News flashes are posted here frequently to keep you up-to-date with the latest advances in health and longevity. We have an unparalleled track record of breaking stories about life extension advances.
Benfotiamine may help treat uveitis
The fat soluble form of vitamin B1 known as benfotiamine may help combat uveitis (inflammation of the eye’s uvea), one of the world’s most common causes of blindness, according to research published in the May, 2009 issue of the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.
Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston injected 12 rats with bacterial toxins that produce a reaction similar to that of human uveitis. Twelve animals served as controls. Half of the animals in the uveitis group were given benfotiamine three hours prior to and immediately following administration of the bacteria. Six animals in the control group also received benfotiamine.
Infiltrating white blood cells, and inflammatory cytokines and chemokines were elevated in the aqueous humor of the eyes of the animals in which uveitis was induced, however, these effects were blocked by benfotiamine. The researchers determined that the vitamin suppresses the activation of a signaling molecule known as nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-KB), which is involved in inflammation. Since reactive oxygen species mediate inflammatory signals associated with infectious agents, benfotiamine’s strong antioxidant action may be responsible for the downstream effects observed in this study.
"Benfotiamine strongly suppresses this eye-damaging condition and the biochemical markers we associate with it," senior author and University of Texas Medical Branch associate professor Kota V. Ramana stated. "We're optimistic that this simple supplementation with vitamin B1 has great potential as a new therapy for this widespread eye disease."
"Already, clinical trials have shown that benfotiamine is absorbed better than thiamine [the most common form of vitamin B1] and significantly improved diabetic polyneuropathy in patients, and it's already taken as a supplement for diabetic complications," he added.
Long term pomegranate consumption could help slow the growth of recurrent prostate cancer
The 104th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association, held April 25-30, 2009 in Chicago, was the site of a presentation concerning the results of a clinical trial which found that pomegranate juice retarded the progression of prostate cancer that recurred following treatment.
The trial, which was reported in the April, 2009 supplement to the Journal of Urology, included 48 patients who experienced rising levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) a marker of prostate cancer, following surgery and/or radiotherapy for prostate cancer. Beginning in 2003, subjects drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day for up to 6 years. Follow-up examinations conducted every 3 months ascertained PSA levels and other data.
Interim results published in 2006 in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, revealed an increase in the length of time it took for PSA levels to double when PSA doubling times at the beginning of the study were compared with those following treatment. The current research found that patients who elected to remain in the study experienced significantly increased time to PSA doubling and a greater decline in median PSA slope, indicating slower progression of the disease, when compared with those who did not continue treatment.
In a third phase of the trial, the effects of pomegranate juice are being compared with a placebo in a multicenter, randomized trial.
“This study suggests that pomegranate juice may effectively slow the progression of prostate cancer after unsuccessful treatment,” said Christopher Amling, MD, who is a spokesman for the American Urological Association. “This finding and other ongoing research might one day reveal that pomegranate juice is an effective prostate cancer preventative agent as well.”
Grapes protect hypertensive rats from heart failure
In a presentation at the 2009 Experimental Biology convention in New Orleans, E. Mitchell Seymour, MS, of the University of Michigan, revealed the finding of a cardioprotective effect for grapes in a rodent model of hypertension. High blood pressure can, over time, damage the heart, leading to heart failure.
A team from the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center tested the effect of a blend of powdered green, red, and black table grapes on rats bred to develop hypertension when given a high salt diet. The animals were provided with high or low salt diets and with or without 3 percent grape powder by weight. An additional group of rats provided with the high salt diet were given the blood pressure drug hydrazine.
After 18 weeks of treatment, rats on the high salt diet that received powdered grapes had reduced blood pressure, improved heart function, and less heart muscle damage compared to those that did not receive grapes. Those that received hydrazine also had a reduction in blood pressure, but the drug did not protect their hearts from damage.
