Vegetarian diets, circulating miRNA expression and healthspan in subjects living in the Blue Zone

Precis Clin Med. 2020 Dec;3(4):245-259. doi: 10.1093/pcmedi/pbaa037. Epub 2020 Oct 23.


A long-term vegetarian diet plays a role in the longevity and maintenance of the healthspan, but the underlying mechanisms for these observations are largely unknown. Particularly, it is not known whether a long-term vegetarian dietary pattern may affect the circulating miRNA expression in such a way as to modulate the healthspan. The Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2) cohort includes a large number of older adults who primarily follow vegetarian dietary patterns and reside in Loma Linda, California, one of five "Blue Zones" in the world in which a higher proportion of the population enjoys a longer than average lifespan. We performed miRNA-seq in 96 subjects selected from the AHS-2 cohort with different dietary patterns. We identified several differentially expressed miRNAs between vegetarians and non-vegetarians, which are involved in immune response and cytokine signaling, cell growth and proliferation as well as age-related diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases. Overall, our study showed that a vegetarian diet modulates aging-associated circulating miRNAs in a sex-dependent manner of differential expression for certain miRNAs, which may be related in a beneficial manner to the healthspan. Further investigation is needed to validate these miRNAs as potential biomarkers for diet-modulated longevity in humans.

Keywords: Blue Zone; aging; circulating miRNA; miRNA sequencing; vegetarian diet.