News flashes are posted here frequently to keep you up-to-date with the latest advances in health and longevity. We have an unparalleled track record of breaking stories about life extension advances.
Garlic compound fights harmful bacteria
November 29 2017. Findings published on August 29, 2017 in the journal Scientific Reports support the ability of garlic to combat undesirable bacteria.
Professor Michael Givskov of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues found that ajoene from garlic interferes with communication systems in the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa byinhibiting small regulatory RNA molecules. The sulfur-rich compound also inflicted damage on the bacteria’s protective biofilm, rendering it more susceptible to attack. “The two types of bacteria we have studied are very important,” noted first author Tim Holm Jakobsen of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Immunology and Microbiology. “They are called Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. They actually belong to two very different bacteria families and are normally fought using different methods. But the garlic compound is able to fight both at once and therefore may prove an effective drug when used together with antibiotics.”
In 2012, Professor Givskov’s team patented the use of ajoene to fight bacterial infections, and the use of the patent was licensed to a company whose product NX-AS-401 has obtained orphan drug designation to evaluate in people with cystic fibrosis. “We really believe this method can lead to treatment of patients who otherwise have poor prospects, because chronic infections like cystic fibrosis can be very robust,” Dr Jackobson predicted. “But now we, together with a private company, have enough knowledge to further develop the garlic drug and test it on patients.”
“Our findings show that small regulatory RNAs across bacterial species potentially may qualify as targets of antivirulence therapy and that ajoene could be a lead structure in search of broad-spectrum compounds transcending the Gram negative-positive borderline,” the authors conclude.
More on sugar industry’s deceptive practices
November 27 2017. Readers of What’s Hot may recall an article published in 2016 which revealed the inclusion of publications provided by the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) in the composition of a 1967 review that blamed fat for the coronary heart disease epidemic.
In an article that appeared on November 21, 2017 in PLOS, Christin E. Kearns and colleagues examined SRF-funded Project 259. As part of Project 259, researchers at the University of Birmingham evaluated the relationship between dietary carbohydrates and blood lipids in bacteria-free rats. The study found that there was a significant decrease in serum triglycerides in germ free rats that received a high sugar diet in comparison with normal rats given a basic pelleted diet (containing cereal, soy and whitefish meals, dried yeast, vitamins and minerals), which suggested to the SRF that gut microbiota are involved in the association between high triglyceride levels and increased carbohydrate consumption. In another experiment, rats that consumed a high sugar diet had lower urinary levels of a beta-glucuronidase inhibitor than rats that received a diet that was high in starch. (High urinary beta-glucuronidase levels are associated with bladder cancer). Funding for Project 259 was terminated in 1970 and the Project’s results were not published.
“Our study contributes to a wider body of literature documenting industry manipulation of science,” the authors write. “The sugar industry did not disclose evidence of harm from animal studies that would have (1) strengthened the case that the CHD risk of sucrose is greater than starch and (2) caused sucrose to be scrutinized as a potential carcinogen. The influence of the gut microbiota in the differential effects of sucrose and starch on blood lipids, as well as the influence of carbohydrate quality on beta-glucuronidase and cancer activity, deserve further scrutiny.”
Large review concludes moderate coffee drinking does more good than harm
November 24 2017. An umbrella review of 218 meta-analyses of observational and interventional studies concerning the effects of coffee in regard to various health outcomes concluded that drinking the beverage was more often associated with benefit than harm for most outcomes. Benefits were evident for high versus low intake, any coffee drinking versus none, and one additional cup per day. The results appeared on November 23, 2017 in The BMJ.
Consuming 3 or 4 cups a day was associated with the greatest benefit, except among women who were pregnant or at risk of fracture. For subjects at this level of intake there was a 15% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, a 19% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, and a 17% lower risk of dying from any cause in comparison with no coffee drinking. High intake compared to low intake was associated with an 18% lower risk of developing cancer, and a lower risk of prostate, endometrial, liver, and melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers. The beverage also appeared to be protective against neurologic (including depression and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases), metabolic and liver conditions.
