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How Diet Affects Aging And Brain Health

How Diet Affects Aging And Brain Health

How Diet Affects Aging And Brain Health – What To Eat And How Much To Eat For Ideal Health

This week, two studies on how diet affects aging and brain health came across my desk that I want to share with you. In the first study, we received confirmation that a diet low in calories slows down the aging process, but not for the reasons that were widely assumed. Secondly, a study confirmed what we already believed by concluding that people who eat healthier aren’t as likely to develop dementia.

How Diet Affects Aging And Brain Health – Study #1 Overview

Diet plays a significant role in our aging process, although the link between the two is more complex than previously considered. Studies on animals demonstrate that caloric restriction can extend lifespan and reduce signs of aging, but the exact mechanism in humans is still under investigation. Specifically, the cellular metabolic process and its by-products have been identified as a potential factor. When cells consume less energy due to a lower calorie intake, there are fewer waste products, leading to less oxidative stress and cellular damage.

An essential component of cellular aging is telomeres – molecular “caps” at the ends of our DNA strands, which become shorter with each round of cell replication. The length of telomeres therefore serves as a measure of biological aging and can be influenced by a range of factors including age, stress, illness, diet, and genetics. However, the effect of calorie restriction on human telomeres is not entirely clear.

How Diet Affects Aging And Brain Health – Study #1 Findings

A recent April 2024 study led by researchers from Penn State involved 175 participants from the CALERIE study, the first randomized clinical trial of human caloric restriction. The team found participants’ telomere length declined rapidly in the first year of caloric restriction, but after two years, once their weight had stabilized, their telomeres shortened at a slower pace. By the end of the study, participants on calorie-restricted diets had telomeres almost the same length as those on a regular diet.

These surprising findings highlight the complexity of how caloric restriction impacts telomere loss and cellular aging. Further research aims to understand if prolonged caloric restriction could lead to a significant difference in biological aging. Despite the uncertain relationship between calorie consumption and telomere length, the CALERIE study underscored multiple health benefits of calorie restriction, including reductions in “bad” cholesterol and blood pressure.1

Read more about how to naturally reduce blood pressure.

How Diet Affects Aging

Why Diet Variation Is Better Than Calorie Restriction

So essentially, the study showed that calorie restriction initially caused telomeres to shorten quickly, but after two years, the rate of shortening slows down significantly. If this study was lengthened over the course of a lifetime, I believe that telomere length would be longer in calorie-restricted individuals than people who consumed normal caloric intake. However, I don’t believe that long-term calorie restriction is a healthy practice to begin with. 

The practice of diet variation is far better as calorie restriction is balanced out with a calorie surplus. This is how our ancestors ate as moments of food scarcity and periods of food excess was the norm. 

Calorie restriction suppresses the mTor pathway, leading to increased autophagy. Autophagy is a cellular process where damaged or unnecessary components are broken down and recycled for energy or building blocks. This process helps to maintain cellular homeostasis and prevent the accumulation of toxic substances. Calorie restriction is great – short term.2 

Excess calorie consumption triggers the mTor pathway. This process senses the availability of nutrients, including amino acids and glucose, and regulates cell proliferation and growth. Continuous activation of the mTor pathway has been linked to various age-related diseases such as neurodegeneration and cardiovascular disease. However, activating the mTor pathway is critical to rebuilding the body, meaning that it is also great – short term.3

I delve more into this balance between fasting and feasting as well as mixing up food choices in my blog, Are You Fasting Too Much?

How Diet Affects Aging And Brain Health – Study #2 Overview

A February 2024 study diving into the links between a healthy diet and dementia was conducted on the Framingham Offspring Cohort, specifically analyzing the positive impacts a Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet (MIND) may have on reducing the threat of dementia. The researchers theorized that adopting a healthy diet may decelerate biological aging, thus guarding against dementia. The participants, who were over the age of 60 and did not have dementia, were monitored in their adherence to the MIND diet over a 17-year period. The rate of biological aging was gauged through the DunedinPACE epigenetic clock, a tool that uses DNA methylation data.

How Diet Affects Aging And Brain Health – Study #2 Findings

The study’s findings affirmed the hypothesis, revealing a slower pace of aging in individuals adhering more strictly to the MIND diet. These individuals exhibited a diminished risk of developing dementia and a lower mortality risk. The slower pace of aging was seen to play a significant role in the correlation between a healthy diet and reduced risk of dementia, accounting for 27% of the association. Additionally, it accounted for 57% of the connection between a healthy diet and a lower mortality risk.

Nonetheless, the study concludes that there is still a significant part of the relationship between diet and dementia that remains unknown. This suggests possible direct links between diet and brain aging independent of other organ systems. Emphasizing the need for additional research into brain-specific mechanisms, the study underlines the importance of understanding the relationship between diet and dementia risk. In summary, this research offers crucial insights into how a healthy diet can mitigate the risk of dementia.4

How Diet Affects Aging And Brain Health

What Is The Mediterranean-Dash Intervention For Neurodegenerative Delay Diet (MIND)?

The Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet is a combination of two popular diets – the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. It was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, with the aim of reducing the risk of developing dementia.

The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets as it combines elements from both to create a specific eating plan that can potentially slow cognitive decline. The Mediterranean diet focuses on consuming whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, and olive oil while limiting intake of red meat and processed foods. The DASH diet, on the other hand, emphasizes reducing sodium intake and increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.

