Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Sep 2007

Blood pressure medication may fight Parkinson’s, calcium and vitamin D
reduce cancer, exercise slows muscle aging, aspirin underused for heart health, and more.

Blood Pressure Medication May Fight Parkinson’s Disease

A drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure and stroke offers promise in preventing or slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease, according to a recent report.*

According to the recent study, the calcium channel blocker isradipine helps rejuvenate dopamine-releasing neurons in the brain by restoring more youthful patterns of electrical activity. Since the death of these cells leads to Parkinson’s disease, isradipine may help prevent or slow the progressive movement and speech difficulties that characterize the disorder.

According to Dr. Walter Koroshetz of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “… calcium channel blockers, drugs currently used to reduce blood pressure, might someday be used to slow the steady progression of Parkinson’s disease.”

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND

Reference

* Chan CS, Guzman JN, Ilijic E, et al. ‘Rejuvenation’ protects neurons in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease. Nature. 2007 Jun 10; [Epub ahead of print].

Calcium, Vitamin D Supplements Reduce Cancer Incidence

Supplementing with vitamin D and calcium reduces the risk of developing cancers of all types, according to a just-released report.*This four-year, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial assessed the incidence of cancer in nearly 1,200 postmenopausal women taking vitamin D and calcium supplements.Cancer incidence was 60% lower among women who took 1,100 IU vitamin D3 plus 1,400 to 1,500 mg calcium each day, compared with those who received placebo.

Calcium alone produced a modest but not statistically significant reduction in risk. Investigators estimate that for every 25 nmol/L increase in serum vitamin D, subjects experienced a 35% reduction in the risk of cancer. Higher initial serum vitamin D levels were also predictive of decreased cancer risk.

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

* Lappe JM, Travers-Gustafson D, Davies KM, Recker RR, Heaney RP. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1586-91.

Fish Oil Boosts Bone Health

Already touted for its heart and mood benefits, a fish oil-rich diet may also boost bone health, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.* If these findings hold true in humans, fish oil could offer a key strategy to prevent age-related osteoporosis.

Scientists supplemented the diets of two groups of female mice either with omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish oil or omega-6 fatty acid-rich corn oil. After six months, fish oil-fed mice maintained higher bone mineral density in different bone regions, compared with the mice fed omega-6 fats. The omega-3 fed animals also demonstrated increased levels of a bone formation marker, and fewer bone-degrading osteoclast cells in bone marrow cell cultures.

—Cathy Burke

Reference

* Bhattacharya A, Rahman M, Sun D, Fernandes G. Effect of fish oil on bone mineral density in aging C57BL/6 female mice. J Nutr Biochem. 2007 Jun;18(6):372-9.

Exercise Slows Muscle Aging

Exercise rejuvenates muscle tissue in older adults, according to a new report.*Canadian scientists conducted gene expression profiles on muscle tissue obtained from 25 healthy older men and women before and after six months of twice weekly resistance training, and compared them with tissue from men and women aged 20 to 35. Although older adults showed decreased mitochondrial function compared with the younger adults, exercise reversed the changes back to younger levels. Additionally, strength improved by 50% following six months of training.

The study “… gives credence to the value of exercise, not only as a means of improving health, but of reversing the aging process itself, which is an additional incentive to exercise as you get older,” noted the lead author.

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Melov S, Tarnopolsky MA, Beckman K, Felkey K, Hubbard A. Resistance exercise reverses aging in human skeletal muscle. PLoS ONE. 2007 May 23;2:e465.

Low Testosterone Increases Mortality Risk

Men over 50 with low testosterone levels may be at increased risk of dying within two decades, according to a new study. These results are the first to demonstrate that low testosterone in otherwise healthy men is associated with increased risk of dying from all causes over time.*

Scientists followed nearly 800 men, ranging from 50 to 91 years of age, for at least 18 years. All causes of death were considered. Men with low testosterone (defined as the lower limit of the normal range for young men) were 33% more likely to die within 18 years than men with higher levels of the hormone. Men with low testosterone were also more likely to have elevated levels of inflammatory markers and to suffer from metabolic syndrome (marked by low high-density lipoprotein, high blood pressure, and elevated blood sugar and triglycerides).

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

* Available at: http://health.ucsd.edu/news/2007/6-5-Testosterone.htm. Accessed June 6, 2007.

Aspirin Underutilized for Heart Health

Despite its well-known cardiovascular health benefits, the percentage of Americans who regularly use aspirin for preventing heart attack or stroke is disturbingly low.* In a sample of 1,299 Americans aged 40 or older, just 41% reported regular aspirin use for heart health. Only 57% of those at high risk for cardiovascular disease took aspirin regularly, and only 69% of those with a history of cardiovascular disease used aspirin.

Barely one third reported that they had spoken with their healthcare practitioner about aspirin. Among those who reported receiving a recommendation from their doctor, aspirin use was 88%. However, only 17% of those who did not speak with their doctor used aspirin regularly.

