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.
Natural compounds have aphrodisiac benefits
A review published online on March 5, 2011 in the journal Food Research International reports aphrodisiac properties for several herbs while busting the myths surrounding chocolate and wine, which may benefit the cardiovascular system, but won’t enhance performance.
John Melnyk and Massimo Marcone of Guelph University in Canada evaluated available scientific evidence for several plant and animal sources, including ambrein from ambergris, Bufo toad, Spanish fly, yohimbine, Tribulus terrestris, horny goat weed, muira puama, maca root, Panax ginseng, nutmeg, saffron, alcohol and cacao (chocolate).
The duo found effects that ranged from potentially dangerous (Spanish fly and Bufo toad) to those whose influence on human arousal or performance may be largely due to a placebo effect. Although animal studies support benefits for some of the compounds on relaxing corpus cavernous smooth muscle and increasing sexual behavior and erection quality, only the herbs ginseng, saffron and yohimbine were demonstrated to improve erection quality in human males. Alcohol, while increasing arousal in humans, has an adverse effect on performance. And although many people attribute an aphrodisiac effect to chocolate, the scientific evidence for its support was found to be lacking. "It may be that some people feel an effect from certain ingredients in chocolate, mainly phenylethylamine, which can affect serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain," Dr Marcone remarked.
Dr Marcone emphasized the need for natural aphrodisiacs without the side effects of commonly prescribed drugs Viagra and Cialis. "These drugs can produce headache, muscle pain and blurred vision, and can have dangerous interactions with other medications,” he noted. “They also do not increase libido, so it doesn't help people experiencing low sex drive."
"Aphrodisiacs have been used for thousands of years all around the world, but the science behind the claims has never been well understood or clearly reported," Dr Marcone noted. "Ours is the most thorough scientific review to date. Nothing has been done on this level of detail before now."
High altitude associated with fewer cardiovascular disease deaths
In the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, researchers from the University of Colorado and the Harvard School of Global Health report an association between living at a higher altitude and a reduced risk of dying from ischemic heart disease and other causes. The study is one of the most comprehensive of its kind to date.
University of Colorado School of Medicine professor of Emergency Medicine Benjamin Honigman, MD and colleagues reviewed death certifications from all U.S. counties to determine cause of death. Of the top 20 counties with the highest life expectancy for men, eleven were located in Colorado and Utah, as were five for women. The counties had a mean elevation of 5,967 feet above sea level. Men residing in these counties lived 1.2 to 3.6 years longer and women lived 0.5 to 2.5 years longer than those near sea level. When deaths were analyzed by cause, living at a high altitude was associated with a lower risk of dying of ischemic heart disease and a greater risk of death from pulmonary disease. Although adjustment for the increase in solar radiation that occurs at high altitudes (which increases vitamin D synthesis), as well as other factors weakened the association between altitude and longevity, Dr Honigman concluded that altitude nevertheless appears to offer protection against cardiovascular mortality and possibly other diseases such as cancer.
"If living in a lower oxygen environment such as in our Colorado mountains helps reduce the risk of dying from heart disease it could help us develop new clinical treatments for those conditions," Dr Honigman stated. "Lower oxygen levels turn on certain genes and we think those genes may change the way heart muscles function. They may also produce new blood vessels that create new highways for blood flow into the heart."
High fiber diet linked with reduced lifetime cardiovascular disease risk
On March 23, 2011 at the American Heart Association’s Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention Scientific Sessions 2011 held in Atlanta, Hongyan Ning, MD of Northwestern University reported a protective effect of increased fiber intake against the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The research is the first to demonstrate the heart-protective effect of fiber on lifetime heart disease risk.
Dr Ning and her colleagues analyzed data from 11,079 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2008. The participants consisted of men and women over the age of 20, with an average age of 46.3 years. Information on diet, blood pressure, total cholesterol, smoking status and diabetes history was used to predict lifetime cardiovascular disease risk. Fiber intake among participants ranged from 0.1 to 49.1 grams per 1,000 calorie intake.
“The results are pretty amazing,” Dr Ning revealed. “Younger (20 to 39 years) and middle-aged (40 to 59 years) adults with the highest fiber intake, compared to those with the lowest fiber intake, showed a statistically significant lower lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease.”
“In adults 60 to 79 years, dietary fiber intake was not significantly associated with a reduction in lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease,” she noted. “It’s possible that the beneficial effect of dietary fiber may require a long period of time to achieve, and older adults may have already developed significant risk for heart disease before starting a high-fiber diet.”