“Roasted coffee is a complex mixture of over 1000 bioactive compounds, some with potentially therapeutic antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifibrotic, or anticancer effects that provide biological plausibility for recent epidemiological associations,” write researchers Robin Poole and colleagues at the University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital. “Key active compounds include caffeine, chlorogenic acids, and the diterpenes, cafestol and kahweol.”
“Coffee consumption seems generally safe within usual levels of intake, with summary estimates indicating largest risk reduction for various health outcomes at three to four cups a day, and more likely to benefit health than harm,” they conclude. “Robust randomized controlled trials are needed to understand whether the observed associations are causal.”
Having enough vitamin D may help protect against rheumatoid arthritis
November 22 2017. Research findings reported in the March 2018 issue of the Journal of Autoimmunity suggest that maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may help lower the risk of developing the inflammatory autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The research is the first to characterize the effects of the vitamin in peripheral blood and inflamed joints of subjects with inflammatory disease.
By studying T cells from synovial fluid and blood of patients with active RA, researchers at the University of Birmingham discovered that while vitamin D can help protect against the onset of inflammation, it loses effectiveness once inflammatory diseases have been established because these diseases lead to vitamin D insensitivity. "Our current understanding of vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis is based on studies of patient blood which may not truly represent the situation at the site of inflammation - the joints,” explained coauthor Martin Hewison. "We therefore investigated responses to the active form of vitamin D in immune cells from the inflamed joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Compared to blood from the same patients, the inflamed joint immune cells were much less sensitive to active vitamin D. This appears to be because immune cells from the joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients are more committed to inflammation, and therefore less likely to change, even though they have all the machinery to respond to vitamin D."
"Our research indicates that maintaining sufficient vitamin D may help to prevent the onset of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis,” concluded lead author Louisa E. Jeffrey. "However, for patients who already have rheumatoid arthritis, simply providing vitamin D might not be enough. Instead much higher doses of vitamin D may be needed, or possibly a new treatment that bypasses or corrects the vitamin D insensitivity of immune cells within the joint."
Lutein, zeaxanthin supplementation associated with improved cognitive function in young adults
November 20 2017. On November 14, 2017, the journal Nutrients reported the outcome of a randomized, double-blind trial that resulted in improvement in cognitive function among healthy adults who were given supplements containing the macular pigments lutein and zeaxanthin.
“Dietary intake, good or bad, can influence the oxidative and inflammatory state of the brain and, hence, its function,” write Liza M. Renzi-Hammond and colleagues. “A number of studies have now shown that supplementing lutein and zeaxanthin is related to both increases in the amount of lutein plus zeaxanthin measured in the retina and alteration in behaviors that are thought to be primarily mediated by the brain.”
The trial included 51 men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 years who received a placebo or 10 mg lutein plus 2 mg zeaxanthin daily for one year. Serum lutein and zeaxanthin, macular pigment optical density (which reflects brain levels of lutein and zeaxanthin), and cognitive function (including tests of verbal memory, visual memory, reasoning, executive function, psychomotor speed, complex attention and cognitive flexibility) were assessed every four months during the study.
At the trial’s conclusion, serum lutein and serum zeaxanthin were twice as high among those who received the supplements compared to those who received a placebo. Macular pigment optical density also significantly increased in the supplemented group, indicating improved central nervous system levels. The most significant benefit observed among those who received lutein and zeaxanthin was better visual memory compared to those who received a placebo. Supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin plus increases in macular pigment optical density were associated with significantly improved spatial memory, reasoning ability and complex attention.
The authors conclude that “Supplementation with lutein plus zeaxanthin improves central nervous system xanthophyll levels and cognitive function in young, healthy adults.”
The liver likes coffee
November 17 2017. A roundtable report from the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee summarizes recent information concerning the association between coffee drinking and liver health.
