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.
Tea compound extends lifespan in roundworm
In the June, 2010 issue of the Journal of Gerontology A: Biological Sciences, researchers at Humboldt-Universität in Berlin report an ability of tannic acid, a polyphenol that occurs in tea, red wine, grapes and nuts, to prolong the life span of Caenorhabditis elegans, a roundworm that has been the subject of a number of longevity experiments.
Nadine Saul and her associates exposed worms maintained at 20 degrees Celsius to varying concentrations of tannic acid. A 100 micromole concentration proved to be the most effective at prolonging life, resulting in an extension in median and mean life span of 18 percent. The dose was effective in all tested temperatures, with the greatest benefit occurring at 23 degrees C, which resulted in a mean life span increase of 47.2 percent compared with controls. Additionally, this dose was the only concentration that consistently enhanced oxidative stress resistance.
The authors remark that a reduction in oxidative stress is unlikely to be the mechanism of tannic acid in improving survival. Among possible mechanisms is the mimicry by tannic acid of a pathogen, which activates a pathway that enhances resistance to pathogenic stress. Another potential mechanism is the hormesis effect, defined as a benefit that arises due to mild stress, in contrast with a detrimental effect elicited by higher doses. Indeed, in the current study, the highest dose of tannic acid resulted in decreased life span compared to the controls. An additional hypothesis suggested by the authors is described by the Disposable Soma Theory, which explains aging by the finite energy supply available to organisms which is insufficient to continually maintain the body in a constant state of repair. The reduction in growth observed in the animals treated with tannic acid in this study could have rendered available the extra energy needed to more adequately maintain the body, resulting in longer life.
“Additional pathways and mechanisms of action are likely to support TA-mediated longevity, which are subject to future investigations,” the authors conclude.
Increased folic acid supplementation during pregnancy may afford greater protection against fetal alcohol syndrome
Research described in an article published online on May 10, 2010 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has found a protective effect for above average amounts of the B vitamin folic acid in an animal model of fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition in which heart birth defects occur in infants whose mothers consumed alcohol during early pregnancy.
Kersti Linask, PhD and her associates at the University of South Florida College of Medicine and All Children's Hospital fed groups of mice high (10.5 milligrams per kilogram), moderate (6.2 mg/kg) or normal (3.3 mg/kg) amounts of folate starting the day after conception. All of the animals received injections of ethanol during the first week of their pregnancies to simulate a binge drinking event in humans.
Ultrasound examination of the embryos on the animals’ 15th day of pregnancy found that mice that were given an amount of folic acid equivalent to what women normally receive had smaller embryos with thinner heart muscle walls and heart valve defects. While embryos belonging to mice that received high amounts of folic acid were nearly normal in size and were protected against lasting heart defects, just over than half of the embryos that developed in the mice that received the moderate dose were protected.
"Congenital heart defects can occur in the developing embryo at a time when women typically do not even know they are pregnant – 16 to 18 days following conception,” stated Dr Linask, who is the Mason Professor of Cardiovascular Development at USF. “They may have been drinking alcohol or using prescription drugs without realizing this could be affecting embryonic development. We found that we could prevent alcohol-associated defects from arising in the mice -- provided folate was given in relatively high concentrations very early in pregnancy around conception."
Melatonin decline implicated in post-brain injury insomnia
In the May 25, 2010, issue of the journal Neurology, scientists from Monash University in Victoria, Australia report that a decrease in the hormone melatonin could be responsible for sleep disturbances reported by individuals with brain injuries. Melatonin production normally increases with the onset of darkness, and is responsible for sleepiness as well in addition to playing a role in immune function.
For their research, Shantha Rajaratnam, PhD and colleagues matched 23 people who had undergone a severe traumatic brain injury 288 to 430 days prior to the study with 23 healthy people of the same gender and age. All participants spent two nights in a sleep laboratory, during which sleep patterns were evaluated using polysomnography.
Brain injured participants spent an average of 62 per minutes per night awake after initially falling asleep, in contrast with the healthy group who spent 27 minutes. The injured group had less REM (rapid eye-movement) sleep than uninjured participants, and spent 24 percent of sleep time in non-REM, or slow-wake sleep, compared to 20 percent in the healthy group.
Subjects with brain injuries reported more symptoms of depression and anxiety, and more sleep disturbance than the healthy group. After controlling the analysis for both anxiety and depression, sleep quality remained lower in those with brain injury, however, controlling for depression scores only uncovered an association between depression and decreased sleep quality.
Evening melatonin production was found to be lower in the brain injured group. "We've known that people often have problems with sleep after a brain injury, but we haven't known much about the exact causes of these problems," Dr Rajaratnam stated. "These results suggest that the brain injury may disrupt the brain structures that regulate sleep, including the production of melatonin. Future studies should examine whether taking supplemental melatonin can improve sleep in people with brain injuries."