This survey indicates that physicians need to be more emphatic in their recommendation of aspirin use, while patients must be more active in their follow-up.

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

* Pignone M, Anderson GK, Binns K, Tilson HH, Weisman SM. Aspirin use among adults aged 40 and older in the United States: results of a national survey. Am J Prev Med. 2007 May;32(5):403-7.

Resveratrol Fights Breast Cancer

A diet that includes grapes, berries, peanuts, and red wine may help prevent and battle breast cancer.* Researchers from Kuwait University set out to find the exact molecular mechanisms behind the anti-cancer role exerted by resveratrol, a natural compound that occurs in these foods.

The investigators treated human breast cancer cells with resveratrol and measured cell proliferation.* They found the natural compound affects multiple pathways related to cancer, such as activating the p53 tumor suppressor protein and promoting apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Their sound conclusion: Utilize resveratrol as a preventive and/or an adjuvant therapeutic agent for breast cancer.

—Cathy Burke

Reference

* Alkhalaf M. Resveratrol-Induced Apoptosis Is Associated with Activation of p53 and Inhibition of Protein Translation in T47D Human Breast Cancer Cells. Pharmacology. 2007 May 29;80(2-3):134-43.

Omega-3s, Fish, and Vitamin D Protect Eyes

Higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids, fish, and vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing vision-robbing macular degeneration, according to two recent studies.1,2

In 4,500 adults aged 60 to 80, higher total dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake decreased the risk of developing neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was most protective; fish consumption also reduced risk.1

In a study of 7,500 adults, higher blood levels of vitamin D helped prevent early macular degeneration. Those with the highest levels of vitamin D were 36% less likely to develop macular degeneration.2

—Marc Ellman, MD

Reference

1. SanGiovanni JP, Chew EY, Clemons TE, et al. The relationship of dietary lipid intake and age-related macular degeneration in a case-control study: AREDS Report No. 20. Arch Ophthalmol. 2007 May;125(5):671-9
2. Parekh N, Chappell RJ, Millen AE, Albert DM, Mares JA. Association between vitamin D and age-related macular degeneration in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988 through 1994. Arch Ophthalmol. 2007 May;125(5):661-9.

Drug Combination Cures Hepatitis C

Alone or in combination with ribavirin, the drug peginterferon can cure some cases of hepatitis C, according to scientists from Virginia Commonwealth University.* The drugs, which have been in use for about a decade, do not work in everyone; rather, their efficacy depends on the genetic makeup of the particular hepatitis C virus infecting an individual.

According to the recent study, most individuals for whom the combination of peginterferon and ribavirin successfully cleared the virus remained virus-free up to seven years later. Peginterferon alone was similarly effective for those who responded to the drug.

Hepatitis C is the leading cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer, and the need for liver transplant, and there is currently no vaccine. “This shows for the first time very clearly… that we can cure hepatitis C,” noted the lead researcher.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND

Reference

* Available at: http://www.news.vcu.edu/news.aspx?v=detail&nid=2096. Accessed June 12, 2007.

Fruits, Vegetables Prevent Premature Death

Men and women who consume abundant fruits, vegetables, and antioxidants are protected against premature death, according to a large study conducted in Spain.*

Scientists evaluated dietary intake data—including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamin C, and vitamin E levels—in 41,358 participants. Over the 6.5-year follow-up, 562 deaths occurred.

Participants who consumed the most fresh fruit had a 25% decreased risk of dying, while those who consumed the most root vegetables had a 28% lower mortality risk. Consuming abundant seed-containing vegetables lowered risk by 23%. Lycopene intake was especially protective, reducing mortality risk by up to 35%.

“A high intake of fresh fruit, root vegetables, and fruiting vegetables is associated with reduced mortality, probably as a result of their high content of vitamin C, provitamin A carotenoids, and lycopene,” the authors conclude.

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Agudo A, Cabrera L, Amiano P, et al. Fruit and vegetable intakes, dietary antioxidant nutrients, and total mortality in Spanish adults: findings from the Spanish cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Spain). Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1634-42.

Adults Need More Choline

The recommended adequate intake for the B vitamin choline may be insufficient to prevent liver or muscle damage, according to a recent report.*Scientists gave men and women a diet providing the adequate daily intake of choline (550 mg) for ten days, followed by up to 42 days when the participants received less than 50 mg of choline per day.

Eighty percent of postmenopausal women, 44% of premenopausal women, and 77% of men developed fatty liver or muscle damage during the choline-deficient phase. Choline deficiency was also associated with elevated blood homocysteine levels. Up to 825 mg choline per day was required to reverse organ dysfunction caused by the choline-deficient diet.

Men and post-menopausal women may need more choline than is recommended by current guidelines in order to ensure good health.