The roundtable, chaired by Professor Graeme Alexander of University College London, included delegates from seven European countries and was held at the Royal Society of Medicine. Findings highlighted in the report include the results of studies that revealed a 25-70% lower risk of cirrhosis of the liver among people who drink coffee, a 25-30% lower risk of chronic liver disease among those who consume low amounts of coffee and up to a 65% lower risk in those who consume high amounts, in comparison with no intake. Meta-analyses have documented a decrease in the risk of liver cancer of up to 40% among coffee drinkers compared with nondrinkers.
Since liver cancer can develop from an existing liver disease, Dr Alexander suggested that coffee’s cancer protective benefit may be due to its effect on underlying disease. "Liver disease is on the rise across Europe and it is important that we understand how coffee, one of the most popular drinks in the world, and diet affects the disease,” he stated. “Research suggests that coffee may reduce the risk of liver diseases and it is important patients have access to dietary information and advice from health care professionals in a manner that is easy for them to understand and act upon."
"Liver disease is a silent killer as often there are no symptoms until it's too late,” commented Judi Rhys, who is the Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust. “Coffee is something that is easily accessible to everyone and regularly drinking it - filtered, instant or espresso - may make a difference in preventing and, in some cases, slowing down the progression of liver disease- it is an easy lifestyle choice to make."
Vitamin D supplements could improve live birth rates following assisted reproduction treatment
November 15 2017. Findings from a review and meta-analysis reported on November 15, 2017 in the journal Human Reproduction suggest a benefit for supplementation with vitamin D by women undergoing assisted reproduction treatment (ART). The analysis found an improvement in live birth rates among women with sufficient levels of the vitamin in comparison with those who had insufficient or deficient levels.
For their analysis, Justin Chu of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research and his colleagues selected 11 cohort studies that investigated the association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and ART outcomes among a total of 2,700 women. Assisted reproduction treatments included in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection and/or frozen embryo transfer.
In the seven studies that reported live births, women who were replete in vitamin D had a 33% higher rate of live deliveries than those with vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency. In five studies that included a total of 1,700 women, the incidence of positive pregnancy tests was 34% higher in those with sufficient levels of the vitamin. In all studies, clinical pregnancy rates were 46% greater among those who were vitamin D replete.
"One startling finding was the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among these women,” noted coauthor Ioannis Gallos, who is an Academic Clinical Lecturer and Subspecialist Trainee in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery. “We found that only 26% of women in the studies had sufficient concentrations of vitamin D; 35% had deficient concentrations and 45% had insufficient concentrations."
"Testing for vitamin D concentrations is relatively cheap and widely available and its treatment is not costly,” recommended Dr Chu. “It could be that correcting vitamin D deficiency could benefit women undergoing assisted reproduction treatment, but further research is needed to test this."
Insufficient vitamin D levels associated with increase in organ damage, end stage renal disease among lupus patients
November 13 2017. A presentation on November 5 at the 2017 American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ACR/ARHP) Annual Meeting in San Diego revealed a greater risk of end-stage kidney disease among systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients who were low in vitamin D. Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease, in which the body attacks its own tissues, leading to organ damage.
“Vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency is common in SLE,” write Michelle A. Petri, MD, PhD, and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Replacement therapy may help renal disease activity.”
The team analyzed data from 1,392 lupus patients with information available concerning their 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels. Follow-up clinic visits documented organ or tissue damage. Twenty-three percent of the subjects were categorized as having abnormally low vitamin D levels of less than 20 ng/mL at the time of the first office visit at which levels were measured.
The relative risk of kidney damage was the highest for SLE patients in the low vitamin D group, whose risk was 87% higher than that of sufficient subjects. Those with low vitamin D levels also experienced a greater risk of skin and total organ damage.
