Life Extension Update
Higher carotenoid and selenium levels associated with reduced risk of dying over 5 year period
A report published in the January 2006 issue of the Journal of Nutrition revealed that older women whose levels of carotenoids and selenium are higher have a decreased risk of dying compared to those whose levels of the nutrients are low. Selenium is a trace mineral found in small amounts in plant and animal foods, while carotenoids occur in plant foods and include alpha and beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
In a study funded by the National Institute on Aging, researchers at Johns Hopkins analyzed data from 632 women aged 70 to 79 enrolled in the Women’s Health and Aging Studies I and II, which were designed to evaluate the causes and course of physical disability in older community-dwelling women. Selenium and carotenoid levels were measured upon enrollment, and participants were followed for 60 months.
At the end of the follow-up period, 14 percent of the women had died. Primary causes of death included cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, infection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and accidents. Those who died were older and more likely to be African-American, smokers and overweight. Higher levels of selenium and individual and total carotenoid concentrations appeared to be protective against mortality. Women whose selenium or total carotenoid levels were in the lowest 25 percent of participants had a greater risk of dying than those whose levels were in the top 75 percent, and as nutrient levels increased, mortality decreased. For those who died, mean carotenoid and selenium levels were 1.40 and 1.43 micromoles per liter, compared to 1.72 and 1.54 micromoles per liter for those who survived.
In their discussion of the findings, the authors write that the underlying biological mechanism by which diminished levels of carotenoids and selenium contribute to an increased risk of death could be increased oxidative stress and inflammation. Serum carotenoid levels are considered to be the best marker for fruit and vegetable intake, and studies have shown that high intake of these foods reduce inflammatory biomarkers and protect against cardiovascular disease. Deficient selenium levels have also been associated with atherosclerosis and increased oxidative stress. Additionally, selenium is needed for the formation of an enzyme that is necessary for the transformation of the thyroid hormone thyroxine into its biologically active form. They conclude that their “work provides some early insight into the relation between antioxidant nutrients and mortality among older women,” and recommend the usual further studies.
Mainstream medicine has relied on simple measures of preventing disease, such as controlling hypertension, yet many doctors are coming to the realization that additional steps can be taken to protect against premature aging and death.
In fact, the results of tens of thousands of scientific studies make it abundantly clear that following the proper lifestyle can add a significant number of healthy years to the average person's lifespan.
The premise of taking actions to maintain youthful health and vigor is based on findings from peer-reviewed scientific studies that identify specific factors that cause us to develop degenerative disease. These studies suggest that the consumption of certain foods, food extracts, hormones, or drugs will help to prevent common diseases that are associated with normal aging.
In a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Bonithon-Kopp et al. 1997), antioxidant status was assessed and carotid artery occlusion was measured in 1187 men and women 59-71 years of age without any history of coronary artery disease or stroke. The results showed that the higher the level of vitamin E in red blood cells, the lower the risk of carotid atherosclerosis. In men with the highest levels of carotid atherosclerotic plaques, the lowest levels of vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids were found. The scientists concluded by stating: "Our findings give some epidemiological support to the hypothesis that lipid peroxidation and low antioxidant status are involved in the early stages of atherosclerosis" (Bonithon-Kopp et al. 1997).
An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by Clark et al. (1996) showed that 200 mcg of supplemental selenium a day reduced overall cancer mortality by 50% in humans compared to a placebo group not receiving supplemental selenium. This 9-year study demonstrated that a low-cost mineral supplement could cut the risk of dying from cancer in half in certain individuals.
In the news: Red and processed meats tied to pancreatic cancer; Curcumin may impede breast cancer metastasis; Processed foods increase prostate cancer risk; Feds revise potassium iodide guidelines; Huperzine A promotes nerve cell growth; Improving diet, lifestyle, slows prostate cancer; Omega-3s protect against dry eye syndrome.
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