“It’s long been known that high-fiber diets can help people lose weight, lower cholesterol and improve hypertension,” added coauthor Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, who is a cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “The results of this study make a lot of sense because weight, cholesterol and hypertension are major determinants of your long-term risk for cardiovascular disease.”
Preliminary trial finds superoxide dismutase-boosting therapy safe for chemoradiation patients
In an article published in the March, 2001 issue of the journal Human Gene Therapy, Joel S. Greenberger, MD and his colleagues conclude that it is safe for lung cancer patients to receive a treatment that increases the production of superoxide dismutase (SOD), which could help to protect their esophageal tissues from the harmful effects of radiation therapy.
The study tested the effect of a 0.3, 3.0 or 30 milligram twice per week dose of manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) plasmid liposome in combination with seven weeks of chemotherapy and radiation in 17 patients with inoperable non-small cell lung cancer. The treatment, which is absorbed by the cells in the esophagus, consists of fat droplets that contain the gene that produces manganese superoxide dismutase, one of the body’s antioxidants. No significant side effects were found to occur in association with treatment. If further testing demonstrates efficacy for the product against inflammation of the esophagus due to radiation therapy, it could enable lung cancer patients to more readily tolerate treatment. "If we can sufficiently protect tissues that are normal, we should be able to deliver our cancer treatments more effectively and perhaps even at higher doses," explained Dr Greenberger, who is the professor and chair of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Department of Radiation Oncology. "Our aim is to improve the quality of life of patients by minimizing side effects while providing the best treatment for their cancers."
"The results of this initial trial indicate that MnSOD plasmid liposome can be safely administered," he concluded. "It did not linger in normal cells after treatment, nor did it protect cancer cells from radiation treatment. The next study, which is underway at UPCI, is to determine whether it protects normal tissue, particularly the esophagus, from radiation exposure."
Nordic diet associated with reduction in all cause mortality over 12 year period
Although a Mediterranean diet has been recently popularized as a means of living a healthier and longer life, a report published in the April, 2011 Journal of Nutrition reveals that a greater intake of traditional healthy Nordic foods also improves survival over a given period of time.
Anja Olsen of the Danish Cancer Society and colleagues evaluated data from 23,274 men and 27,016 women who participated in the Diet, Cancer and Health Study, which was designed to assess the role of diet in the development of cancer. Subjects included in the current study were free of cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease upon enrollment. Questionnaires completed at the beginning of the study were scored for the intake of fish, cabbages, whole grain rye bread, oatmeal, apples and pears and root vegetables.
Over twelve years of follow-up, 4,126 deaths were documented. For each one point higher diet adherence score there was a 4 percent lower adjusted risk of mortality for men and women over follow-up. Comparison of highest scores to lowest revealed a 36 percent lower risk of dying for men whose adherence to the diet was greatest.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study associating a healthy Nordic food index with mortality,” the authors announce. “The 4% lower mortality associated with a 1-point higher score is very similar to the lower mortality seen with the Mediterranean diet score, where a recent meta-analysis reported 9% lower mortality associated with a 2-point higher score.”
“Even though it is difficult to directly generalize the results from the present study to other populations with different food cultures, our study implicates that healthy traditional food items are important to consider in all populations before recommendations for major changes are made,” they conclude.
Omega-3 fatty acids, nuts associated with reduction in the risk of dying of an inflammatory disease
An article published online on March 16, 2011 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports the results of research conducted by Paul Mitchell at the University of Sydney and his colleagues which uncovered a protective effect for a greater intake of omega-3 fatty acids and nuts against death from inflammatory disease.
The current investigation utilized data from 2,514 participants in the Blue Mountains Eye Study, which evaluated eye diseases and other health conditions in older Australians. Questionnaires administered upon enrollment were analyzed for omega-3, nut and fish intake. Causes of death over follow-up classified as inflammatory disease-related included infectious diseases, hematologic/immunologic diseases, endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases; nervous system diseases, musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders, skin disease, genitourinary disease and others.
The subjects were followed for ten years, during which 214 deaths from inflammatory diseases occurred. For women whose intake of total omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids was among the top two-thirds of participants, there was a 44 percent lower risk of dying of an inflammatory disease compared to those whose intake was among the lowest third. This benefit was not evident in men. When the omega-3 intake was analyzed according to type, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), but not EPA or DHA was shown to be dose-dependently protective for both men and women. Nut consumption was also protective, with those whose intake was among the middle one-third of subjects experiencing a 51 percent lower risk of dying of an inflammatory disease compared to those whose intake was lowest.
