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Truthy and Sciency

There was a story at the New Zealand Herald, republished without attribution from TheConversation, under the headline “People in their 90s reveal secret to ageing well”.  

By and large, it’s pretty good example of what The Conversation is trying to do, but there are some strange bits, such as

Regular exercise changes our epigenome, activating genes that improve muscle function 


Few participants smoked, avoiding the known epigenetic effects of cigarette smoke including lung damage, increased risk of dementia and cancer.

The first is basically true, but “Regular exercise improves muscle function” seems more natural and is much more strongly supported by research. For smoking it’s even worse: it’s well established that some of the carcinogenic effects of tobacco smoke are mutagenic rather than epigenetic. 

In something that’s supposed to be about healthy ageing, phrasing everything in terms of epigenetics makes it sound more like a Troy Maclure video:

You might remember me from posts such as “Genomics: salvation of millions”, “Interferon: Take that, viruses”, and “Humours: Are yours balanced?”

Exercise, a good diet, and not smoking are excellent strategies for a long and healthy life, but almost none of the supporting evidence comes from epigenomics, even though that makes it sound more sciencey