Epigenetic linkage of aging, cancer and nutrition

J Exp Biol. 2015 Jan 1;218(Pt 1):59-70. doi: 10.1242/jeb.107110.


Epigenetic mechanisms play a pivotal role in the expression of genes and can be influenced by both the quality and quantity of diet. Dietary compounds such as sulforaphane (SFN) found in cruciferous vegetables and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in green tea exhibit the ability to affect various epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) inhibition, histone modifications via histone deacetylase (HDAC), histone acetyltransferase (HAT) inhibition, or noncoding RNA expression. Regulation of these epigenetic mechanisms has been shown to have notable influences on the formation and progression of various neoplasms. We have shown that an epigenetic diet can influence both cellular longevity and carcinogenesis through the modulation of certain key genes that encode telomerase and p16. Caloric restriction (CR) can also play a crucial role in aging and cancer. Reductions in caloric intake have been shown to increase both the life- and health-span in a variety of animal models. Moreover, restriction of glucose has been demonstrated to decrease the incidence of age-related diseases such as cancer and diabetes. A diet rich in compounds such as genistein, SFN and EGCG can positively modulate the epigenome and lead to many health benefits. Also, reducing the quantity of calories and glucose in the diet can confer an increased health-span, including reduced cancer incidence.

Keywords: Aging; Cancer; Diet; Epigenetics; Nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Diet
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Nutritional Status / genetics*