"Supplementing vitamin D reduces urine protein, which is the best predictor of future renal failure," commented Dr. Petri, who is the Director of the Hopkins Lupus Center. "Supplementary vitamin D is very safe. It helps to prevent one of the most dreaded complications of SLE, and likely has a role in preventing blood clots and cardiovascular disease as well. Vitamin D supplementation, which can reduce proteinuria, should be a part of the treatment plan for lupus nephritis patients."
Save room for mushrooms
November 10 2017. The October 15, 2017 issue of the journal Food Chemistry reported that mushrooms are the highest dietary source of glutathione and ergothioneine, making this food a valuable addition to everyday diets. "What we found is that, without a doubt, mushrooms are highest dietary source of these two antioxidants taken together, and that some types are really packed with both of them," noted researcher Robert B. Beelman of Pennsylvania State University.
Evaluation of 13 mushroom varieties revealed a greater than 20-fold variation in glutathione levels as well as significant variation in ergothioneine levels. "We found that the porcini has the highest, by far, of any we tested," Dr Beelman reported.
"There's a theory--the free radical theory of aging--that's been around for a long time that says when we oxidize our food to produce energy there's a number of free radicals that are produced that are side products of that action and many of these are quite toxic," he explained. "The body has mechanisms to control most of them, including ergothioneine and glutathione, but eventually enough accrue to cause damage, which has been associated with many of the diseases of aging, like cancer, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer's."
"It's preliminary, but you can see that countries that have more ergothioneine in their diets, countries like France and Italy, also have lower incidences of neurodegenerative diseases, while people in countries like the United States, which has low amounts of ergothioneine in the diet, have a higher probability of diseases like Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's," Dr Beelman observed. "Now, whether that's just a correlation or causative, we don't know. But, it's something to look into, especially because the difference between the countries with low rates of neurodegenerative diseases is about 3 milligrams per day, which is about five button mushrooms each day."
Study suggests vitamin D supplementation could improve severe burn outcome
November 8 2017. The results of a study reported at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference, held November 6-8, 2017 in Harrogate, England, suggest that improving vitamin D status could improve the healing of individuals with severe burns. The study is the first to investigate the role of vitamin D in burn injury recovery.
Burn injuries are at risk of infections that could lead to potentially life-threatening sepsis. Vitamin D is associated with an antibacterial action that could help lower infection risk.
Professor Janet Lord of the Institute of Inflammation & Aging in Birmingham, England and colleagues tracked recovery progress during a one-year period in 25 patients with severe burns. Blood samples collected at ten time points were analyzed for 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 levels and other factors. It was observed that subjects who had higher levels of the vitamin had better wound healing and prognosis, along with less scarring and fewer complications during the year following their injuries. It was also noted that burn patients had lower levels of vitamin D than healthy individuals.
"Major burn injury severely reduces vitamin D levels and adding this vitamin back may be a simple, safe and cost-effective way to improve outcomes for burns patients, with minimal cost to National Health Service," Dr Lord suggested. “Low vitamin D levels were associated with worse outcomes in burn patients including life threatening infections, mortality and delayed wound healing. It was also associated with worse scarring, but vitamin D levels are something generally overlooked by clinicians."
“Data indicate that low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 impairs tissue-specific antibacterial and wound healing responses in burn patients, potentially via tissue-specific activation and function,” the authors write. “Supplementing with high doses of vitamin D to increase serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 may greatly improve health outcomes in burns patients.”
Increased omega 3 intake associated with improved mood, sleep in lupus patients
November 6 2017. The 2017 American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals Annual Meeting in San Diego was the site of a presentation of the finding of improvements in sleep quality and mood in association with higher intake of omega 3 fatty acids among patients with the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Using data from the Michigan Lupus Epidemiology & Surveillance program, University of Michigan researchers evaluated the association between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acid intake and patient-reported outcomes in 456 lupus patients. Greater omega 3 intake was associated with better sleep and less depression. An association was also observed between greater omega 6 to omega 3 ratios in the diet and increased SLE disease activity.
