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Life Extension Magazine

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November 2006

Fish Oil, Exercise Help Obese People Shed Weight

When combined with moderate exercise, fatty acids derived from fish oil can help promote weight loss in overweight individuals, report Australian researchers.2

Scientists studied overweight and obese individuals over a three-month period. The subjects engaged in moderate exercise (45 minutes of walking or running, three times weekly) and supplemented with either fish oil or sunflower oil, but made no other dietary changes. Those who combined exercise with fish oil lost an average of 4.5 pounds over the three-month period, while those who combined sunflower oil with moderate exercise saw no weight loss.

The study authors believe that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil increase fat burning by improving blood flow to the muscles during exercise. The combination of fish oil and exercise may thus help overweight individuals to shed excess weight.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND

Berry Extracts Confer Potent Brain Health Benefits

Extracts of blueberry and strawberry may help protect the brain against age-related oxidative stress, and could even protect astronauts from the dangerous effects of radiation in outer space.1

Oxidative stress is associated with cognitive decline, diminished memory, and impaired motor function. In a new study partly sponsored by NASA, male rats were fed a diet enriched with either a 2% blueberry or strawberry extract, or a control diet, for eight weeks. Half the animals in each group were then exposed to a radioactive iron source, which induces symptoms of age-related cognitive decline.

The animals that received radiation but no berry extracts showed decreased levels of a brain signaling biochemical, as well as impaired performance in a task related to memory. Those receiving the antioxidant-rich berries were protected against these changes. Furthermore, the strawberry-fed animals better retained information related to spatial location, while the blueberry-fed animals demonstrated improved learning ability.

The scientists concluded that antioxidant-rich berry fruits may help slow brain aging and could one day be used to protect astronauts against the damaging effects of space radiation.

—Robert Gaston

Sulforaphane Guards Against Blindness in Elderly

Sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, may help protect against age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.4

The delicate epithelial cells of the eye’s retina are highly vulnerable to oxidative damage from exposure to ultraviolet light, which scientists believe accumulates over time and contributes to macular degeneration. While antioxidant nutrients such as lutein may guard against ultraviolet light-induced oxidative stress, new evidence suggests that sulforaphane may also be protective.

Scientists divided human retinal epithelial cells into two groups. One group was treated with sulforaphane for 24 hours, while the other served as a control. The cells were then exposed to ultraviolet light. The sulforaphane-treated cells had a much higher rate of survival, with larger doses providing greater benefits.

Sulforaphane boosts the liver’s phase II enzymes, helping detoxify carcinogens before they damage cells. By strengthening the body’s natural antioxidant defenses, sulforaphane may help protect every human cell.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND

Citrus Peel Extract Promotes Insulin Sensitivity

Citrus peel compounds that are known as polymethoxylated flavones may help support healthy insulin sensitivity, according to a recent study.3

While citrus peel extract has been reported to improve cholesterol levels, this study was the first to examine its effects on insulin sensitivity. Scientists fed hamsters a sugar-rich diet for two weeks to induce insulin resistance and elevated triglycerides. The insulin-resistant animals then received either a low or high dose of the citrus flavones tangeretin and nobiletin. Supplementing with citrus flavones for four weeks helped reverse impaired insulin sensitivity.

Since insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity are considered inflammatory disorders, the researchers also measured levels of two biomarkers of inflammation, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6. Levels of these biomarkers decreased in both groups receiving citrus flavones, as did serum levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.

These results indicate that citrus peel extracts may help fight insulin resistance and diabetes, as well as support healthy blood lipid levels.

—Robert Gaston

Migraine with “Aura” May Raise Cardiovascular Risk

Women who suffer from migraine headaches with aura have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a recent study.5

The aura that immediately precedes migraine may be experienced as dizziness, flashes or spots of light, or temporary vision loss. Migraines are more common in women than in men, and fewer than one third of migraine sufferers experience a preceding aura.

Nearly 28,000 women aged 45 and older who were free from cardiovascular disease at the study’s onset were followed for up to 12 years. Compared to women with no history of migraine, those who reported active migraine with aura had a twofold greater risk of major cardiovascular disease, including heart attack or stroke. Women who reported migraine without aura did not exhibit elevated risk of cardiovascular events.

Since migraine with aura is associated with an adverse cardiovascular risk profile—including elevated levels of homocysteine—affected individuals should rigorously monitor their risk factors to protect themselves against cardiovascular events.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND

Lutein, Zeaxanthin Deficiencies Linked to Arterial Disease

Higher blood levels of lutein and zeaxanthin may be associated with optimal cardiovascular health, according to a recent report.7

While these carotenoid nutrients are associated with protection against macular degeneration (a common cause of vision loss), their effects on cardiovascular health have been less clear. Scientists compared blood samples from adults with coronary artery disease to those of healthy individuals. The disease-free subjects had significantly higher plasma levels of lutein and zeaxanthin than did people with coronary artery disease. Higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin were also associated with higher levels of natural killer cells, an important component of immune health.

Scientists believe that lutein and zeaxanthin may confer these protective benefits by reducing oxidative stress.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND