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.
Lack of folic acid blamed for European fetal death, disease
August 31 2015. A report published online on July 14, 2015 in the journal Birth Defects Research Part A estimates that 50% or more of the cases of spina bifida and other birth defects in Europe could be prevented by the fortification of grain products with the B vitamin folic acid.
"European women have a blood level of folate that is only around half the level recently recommended by the WHO for the prevention of birth defects," commented lead author Rima Obeid of Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies at Aarhus University. "There is no doubt that a policy on folic acid enrichment would increase women's folate and prevent a significant percentage of the spina bifida cases in many European countries and thus prevent deaths and illnesses among children."
For their study, Dr Obeid and colleagues utilized data concerning live births, fetal deaths/stillbirths and termination of pregnancy for fetal anomaly reported by full member countries of the European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies (EUROCAT). Seven thousand four hundred seventy-eight cases of spina bifida and anencephaly were documented among 9,161,189 births that occurred in member regions over an eleven year period—a prevalence of approximately 8 in every 10,000.
"Food enrichment with a minor amount of folic acid has been shown to be safe for the population - also without side effects for other age groups and men - and an effective way of lowering the level of birth defects," Dr Obeid commented. "It is the most cost-effective way to reach every woman before pregnancy and to reduce child mortality and the risk of disease. But introducing such a measure would require collaboration between policy makers, stakeholders, researchers and healthcare professionals and a country-specific preparation and monitoring processes."
Higher omega-3 fatty acid levels predict decreased arterial stiffness
August 28 2015. In an article published on August 26, 2015 in the Journal of Nutrition, Ilse Reinders of the National Institute on Aging and colleagues report an association between higher plasma phospholipid omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and lower pulse wave velocity, a measure of arterial stiffness which, when increased, has been correlated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and related mortality.
The current study involved participants in the ongoing Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility–Reykjavik (AGES-Reykjavik) Study. Of those who had plasma phospholipid polyunsaturated fatty acids measured upon enrollment, 501 subjects had carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity measured at a five year follow-up examination.
Higher total plasma omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and individual omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were associated with lower pulse wave velocity. In contrast, subjects whose total plasma omega-6 fatty acids and the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid were higher had increased carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity measurements.
"Our results for plasma phospholipid omega–3 PUFAs are confirmed by a recent randomized, controlled trial showing that omega–3 supplementation resulted in lower carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity," the authors remark. "The effect of omega–3 PUFA supplementation on carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity might be explained by improved endothelial function and a decrease in inflammatory markers."
"This study showed that higher concentrations of plasma total long chain omega–3 PUFAs, specifically plasma EPA and plasma DHA, were associated with lower carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity and higher concentrations of plasma total long-chain omega–6 PUFAs, specifically plasma linoleic acid, were associated with higher carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity," they conclude. "Future larger prospective studies are warranted to clarify the conflicting associations between omega–3 and omega–6 PUFAs and carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity and to provide insight into mechanisms by which PUFAs influence vascular health."
Inflammation drives colorectal cancer metastasis
August 26 2015. An article published on August 7, 2015 in Gastroenterology reports the results of research that uncovered an effect for the inflammatory mediator prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) as a driving force in the metastasis of colorectal cancer.
"The normal role of PGE2 is to come to the rescue when you do something like cut your finger," explained lead researcher Raymond N. DuBois, MD, PhD, of Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute. "It attracts the body's immune cells and stimulates pathways that heal the wound site. The level of PGE2 goes up and then goes down within a few days of healing the wound. But in cancer, the cells keep making PGE2 chronically, so it's like this wounding process that never heals. In doing so, it generates these cancer stem cells that promote cancer progression and metastatic spread."
By measuring levels of prostaglandin E2 in colorectal carcinoma specimens and normal tissues, Dr DuBois and his associates found a correlation between the compound and colon cancer stem cell markers. "We use a combination of approaches that utilize human tissues and mouse models to complete our studies," he stated. "We take samples from human colon cancers and then purify the cancer stem cell population. When we treat these stem cells with PGE2, we found that they are 1,000 times more metastatic than the cells we don't treat with PGE2."
