Identifying the relation between food groups and biological ageing: a data-driven approach

Ynte Biemans*, Daimy Bach, Pariya Behrouzi, Steve Horvath, Charlotte S. Kramer, Simin Liu, Joann E. Manson, Aladdin H. Shadyab, James Stewart, Eric A. Whitsel, Bo Yang, Lisette de Groot, Pol Grootswagers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Heterogeneity in ageing rates drives the need for research into lifestyle secrets of successful agers. Biological age, predicted by epigenetic clocks, has been shown to be a more reliable measure of ageing than chronological age. Dietary habits are known to affect the ageing process. However, much remains to be learnt about specific dietary habits that may directly affect the biological process of ageing.
Objective: To identify food groups that are directly related to biological ageing, using Copula Graphical Models.
Methods: We performed a preregistered analysis of 3,990 postmenopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative, based in North America. Biological age acceleration was calculated by the epigenetic clock PhenoAge using whole-blood DNA methylation. Copula Graphical Modelling, a powerful data-driven exploratory tool, was used to examine relations between food groups and biological ageing whilst adjusting for an extensive amount of confounders. Two food group–age acceleration networks were established: one based on the MyPyramid food grouping system and another based on item-level food group
Results: Intake of eggs, organ meat, sausages, cheese, legumes, starchy vegetables, added sugar and lunch meat was associated with biological age acceleration, whereas intake of peaches/nectarines/plums, poultry, nuts, discretionary oil and solid fat was associated with decelerated ageing.
Conclusion: We identified several associations between specific food groups and biological ageing. These findings pave the way for subsequent studies to ascertain causality and magnitude of these relationships, thereby improving the understanding of biological mechanisms underlying the interplay between food groups and biological ageing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)ii20-ii29
JournalAge and Ageing
Issue numberSupplement_2
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2024


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