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.
Active form of vitamin D shows promise in animal model of MS
September 30, 2013. The Journal of Neuroimmunology published an article online on August 6, 2013 which reveals a benefit for calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Biochemistry professor Coleen E. Hayes and her associates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison tested the effect of calcitriol and vitamin D3 in mice with experimental autoimmune encephalitis, a disease in which demyelination of the nerves occur as in MS. While vitamin D3 alone was not effective, the combination of calcitriol followed by supplementation with the vitamin resulted in improvement.
"All of the animals just got better and better, and the longer we watched them, the more neurological function they regained," Dr Hayes reported. “The treatment shows potential to help halt the disease’s progress in humans, for whom currently available therapies have limited effectiveness. And in the long term they don't halt the disease process that relentlessly eats away at the neurons. So there's an unmet need for better treatments."
The experimental treatment was more effective than methylprednisone, which is used to treat neurological problems experienced by MS patients. "So, at least in the animal model, calcitriol is more effective than what's being used in the clinic right now," Dr Hayes noted.
"If the treatment works in people, patients with early symptoms of MS may never need to receive an official diagnosis,” she added. "It's my hope that one day doctors will be able to say, 'We're going to give you an oral calcitriol dose and ramp up the vitamin D in your diet, and then we're going to follow you closely over the next few months. You're just going to have this one neurological episode and that will be the end of it. That's my dream."
Melatonin promotes calorie-burning “beige fat”
September 27, 2013. An article published online on September 6, 2013 in the Journal of Pineal Research describes the findings of researchers at the University of Granada in Spain of a benefit for melatonin, a hormone involved in sleep and circadian rhythms, in a rat model of metabolic syndrome and obesity.
Acting on the results of other research which uncovered an antiobesity effect for melatonin in Zücker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rats, Ahmad Argil of the University of Granada’s School of Medicine and his associates gave ZDF rats and their lean littermates drinking water supplemented with or without melatonin for six weeks, beginning at five weeks of age. They found that melatonin induced browning of white adipose tissue in both strains that received it. (Unlike white fat, “beige fat” burns calories rather than storing them.) Animals that received melatonin exhibited increased inguinal temperature and greater sensitivity to the thermogenic effect of cold exposure, which stimulates the burning of calories to maintain body temperature. Treated rats also demonstrated an increase in uncoupling protein 1, which is expressed by beige fat mitochondria.
Dr Agil hopes that his team will continue investigating melatonin "to be able to achieve their final objective: to confirm these findings in humans, by administering melatonin to help combat obesity and diabetes".
“These results demonstrate that chronic oral melatonin drives white adipose tissue into a brown-fat-like function in ZDF rats,” Dr Agil and his coauthors conclude. “This may contribute to melatonin's control of body weight and its metabolic benefits.”
Higher vitamin D levels protect against hospital-acquired bloodstream infections
September 25, 2013. The October 2013 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported the finding of researchers in Boston of a protective effect for higher preadmission vitamin D levels against the acquisition of bloodstream infection during hospitalization.
Kenneth B. Christopher and his associates conducted a retrospective study of 2,135 men and women whose serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were measured prior to admission to two Boston hospitals between 1993 and 2010. Blood samples collected 48 hours after admission were cultured for hospital-acquired bloodstream infection (HABSI), including aerobic, anaerobic and fungal cultures.
Having a prehospital level vitamin D level of less than 10 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) doubled the risk of HABSI in comparison with having a level of 30 ng/mL or more. When those with levels above or below 20 ng/mL vitamin D were compared, a lower level was associated with a 70% greater adjusted risk.
In their discussion, the authors attribute the current study’s findings to a decrease in innate immunity associated with reduced vitamin D levels. They remark that vitamin D is involved in the upregulation of antimicrobial peptides shown to have activity against bacteria, viruses and fungi, and add that the vitamin is needed for T cell response to infection.
“Our work supports the hypothesis that better vitamin D status may play an important protective role against nosocomial infections,” they write. “Longitudinal studies are required to confirm our findings and to further investigate the mechanisms underlying these observations. If confirmed, randomized, placebo-controlled trials will be needed to determine whether vitamin D–supplementation therapy before or at the time of hospital admission might have a benefit in improving outcomes in hospitalized patients.”
Long-lived Costa Rican population has longer telomeres
September 23, 2013. The November, 2013 issue of Experimental Gerontology published the results of a study Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula which found an increase in average telomere length among its residents in comparison with those residing in other regions of the country. The Peninsula is home to a population that has a greater life expectancy than the rest of Costa Rica—a country whose older citizens already have a higher life expectancy in relation to other countries.
The current investigation included 612 participants in the Costa Rican Study on Longevity and Healthy Aging, which enrolled men and women who were aged 60 and older in 2005. Blood samples collected between 2005-2006 and/or 2006-2008 were used to determine the average length of white blood cell telomeres, which are sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes that shorten with aging of the cell.
