Eating to Activate the Sirtuin Genes – Does it Work?


by Nils Osmar. April 13, 2022

Many people in the anti-aging community are taking NAD+ boosting supplements such as niacin (NA), nicotinamide riboside (NR) and nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), and Pau D’Arco, and doing things such as exercising and fasting, hoping to raise NAD levels (which decline as people age) and support the sirtuin genes.

There’s strong evidence that all of these do increase NAD+, and that boosting NAD+ levels has numerous anti-aging benefits, including supporting DNA repair and the activity of our sirtuin genes. Other food-sourced items that appear to activate the sirtuins include:

  • DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). Some of the richest sources include wild Pacific salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel and other seafood)
  • Fish oil and krill oil
  • Foods rich in focuoidan such as wakame seaweed, or taking supplements containing fucoidan, a natural activator of the sirtuin 6 gene)(The one I’m currently taking is SIRT6 Activator from DoNotAge)
  • Piceatannol (a naturally occurring analog of resveratrol, often used as a food additive, which has also been shown to have anti-cancer properties) (Piceatannol is found in red wine, grapes, passion fruit, white tea, and Japanese knotweed)
  • Fisetin (which has also been found to enhance long-term memory) (can be taken as a supplement; also found in small amounts in strawberries) (also supports the removal of senescent cells from the body)
  • Quercetin (can be taken as a supplement, and is also found in apples, tea, onions, citrus fruits, green vegetables and many berries. Quercetin also has anti-cancer properties and supports the removal of senescent cells.
  • Resveratrol (can be taken as a supplement, and is found in small amounts in raspberries, blueberries, grape skins, peanuts and some pine trees) (resveratrol is anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-mutagenic)
  • Olive oil or avocado oil, both of which are rich in oleic acid, a potent activator of the sirtuin 1 gene.

Stressors Switch on the Sirtuins

Stressors that show evidence of activating the sirtuins include heat exposure, cold exposure, intense physical exercise and fasting.

The Sirtfood Diet

The authors of the Sirtfood Diet claim that the following foods (and some others) may help activate the sirtuins:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • nuts
  • grains
  • beans
  • herbs
  • tea
  • coffee
  • buckwheat
  • capers
  • celery
  • asparagus
  • bok choy
  • green beans
  • blackberries
  • goji berries
  • kumquats
  • raspberries
  • cinnamon
  • ginger

Is there any rigorous research to support the authors’ claims? I was not able to find any showing that the specific foods on the list had not tested and actually found to activate the sirtuins.

Some do contain compounds such as quercetin. fisetin and resveratrol, but in miniscule amounts compared to the levels available from supplements.

On the other hand, the foods on their list are all plant-based and low in leucine, meaning that a diet rich in them should activate AMPK (the longevity pathway), which it appears to be good to have activated much of the time. So if we eat a lot of them, just for those reasons, there may a small life-extending, anti-aging effect. it just won’t necessarily be from sirtuin gene activation.

Or Don’t Eat Anything

According to a study called “Metabolic regulation of Sirtuins upon fasting and the implication for cancer“:

Sirtuins, particularly SIRT1 and SIRT3, can be activated by fasting and further exhibit their effects in insulin response, antioxidant defense, and glycolysis. Therefore, sirtuins may have anticancer effects by shifting metabolism to a less proliferative cell phenotype as well as less prone to oxidative stress attack.

So we can also activate our sirtuins by taking breaks from food and drink (i.e., not eating anything).

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