Ginger helps relieve sore muscles
Professor Patrick J. O’Connor of the University of Georgia’s College of Medicine and his associates compared the effects of daily supplementation with ginger or a placebo in two double-blinded clinical trials. In the first trial, 34 participants received 2 grams raw ginger or a placebo for 11 days. On the eighth day of the trial, the subjects performed 18 eccentric actions of the elbow flexors with a heavy weight. Pain intensity, perceived effort, arm volume, range of motion, strength, and plasma prostaglandin E2 (a mediator of inflammation), were evaluated prior to and on the three days following the exercise regimen. The second trial was identical to the first, with exception that the ginger was heat-treated, which has been suggested to enhance its pain-relieving effects.
Subjects who received ginger experienced a 25 percent reduction in pain 24 hours after exercising. Heat treatment appeared to provide no further benefit. Ginger also impacted other factors measured following exercise; however, the effects were smaller. “This study demonstrates that daily consumption of raw and heat-treated ginger resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain following exercise-induced muscle injury,” the authors conclude. “Our findings agree with those showing hypoalgesic effects of ginger in osteoarthritis patients and further demonstrate ginger's effectiveness as a pain reliever.”
“The economic and personal costs of pain are extremely high,” observed Dr O’Connor. “Muscle pain generally is one of the most common types of pain and eccentric exercise-induced muscle pain specifically is a common type of injury related to sports and/or recreation (e.g., gardening). Anything that can truly relieve this type of pain will be greatly welcomed by the many people who are experiencing it.”
Youth hormone could reduce vascular inflammation
A report published in the May 14, 2010 issue of the American Heart Association journal Circulation Research describes the discovery of Professor David Beech of the University of Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences and his colleagues of an inhibitory effect of the steroid hormone pregnenolone sulphate on the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in vascular smooth muscle cells.
The authors note that in development, injury and disease, smooth muscle cells undergo increased proliferation, motility and secretion, in addition to decreased contractility. This phenomenon plays an important role in vascular diseases and in the remodeling that occurs following invasive vascular procedures. The current research explored the role of a cellular transmembrane calcium-permeable ion channel known as transient receptor potential melastatin (TRPM)3 in vascular smooth muscle cells. Dr Beech's team found that the administration of pregnenolone sulfate to cultures of these cells resulted in a rise in intracellular calcium ions which was dependent on extracellular calcium, demonstrating activation of TRPM3; however, TRPM3 was revealed to be partly suppressed by endogenous cholesterol, which is a precursor of pregnenolone.
In vascular smooth muscle cells derived from nine patients, pregnenolone sulphate suppressed the secretion of interleukin-6, which is generated during bypass surgery and stimulates atherosclerosis. "The observed pregnenolone sulfate responses suggest a mechanistic foundation for considering pregnenolone sulfate as a naturally occurring substance for use therapeutically to suppress unwanted vascular inflammation without the adverse effects of glucocorticoids," the authors write. "Effects on proliferating vascular smooth muscle cells occurred at concentrations that have been readily achieved in individuals after oral administration of pregnenolone, which is sulfated in vivo. Other TRPM3-mediated benefits of pregnenolone sulfate would be expected, including enhanced insulin secretion in hyperglycemia. Pregnenolone has been described as a fountain of youth, but rigorous clinical trials are needed to determine its true efficacy and safety."
"The effect that we have seen is really quite exciting and also unexpected," Dr Beech remarked. "These 'fountain of youth' steroids are relatively cheap to make and some of them are already available as commercial products. So if we can show that this effect works in people as well as in lab-based studies, then it could be a cost-effective approach to addressing cardiovascular health problems that are becoming epidemic in our society and world-wide."
Resveratrol helps regulate body fat
In an article published online on May 12, 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the University of Ulm in Germany report an ability of resveratrol to inhibit the growth of fat cells (adipocytes) in human cell cultures.
In their introduction to the article, Martin Wabitsch and his associates note that calorie restriction, in addition to delaying age-related diseases and death, also results in reduced white adipose (fat) tissue, increased insulin sensitivity and lowered body temperature. While reductions in oxidative stress, DNA damage and apoptosis had long been considered to be the mechanisms by which calorie restriction slows aging, current research points to the activation of proteins known as sirtuins as a critical factor. “Ongoing studies now show that the response to calorie restriction is a highly regulated process, and Sir2 has been identified as the key molecular player,” the authors write. “Resveratrol may protect against diet-induced obesity and metabolic diseases such as hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance by activating sirtuin 1, the mammalian homolog of yeast Sir2.”
