Your diet influences your biology at the cellular level; meaning, you are what you eat! Nutrients in our food are often key ingredients for vital chemical processes in our bodies and Epinutrients are no exception.
Epinutrients are known methyl-donors and methylation cofactors. DNA methylation is an important element of epigenetics, involved in regulating gene expression. As methyl-donors, epinutrients transfer methyl groups (CH3) to neighboring molecules; this reaction is called methylation. As cofactors, epinutrients encourage methylation by activating methylation enzymes1.
In the same way antioxidants protect the genome, epinutrients manage the epigenome. While antioxidants donate electrons to prevent the oxidation of DNA, epinutrients donate methyl groups to maintain a healthy epigenome.
Epinutrients play a central role in DNA methylation.
DNA methylation is a fundamental concept in epigenetics, responsible for the activation and deactivation of genes.
For a gene to produce proteins, specific enzymes need to bind to its DNA. If we wanted to turn off a gene so that it stops producing proteins, we’d have to prevent enzymes from binding to its DNA. Attaching methyl groups (CH3) to DNA makes it difficult for proteins to bind to it. That’s why higher DNA methylation levels lower protein production and gene expression1.
Ideally, we want lower methylation levels on beneficial genes and higher methylation levels on harmful genes. That’s the function of methylation enzymes––they help control how the gene is expressed
Methylation involves a string of chemical reactions in which epinutrients participate in. As cofactors of methylation, they activate methylation enzymes. When these enzymes can do their job, the right genes get expressed or inhibited, and we maintain a healthy epigenome2.
Epigenetic alterations are one of the nine fundamental hallmarks of aging3. As we age, DNA gets damaged and subsequently repaired. However, DNA repairs are rarely perfect and can result in different methylation patterns and epigenetic modifications. These critical changes accelerate aging4.
To slow aging, it’s critical we keep our epigenome in check. That’s where epinutrients come in!
We’ve already established that epinutrients support methylation to maintain a healthy epigenome. A healthy epigenome can also mean a lower biological age.
A 2021 study evaluated the efficacy of an epinutrients-based diet. Participants followed this diet for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the participants’ biological age was nearly 3.5 years lower than the control group’s biological age5.
Folate, betaine, choline, and vitamin B12 are some common epinutrients.6 And here are some foods rich in these epinutrients that you can include in your diet:
The science clearly shows that integrating epinutrients into your diet can promote longevity. So stay healthy, and stay young!