Various bioactive food compounds may confer health and longevity benefits, possibly through altering or preserving the epigenome. While bioactive food compounds are widely being marketed for human consumption as ‘improving health and longevity’ by counteracting harmful effects of poor nutrition and lifestyle, claimed effects are often not adequately documented. Using the honey bee (Apis mellifera) as a model species, we here employed a multi-step screening approach to investigate seven compounds for effects on lifespan and DNA methylation using ELISA and whole genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS). A positive longevity effect was detected for valproic acid, isovaleric acid, and cyanocobalamin. For curcumin, we found that lifespan shortening caused by ethanol intake, was restored when curcumin and ethanol were co-administered. Furthermore, we identified region specific DNA methylation changes as a result of ethanol intake. Ethanol specific changes in DNA methylation were fully or partially blocked in honey bees receiving ethanol and curcumin together. Ethanol-affected and curcumin-blocked differentially methylated regions covered genes involved in fertility, temperature regulation and tubulin transport. Our results demonstrate fundamental negative effects of low dose ethanol consumption on lifespan and associated DNA methylation changes and present a proof-of-principle on how longevity and DNA methylation changes can be negated by the bioactive food component curcumin. Our findings provide a fundament for further studies of curcumin in invertebrates.
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