By studying human fat cells in culture, the researchers demonstrated an ability of resveratrol to inhibit the proliferation of preadipocytes and their differentiation into adipocytes that was dependent upon Sirt-1. Additionally, resveratrol was shown to break down fat and inhibit the formation of fat. Resveratrol also reduced the secretion in preadipocytes of inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 and interleukin-8, which are increased in obesity.
“Taken together, our data suggest that resveratrol influences adipose tissue mass and function in a way that may positively interfere with the development of obesity-related comorbidities,” the authors conclude. “Thus, our findings open up the new perspective that resveratrol-induced intracellular pathways could be a target for prevention or treatment of obesity-associated endocrine and metabolic adverse effects.”
Adequate calcium during youth may help prevent osteoporosis and obesity
A presentation by North Carolina State University associate professor of animal science Dr Chad Stahl at the Experimental Biology 2010 meeting held last month in Anaheim, California revealed the outcome of an animal study which suggests that consuming enough calcium early in life could help prevent the development of obesity and osteoporosis later.
Dr Stahl and his colleagues divided 24 newborn pigs to receive calcium deficient or normal diets for 18 days. At the end of the treatment period, bone density and strength were reduced in the calcium deficient pigs compared to those who received an adequate amount of the mineral. Culturing of mesenchymal stem cells derived from the bone marrow of the deficient pigs revealed that numerous cells were programmed to become fat cells rather than bone-forming cells. Because these cells normally multiply to provide bone-forming cells for the remainder of life, early calcium deficiency could create a predisposition to weaker bones and a greater incidence of obesity.
“While the importance of calcium nutrition throughout childhood and adolescence is well-recognized, our work suggests that calcium nutrition of the neonate may be of greater importance to lifelong bone health, due to its programming effects on mesenchymal stem cells,” Dr Stahl stated. “It also points to a potential paradigm shift in which health professionals might want to begin thinking about osteoporosis not so much as a disease of the elderly, but instead as a pediatric disease with later onset.”
“For me, the biggest message is that calcium nutrition, or mineral nutrition as a whole, needs to be a priority from day one,” he observed. “Early life nutrition is setting children up physiologically for the rest of their lives.”
Folic acid improves vascular function in young female runners
The May, 2010 issue of Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine reported the finding of professor of orthopedic surgery Anne Hoch, DO of the Medical College of Wisconsin and her associates of an improvement in vascular function in amenorrheic young athletes supplemented with folic acid. Young female athletes who have low calorie intake and body fat often stop menstruating or have irregular cycles due to a decline in estrogen levels similar to that experienced by postmenopausal women. Because of estrogen’s protective effect on the heart prior to menopause, a drop in estrogen correlates with a risk of developing early heart disease. The prevalence of amenorrhea in the 3 million female high school athletes and 23 million women runners is estimated at 44 percent, which puts a significant number of women at risk of vascular dysfunction.
The study included 10 menstruating women and 10 amenorrheic women between the ages of 18 and 35 who ran 20 miles per week or more over the past year. Participants were given 10 milligrams oral folic acid daily for 4 weeks. Brachial artery flow mediated dilation (FMD) was measured before and after the treatment period to assess vascular function. "The earliest sign of heart disease can be measured by reduced dilation in the brachial artery of the arm in response to blood flow,” Dr Hoch explained. “Reduced vascular dilation can limit oxygen uptake and affect performance.”
While amenorrheic women had FMD values that were similar to postmenopausal women at the beginning of the study, vascular function normalized after 4 weeks of supplementation with folic acid. No change was observed in the menstruating women.
“This study demonstrates that brachial artery FMD, an indicator of vascular endothelial function, improves in amenorrheic female runners after short-term supplementation with folic acid,” the authors conclude.
The May 10, 2010 issue of the American Medical Association journal Archives of Internal Medicine reported the outcome of a pooled analysis of trials conducted in seven countries which found that greater nut consumption was associated with a reduction in total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), which, when elevated, are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
For their review, Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH of Loma Linda University and her colleagues selected 25 trials involving a total of 583 participants with high or normal cholesterol levels who were not using lipid-lowering drugs. Pooled analysis of the data uncovered an average reduction in total cholesterol of 5.1 percent, a 7.4 reduction in LDL-C, and a 10.2 percent decrease in triglycerides in those with high levels among those assigned to a diet that contained nuts in comparison with those assigned to a control diet. Ratios of LDL to HDL cholesterol and total cholesterol to HDL also improved. The amount of nuts consumed averaged 2.4 ounces, and included almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios and walnuts.
"The effects of nut consumption were dose related, and different types of nuts had similar effects on blood lipid levels," the authors write. "The effects of nut consumption were significantly modified by LDL-C, body mass index and diet type: the lipid-lowering effects of nut consumption were greatest among subjects with high baseline LDL-C and with low body mass index and among those consuming Western diets."
