Old dogs learn new tricks

January 18, 2005

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Life Extension Update Exclusive:

Old dogs learn new tricks

What’s Hot:

L-carnitine protects brain DNA from age-related damage


Age-associated mental impairment

Featured Products:

Mitochondrial Energy Optimizer plus SODzyme

Life Extension Dog Mix

Life Extension Update Exclusive

Old dogs learn new tricks
A study published in the January 2005 issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging reported that a combination of a diet enriched with antioxidants, physical activity and mental stimulation was protective against brain aging in beagles. The findings could have significant implications for humans because of the similarity between humans and dogs in brain structure, cognitive strategies and the processing of dietary nutrients, as well as in the decline in memory and learning that occurs with aging.

William Milgram, PhD, of the University of Toronto, Elizabeth Head, PhD, and Carl Cotman, PhD, of the University of California, Irvine and colleagues divided 48 older beagles into 4 groups of 12 dogs each. The dogs received one of the following regimens: a regular (control) diet and a standard amount of behavioral enrichment, a regular diet and a program of enriched experience, a diet fortified with fruits, vegetables, vitamins C and E, lipoic acid and carnitine combined with a standard amount of behavioral enrichment, or a regimen consisting of both the enriched diet and behavioral enrichment. Seventeen young beagles received either the control or antioxidant enriched diet combined with behavioral enrichment. Behavioral enrichment consisted of being exercised at least twice weekly and were able to play with varying toys or other dogs. The dogs were assessed for cognitive function before, during and after the two year treatment period.

The team found that the dogs who received both dietary and behavioral enrichment showed the best performance on tests of cognitive function and demonstrated a greater ability to learn new tasks than the other animals. Dogs who received either dietary or behavioral enrichment (but not both) still performed better than the animals who received the standard diet and care.

The study was funded by the National Instutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA’s Neuropsychology of Aging Branch program director, Molly Wagster, PhD, commented, “This research brings a note of optimism that there are things that we can do that may significantly improve our cognitive health. In this case, more was better. Although each factor alone was capable of improving cognitive function in older animals, the combination was additive, pointing to a healthy lifestyle as the most beneficial approach. While we have yet to demonstrate these benefits in people, research such as this gives us new ways to think about the aging brain and what we can do to keep it intact."

What’s Hot

L-carnitine protects brain DNA from age-related damage
A report published in the January 2005 issue of the journal Experimental Neurology revealed that the amino acid L-carnitine helps protect the brain of rats from the DNA damage that occurs with aging.

Dr P. A. R. Juliet of Nagoya University in Japan and colleagues gave 4 month old and 24 month old rats 300 milligrams acetyl-L-carnitine per kilogram body weight for 7, 14 and 21 days following which their brain cortex, hippocampus, striatum, hypothalamus and cerebellum were examined for antioxidant enzyme activity, nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) levels, and DNA damage.

Carnitine levels were lower in all brain regions examined in the 24 month old rats than in the 4 month old animals, although longer supplementation with L-carnitine was reflected in increased brain levels of the amino acid in the older animals, which was not observed in the younger rats. Older rats also had lower brain levels of the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase, as well as lower DNA and RNA levels in the cortex, hippocampus and striatum, however in older rats who received L-carnitine, the researchers found enhanced levels of antioxidants and nucleic acids that increased with duration of the treatment, which again, were not found to be effected by carnitine in the younger rats.


Age-associated mental impairment
Numerous published studies indicate that brain aging can be controlled, at least in part. Some of these research findings demonstrate a preventive effect, whereas others show a benefit in reversing the neurological impairment caused by normal aging or by an age-related condition such as having had a stroke.

You do not have to remain helpless while your mental acuity deteriorates. Even taking relatively simple steps can help protect your brain cells from the negative effects of aging. If you already have a significant decline in cognitive function, there are still ways that may partially reverse these effects.

For instance, a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences evaluated the effects of supplemental acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid on the brains of old rats (Liu et al. 2002). Supplementation with acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid resulted in improved memory. Electron microscopic studies in the hippocampus region of the brain showed that acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid reversed age-associated mitochondrial structural decay. The conclusion of the scientists who conducted this study was that "these results suggest that feeding acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid to old rats improves performance on memory tasks by lowering oxidative damage and improving mitochondrial function."

This study, published in one of the world's most respected scientific journals, confirms that age-associated cognitive impairment and mitochondrial structural dysfunction can be reversed. Acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid are sold as expensive drugs in Europe, but are available as dietary supplements in the United States at a relatively low cost.

Free radicals are atoms with unpaired electrons that can cause damage to cells by a process known as oxidation. Brain cells are particularly vulnerable to the effects of oxidation because of their high-energy production. The more energy a cell produces, the greater the number of damaging free radicals. The destructive effects of excess free radical activity have been implicated in many disease processes, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and help prevent some of the damage associated with normal brain aging.

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Mitochondrial Energy Optimizer provides antioxidant support to protect cells against free radical damage and glycation. In addition, Mitochondrial Energy Optimizer Enhanced contains nutrients to support mitochondrial energy production and cellular function and natural plant extracts to help maintain fluid balance and enhance mental energy.

In addition to its metabolic role, L-carnitine and its esters such as acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) posses unique neuroprotective, neuromodulatory, and neurotrophic properties which may play an important role in counteracting various disease processes [Mol Aspects Med. 2004 Oct-Dec;25(5-6):533-49]. Acetyl-L-carnitine arginate dihydrochloride and acetyl-L-carnitine raise neurotransmitter levels in the brain cells and maintains them (neurons) in their normal size and shape. Acetyl-L-carnitine arginate dihydrochloride has been shown to stimulate regrowth of neurites in the brain. Neurites connect brain cells and allow them to communicate. Neurites function to provide the communication circuitry pathways between the nerve cells.

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Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Send them to or call 954 766 8433 extension 7716.

For longer life,

Dayna Dye
Editor, Life Extension Update
1100 West Commercial Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale FL 33309
954 766 8433 extension 7716

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