In a report of the findings, which was published last year in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, the authors remark that since grapes and hydrazine both lowered blood pressure in this study, the mechanism of grapes in protecting the heart is evidently more than that of reducing hypertension. Rats that received grapes were found to have increased cardiac levels of glutathione, an antioxidant amino acid that protects the heart from hypertension-induced oxidative stress. The authors explain that “Bioavailable grape phenolic phytochemicals may activate cardiac genes, which modify glutathione dynamics, like glutathione peroxidase and glutathione-S-transferase.”
"There are the small changes that diet can bring, but the effect of grape intake on genes can have a greater impact on disease down the road," Seymour stated.
Aging biomarker associated with hypertension and coronary artery disease
The April, 2009 issue of the American Heart Association journal Hypertension published an article describing the discovery of a link between shorter telomeres and the development of coronary artery disease in men and women with high blood pressure. Telomeres are structures which cap the ends of chromosomes, helping to stabilize them. Telomere shortening limits the life span of cells, and is considered a marker of aging.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing sought to determine the relationship between telomere length and the risk and prognosis of hypertension in Chinese men and women aged 30 to 80 years. Leukocyte (white blood cell) telomere length measured in 388 participants with hypertension and 379 healthy control subjects revealed shorter telomeres in older subjects than those who were younger, and significantly shorter telomeres in those with hypertension compared with subjects whose blood pressure was normal.
Complications resulting from hypertension, including stroke, coronary artery disease, hypertensive heart disease, hypertensive renal disease, and hypertensive retinopathy were documented among the subjects over 5 years of follow-up. Participants with shorter telomeres were found to be more than three times as likely to develop coronary artery disease compared with those who had longer telomeres. Additionally, among control patients with normal blood pressure, those who developed hypertension or coronary artery disease over the course of follow-up had shorter telomeres than subjects who remained healthy. Analysis of the data confirmed that both short telomeres and high blood pressure were independent risk factors for developing coronary artery disease.
“Our data suggest that mean leukocyte telomere length is a potential predictor of coronary artery disease and support the hypothesis that differences in biological aging can contribute to the risk and variability of developing hypertension and cardiovascular diseases,” the authors conclude.
Lung tumors destroy cancer-fighting vitamin
At the 100th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, held April 18 to 22, 2009 in Denver, Pamela Hershberger, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) revealed that lung tumor cells eliminate vitamin D, a nutrient that has been associated with anti-cancer activity.
Dr Hershberger and her colleagues previously discovered that an enzyme which breaks down 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (the active form of vitamin D in the body) is significantly overexpressed in lung cancer. Inhibiting this enzyme was demonstrated to increase the potency of vitamin D3 to suppress cell growth in studies using cultured cells.
"High levels of vitamin D help the body produce proteins with anti-tumor activity," explained Dr Hershberger, who is a research assistant professor at UPCI's Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology. "We've discovered that lung cancer cells make an enzyme called CYP24, which counteracts the positive effects of vitamin D. To better study it, we developed the first radioactive-free assay that measures the amount of vitamin D in tissues and blood."
For the current research, mice that received implanted lung tumors were given 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, and tumor and plasma levels of the vitamin were analyzed periodically over the following 24 hours using the new test. The team found that the peak concentration of vitamin D achieved in the tumor induced a rapid increase in CYP24 . Analysis of the data resulted in further evidence that reduced tumor concentrations of vitamin D were attributable to increased expression of the enzyme.
"We hope this new assay will help identify the best approaches to maintain therapeutic levels of vitamin D in tissues," Dr Hershberger stated. She predicted that vitamin D could one day be used as a preventive agent for this deadly form of cancer.
Longevity-linked pathway studied
In an article published online on April 16, 2009 in the journal Science, researchers at the University of Washington report their discovery of a mechanism involved in a biochemical pathway that, like the pathway involved with calorie restriction, is associated with longevity.
