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  • Low fat, calorie restricted diet protects mouse brains from aging effects
  • Supplementation could prevent heart surgery-associated drop in vitamin D
  • Large study finds higher vitamin D levels equal lower cancer risk
  • Vitamin D could protect heart attack patients from developing heart failure
  • Astaxanthin supplementation associated with improved recovery from fatigue
  • Fatty acid supplements may protect preterm children from autism
  • Intake of fish, omega 3 supplements linked with lower MS risk


    Low fat, calorie restricted diet protects mouse brains from aging effects

    Low fat, calorie restricted diet protects mouse brains from aging effects March 16 2018. A report published on March 12, 2018 in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience revealed the finding of researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands, of a protective effect in aged mice for calorie restriction plus a low fat diet against inflammatory activation of the brain’s microglia. Microglia are the brain’s immune cells that aid in the maintenance of brain tissue function and integrity, whose dysfunction is associated with neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative conditions. Microglia-driven inflammation in some areas of the brain is associated with aging.

    "Obesity and aging are both prevalent and increasing in societies worldwide, but the consequences for the central nervous system are not well understood," noted lead researcher Bart Eggen, of the University Medical Center Groningen’s Department of Neuroscience. "We determined if a high- or low-fat diet, in combination with exercise and food restriction, impacted microglia during aging in mice."

    The researchers gave groups of mice high or low-fat diets with or without calorie restriction or access to exercise, beginning at 4, 6 or 12 weeks of age. The hypothalamus glands in the animals’ brains were examined for inflammation and other factors at ages of up to 24 months. "Aging-induced inflammatory activation of microglia could only be prevented when mice were fed a low-fat diet in combination with limited caloric intake," Dr Eggen reported. "A low-fat diet per se was not sufficient to prevent these changes."

    “These data do show that, in mice, the fat content of a diet is an important parameter in terms of the detrimental effects of aging on the brain, as well as caloric intake," he remarked. "Only when fat content and caloric intake are limited, can aging-induced changes in microglia be prevented."

    —D Dye


    Supplementation could prevent heart surgery-associated drop in vitamin D

    Supplementation could prevent heart surgery-associated drop in vitamin D March 14 2018. At the American College of Cardiology Scientific Session on March 12, 2018, findings from a study conducted at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute were presented that suggest a protective role for vitamin D supplementation prior to open heart surgery.

    The ASSESS-D study included 150 patients who elected to have open heart surgery. Half of the participants received 50,000 IU vitamin D3 for three days beginning before and ending after their surgeries, while the remainder received a placebo. Blood samples were analyzed for vitamin D throughout the subjects’ hospital stays and six months following the surgery.

    While vitamin D levels declined after open heart surgery in the placebo group, they rose to the normal range among those who received vitamin. "Now that we know that the stress from surgery causes vitamin D levels to drop, we want to continue our research and see if supplementing vitamin D levels will help prevent heart problems in the future, given our understanding that low levels of vitamin D can cause an increased risk for heart problems," commented lead researcher Brent Muhlestein, MD.

    "We're gathering more evidence that vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with heart disease and death," he added. "Our study was a mechanistic approach to try and figure out what exactly is happening with vitamin D, and perhaps give us some information as we press forward with a randomized trial to find out the real answer to the question of the impact of vitamin D on heart disease and related problems."

    Dr Muhlestein plans to evaluate vitamin D’s effects on patients who have had a heart attack. "We need hard evidence, and we hope the Target-D trial will give us real randomized controlled outcomes data to figure out if it's good to take vitamin D supplements if you're a heart patient who has low vitamin D levels," he remarked.

    —D Dye


    Large study finds higher vitamin D levels equal lower cancer risk

    Large study finds higher vitamin D levels equal lower cancer risk March 12 2018. An article appearing on March 7, 2017 in BMJ adds evidence to an association between a reduction in the risk of developing cancer and higher levels of vitamin D.

