Sirt Foods Diet Plan

January 27th, 2016

You may not have heard of sirtuins – hush! they are members of the Silent Information Regulator family! The Sirt Foods Diet is designed to activate sirtuins in the body. This is because evidence suggests that sirtuins play a fundamental role in regulating circadian rhythm, oxidative stress, DNA repair, inflammation, cellular metabolism, tumour suppression and the stress response. They also inhibit fat storage and increase fat metabolism, thus potentially reducing the risk of diseases associated with excess fat including cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, type 2 diabetes and arthritis. It is thought that these beneficial actions make sirtuins pivotal in regulating longevity and aging. With all these benefits you may be wondering how you can increase your levels of sirtuins. Read on to find out more!

Activation of Sirtuins

What’s really interesting is that the beneficial effects of sirtuins become activated during nutrient depletion, starvation and cellular stress, demonstrating that some physical stress on the body can be beneficial in small amounts (1)

Molecules similar to sirtuins have been found in almost all species that have been studied including yeast, worms and fruit flies. Seven sirtuins have been identified in mammals with SIRT1 being the most widely researched. All seven require NAD+, a derivative of vitamin B3 (niacin), to function. Niacin is found in mackerel, wild salmon, sardines, mushrooms, chicken, turkey, duck and whole grains (1).

Research suggests possible ways to activate sirtuins include:

  • Calorie restriction
  • Physical activity
  • Food components such as polyphenols and omega 3 fats

Our focus here is on the effects of foods on sirtuin activity but first let’s take a quick look at Calorie Restriction and sirtuins.

Calorie Restriction and Lifespan

As SIRT1 increases when food is scarce most research into how to activate SIRT1 has focused on calorie restriction (CR). CR has been shown to lead to extended lifespan in several species ranging from yeast to dogs. The lifespan extension effect of CR has been strongly associated with an increased level and activation of SIRT1. Intermittent fasting may also raise sirtuins (1).

The belief that many of the benefits of CR are due to the induction of sirtuins has led to research into the sirtuin activating effects of foods.

Foods to Activate Sirtuins

Recent research has found that many of the foods and food components that we know to be beneficial to health activate sirtuins in a similar way to calorie restriction. Here’s the low down on sirtuin activating foods:

Resveratrol – is a polyphenol that has been shown to have a wide range of beneficial effects, including antioxidant, anti fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-mutagenic. It is now thought that some of the beneficial effects of resveratrol are down to its ability to activate SIRT1 (2,3) although other mechanisms are likely to be at play as well. Resveratrol is found in berries, red grapes, peanuts, soy beans and pomegranate.

It should be noted that resveratrol supplementation has been shown to blunt the beneficial effects of high intensity exercise on SIRT1 activation (1).

Quercetin – has been demonstrated to be a significant anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agent that has protective properties against a number of diseases. These beneficial effects are partly due to the upregulating effect of quercetin on SIRT1 (4). Foods rich in quercetin include capers, buckwheat, lovage, apples, tea, onions, citrus fruits, green vegetables and most berries.

Olive oil – a key component of the health promoting Mediterranean diet, olives and olive oil are rich in beneficial polyphenols. Some of their health promoting effects can be attributed to their ability to activate sirtuins (5).

Cocoa or cacao is rich in flavanoids with many benefits particularly to cardiovascular health.  Evidence suggests that some of their beneficial effects are due to the fact that they activate sirtuins (6).

Green tea – contains epigallactins that upregulate sirtuins (7).

Piceatannol – a naturally occurring analogue of resveratrol, it displays antioxidative, anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory activities that may be due to its activation of sirtuins. It is found in various plants, including grapes, passion fruit, white tea, and Japanese knotweed (8).

Green vegetables – Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), found in Brassica vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, has powerful anti-cancer properties. I3C has also been found to ameliorate adiopogenesis (fat formulation) by activating sirtuins, making it a possible anti-obesity agent (9).

Turmeric – a rich source of curcumin that has been shown to exhibit many anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects which are partly down to activation of SIRT1 (10).

Soy foods – contain isoflavones with many reported health benefits some of which may be attributed to the activation of SIRT1 signaling (11). Good sources of isoflavones include tofu, tempeh and miso.

Omega 3 fats – Several studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can improve cardiovascular health, inflammation, insulin sensitivity and autoimmune disorders. This may be partly due to their effect on SIRT1 activation (12,13).

Melatonin – known as the sleep hormone due to its association with the circadian rhythm, melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Levels of melatonin tend to decline with age and its loss contributes to some of the degenerative conditions of aging. Evidence suggests that melatonin activates sirtuins (14).

A note of caution

There is some question as to whether the effects of these compounds on sirtuins in animals in laboratory conditions can be extrapolated to humans (15. Also much of the research into the activation of sirtuins has focused on supplemental levels of polyphenols which are much greater than would be found in food. Future research is sure to provide further insight into the role of foods and sirtuins in health and longevity as well as discovering many more biological mechanisms that affect body function. In the mean time it seems there is sufficient evidence to include these nutrient rich foods in the diet to support many aspects of health, be it through their effect on sirtuins or not.

A Diet to Activate Sirtuins and Promote Health

It’s probably no coincidence that some of the longest lived and healthiest populations in the world eat diets that are rich in these sirtuin activating foods, such as those in the Mediterranean and parts of Asia. The Mediterranean diet includes polyphenol rich fruits, vegetables, red wine and olive oil. The Asian diet is high in isoflavones from soya beans and epigallactins from green tea (16).