Ranjana Mehta and colleagues at the University of Washington in Seattle had observed in previous research with worms that calorie restriction, which extends the life span of laboratory animals, prevents the toxic protein aggregation that occurs in the brain cells of humans with Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. In the course of their investigations, the researchers found that the hypoxic response, which is a protective reaction within the cell to a reduction in oxygen levels, is a separate longevity pathway than that associated with calorie restriction. Worms that have the ability to active the hypoxic response live longer and are free of toxic protein aggregation.
The hypoxic response is controlled by a protein known as HIF. When HIF is degraded in reaction to another protein known as VHL-1, the hypoxic response remains inhibited when oxygen levels are adequate. In the current research, Dr Mehta and his associates found that worms bred to lack VHL-1 lived 30 percent longer than worms that made the protein. The worms were also found to be resistant to the toxic protein amyloid beta that aggregates in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients, and to have lower levels of the age-related pigment lipofuscin.
"This is a completely new pathway for aging and age-associated disease,” noted senior author Dr Matt Kaeberlein, who is an assistant professor of pathology at the University of Washington. “If we can understand at a very detailed level how HIF is slowing aging, we may be able to use that information to develop effective therapies for treating age-associated diseases in people."
Melatonin helps manage sleep disorders in autistic children
The April 15, 2009 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported that supplementation with the hormone melatonin reduce the time it takes for children with autism spectrum disorder and/or fragile X syndrome to fall asleep. Fragile X syndrome is the most common form of inherited mental retardation as well as the most common known cause of autism, and is, along with autism, frequently associated with problems falling asleep and staying asleep.
"Sleep onset problems at the beginning of the night are very troublesome for children and their families," commented lead researcher Beth L. Goodlin-Jones, PhD of the Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders ( M.I.N.D.) Institute at the University of California Davis Health System in Sacramento. "Sometimes children may take one to two hours to fall asleep and often they disrupt the household during this time."
Acting on the hypothesis that children with autism and fragile X-related sleep disorders may have abnormal melatonin levels, Dr Goodlin-Jones and her associates enrolled 5 children with autism, 3 with fragile X syndrome, 3 with both conditions, and 1 with fragile X permutation. Participants were randomized to receive 3 milligrams melatonin or a placebo before bedtime for two weeks, after which the treatments were switched for another two weeks. Sleep duration, sleep onset time, sleep onset latency time, and number of night awakenings were assessed prior to and during the treatment period. Children who received melatonin were found to sleep for an average of 21 minutes longer, with a 28 minute reduction in sleep latency time and a 42 minute earlier sleep onset time compared to those who received a placebo.
Dr Jones remarked that treatment with melatonin can benefit children of any age. Your child’s pediatrician should be consulted before initiating melatonin as a treatment for insomnia.
Review finds nuts, vegetables and Mediterranean diet associated with lower heart disease risk
A review of 189 studies published in the April 13, 2009 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine identified a Mediterranean diet pattern, as well as vegetables and nuts, as protective against coronary heart disease. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, whole grains, cheese or yogurt, fish, and monounsaturated fats relative to saturated fatty acids, and has been associated with heart disease protection in a number of studies.
Andrew Mente, PhD, of the Population Health Research Institute and his associates selected 43 randomized controlled trials and 146 prospective cohort studies concerning the effect of diet on coronary or ischemic heart disease and fatal or nonfatal heart attack for their review. Pooled analysis of the data revealed a protective effect for vegetables, nuts, monounsaturated fatty acids, and Mediterranean and high-quality dietary patterns, as well as harmful effects for trans–fatty acids, high glycemic index foods, and a western dietary pattern. A modest protective effect was observed for fish, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, whole grains, alcohol, fruits, fiber, vitamins E and C, and beta-carotene.
"The relationship between dietary factors and coronary heart disease has been a major focus of health research for almost half a century," the authors write in their introduction, yet they add that “the strength of the evidence supporting valid associations has not been evaluated systematically in a single investigation."
"Although investigations of dietary components may help to shed light on mechanisms behind the benefits of dietary patterns, it is unlikely that modifying the intake of a few nutrients or foods would substantially influence coronary outcomes," they conclude. "Our findings support the strategy of investigating dietary patterns in cohort studies and randomized controlled trials for common and complex chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease."