Average telomere length among Nicoyans was significantly longer than that of residents of other areas of Costa Rica. The disparity could not be explained by demographics, social factors, diet, or disease biomarkers. The difference lessened after the age of 90 years and was not substantially different at the age of 95 or older.
Research has found that Nicoyans have greater psychological attachment to family in comparison with residents of San Jose, the capitol city, which may improve reactions to stress that negatively impact telomere length. The authors also suggest that genetic factors could be involved in the difference observed in the current study.
“Our findings are the first to examine whether this region is associated with a putative biological marker of aging, and our results suggest that future consideration of this may be useful for understanding the true causes of why individuals live longer in Nicoya, which could in turn produce basic fundamental knowledge about successful aging more generally,” they conclude.
Antioxidant could prevent chemo side effect
September 20, 2013. An article published online on September 19, 2013 in the Annals of Neurology reveals that ethoxyquin, an antioxidant frequently used as a preservative in pet food, could help prevent peripheral neuropathy in patients treated with the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (Taxol). Peripheral neuropathy is characterized by pain, numbness and tingling in the extremities that can often persist years after the drug has been discontinued.
"Millions of people with breast cancer, ovarian cancer and other solid tumors get Taxol to treat their cancer and 80 percent of them will get peripheral neuropathy as a result," stated lead researcher Ahmet Höke, MD, PhD, who is a professor of neurology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Neuromuscular Division. "They're living longer thanks to the chemotherapy, but they are often miserable. Our goal is to prevent them from getting neuropathy in the first place."
By screening over two thousand compounds, Dr Höke and his colleagues discovered that ethoxyquin and its derivatives protected against paclitaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy without affecting its ability to kill cancer cells. They found that the compound works by binding to heat shock protein 90, which consequently reduces levels of two other proteins known as ataxin-2 and Srf3b2. When levels of these proteins are decreased, paclitaxel-induced degeneration of the nerves’ axons is reduced.
Giving ethoxyquin to mice treated with paclitaxel prevented two-thirds of the nerve degeneration that occurred in animals that did not receive the protective compound. The researchers hope to use the finding to develop a drug for humans undergoing paclitaxel treatment.
“Ethoxyquin and its novel derivatives as well as other classes of small molecules that act as heat shock protein 90 modulators may offer a new opportunity for development of drugs to prevent chemotherapy induced axonal degeneration,” the authors conclude.
B vitamin supplementation could lower stroke risk
September 18, 2013. The results of a meta-analysis conducted by researchers in China indicate that supplementing with B vitamins could reduce the risk of experiencing a stroke. The research was described online on September 18, 2013 in the journal Neurology®.
Yuming Xu of Zengzhou University and colleagues selected 14 randomized, double-blinded trials that included a total of 54,913 subjects for their analysis. B vitamins administered in the trials included folate or folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, and control groups were given a placebo or a very low-dose supplement. Follow-up times ranged from 24 to 80 months, during which 2,471 strokes occurred.
All studies but one uncovered a decrease in supplemented subjects of serum homocysteine which, when elevated, is a risk factor for stroke. Reductions in serum homocysteine ranged from 3.1 to 10.4 micromoles per liter in vitamin-supplemented groups. When all trial participants were analyzed, overall stroke risk was reduced by 7% as a result of homocysteine reduction among supplemented participants in comparison with the control subjects. “B vitamin supplementation for homocysteine reduction significantly reduced stroke events, especially in subjects with certain characteristics who received appropriate intervention measures,” the authors conclude.
"Previous studies have conflicting findings regarding the use of vitamin B supplements and stroke or heart attack," Dr Xu stated. "Based on our results, the ability of vitamin B to reduce stroke risk may be influenced by a number of other factors such as the body's absorption rate, the amount of folic acid or vitamin B12 concentration in the blood, and whether a person has kidney disease or high blood pressure. Before you begin taking any supplements, you should always talk to your doctor."
Chronic inflammation impacts healthy aging
September 16, 2013. In the Canadian Medical Association Journal, European researchers reveal a finding that will come as no surprise to Life Extension members. Tasnime N. Akbaraly, PhD, of France’s Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale and colleagues report online on September 16 that high levels of interleukin-6, which are elevated during chronic inflammation, are associated with a reduction in successful aging, which they define as the absence of chronic diseases and disability coupled with optimal physical, cognitive, cardiovascular and respiratory functioning.
"Chronically high levels of interleukin-6 halved the odds of successful aging 10 years later and was associated with increased odds of future cardiovascular disease and death from noncardiovascular causes in a dose–response fashion," Dr Akbaraly and coauthors write. "These associations were independent of socioeconomic factors, health behaviours (smoking, physical activity), conditions such as obesity, acute inflammation and use of anti-inflammatory drugs."
The study analyzed data from 3,044 middle-aged participants in the Whitehall II study, which examined 10,308 British civil servants every five years beginning in 1985. Blood samples collected during two examinations were analyzed for interleukin-6, and questionnaire responses provided health behavior information. Subjects were categorized as having undergone successful aging, cardiovascular disease, noncardiovascular death, or normal aging over a ten year follow up beginning in 1997-1999.
