Read time: 6 min.
Issue 10 * 03 February 2024

Youthful Longevity Unlocked: The Science of Age Reversal with Dr Kara Fitzgerald

Dr Kara Fitzgerald’s revolutionary best-selling book – Younger You, talks about longevity science, epigenetic age reversal and biological ageing. Here she shares her knowledge on turning back the clock, reversing ageing and avoiding chronic disease.

Bethan Cole

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Practical Ways to Target Ageing and Promote Longevity with Nutrition

“I think we need to be eating a whole foods, plant-dominant diet with sufficient hydration, good fats and good quality protein (more protein if we are older),”  says healthy ageing expert Dr Kara Fitzgerald, when asked what we should be eating for longevity and to lower our biological age. What she discovered, researching her healthy ageing bible Younger You is a class of nutrients she terms ‘epinutrients’ (also known as methyl donor nutrients or methylation adaptogen nutrients) “Because they sweet talk the epigenome.. that is they are nutrients that can help optimise gene expression… reducing the risk of the diseases of ageing (ie basically all of them) and --- ageing itself.” 

Epinutrients, or methyl donors, according to Dr Kara, consist of those items high in folate, B12, choline, betaine and others. Egg, liver, mushrooms, beets, leafy greens, seeds and many others. Methylation adaptogens, or ‘MA’s “consist of those beautiful polyphenols that have been used in traditional medicine and cooking the globe over since time immemorial,” explains Dr Kara. “Turmeric, green tea, cruciferous vegetables (containing sulforaphane), mushrooms, blueberries, Himalayan tartary buckwheat, lycopene (tomatoes), resveratrol, luteolin (celery, parsley, broccoli, carrot, pepper, cabbage) and on and on. Vitamin D. By the way, coffee, chocolate – yes to both!”

What to avoid becomes easier when you know what’s good for you. ‘Processed fake food, refined grains, poor quality fats … sugars.” She advises body swerving these things. During the 8-week intensive diet she recommends in Younger You, there is also no alcohol, gluten or dairy.

Epigenetic Age Reversal Through Exercise

“Exercise is an epinutrient extraordinaire,” confirms Dr Kara. “It’s just remarkable in its power to optimise gene expression in ways very similar to the dietary patterns of (my book) Younger You! Don’t like kale? Go for a jog instead.” Exercise and good nutrition influence the genome in very similar ways. She recommends an easy 30-minute minimum commitment at least 5 days a week from her research. “There is interesting research on when exercise is community-based (like group sport) there is an added longevity bang for the buck as opposed to solitary exercise,” continues Dr Kara. “That said, I am a cyclist, which can be solitary, and I ride all of the time. I love it! I also recommend HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and resistance training. The most important thing is to start. And do what you enjoy. Which is different for each of us.”

The Importance of Mental Health for Youthful Longevity

You may not have thought that your mental health - and tools such as therapy, mindfulness, journalling and meditation - had much relationship with biological ageing and the epigenome but Dr Kara attests that it is also important. The ability to stay calm and focussed, optimistic and positive, whilst weathering life’s frequent storms is always helpful. “YES! All of these – therapy, mindfulness, meditation - are essential. We included a meditation practice in our study programme. I think excess stress is gasoline on the fire of ageing, and might be more powerful than any other factor. (We can see in the first bio age clock developed that a full 25% of it is influenced by glucocorticoids, ie: stress hormones).” In her research, she uses a simple relaxation response meditation tool. “But yoga, tai chi, mindfulness … all of it is beneficial. Whatever resonates with you and importantly, you can commit to.”

Other Lifestyle Factors like Sleep and Hydration, Biological Ageing and Longevity

“It’s simple: if we’re not sleeping, we’re ageing,” Dr Kara states unequivocally. When she and her team created the Younger You programme it was built upon those interventions that the research suggested were the most potent influencers on epigenetics/gene expression. “Sleep is *huge*,” she says without hesitation. Research shows us that one poor night of sleep will negatively influence gene expression and insomnia will age us pretty quickly. Faster ageing means increased risk of all of the diseases of ageing such as dementia, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Covid, influenza and so on.”

Hydration is also important for the epigenome, reckons Dr Kara. “We want adequate hydration,” she says, “We are aqueous beings and the biochemical reactions in our body occur in an aqueous environment, thus, as a background support we need sufficient water and electrolytes etc to set the stage allowing for optimal epigenetic programming to occur.”

Finally, she sums up, in two sentences, her ethos: “The bottom line is – epinutrients in every forkful of food. Move, sleep, relax, connect.”