“In women, increased dietary intake of total omega-3 fatty acids could contribute to an appreciable reduction in the risk of noncardiovascular, noncancer inflammatory disease mortality,” the authors conclude. “Modest consumption of nuts conferred a protective effect against inflammatory disease mortality; several bioactive components present in nuts may account for this beneficial effect.”
Meta-analysis finds significant association between higher vitamin D levels and intake and reduced risk of colorectal cancer
In an article published online on March 4, 2011 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers at Imperial College London report the results of a meta-analysis which concludes that having high serum vitamin D levels or high vitamin D intake is associated with a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer. The researchers also uncovered a lower risk of the disease among individuals with a particular genetic polymorphism.
For their review, Mathilde Touvier and her associates selected 42 reports that included information on vitamin D intake and/or serum levels, or vitamin D receptor polymorphisms and colorectal cancer risk. In ten studies that evaluated intake of vitamin D from diet, a 5 percent reduction in risk was associated with each additional 100 international unit (IU) of vitamin D consumed. A similar reduction was observed for rising serum vitamin D levels, with the greatest reduction in risk observed for distal colon cancer. While only two studies evaluated supplemental vitamin D intake and colon cancer, a 7 percent reduction in risk was observed for each 100 IU increase.
Of six polymorphisms evaluated, only one was associated with lower colorectal cancer risk.
The authors cite an effect on intestinal tumor growth, modulation of genes that influence cancer risk, and induction of differentiation and programmed cell death as mechanisms for the vitamin. ”Given the potential benefits from vitamin D against colorectal cancer, further research should be a priority,” the authors write. “Beyond the protective effect on colorectal cancer risk suggested by this meta-analysis, vitamin D is implicated in fall and fracture prevention and dental health, and may also reduce incident hypertension and cardiovascular mortality and convey immune-modulatory and anti-inflammatory benefits. This underlines the public health importance of reaching and maintaining an optimal vitamin D status at all life stages.”
Decreased risk of macular degeneration found in women who consume more fish and omega-3
An article published online on March 14, 2011 in the journal Archives of Opthalmology reports the finding of a protective effect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD) for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), as well as fish, which is the best source of these omega-3 fatty acids.
For the current investigation, William G. Christen, ScD and his Harvard colleagues utilized data from 39,876 female health professionals of an average age of 54.6 years who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Study. Dietary questionnaire responses completed upon enrollment in 1993 were analyzed for the type and amount of fish consumed, and omega-3 fatty acid intake. Annual questionnaires ascertained the development of new diagnoses of macular degeneration through an average 10 year follow-up period.
Two hundred thirty-five cases of age-related macular degeneration developed over follow-up. Participants whose intake of EPA was among the top one-third of participants had a 34 percent lower risk of developing the disease compared to those whose intake was among the lowest third. For DHA, subjects whose was intake was among the highest third experienced a 38 percent lower risk. Eating fish at least once per week was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of macular degeneration compared to those who ate fish less often.
The finding adds evidence to that of other studies which uncovered a protective effect for EPA and DHA against macular degeneration. The authors cite modulation of inflammatory and immune processes as likely preventive mechanisms for the omega-3 fatty acids.
“These data appear to be the strongest evidence to date to support a role for omega-3 long-chain fatty acids in the primary prevention of AMD, and perhaps a reduction in the number of persons who ultimately have advanced AMD, and need to be confirmed in randomized trials,” they conclude.
Study finds significant loss of life due to underuse of colonoscopy
An article published in a special issue of GIE: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy this month estimates that 13,800 to 22,000 deaths from colorectal cancer could have been prevented in 2005 via the utilization of screening colonoscopy. Instead, 7,300 to 11,700 deaths were averted by the use of the procedure. Surveys conducted over the past decade reveal that only half of those eligible for screening have undergone colonoscopy or signmoidoscopy.
"March 2011 marks the twelfth annual National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month,” announced GIE journal editor GIE Editor Glenn M. Eisen, MD, MPH. “Numerous efforts are made nationwide to increase patient knowledge regarding colorectal cancer, [and] increase screening efforts and lifestyle changes to reduce risk. As gastroenterologists and practicing endoscopists, much of our daily efforts revolve around screening, diagnosis, and treatment for this malignancy.”