"Now, if we can just target and eliminate the stem cells from people with colon cancer, we can develop a new therapeutic approach to treat colorectal cancer and improve outcomes," he predicted.
"We've long known that simple things like taking aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs (called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs), have beneficial effects on reducing the risk of colorectal cancer," Dr DuBois observed. "But non-aspirin NSAIDs can cause serious cardiovascular side effects when taken over a long period of time, so we've needed to discover better drug targets. This study points us in the right direction."
Alpha-lipoic acid prevents high fat diet-induced atherosclerosis via telomere protection
August 24 2015. An article published online on August 20, 2015 in Cell Reports reveals a protective effect for supplementation with alpha lipoic acid on telomere length and vascular health in mice given a high-fat diet. Telomeres are segments of genetic material that cap and protect the ends of chromosomes. Aging-associated reduction in telomere length is considered a marker and cause of cellular aging. Telomere length is maintained by an enzyme known as telomerase.
"The effects of chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis and diabetes on blood vessels can be traced back to telomere shortening," noted senior author R. Wayne Alexander, MD, PhD, who is a professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. "This means that treatments that can restore healthy telomeres have great potential."
Previous research, reported in the journal Circulation, found an inhibitory effect for lipoic acid against high fat diet-induced atherosclerosis in mouse models of the disease. In the current report, Dr Alexander and colleagues confirmed that alpha-lipoic acid stimulates peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1-alpha (PGC1-alpha), which is known to control some aspects of how muscles respond to exercise. "What's new here is that we show that PGC1-alpha is regulating telomerase, and that has real beneficial effects on cellular stress in a mouse model of atherosclerosis," stated first author Shiqin Xiong.
While telomerase is activated in proliferating cells, including those which are cancerous, Dr Alexander's team has not observed an increased incidence of malignancies in animals that received alpha-lipoic acid. "Alpha-lipoic acid has an essential role in mitochondria, the energy-generating elements of the cell," Dr Alexander observed. "It is widely available and has been called a 'natural antioxidant'."
The authors conclude that alpha-lipoic acid "protects against telomere malfunction, oxidative stress, and DNA damage, thereby ameliorating high fat diet-exacerbated vascular aging and atherosclerosis."
Diet alone may fail to provide optimal amount of vitamin E
August 21 2015. On August 19, 2015, the journal PLOS One published findings derived from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data that reveal a high prevalence of suboptimal alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) levels among those for whom food alone was their only source of the vitamin.
Michael I. McBurney and associates analyzed information from 7,922 NHANES participants with available measurements of serum alpha-tocopherol. Food frequency questionnaires provided information concerning vitamin E intake from food or supplements.
Eighty-seven percent of subjects aged 20 to 30 years and 43% of those aged 51 years and older had vitamin E levels lower than 30 micromoles per liter (12.92 mg/L), which was categorized as inadequate based on Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) and the lowest mortality rate in the Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene (ATBC) study. Serum alpha-tocopherol levels among subjects whose only source of vitamin E was food were below adequate levels on average, at 24.9 micromoles per liter (10.72 mg/L). In comparison, those whose vitamin E was derived from both food and supplements had an average level of 33.7 micromoles per liter (14.51 mg/L). "We propose that for many Americans, especially those relying exclusively upon food sources, that serum alpha-tocopherol concentrations may not be adequate," Dr McBurney and colleagues write.
"The EAR, epidemiological and randomized controlled studies all indicate that maintaining a serum alpha-tocopherol concentration of 30 micromoles per liter may have beneficial effects on mortality, cognitive function and reproduction," they conclude. "This paper corroborates the need for research regarding to assessing serum alpha-tocopherol concentrations with respect to functional markers and health outcomes."