Soy isoflavones improve menopausal syndromes in animal model
An article published online on April 9, 2009 in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism reported the finding of researchers at National Chiayi University in Taiwan that soy aglycons of isoflavone (SAI) help improve some of the syndromes associated with menopause in a rat model. According to background information provided in the article, “Among the molecules of soy isoflavones, aglycon forms of genistein and daidzein are absorbed faster by humans and in higher amounts than their glucosides.” The researchers hope that soy supplementation could provide an alternative to hormone replacement therapy.
Robin Chiou and colleagues tested the effects of the compounds on rats whose ovaries had been removed in order to imitate the process that occurs during menopause in humans when estrogen production drops. Ten rats received diets enhanced with a low amount of SAI, 10 received a high amount, and 10 received control diets for three months. Ten rats that were given sham operations were additionally provided with control diets.
While ovariectomized rats had higher cholesterol levels than those that received sham surgeries, rats received the high SAI diet experienced a reduction in total and LDL cholesterol and an increase in HDL cholesterol to levels that exceeded those of the animals with intact ovaries. The antioxidant enzyme catalase was higher in the livers of animals that received the SAI compared to the controls, and oxidative stress was reduced. The degeneration of the vaginal lining that occurred in the ovariectomized rats was improved among animals that received SAI.
"These ovariectomized animals are a good model for study of the menopause as the loss of estrogen from the ovaries mimics the natural reduction in estrogen seen in menopausal women,” commented Dr Chiou. “SAI itself has weak estrogenic properties and we've shown here that menopause-related syndromes can be prevented or improved by dietary supplementation with the compounds it contains.”
Flushing not necessary for niacin benefits
In an article published online on April 6, 2009 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers from Duke University Medical Center report that the flushing elicited by the B vitamin niacin is caused by a separate pathway than the one responsible for niacin’s cardiovascular benefits. Niacin, or vitamin B3, can help lower triglycerides, fatty acids, and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, while elevating high density lipoprotein cholesterol, however, some individuals cannot tolerate the flushing associated with niacin supplementation. The current finding could spark renewed interest in niacin as an inexpensive and relatively safe means of managing cholesterol.
Dermatologist Robert Walters, MD, along with Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Robert Lefkowitz, MD and associates conducted a series of experiments to explore niacin’s pathways in the body. Although it had been known that niacin initially activates the G protein coupled receptor GP109A which activates other proteins, the researchers discovered that one of these activated proteins, a member of the beta-arrestin group known as beta-arrestin1, triggers the reaction that leads to flushing.
"Niacin stimulates production of a vasodilator that dramatically increases blood flow to the face, causing the flush and the hot, prickly sensation – and beta-arrestin1 is the culprit that enables that to happen," Dr Walters explained. "Interestingly, however, beta-arrestin1 plays no role whatsoever in niacin's ability to lower cholesterol and fatty acids. The G proteins do that."
The finding could lead to the development of a drug that would activate GP109A without triggering beta-arrestins. "This opens up whole new realms for drug discovery," Dr Walters remarked. “Not only could it lead to new niacin-based therapies for cholesterol that patients could actually stick with, but it could also mean new treatments for flushing that comes with some types of allergic reactions, hives and other disorders."
Positive health behaviors improve head and neck cancer survival
In an article published online on March 16, 2009 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, University of Michigan School of Nursing associate professor Sonia Duffy, PhD, RN and her associates reveal that head and neck cancer patients who engaged in four healthy habits before being diagnosed with the disease lived longer than those who did not practice these behaviors.