The MIND diet incorporates these elements with a specific focus on brain-healthy foods that have been shown to protect against cognitive decline. These include leafy greens, berries, nuts, olive oil, fish, whole grains, and legumes. It also encourages limiting the intake of red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.5

How Diet Affects Aging And Brain Health

How MIND Compares To My Cellular Healing Diet

The diet that I live by is what I call my Cellular Healing Diet. The Cellular Healing Diet has some similarities with MIND. Specifically, I encourage the consumption of vegetables like leafy greens, berries, olive oil, nuts, legumes, low glycemic fruits, and omega-3 rich fish, assuming it was wild caught and free of heavy metals. I also agree that products like margarine, pastries, sweets, and processed foods shouldn’t be consumed.

However, I don’t believe it is healthy to eat grains for a multitude of reasons. Specifically, most grains are GMOs, contain pesticides like glyphosate and chlormequat chloride, and possess natural toxins. Additionally, many products that contain grains are made with unhealthy seed-based oils.6-11

I encourage the consumption of red meat, assuming it was raised grass-fed. One of the key benefits of grass-fed meat is its high content of essential fatty acids. Omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) are two types of fatty acids that are rich in grass-fed meat, but not found in high quantities in grain-fed meats. These fatty acids are essential for maintaining a healthy heart and brain function, as well as reducing inflammation in the body.12 

I also encourage moderate consumption of dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter, assuming the cows were also raised grass-fed. Dairy products from grass-fed cows contain higher levels of essential vitamins and minerals as well as omega-3 fatty acids compared to conventionally-raised cows.13

Read more about my Cellular Healing Diet.

The key is mixing up food choices so the body doesn’t become complacent or develop nutrient deficiencies. The best way to keep our bodies constantly adapting and improving is by incorporating a rotation of different macronutrient ratios into our diet. Instead of sticking to the same eating pattern every day, we should mix it up by consuming a high protein diet on some days, a high fat diet on others, and a high carbohydrate-based diet on yet another day.

Again, for more information on diet variation, read my blog, Are You Fasting Too Much?

How Diet Affects Aging And Brain Health – What To Eat And How Much To Eat For Ideal Health

When it comes to how diet affects aging and brain health, the takeaway message is to eat a healthy diet while following the principles of diet variation. Additionally, practice calorie restriction in conjunction with a calorie surplus to benefit from both autophagy and regrowth facilitated through the mTor pathway.

Read more about the connection between diet and autoimmune conditions.


1 Waylon J. Hastings, Qiaofeng Ye, Sarah E. Wolf, Calen P. Ryan, Sai Krupa Das, Kim M. Huffman, Michael S. Kobor, William E. Kraus, Julia L. MacIsaac, Corby K. Martin, Susan B. Racette, Leanne M. Redman, Daniel W. Belsky, Idan Shalev. Effect of long‐term caloric restriction on telomere length in healthy adults: CALERIE™ 2 trial analysis. Aging Cell, 2024; DOI: 10.1111/acel.14149

2 Saxton RA, Sabatini DM. mTOR Signaling in Growth, Metabolism, and Disease. Cell. 2017 Mar 9;168(6):960-976. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.02.004. Erratum in: Cell. 2017 Apr 6;169(2):361-371. PMID: 28283069; PMCID: PMC5394987.

3 Wang Y, Zhang H. Regulation of Autophagy by mTOR Signaling Pathway. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2019;1206:67-83. doi: 10.1007/978-981-15-0602-4_3. PMID: 31776980.

4 Thomas, A., Ryan, C.P., Caspi, A., Liu, Z., Moffitt, T.E., Sugden, K., Zhou, J., Belsky, D.W. and Gu, Y. (2024), Diet, Pace of Biological Aging, and Risk of Dementia in the Framingham Heart Study. Ann Neurol.

5 The official mind diet. (2024). The Official Mind Diet.

6 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Division on Earth and Life Studies; Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources; Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects. Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2016 May 17. 5, Human Health Effects of Genetically Engineered Crops. Available from:

7 Soares D, Silva L, Duarte S, Pena A, Pereira A. Glyphosate Use, Toxicity and Occurrence in Food. Foods. 2021 Nov 12;10(11):2785. doi: 10.3390/foods10112785. PMID: 34829065; PMCID: PMC8622992.

8 Temkin AM, Evans S, Spyropoulos DD, Naidenko OV. A pilot study of chlormequat in food and urine from adults in the United States from 2017 to 2023. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2024 Feb 15. doi: 10.1038/s41370-024-00643-4. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 38355783.


10 Phytase of Wheat F.G. PEERS, The Biochemical Journal Vol. 53, NO, 1 pp. 102-110, 1953

11 Esmaillzadeh A, Azadbakht L. Home use of vegetable oils, markers of systemic inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction among women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Oct;88(4):913-21. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/88.4.913. PMID: 18842776.

12 Daley CA, Abbott A, Doyle PS, Nader GA, Larson S. A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutr J. 2010 Mar 10;9:10. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-10. PMID: 20219103; PMCID: PMC2846864.

13 Hebeisen DF, Hoeflin F, Reusch HP, Junker E, Lauterburg BH. Increased concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in milk and platelet rich plasma of grass-fed cows. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1993;63(3):229-33. PMID: 7905466.

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