability involving chemical modifications of nucleotides, especially cytosine,’ says Dr. Pośpiech.

She explains that methylation depends on our lifestyle and habits. A very important issue is that methylation can be reversible. 'This means that it is never too late to change our lifestyle and have a real impact on the ageing process,’ she says. 

Discussing the results of the study, she points out that scientists have the information available in literature, including that men age faster than women.

'We have shown that biologically, men are older than women on average by about two years. We have also confirmed that the most important currently known factor of epigenetic ageing is smoking - a factor that has a very negative impact on our health. We have noticed that smokers are biologically about four years older than non-smokers,’ says Dr. Pośpiech.

She also emphasises that this is the first such study in the world to show that yoga, relaxation techniques and meditation have a very positive effect on epigenetic rejuvenation. She adds that frequent physical activity also has a similar effect.

'Another beneficial factor - and this information causes extreme enthusiasm - is drinking coffee. Of course, you should be careful when interpreting these results, because it is an individual matter, depending on the person's health and the amount of coffee consumed. We have demonstrated the most beneficial effect on rejuvenation in people drinking one to three cups of coffee a day,’ the researcher says.

Scientists have also shown that eating a lot of meat contributes to faster ageing, but also that sleep duration is extremely important for reducing the risk of death.

'We should be aware that, to some extent, the way we age epigenetically depends on our genes. The pace of ageing is therefore a result of our lifestyle and, as we colloquially say, +good+ or +bad+ genes. In our project, we have identified completely new genes that have an effect on ageing,’ says Dr. Pośpiech.

She adds that the research results can be used in diagnosis and assessment of the risk of disease development, as well as clinical interventions.

'If we understand well how our lifestyle affects our health and epigenetic ageing, we can treat the patients in a personalized way and better target their treatment, as well as propose treatments aimed at improving the quality of life,’ Pośpiech says. 

She added that the research is also important for forensic science because it can, for example, help complete the genetic portrait of the perpetrator of a crime.

The research is carried out as part of the EPIGENOM project 'Analysis of the epigenome for investigative purposes - increasing the possibilities of identification and detection of DNA tests - increasing the possibilities of DNA methylation and epigenome analysis in forensics and diagnostics', in a consortium consisting of the Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police in Warsaw, the Jagiellonian University, the Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin, the University of Łódź and AIS.PL Sp. z o. o.

The project is financed by the Polish National Centre for Research and Development. (PAP)

Elżbieta Bielecka

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