    The current study included 33,736 men and women between the ages of 40 and 69 years who were enrolled in the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study, an ongoing population-based cohort study started in 1990. Questionnaires administered upon enrollment provided information concerning past medical history and lifestyle factors, and food frequency questionnaires provided dietary data. Blood samples collected at the baseline health check-up were analyzed for plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Subjects were followed for an average of 16 years, during which 3,301 cases of cancer were diagnosed.

    In comparison with men and women whose vitamin D levels were among the lowest 25% of participants, subjects whose levels were among second, third and fourth 25th percentiles had an adjusted risk of developing cancer that was 19%, 25% and 22% lower, respectively. When site-specific cancers were analyzed, those whose vitamin D levels were highest had a 55% lower risk of liver cancer compared to subjects whose levels were among the lowest 25%. Having higher vitamin D levels failed to be associated with an increased risk of cancer among any types of cancer examined.

    “We observed that a higher circulating concentration of vitamin D was associated with a lower risk of subsequent cancer in a large Japanese population,” write Motoki Iwasaki, division chief for the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study Group, and colleagues. “Our findings support the hypothesis that vitamin D may confer protection against the risk of cancer.”

    “Future studies are needed to clarify the dose-response pattern and the optimal concentrations for cancer prevention,” they conclude.

    —D Dye


    Vitamin D could protect heart attack patients from developing heart failure

    Vitamin D could protect heart attack patients from developing heart failure March 9 2018. A report published on February 3, 2018 in Heart Lung and Circulationsuggests a protective role for vitamin D against the prevention of scarring and thickening of the heart muscle after a heart attack, which can lead to heart failure.

    "The benefits of vitamin D are becoming increasingly known, but we still don't fully understand how mechanistically it can help with heart disease management,” commented lead researcher James J. H. Chong, of the University of Sydney. “We wanted to know more about how vitamin D protects the heart after a heart attack."

    When blood supply to the heart is blocked during a heart attack, cardiac colony-forming unit fibroblasts (cCFU-Fs) replace damaged tissue with collagen-based scar tissue. "This is a problem because scarring of heart tissue can reduce the heart's ability to pump blood effectively, which can lead to heart failure," Dr Chong explained.

    Using cCFU-Fs taken from mouse hearts, Dr Chong and his colleagues studied the effects of the administration of 1,25-dihyroxyvitamin D3 on cell proliferation and differentiation. "Our research shows that vitamin D actually blocks the cCFU-Fs from forming scar tissue,” Dr Chong reported. “By blocking cCFU-Fs, vitamin D may play an important role in lowering the risk of heart failure after a heart attack."

    "Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and heart failure, are the leading cause of death worldwide," he remarked. "To change this, we need to research heart conditions from every possible angle. This study is the first to demonstrate the role of 1,25D in regulating cardiac progenitor cells, and the findings are encouraging.”

    "With further study, vitamin D could prove to be an exciting, low-cost addition to current treatments, and we hope to progress these finding into clinical trials for humans," Dr Chong concluded.

    —D Dye


    Astaxanthin supplementation associated with improved recovery from fatigue

    Astaxanthin supplementation associated with improved recovery from fatigue March 7 2018. A randomized, double-blind crossover study reported on February 28, 2018 in Nutrients found an improvement in the ability to recover from mental fatigue among participants who received the carotenoid astaxanthin plus sesamin, an antioxidant lignin present in sesame seeds.

    “Severe fatigue can negatively affect quality of life, and oxidative stress may play a role in its mechanism,” write authors Ayano Imai and colleagues. “The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of dietary supplementation of astaxanthin and sesamin, strong food-derived antioxidants, on fatigue.”

    The trial included 24 healthy volunteers between the ages of 30 and 60 years who received capsules containing a placebo or 3 milligrams astaxanthin plus 5 milligrams sesamin. Subjects were instructed to consume two capsules daily for 4 weeks, after which they were assigned to tasks that induced mental and physical fatigue. After a month during which no treatments were administered, the treatments were then switched for a subsequent 4-week period.