"Nuts are a whole food that have been consumed by humans throughout history” the authors conclude. “Increasing the consumption of nuts as part of an otherwise prudent diet can be expected to favorably affect blood lipid levels (at least in the short term) and have the potential to lower coronary heart disease risk."
Higher amount of vitamin D recommended for pregnant women
The outcome of a two part study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting held in Vancouver, British Columbia, suggests that consuming supplements containing 4,000 international units vitamin D is not only safe for pregnant women, but could help prevent preterm labor and births, as well as infections.
A team including Medical University of South Carolina pediatric researcher Carol L. Wagner, MD and vitamin D researcher Bruce W. Hollis, PhD randomized 494 pregnant women at 12 to 16 weeks gestation to receive 400 international units (IU), 2,000 IU, or 4,000 IU vitamin D per day until delivery. Monthly blood tests of vitamin D, calcium and other factors were conducted to ensure safety, and complications, such as preterm labor and birth, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and infections, were noted.
Three hundred fifty women continued their regimens until delivery. "No adverse events related to vitamin D dosing were found in any of the three arms of the study," Dr Wagner reported. "The spectacular part of the study was it showed women replete in vitamin D had lower rates of preterm labor and preterm birth, and lower rates of infection."
The greatest benefits occurred in women who received 4,000 IU vitamin D per day, who had a risk of pregnancy complications that was half that of those who received 400 international units. Additionally, infants born to women in this group had the highest serum levels of vitamin D. “To attain a minimal 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of 40 nanograms/milliliter, we recommend 4000 IU/day for all pregnant women,” the authors write.
Recent research has found widespread vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women. "Diet doesn't provide enough vitamin D, and we don't go in the sun as much as we need," Dr. Wagner noted.
DHA supplementation associated with memory improvement
An article published online on April 30, 2010 in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association reports a benefit for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation in a clinical trial of individuals with age-related cognitive decline (ARC).
The report summarized the outcome of The Memory Improvement with Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) Study (MIDAS) of 485 individuals aged 55 and older with mild memory complaints. Participants were given a daily dose of 900 milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA derived from algae or a placebo for 6 months. Testing of memory and learning was conducted at the beginning of the study, and at 12 and 24 weeks.
At the end of the treatment period, plasma DHA levels had doubled in the group that received the omega-3 fatty acid, correlating with improved test scores. While there were no significant differences in scores between the two groups at 12 weeks, 24 weeks of DHA supplementation produced a 2-fold reduction in the number of visuospatial learning and episodic memory errors compared to the placebo. Those who received DHA made an amount of errors equivalent on average to someone 72.6 years old before the trial and to 65.6 years of age after 24 weeks of supplementation, in contrast with those who received the placebo who experienced a 3.6 year reduction.
"Our results are the first to clinically confirm that DHA significantly improves episodic memory and learning functions in healthy adults with ARC," the authors announce.
"Up to one third of the more than 75 million baby boomers in the U.S. will experience a gradual decline in cognitive function as they age," noted coauthor Edward B. Nelson, MD. "MIDAS is significant because it shows for the first time that taking 900 mg of algal DHA daily may have a very meaningful and important impact on cognitive function in the aging population."
Tart cherry consumption linked with lowered inflammation
Research reported on April 27, 2010 at the Experimental Biology annual meeting in Anaheim, California adds evidence to an association between consuming tart cherries and a lower level of inflammation.
In one study, 10 overweight or obese men and women were provided with 8 ounces of tart cherry juice or a placebo beverage daily for four weeks, followed by a 4 week period during which the beverages were switched. Triglyceride and very low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, along with several markers of inflammation, were found to be lower after cherry juice was consumed compared with the placebo.
In another study, University of Michigan researchers Mitch Seymour, PhD and colleagues gave a “Western diet” containing a high amount of fat and a moderate amount of carbohydrate to rats bred to develop obesity. Some of the rats also received freeze-dried tart cherry powder, while the remainder received added carbohydrate in the form of glucose and fructose for 90 days. At the end of the treatment period, animals that received the cherry-enhanced diet had lower serum glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol than the control animals, as well as reduced plasma tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6, both of which are associated with inflammation. Body weight, total fat mass, and abdominal fat pad weight were also lower in the cherry-fed group, and abdominal fat and cardiac nuclear factor kappa-beta activity and tumor necrosis factor-alpha levels were reduced, indicating less inflammation at sites known to affect heart disease risk.
"Chronic inflammation is a whole body condition that can affect overall health, especially when it comes to the heart," Dr Seymour commented. "This study offers further promise that foods rich in antioxidants, such as cherries, could potentially reduce inflammation and have the potential to lower disease risk."