Vitamin D-on-Wheels could help the homebound
August 19 2015. An article published on August 16, 2015 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports a successful outcome for home delivery of a vitamin D supplement to older individuals in Forsyth County, North Carolina. Improved vitamin D status could aid in the prevention of falls that can be a complication of muscle weakness, osteoporosis, or impaired balance and/or vision that may occur in older men and women.
The study included 68 homebound Meals-on-Wheels participants, aged 65 to 102 years. Subjects received a supplement providing 100,000 international units (IU) vitamin D or a placebo delivered with their meal once per month for five months. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were assessed at the beginning and end of the study.
While 57% of subjects had serum vitamin D levels of less than 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) prior to treatment, just of 1 of 34 participants who received vitamin D3 had levels that were this low after five months, compared to 18 of the 34 participants randomized to the placebo group. After adjustment for gender, race, history of falls and other factors, a lower rate of falls was found among those randomized to vitamin D3 in comparison with the placebo group.
"Falls in homebound older people often lead to disability and placement in a nursing home," observed lead author Denise K. Houston, PhD, RD, who is an associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. "One of our aging center's goals is to help people maintain their independence and live safely at home for as long as possible."
"Although these initial findings are encouraging, we need to confirm the results in a larger trial," she added.
Meta-analysis affirms link between higher vitamin D levels and lower risk of colorectal adenoma
August 17 2015. The August 7, 2015 issue of the World Journal of Gastroenterology reported the results of case-control study and meta-analysis which both found a lower risk of colorectal adenoma (polyps) in association with higher serum vitamin D levels. While many adenomas remain benign, some are a precursor to colorectal cancer, one of the more common human malignancies.
Researchers in South Korea conducted a matched case-control study that included 112 Korean men and women with colorectal adenomas and 112 controls who underwent colonoscopy between August 2011 and September 2012. Blood samples analyzed for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] revealed low levels of 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or less in the majority of subjects. An association between higher vitamin D levels and a reduced risk of adenoma was found in women.
For the meta-analysis, 15 studies (including the current study) involving Western as well as Asian populations that examined serum or plasma vitamin D levels and the risk of colorectal adenoma were selected. The combined studies included 5,454 subjects with colorectal adenomas and 6,656 controls. When highest to lowest categories of vitamin D were compared, a 32% average reduction in the risk of adenoma was uncovered in the highest group. The association remained similar for those with adenomas located in the proximal and distal colon.
Authors Yoon Ji Choi and colleagues note that "1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D], the active form of vitamin D, exerts its inhibitory effects on tumors in the normal and neoplastic colonic epithelium by affecting cell growth regulation, cell cycle regulation, and apoptosis and by interacting with proto-oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes."
"We found an inverse association between circulating 25(OH)D levels and colorectal adenoma, and this association was consistent for Asian populations," they conclude.
Tea, flavonoid intake associated with lower fracture risk
August 14 2015. An article published on August 12, 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition adds more evidence to a protective effect for tea drinking against the development of osteoporotic fractures in women.
The study included 1,188 women over the age of 75 years enrolled in the Calcium Intake Fracture Outcome Study, which evaluated the effect of calcium supplementation in the prevention of osteoporosis. Tea intake was assessed at the beginning of the study and at two and five years. The subjects were followed for ten years, during which 288 women developed an osteoporotic fracture, including 212 major fractures and 129 hip fractures.
Among women whose intake of tea was three cups or higher per day, there was a 30% decrease in the risk of any osteoporotic fracture in comparison with those whose intake was a cup or less per week. Subjects whose flavonoid intake from tea and foods was among the highest one-third of subjects had risks of osteoporotic fracture, major osteoporotic fracture and hip fracture that were 35%, 34% and 42% lower than those whose intake was among the lowest third. When individual flavonoids were analyzed, higher consumption of flavonols, flavan-3-ols and flavones was significantly associated with a protective effect against osteoporotic fracture risk.