Getting more of these health promoting foods into your diet is relatively easy. They can be incorporated into many meals and even combined to make super-sirt meals!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Use olive oil for stir frying or roasting vegetables and salad dressings.
  • Have a jar of olives handy to snack on and add olives to salads or cooked dishes. Tapenade makes a good topping for oat cakes or rye bread.
  • Swap regular tea and coffee for green tea. Add a squeeze of lemon for extra benefits.
  • Miso can be used instead of stock cubes to flavour soups, stews and casseroles. Milder light coloured miso can be used as a spread. Miso soup makes a good snack or light meal if served with salad or bread.
  • Add tofu or tempeh to stir fries. Blend silken tofu into soups, dips and creamy desserts.
  • Add berries and blackcurrants to muesli, smoothies and juices. Natural yoghurt with fresh berries makes a healthy snack or dessert.
  • Eat your greens. Kale, cabbage and broccoli are excellent accompaniments to any meal and can also be added to stir fries, curries, stews and casseroles.
  • Spice up your life with turmeric and other spices. Don’t limit your use of spices to curries, add them to grains and vegetables as well.
  • Add cacao powder to smoothies and desserts. Sprinkle cacao nibs onto salads or add to trail mixes.
  • Apples are the perfect portable snack. Have one with you at all times.
  • Buckwheat pasta can be used as a tasty gluten free alternative to wheat pasta and buckwheat flour can be used in baked goods or to thicken sauces. Buckwheat also works well in salads mixed with roasted vegetables and toasted nuts.


See our Sirt Foods Meal Plan for more ideas.



(1) Covington JD, Bajpeyi S. The sirtuins: Markers of metabolic health. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Jan;60(1):79-91.

(2) Lecour S, Lamont KT. Natural polyphenols and cardioprotection. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2011 Dec;11(14):1191-9.

(3) Peredo-Escarcega AE, Guarner-Lans V, Perez-Torres I et al. The Combination of Resveratrol and Quercetin Attenuates Metabolic Syndrome in Rats by Modifying the Serum Fatty Acid Composition and by Upregulating SIRT 1 and SIRT 2 Expression in White Adipose Tissue. Evid Based Comp Alt Med. 2015;2015:474032.

(4) Hung CH, Chan SH, Chu PM, Tsai KL. Quercetin is a potent anti-atherosclerotic compound by activation of SIRT1 signaling under oxLDL stimulation. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2015 Oct;59(10):1905-17.

(5) Menendez JA, Joven J, Aragones G et al. Xenohormetic and anti-aging activity of secoiridoid polyphenols present in extra virgin olive oil: a new family of gerosuppressant agents. Cell Cycle. 2013 Feb 15;12(4):555-78.

(6) Duarte DA, Rosales MA, Papadimitriou A et al. Polyphenol-enriched cocoa protects the diabetic retina from glial reaction through the sirtuin pathway. J Nutr Biochem. 2015 Jan;26(1):64-74

(7) Yang H, Zuo XZ, Tian C, He DL et al. Green Tea Polyphenols Attenuate High-Fat Diet-Induced Renal Oxidative Stress through SIRT3-Dependent Deacetylation. Biomed Environ Sci. 2015 Jun;28(6):455-9.

(8) Piotrowska H, Kucinska M, Murias M. Biological activity of piceatannol: leaving the shadow of resveratrol. Mutat Res. 2012 Jan-Mar;750(1):60-82.

(9) Choi Y, Um SJ, Park T.  Indole-3-carbinol directly targets SIRT1 to inhibit adipocyte differentiation. Int J Obes 2013 Jun;37(6):881-4.

(10) Sun Q, Jia N, Wang W, Jin H, Xu J, Hu H. Activation of SIRT1 by curcumin blocks the neurotoxicity of amyloid-β25-35 in rat cortical neurons. Biochem Biophys Res Commun.  2014 May 23;448(1):89-94

(11) Hirasaka K, Maeda T, Ikeda C, et al. Isoflavones derived from soy beans prevent MuRF1-mediated muscle atrophy in C2C12 myotubes through SIRT1 activation. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 2013;59(4):317-24.

(12) Allard JS, Perez E, Zou S, de Cabo R. Dietary Activators of Sirt1, Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2009 Feb 5; 299(1): 58–63

(13) Luo X, Jia R, Yao Q, Luo Z, Luo X, Wang N. Docosahexaenoic acid attenuates adipose tissue angiogenesis and insulin resistance in high fat diet-fed mid-aged mice via a sirt1-dependent mechanism. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Jan 9. Epub ahead of print

(14) Ramis MR, Esteban S, Miralles A, Tan DX, Reiter RJ. Caloric restriction, resveratrol and melatonin: Role of SIRT1 and implications for aging and related-diseases. Mech Ageing Dev. 2015 Mar;146-148:28-41.

(15) De Boer VC, de Goffau MC, Arts IC, Hollman PC, Keijer J. SIRT1 stimulation by polyphenols is affected by their stability and metabolism. Mech Ageing Dev. 2006 Jul;127(7):618-27. Epub 2006 Apr 17.

(16) Pallauf K, Giller K, Huebbe P, Rimbach G. Nutrition and healthy ageing: calorie restriction or polyphenol-rich “MediterrAsian” diet? Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2013;2013:707421. Epub 2013 Aug 28.


<   Back