    Better ability to recovery from video display terminal-induced mental fatigue was reported by the astaxanthin and sesamin supplemented group as compared to the placebo. No adverse effects were observed in association with the treatment. Plasma phosphatidylcholine hydroperoxide (PCOOH, a marker of oxidative stress), which was measured before and after mental and physical tasks, rose in both groups after fatigue-inducing tasks; however, the rate of change was significantly lower among those who received astaxanthin plus sesamin.

    Dr Imai and associates suggest that the antioxidant activity exhibited by astaxanthin and sesamin could be a mechanism for its anti-fatigue effect. “Our results suggest the novel possibility that supplementation with astaxanthin/sesamin may reduce subjective fatigue in healthy subjects,” they conclude. “The safety of a four-week astaxanthin/sesamin supplementation period was also confirmed.”

    —D Dye


    Fatty acid supplements may protect preterm children from autism

    Fatty acid supplements may protect preterm children from autism March 5 2018. The February 2018 issue of the Journal of Nutrition published the finding of researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital of a potential protective effect for omega fatty acid supplementation against the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms among children born preterm, who are at increased risk of ASD.

    "The trial had two goals,” explained lead author Sarah Keim, PhD, of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's. “First, we wanted to confirm the feasibility of a large study of toddlers born very preterm and exhibiting symptoms often seen with ASD. Second, we wanted to see what the effects of omega fatty acids would be on parent-reported ASD symptoms and related behaviors."

    The trial included 31 children aged 18 to 38 months who were born more than 11 weeks early. Fifteen children received a supplement that contained 338 mg eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), 225 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 83 mg gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) while the remainder received a canola oil supplement as a placebo for 90 days. Questionnaires completed by a parent at the beginning of the trial and at the last study visit assessed ASD symptoms.

    Children who received EPA, DHA and GLA had a greater reduction in ASD symptoms than those who received the placebo. The researchers suggest decreased inflammation as a potential mechanism for these omega fatty acids.

    "Currently, no medications are available to help children born prematurely with the developmental delays and behavior problems they often experience,” Dr Keim observed. “For very young children, the medications that physicians sometimes try tend to have many side effects. And we don't know what effect those medications have on brains that are still developing. If using omega fatty acid supplementation helps, it would have a really huge impact for these kids."

    —D Dye


    Intake of fish, omega 3 supplements linked with lower MS risk

    Intake of fish, omega 3 supplements linked with lower MS risk March 2 2018. A study scheduled for presentation at the American Academy of Neurology's 70th Annual Meeting, to be held in Los Angeles April 21 to 27, found a lower risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) among people who consumed fish once per week or more, or one to three times per month in addition to daily fish oil supplements in comparison with those who consumed less than one serving fish per month and no supplements.

    "Consuming fish that contain omega 3 fatty acids has been shown to have a variety of health benefits, so we wanted to see if this simple lifestyle modification, regularly eating fish and taking fish oil supplements, could reduce the risk of MS," stated study author Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena, California.

    The study included 1,153 subjects with an average age of 36, among whom approximately one-half had been diagnosed with MS or clinically isolated syndrome (an initial MS episode lasting at least 24 hours). Reported intake of fish, such as salmon, shrimp and tuna, was defined as high among those who consumed one serving of fish weekly, or one to three servings per month plus daily fish oil. Low intake was characterized as less than one serving per month and no fish oil supplementation.

    One hundred eighty of the subjects with MS had high fish intake compared to 251 controls. In comparison with a low intake, high fish consumption was associated with a 45% lower risk of MS or clinically isolated syndrome. The researchers also determined that 2 of 13 genetic variations in a human gene cluster that regulates fatty acid levels were associated with lower MS risk.

    The findings suggest that omega 3 fatty acids may be involved in modifying MS risk.

    —D Dye


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