"The current study found that flavonoid intake was associated with a reduced risk of hip, major, and all osteoporotic fractures in elderly women," write authors Gael Myers and colleagues. "The major flavonoids found in tea, flavan-3-ols, and flavonols were also associated with a reduced fracture risk, providing evidence for the role of tea flavonoids in promoting bone health."
"If the 30–40% reduction in fracture risk with higher intake of black tea and specific classes of flavonoids were confirmed, this knowledge would provide a major addition to the dietary prevention of fracture," they conclude.
Iodine supplementation recommended for most pregnant women
August 12 2015. An study described online on August 10, 2015 in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology estimates potential economic benefit gained by the adoption of universal supplementation with the mineral iodine by pregnant women. Consumption of iodine insufficient diets by pregnant women has been linked with a reduction in the intelligence quota (IQ) of their children, which predicts worse education outcomes and lower earning potential.
"Iodine deficiency in pregnancy remains the leading cause of preventable retardation worldwide," explained coauthor Kate Jolly, who is a Professor of Public Health at the University of Birmingham. "Even mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy is associated with children with lower IQs. It's time for all women living in iodine deficient countries without universal supplementation of iodine, who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning a pregnancy to be advised to take a daily supplement containing iodine."
Dr Jolly and her associates utilized eight studies of pregnant women and their children to estimate the monetary value of an IQ point. They calculated a lifetime earnings value that averaged the current equivalent of over $5,000 US dollars for each IQ point gained. Savings to society gained by supplementation with iodine before and during pregnancy resulting in the increase of an additional IQ point in one's child were estimated at approximately $7,000.
"To our knowledge, this study is the first to estimate the cost-effectiveness of a policy of iodine supplementation during pregnancy and lactation in a population with mild to moderate iodine deficiency," the authors announce. "As food fortification alone may not be enough to achieve iodine sufficiency for pregnant women, our results strengthen the case for universal iodine supplementation of all women before and during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding in mild-to-moderate iodine deficient countries."
Metformin use associated with lower LDL cholesterol
August 10 2015. The October 2015 issue of the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Care featured an article which reveals a reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels among users of metformin, a commonly used antidiabetic drug that has been associated with other health benefits.
Rui Wang-Sattler of Helmholtz Zentrum München and colleagues utilized fasting serum samples collected from over 1,800 subjects, including 151 type 2 diabetics treated with metformin, enrolled in the Health Research in the Region of Augsburg (KORA) cohort. The current study evaluated genetic factors and 131 metabolites, as well as serum lipids.
In association with a decline in three metabolites, the researchers observed a relationship between metformin use and lower LDL cholesterol in type 2 diabetics treated with the drug in comparison with subjects who were not using oral glucose-lowering medications. "We speculate that metformin intake affects the levels of LDL cholesterol via AMPK, leading to a down-regulation of the genes FADS1 and 2," stated Dr Wang-Sattler, of the Research Unit of Molecular Epidemiology at the Institute of Epidemiology II of the Helmholtz Zentrum München. "This is also supported by the fact that three lipid metabolites, which are dependent on FADS, are decreased. Presumably, this is the mechanism how the production of LDL cholesterol is repressed by metformin."
"Our study suggests that metformin might indeed have an additional beneficial effect with regards to cardiovascular diseases among the diabetes patients," first author Tao Xu concluded.
"Until now the exact mechanism is unclear," co-first author Stefan Brandmaier added. "Thus, we want to continue our contribution to its decryption."
Are nutritional deficiencies to blame for being overweight?
August 7 2015. The August 2015 issue of The FASEB Journal published an article by Bruce N. Ames, PhD, of Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute and colleagues that presents an interesting hypothesis concerning one potential cause of weight gain.