The current study included 504 patients who took part in the University of Michigan Head and Neck Cancer Specialized
Program of Research Excellence (SPORE ) prospective cohort study. Participants were periodically surveyed over up to five and a half years of follow-up concerning their smoking status, alcohol intake, exercise habits, diet, physical activity level, and sleep habits. During this time, 166 deaths occurred. Smoking had the greatest negative impact on survival, with current smokers and former smokers experiencing double the risk of dying compared to nonsmokers. Excessive drinking, low fruit intake, and poor physical activity levels were also associated with reduced survival, however, controlling for other factors reduced these risks. Sleep and vegetable intake were not found to be linked to mortality.
"While there has been a recent emphasis on biomarkers and genes that might be linked to cancer survival, the health habits a person has at diagnosis play a major role in his or her survival," Dr Duffy observed. "Health behaviors are only sporadically addressed in busy oncology clinics where the major focus is on surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Addressing health behaviors may enhance the survival advantage offered by these treatments."
"Eating fruits and vegetables, not smoking and drinking in moderation can have a big impact on a person's risk of getting cancer in the first place,” Dr Duffy noted. “Now it appears that these factors also impact survival after diagnosis.”
Beneficial olive oil compound identified
In an article published online on April 2, 2009 in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, Portuguese researchers announced the identification of a known antioxidant compound in olives as the major source of the cardiovascular benefits associated with olive oil consumption.
Fatima Paiva-Martins and associates at the Universidade do Porto compared the effects of varying doses of four polyphenolic olive compounds: oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, and two oleuropein aglycones known as 3,4-DHPEA-EA and 3,4-DHPEA-EDA, on red blood cells exposed to oxidative stress via a free radical-producing compound. Oxidative stress caused by reactive oxygen, including free radicals, contributes to atherosclerosis via the oxidation of low density lipoprotein cholesterol. The high oxygen content of red blood cells renders them particularly vulnerable to damage or destruction (hemolysis) from oxidative stress.
The research team found that while all of the olive oil compounds showed an ability to help protect red blood cells from oxidative injury, 3,4-DHPEA-EDA emerged as the most effective compound, even at the lowest concentration tested. Hydroxytyrosol was also significantly protective.
“For the first time, it was demonstrated that 3,4-DHPEA-EDA, one of the most important olive oil polyphenols, may play a noteworthy protective role against reactive oxygen species-induced oxidative injury in human cells since lower doses of this compound were needed to protect red blood cells in vitro from oxidative mediated hemolysis,” the authors conclude.
"These findings provide the scientific basis for the clear health benefits that have been seen in people who have olive oil in their diet," Dr Paiva-Martins stated. “Now we have identified the importance of these compounds, producers can start to care more about the polyphenolic composition of their oils."
Protective effect of nutritional supplements evident a decade later
The April 1, 2009 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the outcome of research conducted by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing and the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, which found a continued protective effect for a specific nutritional supplement combination on all cause mortality over a ten year period.
The current study included participants in the General Population Nutrition Intervention Trial of 29,584 residents of Linxian, China, conducted between 1985 to 1991. This trial tested the effects of eight combinations of nine vitamin and minerals on the risk of esophageal and gastric cardia cancer, concerning which the residents of Linxian have some of the highest rates in the world. The trial found that “factor D”, which included 50 micrograms selenium, 30 milligrams vitamin E and 15 milligrams beta-carotene, was associated with a reduction in all cause mortality, as well as total cancer and gastric cancer mortality.
From the beginning of the trial through May, 2001, 9,727 deaths occurred, including 3,242 from cancer, 1,515 from esophageal cancer, and 1,199 from gastric cancer. Subjects who received factor D had a 5 percent lower risk of dying from all causes than those who did not receive this combination. The effect was observed mainly among participants younger than 55 years.
“In summary, 10 years of postintervention follow-up of participants in this cancer prevention trial demonstrated the durability of previously observed beneficial effects on mortality from supplementation with selenium, vitamin E, and beta-carotene,” the authors conclude. “The persistence of risk reduction for up to 10 years after treatment in this trial reinforces the validity of the original trial findings and is consistent with an emerging new paradigm in cancer prevention, namely, that prevention may be achievable with short-term as opposed to life-long treatment.”