The potential role of epigenetic responses to diet in ageing

Dianne Ford*, Laura J. Ions, Fatema Alatawi, Luisa A. Wakeling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Epigenetic changes may be causal in the ageing process and may be influenced by diet, providing opportunities to improve health in later life. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of several areas of research relevant to this topic and to explore a hypothesis relating to a possible role of epigenetic effects, mediated by sirtuin 1, in the beneficial effects of dietary restriction, including increased lifespan. Epigenetic features of ageing include changes in DNA methylation, both globally and at specific loci, which differ between individuals. A major focus of research on dietary influences on epigenetic status has been on nutrition in utero, because the epigenome is probably particularly malleable during this life-course window and because epigenetic marking by early exposures is a compelling mechanism underlying effects on lifelong health. We explore the potential of diet during adulthood, including the practice of dietary restriction, to affect the epigenetic architecture. We report progress with respect to deriving data to support our hypothesis that sirtuin 1 may mediate some of the effects of dietary restriction through effects on DNA methylation and note observations that resveratrol affects DNA methylation and other epigenetic features. Disentangling cause and effect in the context of epigenetic change and ageing is a challenge and requires better understanding of the underlying mechanisms and also the development of more refined experimental tools to manipulate the epigenetic architecture, to facilitate hypothesis-driven research to elucidate these links and thus to exploit them to improve health across the full life-course through dietary measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-384
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number3
Early online date22 Jul 2011
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


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