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Fischer LM, daCosta KA, Kwock L, et al. Sex and menopausal status influence human dietary requirements for the nutrient choline. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1275-85.

Consuming Apples, Fish in Pregnancy Reduces Childhood Asthma

Women who eat more fish and apples during pregnancy are less likely to have children who develop asthma or eczema, an allergic skin disease, according to a recent study.*

Scientists evaluated data on 1,212 mothers and their children. Children of mothers who consumed the most apples during pregnancy experienced a lower risk of wheezing or asthma, compared to those of mothers whose intake was lowest. Maternal consumption of fish at least once per week appeared to protect children from developing eczema.

If the newest findings are confirmed, “recommendations on dietary modification during pregnancy may help to prevent childhood asthma and allergy.”

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Willers S, Devereux G, Craig L, et al. Maternal food consumption during pregnancy and asthma, respiratory and atopic symptoms in 5-year-old children. Thorax. 2007 Mar 27; [Epub ahead of print].

Vitamin E Protects Against Chemotherapy Side Effects

Vitamin E supplementation may prevent some of the serious side effects of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin, according to an ongoing Italian study.1 Interim results of the multi-center, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study indicate that 400 mg alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) per day significantly protects patients from cisplatin-induced nerve damage. The findings echo those reported last year by Greek oncology researchers.2

Cisplatin is routinely used to treat ovarian, testicular, bladder, and other cancers, and can produce adverse effects such as hearing loss, disturbances in balance, kidney damage, and tingling or loss of feeling in the extremities. Vitamin E’s protective effect may arise from its antioxidant activity.

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

1. Pace A, Carpano S, Galie E, et al. Vitamin E in the neuroprotection of cisplatin induced peripheral neurotoxicity and ototoxicity. J Clinical Oncol. 2007 (ASCO Annual Meeting Proceedings). Jun 20;25(18S):9114.
2. Argyriou AA, Chroni E, Koutras A, et al. A randomized controlled trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of vitamin E supplementation for protection against cisplatin-induced peripheral neuropathy: final results. Support Care Cancer. 2006 Nov;14(11):1134-40.

Fiber and Magnesium Independently Reduce Diabetes Risk

A higher intake of cereal fiber and magnesium could separately reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study and meta-analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.*

In the first arm of the study, investigators analyzed data obtained from 9,702 men and 15,365 women. Those who consumed the most cereal fiber had a 28% lower risk of developing diabetes during seven years of follow-up.

A meta-analysis of 17 studies showed that high cereal fiber intake reduced diabetes risk by 33%, while high magnesium intake reduced risk by 23%. “Higher cereal fiber and magnesium intake may decrease diabetes risk,” the authors wrote. “Whole-grain foods are therefore important in diabetes prevention.”

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Schulze MB, Schulz M, Heidemann C, Schienkiewitz A, Hoffmann K, Boeing H. Fiber and magnesium intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes: a prospective study and meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2007 May 14;167(9):956-65.

Vitamin D, Calcium Reduce Premenopausal Breast Cancer Risk

Already considered essential for bone health, vitamin D and calcium may be crucial for breast cancer prevention, according to a report from the Archives of Internal Medicine.*

Noting that an apparent protective effect of vitamin D and calcium has previously been demonstrated in animal models, Harvard Medical School researchers sought to confirm the effect among human subjects. The investigators consulted a database of more than 30,000 pre- and post-menopausal women who are participants in a long-term study of women’s health issues.

“Higher intakes of total calcium and vitamin D were moderately associated with a lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer,” noted the researchers. The nutrients’ anti-cancer effect appears to be especially robust against the most aggressive breast tumors.

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

* Lin J, Manson JE, Lee IM, Cook NR, Buring JE, Zhang SM. Intakes of calcium and vitamin d and breast cancer risk in women. Arch Intern Med. 2007 May 28;167(10):1050-9.

Fish Oil Preserves Cognitive Function

According to two studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), may help preserve cognitive function in older adults.1,2

In one study, the diets of 210 healthy men ranging in age from 70 to 89 years with normal cognitive function were assessed and then reassessed five years later. Subjects who regularly ate fish demonstrated a slower decline in thinking ability than those who did not eat fish. A daily consumption of approximately 400 mg of EPA and DHA was recommended for maintaining healthy cognitive function.1

In the second study in 2,251 older adults, those with higher blood levels of EPA and DHA displayed less decline in verbal ability than those with lower levels. The effects were most pronounced in adults with high blood pressure and elevated lipid levels.2

—Robert Gaston

Reference

1. van Gelder BM, Tijhuis M, Kalmijn S, Kromhout D. Fish consumption, n-3 fatty acids, and subsequent 5-y cognitive decline in elderly men: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Apr;85(4):1142-7.
2. Beydoun MA, Kaufman JS, Satia JA, Rosamond W, Folsom AR. Plasma n-3 fatty acids and the risk of cognitive decline in older adults: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Apr;85(4):1103-11.

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