High levels of interleukin-6, defined as more than 2.0 nanograms per liter at the two points at which it was measured, reduced the odds of experiencing successful aging by 47%, elevated the risk of undergoing cardiovascular events by 64%, and more than doubled the risk of noncardiovascular death in comparison with subjects whose levels were lower. “If confirmed, these results shed new light on the importance of assessing long-term chronic inflammation in geriatric clinical practice, not only to target individuals at risk of unhealthy aging but also to promote ideal health by managing long-term chronic inflammation,” the authors conclude.
Americans healthier longer
September 13, 2013. A study described in the American Journal of Public Health may help put to rest concerns that the longer life span looked forward to by the average American is bought at the price of an increased period of disability. In an article published on September 12, 2013, Allison Rosen, MD of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and her colleagues report that not only can younger Americans expect to live longer than their counterparts of twenty years ago, but they can also anticipate that more of those years will be spent healthy.
For their study, Dr Rosen and her colleagues utilized data derived from the National Medical Expenditure Survey, National Health Interview Survey, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, National Nursing Home Survey, and Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey. They determined that, in comparison with the quality-adjusted life expectancy (QALE) of two decades ago, the average 25-year-old living in the United States will experience 2.4 additional years of healthy life, and the average 65-year old will have 1.7 more years.
"QALE tells us more than how long a person can expect to live," Dr Rosen explained. "It tells us what the relative quality of those added years are in terms of physical, emotional and mental well-being. Though many studies have measured this in different ways, this is really the first time we've been able to capture this type of information across the whole U.S. population over an extended period."
"Today, it is far less likely that a patient recovering from a heart attack will become institutionalized or need around-the-clock care the way they once might have," she added.
"Comprehensive measures of the overall health of the nation are practically nonexistent," Dr Rosen observed. "This study shows how existing national data can be used to systematically measure whether the population is getting healthier – not just living longer."
Omega-3 fatty acid could help protect the brain from effects of alcohol
September 9, 2013. Results from a study presented at the 14th Congress of the European Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism, held September 8-11, 2013 in Warsaw, suggest a protective effect for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid found in fish oil, against the development of dementia in alcoholics.
In a previous analysis of 143 studies, Michael A. Collins PhD and Edward J. Neafsey, PhD of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine found an association between moderate social drinking and a lower risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. However, consuming larger amounts of alcohol results in inflammation, leading to increased oxidative stress and brain cell death, which is responsible for the greater risk of dementia experienced by alcoholics.
For the current study, Dr Collins and his associates administered DHA or no treatment to cultured adult rat brain cells prior to exposure to an amount of alcohol four times the legal limit established for driving. They observed a 90% reduction in neuroinflammation and neuronal death in DHA-treated cells in comparison to untreated cells. The team found that DHA suppressed PARP1, AQP4 and PLA2, which are factors potentiated by alcohol consumption, and that blocking PARP1 reduces binge alcohol-induced neurotoxicity.
"Fish oil has the potential of helping preserve brain integrity in abusers," Dr Collins commented. "At the very least, it wouldn't hurt them."
However, he emphasized that the amount of alcohol consumed by abusers still needs to be reduced in order to help protect brain function.
Alpha lipoic acid, inositol reduce metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women
September 4, 2013. The August 2013 issue of the journal Trials reported the outcome of a study conducted by researchers in Naples, Italy, which found a benefit for supplementing with alpha lipoic acid and inositol among postmenopausal women with metabolic syndrome: a cluster of symptoms that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Postmenopausal women with metabolic syndrome are at greater risk of breast cancer than the rest of the female population.
The trial included 155 women who had three or more of five metabolic syndrome components, and who were at increased risk of breast cancer as determined by family history or history of borderline lesions. Participants were instructed to consume a low calorie diet and were randomized to receive alpha lipoic acid and inositol, or a placebo for six months.
While the low calorie diet slightly improved insulin levels and insulin resistance in the placebo group, a significant decrease in insulin in comparison with values determined at the beginning of the study occurred among 89.3% of women who received alpha lipoic acid and inositol, and a reduction in insulin resistance was observed in 66.7%. A greater percentage of women who received the supplements experienced reductions in triglycerides, waist circumference and waist to hip ratio, as well as a significant increase in high density lipoprotein (HDL).
“Inositol combined with alpha lipoic acid can be used as a dietary supplement in insulin-resistant patients in order to increase their insulin sensitiveness,” authors Immacolata Capasso and colleagues conclude. “Daily consumption of inositol combined with alpha lipoic acid has a significant bearing on metabolic syndrome. As metabolic syndrome is considered a modifiable risk factor of breast tumorigenesis, further studies are required to assess whether inositol combined with alpha lipoic acid can be administered as a dietary supplement in breast cancer primary prevention.”