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September 2007

Blood Pressure Medication May Fight Parkinson’s Disease

A drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure and stroke offers promise in preventing or slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease, according to a recent report.*

According to the recent study, the calcium channel blocker isradipine helps rejuvenate dopamine-releasing neurons in the brain by restoring more youthful patterns of electrical activity. Since the death of these cells leads to Parkinson’s disease, isradipine may help prevent or slow the progressive movement and speech difficulties that characterize the disorder.

According to Dr. Walter Koroshetz of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “… calcium channel blockers, drugs currently used to reduce blood pressure, might someday be used to slow the steady progression of Parkinson’s disease.”

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND


* Chan CS, Guzman JN, Ilijic E, et al. ‘Rejuvenation’ protects neurons in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease. Nature. 2007 Jun 10; [Epub ahead of print].

Calcium, Vitamin D Supplements Reduce Cancer Incidence

Supplementing with vitamin D and calcium reduces the risk of developing cancers of all types, according to a just-released report.*This four-year, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial assessed the incidence of cancer in nearly 1,200 postmenopausal women taking vitamin D and calcium supplements.Cancer incidence was 60% lower among women who took 1,100 IU vitamin D3 plus 1,400 to 1,500 mg calcium each day, compared with those who received placebo.

Calcium alone produced a modest but not statistically significant reduction in risk. Investigators estimate that for every 25 nmol/L increase in serum vitamin D, subjects experienced a 35% reduction in the risk of cancer. Higher initial serum vitamin D levels were also predictive of decreased cancer risk.

—Dale Kiefer


* Lappe JM, Travers-Gustafson D, Davies KM, Recker RR, Heaney RP. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1586-91.

Fish Oil Boosts Bone Health

Already touted for its heart and mood benefits, a fish oil-rich diet may also boost bone health, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.* If these findings hold true in humans, fish oil could offer a key strategy to prevent age-related osteoporosis.

Scientists supplemented the diets of two groups of female mice either with omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish oil or omega-6 fatty acid-rich corn oil. After six months, fish oil-fed mice maintained higher bone mineral density in different bone regions, compared with the mice fed omega-6 fats. The omega-3 fed animals also demonstrated increased levels of a bone formation marker, and fewer bone-degrading osteoclast cells in bone marrow cell cultures.

—Cathy Burke


* Bhattacharya A, Rahman M, Sun D, Fernandes G. Effect of fish oil on bone mineral density in aging C57BL/6 female mice. J Nutr Biochem. 2007 Jun;18(6):372-9.

Exercise Slows Muscle Aging

Exercise rejuvenates muscle tissue in older adults, according to a new report.*Canadian scientists conducted gene expression profiles on muscle tissue obtained from 25 healthy older men and women before and after six months of twice weekly resistance training, and compared them with tissue from men and women aged 20 to 35. Although older adults showed decreased mitochondrial function compared with the younger adults, exercise reversed the changes back to younger levels. Additionally, strength improved by 50% following six months of training.

The study “… gives credence to the value of exercise, not only as a means of improving health, but of reversing the aging process itself, which is an additional incentive to exercise as you get older,” noted the lead author.

—Dayna Dye


* Melov S, Tarnopolsky MA, Beckman K, Felkey K, Hubbard A. Resistance exercise reverses aging in human skeletal muscle. PLoS ONE. 2007 May 23;2:e465.

Low Testosterone Increases Mortality Risk

Men over 50 with low testosterone levels may be at increased risk of dying within two decades, according to a new study. These results are the first to demonstrate that low testosterone in otherwise healthy men is associated with increased risk of dying from all causes over time.*

Scientists followed nearly 800 men, ranging from 50 to 91 years of age, for at least 18 years. All causes of death were considered. Men with low testosterone (defined as the lower limit of the normal range for young men) were 33% more likely to die within 18 years than men with higher levels of the hormone. Men with low testosterone were also more likely to have elevated levels of inflammatory markers and to suffer from metabolic syndrome (marked by low high-density lipoprotein, high blood pressure, and elevated blood sugar and triglycerides).

—Dale Kiefer


* Available at: Accessed June 6, 2007.

Aspirin Underutilized for Heart Health

Despite its well-known cardiovascular health benefits, the percentage of Americans who regularly use aspirin for preventing heart attack or stroke is disturbingly low.* In a sample of 1,299 Americans aged 40 or older, just 41% reported regular aspirin use for heart health. Only 57% of those at high risk for cardiovascular disease took aspirin regularly, and only 69% of those with a history of cardiovascular disease used aspirin.

Barely one third reported that they had spoken with their healthcare practitioner about aspirin. Among those who reported receiving a recommendation from their doctor, aspirin use was 88%. However, only 17% of those who did not speak with their doctor used aspirin regularly.

This survey indicates that physicians need to be more emphatic in their recommendation of aspirin use, while patients must be more active in their follow-up.

—Dale Kiefer


* Pignone M, Anderson GK, Binns K, Tilson HH, Weisman SM. Aspirin use among adults aged 40 and older in the United States: results of a national survey. Am J Prev Med. 2007 May;32(5):403-7.

Resveratrol Fights Breast Cancer

A diet that includes grapes, berries, peanuts, and red wine may help prevent and battle breast cancer.* Researchers from Kuwait University set out to find the exact molecular mechanisms behind the anti-cancer role exerted by resveratrol, a natural compound that occurs in these foods.

The investigators treated human breast cancer cells with resveratrol and measured cell proliferation.* They found the natural compound affects multiple pathways related to cancer, such as activating the p53 tumor suppressor protein and promoting apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Their sound conclusion: Utilize resveratrol as a preventive and/or an adjuvant therapeutic agent for breast cancer.

—Cathy Burke


* Alkhalaf M. Resveratrol-Induced Apoptosis Is Associated with Activation of p53 and Inhibition of Protein Translation in T47D Human Breast Cancer Cells. Pharmacology. 2007 May 29;80(2-3):134-43.

Omega-3s, Fish, and Vitamin D Protect Eyes

Higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids, fish, and vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing vision-robbing macular degeneration, according to two recent studies.1,2

In 4,500 adults aged 60 to 80, higher total dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake decreased the risk of developing neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was most protective; fish consumption also reduced risk.1

In a study of 7,500 adults, higher blood levels of vitamin D helped prevent early macular degeneration. Those with the highest levels of vitamin D were 36% less likely to develop macular degeneration.2

—Marc Ellman, MD


1. SanGiovanni JP, Chew EY, Clemons TE, et al. The relationship of dietary lipid intake and age-related macular degeneration in a case-control study: AREDS Report No. 20. Arch Ophthalmol. 2007 May;125(5):671-9
2. Parekh N, Chappell RJ, Millen AE, Albert DM, Mares JA. Association between vitamin D and age-related macular degeneration in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988 through 1994. Arch Ophthalmol. 2007 May;125(5):661-9.