Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: May 2020

In the News: Metformin Reduces Ovarian Cancer and more

Metformin may inhibit ovarian cancer; weight loss reduces women’s breast cancer risk; quercetin with dasatinib reduces senescent cells; zinc fights bacterial infection; ashwagandha improves sleep quality.

Ashwagandha Improves Sleep Quality

Man sleeping

A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study found that individuals with insomnia who received an extract of the herb ashwagandha had better sleep and less anxiety (which can affect sleep) in comparison with a placebo group, reported the journal Cureus.*

Participants included 60 people with insomnia who received either 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract or a placebo twice daily for 10 weeks. Sleep actigraphy devices worn during the trial monitored periods of rest and activity, and provided data concerning sleep onset latency, total sleep time, waking after sleep onset and sleep efficiency. Subjects were evaluated for other aspects of sleep as well as anxiety, at the beginning of the study and at five and 10 weeks.

At the end of the study, sleep onset latency was less among participants who received ashwagandha in comparison with the placebo group. Sleep efficiency, sleep quality and other aspects of sleep also improved more in the ashwagandha group.

Editor’s Note: “Available conventional therapies of insomnia are known to develop drug dependency and exert side effects. Ashwagandha extract, a natural compound with sleep-inducing potential, is well tolerated and improves sleep quality and sleep onset latency in patients with insomnia,” the authors concluded.

* Cureus. 2019 Sep; 11(9): e5797.

Breast Cancer Risk Reduced in Women Over 50 who Lose Weight and Keep it Off

Woman exercising

A study published in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that overweight and obese women over the age of 50, who had a sustained weight loss, had a lower risk of breast cancer, compared to those whose weight remained stable.* It has been known for some time that excess body weight raises the risk of breast cancer.

The large study included over 180,000 subjects from the Pooling Project of Prospective Studies of Diet and Cancer, whose weight was assessed three times in about 10 years. Researchers from the American Cancer Society, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and others, found that women who lost about 4.4 lbs. to 10 lbs. had a 13% lower risk, women who lost 10 lbs. to 20 lbs. had a 16% lower risk, and those who lost 20 lbs. or more had a 26% lower risk.

Additionally, women who lost weight, and then gained some of it back, also had a reduced risk of breast cancer compared to women whose weight remained stable. “Our results suggest that even a modest amount of sustained weight loss is associated with lower breast cancer risk for women over 50,” said the lead author of the study, Dr. Lauren Teras.

Editor’s Note: “These findings may be a strong motivator for the two-thirds of American women who are overweight to lose some of that weight,” Dr. Teras said.

* J Natl Cancer Inst. 2019 Dec 13.

Three-Day Treatment Decreases Senolytic Cells in Humans

Man looking through microscope

EBioMedicine published a preliminary report from an ongoing clinical trial involving individuals with diabetic kidney disease who experienced a decrease in senescent cell burden following brief treatment with quercetin and the drug dasatinib.*

Senescent cells are aged, damaged cells that, rather than self-destructing, survive to increase inflammation and death in nonsenescent cells.

While dasatinib plus quercetin have been the subject of experimental research that demonstrated their anti-senolytic effect, little clinical research has been conducted.

In young mice and in humans, increased senescent cell abundance has been found in fat tissue in obesity-related conditions such as metabolic dysfunction and chronic kidney disease. For the current trial, nine participants with diabetic kidney disease received 100 mg of dasatinib and 1,000 mg of quercetin daily for three days. Eleven days later, participants exhibited a reduction in senescent cell markers and adipose tissue macrophages (white blood cells that are attracted to and activated by senescent cells) in fat tissue.

Editor’s Note: Skin markers of senescent cells and circulating senescent-associated secretory phenotype factors were also reduced, the authors reported.

* EBioMedicine. 2019 Sep.47:446-456.

Zinc Can Help Fight Bacterial Infections, Animal Study Shows

Pietri dish

Research reported in PLoS Pathogens explored zinc’s ability to fight bacterial infections.*

A group of mice were provided with diets that resulted in a 70% lower level of serum zinc than that of another group given standard lab chow. The animals were then exposed to Streptococcus pneumoniae, that causes pneumonia.

Thirty-six hours after exposure, animals that received zinc-restricted diets had a greater bacterial burden in various areas of the body than those given adequate zinc. Elemental bioimaging of the lungs showed lower zinc concentrations in and migration of zinc to specific regions of the lungs of both groups upon infection. “These data show that zinc co-localizes with the invading pathogen in murine [rodent] lungs,” the authors stated.

It was determined that phagocytes, immune cells that ingest harmful foreign particles (including bacteria), accumulate zinc and utilize the mineral as a direct antimicrobial agent.

Editor’s Note: “This study reveals the link between dietary zinc intake and host resistance to bacterial pneumonia, demonstrating the antimicrobial activity of zinc in host niches against invading S. pneumoniae and in potentiating the efficacy of phagocytic cell killing of the pathogen,” the researchers concluded.

* PLoS Pathog. 2019 Aug 22;15(8):e1007957.

Metformin May Help Reduce Ovarian Cancer Risk

Women walking on the beach

An article in Clinical Cancer Research describes an experiment designed to validate a hypothesis concerning the genesis of ovarian cancer.*

Acting on initial findings of age-associated ovarian fibrosis in mice, the researchers determined that fibrosis also occurred in the ovaries of postmenopausal women. In the course of their research, an ovary from a 69-year-old woman was found to have no fibrosis. The woman had been using the drug metformin.

The researchers hypothesized that ovarian fibrosis is caused by damage resulting from inflammation associated with ovulation. Giving mice a drug that prevents ovulation resulted in failure of the animals’ ovaries to become fibrotic during aging.

Subsequent examination of 27 ovaries removed from young and old women revealed no fibrosis among five that had been removed from postmenopausal women who used metformin. The findings suggest that metformin could help prevent ovarian cancer among those at risk.

Editor’s Note: “These data support a novel hypothesis that unifies the primary non-hereditary ovarian risk factors through the development of ovarian fibrosis and the formation of a pre-metastatic niche and suggests a potential use for metformin in ovarian cancer prophylaxis,” the authors concluded.

* Clin Cancer Res. 2020 Feb 1;26(3):632-642.

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