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Life Extension Magazine

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February 2007

Curry Spice Supports Cognition in Older Adults

Elderly adults who regularly consume curry spice demonstrate better cognitive performance than those who rarely or never eat curry, report scientists in Singapore.1 Curcumin, the natural pigment that gives the curry spice turmeric its yellow color, is known for its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

A total of 1,010 dementia-free Asian men and women aged 60-93 were divided into three groups based on their curry consumption: once a month to daily (43%), once every six months (41%), or rarely or never (16%). After accounting for sociodemographic, health, and behavioral factors, those who consumed curry once a month or daily, or once every six months, scored higher on a questionnaire that assesses cognition and screens for dementia than those who “rarely or never” ate curry.

Since even modest consumption is associated with improved cognitive function, curry and its constituents (such as curcumin) show promise in preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

—Robert Gaston

Testosterone-Deficient Men More Prone to Falling

Older men with lower testosterone levels tend to fall more frequently than those with higher levels of the hormone, according to a recent study.2 Declining testosterone levels commonly accompany aging in men, and may impair physical performance, vision, coordination, and thinking processes.

Scientists studied 2,578 men, aged 65-99, between 2000 and 2005. All subjects had their testosterone levels periodically assessed, along with measures of strength and balance. During four years of follow-up, the men were asked every four months whether they had fallen.

Fifty-six percent of the men suffered at least one fall, and many fell frequently. Lower testosterone was linked to an increased risk of falling generally, and men with the lowest testosterone had a 40% greater probability of falling than those with the highest levels. The effect of low testosterone was most apparent in men aged 65-69.

—Robert Gaston

Recurrent Viral Infections May Cause Memory Loss

Acute viral infections such as the common cold may lead to cumulative brain damage and memory loss, according to scientists at the Mayo Clinic.3

The researchers infected mice with encephalomyelitis virus, a member of a family of aggressive viruses that include those responsible for the common cold, polio, and hepatitis A. After recuperating from infection, the mice had greater difficulty navigating a maze they had learned earlier (compared to an uninfected group). Brains of the infected mice showed severe damage to the hippocampal region, which is responsible for memory processing. The degree of memory impairment correlated with the amount of damage to the hippocampus.

The researchers hypothesize that infection with certain viruses—such as rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold—may damage the hippocampus of the human brain, and that recurrent colds could inflict cumulative damage eventually contributing to memory loss.

—Robert Gaston

Olive Extract Kills Colon Cancer Cells

Olive fruit extract demonstrates anti-cancer effects in human colon cancer cells, report scientists in Spain.4

The researchers applied an extract of olive fruit to human colon cancer cells in the laboratory. The extract prevented the cancer cells from proliferating, but had no adverse effects on healthy cells. Furthermore, the olive extract induced the cancer cells to undergo programmed cell death (apoptosis). After incubating cancer cells with olive extract for 24 hours, the researchers noted a six-fold increase in their production of caspase-3, a protein involved in the orderly destruction of unhealthy cells.5

Olives are an important component of the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with cancer protection, cardiovascular health, and an extended life span.5-6

—Dale Kiefer

Nutrient Combo Boosts Mitochondrial Energy

Canadian researchers report that a nutrient combination including creatine monohydrate, coenzyme Q10, and lipoic acid improves mitochondrial energy production, even in patients with diagnosed disorders of mitochondrial metabolism.7

This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessed the supplement combination versus inactive placebo on measures of mitochondrial energy production efficiency. Impaired mitochondrial function generates excessive free radicals, which in turn contribute to disease processes and tissue damage.

Patients receiving the nutritional regimen experienced significantly less free-radical production and more efficient energy production.

—Dale Kiefer

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Improves Diabetic Neuropathy

Researchers report that alpha-lipoic acid improves symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy, a painful condition of the nerves that afflicts many diabetics.8

In a multicenter, randomized, double-blind trial, 181 diabetics with symptoms of distal symmetric polyneuropathy received a placebo for one week followed by a daily oral supplement of 600, 1200, or 1800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid, or a placebo, for five weeks. The 166 subjects who completed the trial reported a significant reduction in stabbing pain and burning pain compared to the placebo group.

Alpha-lipoic acid’s ability to improve neuropathy symptoms may reflect improved blood flow caused by alpha-lipoic acid’s antioxidant action. According to the authors, significant improvement in symptoms was demonstrable within one to two weeks of treatment.

—Dayna Dye

DHA Suppresses Production of Fat Cells

New research shows that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil, may fight excess body weight by thwarting the development of fat cells.9

Working with cultured pre-adipocytes (immature fat cells), scientists showed that levels of DHA obtainable through the diet may help avert obesity by preventing new fat cells from forming and encouraging existing fat cells to undergo programmed cell death (apoptosis). DHA also encouraged adipose cells to release their stores of fatty acids, a process popularly referred to as “burning fat.”

Previous research has shown that dietary omega-3 fatty acids decrease body fat and fat accumulation in rodents,10,11 but the present study helps explain precisely how DHA may work to reduce obesity.

—Dale Kiefer

Folate-Deficient Diet May Raise Colon Cancer Risk

Diets that fail to provide enough folate increase the risk of colorectal cancer in a laboratory model of the disease, report Canadian researchers.12 Folate, a B vitamin that is abundant in leafy green vegetables, has been shown to have a protective benefit against a number of diseases.

The researchers created a model in which mice develop intestinal masses when consuming reduced-folate diets. While animals on a control diet remained free of tumors, folate deficiency increased DNA damage and decreased the expression of two genes involved in DNA damage response.

“This research, which is consistent with previous epidemiological studies in humans, demonstrates a clear link between low dietary folate and the initiation of colorectal cancer in animal models,” the researchers concluded. “This study highlights how simply adding a supplement to your daily diet could have tremendous long-term benefits.”

—Dayna Dye