Life Extension Magazine®
Man exercising using folic acid for sexual health

In The News: Folic Acid Linked to Lower Risk of Erectile Dysfunction

Folic acid lowers risk of erectile dysfunction; AMPK helps maintain muscle mass; CoQ10 reduces statin side effects; anti-inflammatories may improve depression; prediabetes linked to cognitive decline.

Scientifically reviewed by: Gary Gonzalez, MD, on March 2021.

Higher Folic Acid Levels Linked to Lower Risk of Erectile Dysfunction

Man using fence to support push-ups

A meta-analysis documented an association between higher serum levels of folic acid and a lower risk of erectile dysfunction (ED).*

Researchers selected 6 studies that included 1,842 men.

Pooled data revealed that folic acid levels among men without ED were approximately 3.37 ng/mL higher than levels measured among men with ED.

The folic acid difference between participants with and without ED became greater as severity increased, meaning those with lower folic acid levels exhibited worsening ED.

Editor’s Note: The authors remarked that folic acid helps normalize homocysteine levels that damage the lining of the arteries. Elevated homocysteine levels also inhibit the formation of nitric oxide in the blood vessel lining, thereby contributing to the risk of ED.

* Andrologia. 2021 Feb 7.

AMPK Activation Can Help Maintain Muscle Mass

Older man using weights and AMPK for muscle mass

Research conducted at the Univhersity of Birmingham in the UK indicates that activation of an energy-sensing enzyme known as AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) could help people maintain physical function.*

Researchers were able to observe that AMPK promotes the breakdown of damaged mitochondria, a process known as mitophagy.

Aged or damaged mitochondria that build up in the muscle cells of older individuals contribute to a decline in muscle function.

“We know that exercise and diet regimes can be used to help people maintain their muscle mass and physical capabilities in later life,” observed lead author Alex Seabright. “But improving our understanding as to why muscle loss occurs with aging will aid the development of targeted pharmacological interventions to help people to stay physically capable for longer.”

Editor’s Note: “The rationale for this study stemmed from our lack of current knowledge concerning the molecular mechanisms that underpin mitophagy in skeletal muscle,” the authors stated.

* FASEBJ. 2020 Mar 22; 34(5): 6284–6301.

CoQ10 Improves Statin Tolerability

Researcher using microscope to study CoQ10

Results from a study published in the journal Drug Design, Development and Therapy indicate a potential protective effect of CoQ10 against a side effect induced by statin drugs that would otherwise render treatment intolerable.*

The randomized trial included 60 participants with unhealthy LDL levels and statin-associated muscle pain.

In addition to pain scores, a blood marker (CPK) of muscle damage was used to assess statin intolerance.

Statin use was discontinued for a month, followed by the reintroduction of half the previous statin dose plus 100 mg CoQ10 or a placebo, daily for three months. Questionnaires concerning pain symptoms were administered at the beginning of the study and at one and three months.

CoQ10 levels were higher and pain scores were lower after three months in the CoQ10 group. Pain scores remained essentially the same among those who received the placebo.

Higher plasma levels of CoQ10 were associated with lower levels of CPK among participants who received the CoQ10.

Editor’s Note: The authors remarked that, “CoQ10 was safe and effective in preventing the worsening of the lipid profile that would be expected with a reduced dosage of statin.”

* Drug Des Devel Ther. 2019 Oct 21;13:3647-3655.

Anti-Inflammatories Can Have Antidepressant Effects

Older couple feeling happy looking at album

Men and women with major depressive symptoms were found to benefit from anti-inflammatory compounds, according to the results of a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Neurology.*

For their analysis, researchers selected 30 randomized, controlled trials that included a total of 1,610 participants. The trials evaluated the effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), omega-3 fatty acids, minocycline antibiotics, pioglitazone, modafinil (used in sleep disorders), statin drugs, and N-acetylcysteine, all of which have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Twenty-two trials compared the effects of antidepressant drug therapies plus the anti-inflammatory compounds to antidepressant drug therapy plus a placebo, and eight trials compared the anti-inflammatory compounds alone to a placebo.

Pooling of the results of 26 of the trials revealed a 55% reduction in depressive scale scores for people who received the anti-inflammatory compounds compared to those who got a placebo. Further analysis determined that NSAIDs, omega-3 fatty acids, statins and minocyclines had the greatest antidepressant effects.

Editor’s Note: “Our systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that anti-inflammatory agents exert an antidepressant effect in the treatment of major depressive disorder and were generally safe, with rates of adverse effects similar to those of placebo,” the authors concluded.

* J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2020 Jan;91(1):21-32.

Prediabetes Linked to Cognitive Decline and Dementia

Woman talking to doctor about cognitive worries

People with higher than normal blood sugar—called prediabetes—are more likely to experience cognitive decline and vascular dementia, according to a study published in Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism.*

Researchers analyzed UK Biobank Data from almost 450,000 people averaging 58 years old who underwent an HbA1C test, which determines average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months.

Based on these results, they were divided into one of five groups: low-normal blood sugar, normal blood sugar, prediabetes, undiagnosed diabetes, and diabetes. Prediabetes was classified as having a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1C ) blood test reading of 6.0%-6.5%. (Ideal A1c levels are under 5.5%.)

Results showed that people with above normal blood sugar levels were:

  • 42% more likely to experience cognitive decline over four years, and
  • 54% more likely to develop vascular dementia over eight years.

Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.

People with prediabetes and diabetes had similar rates of cognitive decline (42% and 39% respectively).

MRI brain scans revealed that prediabetes was associated with a smaller hippocampus and more strongly associated with having lesions on the brain—both of which are associated with age-related cognitive impairment.

Editor’s Note: The study authors noted, “Previous research has found a link between poorer cognitive outcomes and diabetes, but our study is the first to investigate how having blood sugar levels that are relatively high—but do not yet constitute diabetes—may affect our brain health.”

* Diabetes Obes Metab. 2021;1-10.