By conducting three eight-week trials involving the twice daily intake of nutrient bars for two months by 43 lean and overweight or obese adults, Dr Ames and colleagues observed reductions in weight, waist circumference, diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, triglycerides, insulin resistance and insulin, accompanied by improvements in lipids among overweight/obese participants whose high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were low at the beginning of the study. Among overweight and obese subjects with higher CRP levels, inflammation and heart rate were reduced and the large HDL subfraction increased. Lean participants also experienced metabolic improvements. "Thus, favorable changes in measures of cardiovascular health, insulin resistance, inflammation, and obesity were initiated within eight weeks in the overweight/obese by replacing deficiencies in Western diets without requiring other dietary or lifestyle modifications; chronic inflammation blunted most improvements," the authors conclude.
"It is well known that habitual consumption of poor diets means increased risk of future disease, but clearly this is not a compelling enough reason for many to improve their eating habits," stated Dr Ames. "However, a relatively easy intervention with something like the nutrient bar used in this study may help people to realize the positive impact that a diet with adequate nutrition can have in their daily lives, which may be a stronger incentive for change."
The FASEB Journal's Editor-in-Chief, Gerald Weissmann, MD, observed that "This report shows that what you eat is as important, if not more, than how much you eat and how many calories you burn in the gym."
Kidney stone treatment made safer with antioxidants
August 5 2015. The July-September 2015 issue of Urology Annals reported the discovery of researchers from Gujarat, India of a protective effect for supplementation with vitamins C and E against the risk of kidney injury following shock wave lithotripsy, the first line of treatment for renal calculi (kidney stones).
The study included 107 men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 years scheduled for lithotripsy of one stone. While a group of patients that received no supplements served as a control, a second group received 800 milligrams (mg) per day vitamin E and a third group received 1000 mg vitamin C beginning two days prior to the lithotripsy and continued for a total of seven days. Serum C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, which are a marker of inflammation, were measured prior to lithotripsy and on the second, seventh and twenty-eighth day following the procedure.
Average C-reactive protein levels rose to the greatest extent in untreated patients on the second day following lithotripsy, while increasing to a significantly lesser extent in the vitamin E group and remaining unchanged in the vitamin C group. Values in all groups had decreased on the seventh day following the procedure, and by day 28, CRP values in both vitamin-treated groups were lower than those measured prior to treatment.
"Free radical formation after ischemia/reperfusion injury following lithotripsy has been documented in multiple investigations," authors Jayesh Modi and colleagues note. "In addition, oxidative stress also causes the generation of reactive oxygen species that can ultimately lead to renal injury."
"Our results prove that use of vitamin C and E as antioxidants during lithotripsy lead to a reduction in serum levels of the inflammatory marker by scavenging free radical species in renal tissue," they conclude. They recommend further studies to confirm the findings.
Unfavorable homocysteine, vitamin B12 levels linked with increased risk of lumbar osteoporosis
August 3 2015. An article appearing in the September, 2015 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on July 29, 2015 reported the outcome of a study of older women which found an increased risk of osteoporosis of the lumbar spine among those with higher levels of methylmalonic acid (MMA, which is elevated in up to 98% of those with vitamin B12 deficiency) and the potentially damaging amino acid homocysteine.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health utilized information obtained from 2,806 women aged 50 and older who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2004. Whole-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry results provided the researchers with data concerning lumbar spine bone mineral density (BMD). Concurrent blood test results included total homocysteine, red blood cell (RBC) folate, serum vitamin B12, methylmalonic acid and other factors.
Women with normal lumbar spine BMD had lower homocysteine and higher RBC folate than those who had low bone mass or osteoporosis. Elevations in homocysteine and methylmalonic acid were associated with a greater risk of lumbar osteoporosis versus low or normal bone mass. Among those with low serum vitamin B12, the risk of having a total body BMD that was among the lowest 25% of participants was significantly greater than the risk experienced by the remainder of the subjects.
"Our analysis suggests that elevated homocysteine and MMA are significantly associated with increased likelihood of osteoporosis in a nationally representative sample of US women," Regan L. Bailey and colleagues conclude. "Given the public health burden of osteoporosis and age-related bone disorders together with the rapidly aging US population, we hope this work will serve to stimulate additional research aimed at addressing the role of vitamin B12 and folate in bone health in older women in the United States."