"Western diets are thought to contribute to an increase in people with chronic conditions including autoimmune diseases,” commented researcher Prae Charoenwoodhipong, MS, who is a graduate student in the Department of Nutrition Science at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. "Many small studies found that omega 3 supplementation was associated with an improvement in disease activity in SLE patients, but no studies have looked at omega 3 exposure through diet or its impact on patient related outcomes. Also, very few studies have looked at the impact of omega 6, an inflammatory fatty acid that is very common in U.S. diets. According to rheumatologists I've worked with, patients with SLE are always asking about what they might be able to do with supplements or their diet to help improve their health."
"Many SLE patients suffer from symptoms such as poor sleep, fatigue and depression," Prae Charoenwoodhipong added. "While current treatments have been wonderful at addressing pain, we haven't been able to offer therapies that really help with these other symptoms.”
Vitamin D supplementation associated with improvement in pain, infection in cancer patients
November 3 2017. A case-control study reported on August 31, 2017 in PLOS One found less pain and infections in cancer patients receiving palliative care who were given vitamin D in comparison with those who did not receive the vitamin.
“Palliative cancer patients often suffer from pain and infections, which may reduce their quality of life and shorten their remaining life span,” observed authors Maria Helde-Frankling and her associates. “Since pharmacological treatment often has unwanted side effects, the palliative caregiver faces the challenge of treating disease related symptoms without causing harm.”
The study included 39 palliative cancer patients with insufficient serum levels of vitamin D who received 4,000 international units of vitamin D3 per day. The patients were matched for age, sex, cancer type, and other factors with an equal number of untreated subjects from a previous observational study.
There was no significant difference in opioid use between the groups at the beginning of the study. Fentanyl dose increased in the control group from 43 micrograms (mcg) per hour to 117 mcg/hour over the course of the three-month follow-up period, while dosage declined from 31 mcg/hour to 22 mcg/hour among those who received vitamin D. Among vitamin D-treated patients who were not being treated with opioid drugs at the beginning of the study, none began using the drugs over the course of follow-up, compared to half of the control group. Those who received vitamin D experienced fewer days on antibiotics compared to the control group, indicating less infection.
“To our knowledge, no results from randomized, clinical trials on vitamin D supplementation in palliative cancer patients have been published,” the authors announced. “Larger randomized, placebo-controlled studies are needed to confirm the results from this pilot-study before any form of conclusions can be drawn.”
Long term aspirin use associated with significantly lower risk of digestive cancers
November 1 2017. A presentation on October 31, 2017 at the 25th UEG (United European Gastroenterology) Week in Barcelona adds evidence to a protective effect for aspirin against the risk of developing digestive tract cancers.
“Aspirin has been shown to be a chemopreventive agent for colorectal cancer, and recent publications have also suggested chemopreventive effect of aspirin on other cancers,” write Professor Kelvin K. S. Tsoi from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and colleagues. “The aim of this study is to compare the benefits of long-term aspirin use to reduce the incidences of gastrointestinal cancers and non-gastrointestinal cancers.”
The study included 206,295 subjects who were prescribed long term aspirin during 2000-2004 matched with 412,589 non-aspirin users from a database of Hong Kong public hospital patients. The median dose of aspirin prescribed was 80 milligrams. Aspirin use occurred for at least six months with an average duration of 7.7 years.
Cancer occurred in 98,533 of the 618,884 subjects during a period of up to 14 years. Aspirin users had a 47% lower risk of liver and esophageal cancer, a 38% decrease in the risk of stomach cancer, a 34% lower risk of pancreatic cancer and a 24% reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer compared to subjects who did not use aspirin. Those who used aspirin also experienced a reduction in some nondigestive cancers, including lung and prostate cancers and leukemia.
"The findings demonstrate that the long-term use of aspirin can reduce the risk of developing many major cancers" Dr Tsoi stated. "What should be noted is the significance of the results for cancers within the digestive tract, where the reductions in cancer incidence were all very substantial, especially for liver and esophageal cancer."