The year 2005 was used for the analysis because it was the most recent for which the necessary data was available. The researchers examined colonoscopy history data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, colorectal cancer mortality statistics from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program database, and colonoscopy effectiveness estimates from other medical literature. Subjects were limited to those 50 years of age and older. The analysis revealed that about twice as many deaths from colorectal cancer could have been avoided through the use of colonoscopy than the current rate of utilization of the procedure prevented.
“Colonoscopy can be an effective tool to reduce mortality rates from this largely preventable disease, but we still have a long way to go in getting more people screened for colorectal cancer," Dr Eisen concluded.
Chondroitin sulfate supplementation improves knee arthritis symptoms
An article published online on March 1, 2011 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases reports the finding of Quebec researchers of a benefit for chondroitin sulfate in men and women with osteoarthritis of the knee. The compound is a major component of cartilage, and helps build cartilage tissue when supplemented.
The current double-blinded trial enrolled 69 participants between the ages of 40 and 80 who displayed warmth, swelling, or accumulation of fluid in the knee joint. Subjects were randomized to receive 800 milligrams chondroitin sulfate or a placebo daily for six months, followed by six months during which both groups received 800 milligrams chondroitin sulfate per day. Magnetic resonance imagery was used to assess cartilage volume and subchondral bone marrow lesions of the knee before treatment and at six and twelve months. Synovial membrane thickness was additionally evaluated at the beginning of the trial and after the placebo-controlled phase of treatment.
At six months, participants who received chondroitin sulfate had less loss of cartilage volume compared to those who received a placebo. This benefit remained through the additional six months of treatment, while bone marrow lesions were reduced after a year.
“Chondroitin sulfate treatment significantly reduced the cartilage volume loss in knee osteoarthritis starting at six months of treatment, and bone marrow lesions at twelve months,” the authors conclude. “These findings suggest a joint structure protective effect of chondroitin sulfate and provide new in vivo information on its mode of action in knee osteoarthritis.”
Meta-analysis affirms protective effect of Mediterranean diet against metabolic syndrome components
The March 15, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology published the results of a review conducted by Demosthenes Panagiotakos, PhD of Harokopio University of Athens and doctoral candidate Christina-Maria Kastorini, MSc which concluded that consuming a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of all aspects of the metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which include increased waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, elevated blood pressure and dysregulated glucose.
The duo selected 50 studies including a total of approximately half a million participants for their review. They found that greater adherence to the diet, which is characterized by an increased intake of monounsaturated fatty acids, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, legumes and fish, decreased intake of red meat and moderate alcohol consumption, is associated with a reduction of the incidence of metabolic syndrome as well as its individual components.
"The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome is increasing rapidly throughout the world, in parallel with the increasing incidence of diabetes and obesity, and is now considered a major public health problem," noted Dr Panagiotakos. "Additionally, the metabolic syndrome is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease (directly or indirectly), associated with personal and socioeconomic burdens. As a result, prevention of this condition is of considerable importance."
"To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first work that has systematically assessed, through a large meta-analysis, the role of the Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome and its components," he announced. "Our results add to the existing knowledge, and further demonstrate the protective role and the significance that lifestyle factors, and mainly dietary habits, have when it comes to the development and progression of the metabolic syndrome."
Aged mitochondria could be culprit in peripheral neuropathy
In the January, 2011 edition of the Annals of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine professor of neurology and neuroscience Ahmet Hoke, MD, PhD and his associates explain why neuropathy, a condition which commonly begins in the hands or feet, affects the extremities before traveling up the legs to the rest of the body. Neuropathies are characterized by burning, and tingling, and can occur in diabetes, HIV and other disorders.
Dr Hoke’s team examined nerve tissue from 11 autopsied patients with HIV-associated neuropathy, 13 HIV patients without neuropathy, and 11 HIV-negative individuals without neuropathy. Samples were obtained from areas near the spine where the nerves originated and from the nerve ending near the ankle. Examination of mitochondrial DNA revealed a 30-fold greater incidence of a mutation in nerve ends near the ankle compared to the spine among patients with neuropathy, while those who did not have neuropathy had a three-fold difference.
Dr Hoke explained that nerve cells that supply the feet average three feet in length or longer, and mitochondria (the cells’ power plants) have to make a two to three year journey from where they originate to where the neuron ends, in contrast with those in the majority of other cells that replace themselves every month on average. During this journey, their DNA accumulates mutations, leading to dysfunction. This would explain why taller or older individuals are more likely to be diagnosed with neuropathy than those who are shorter or younger.
"Our mitochondria age as we age, and they have even longer to travel in tall people," Dr Hoke stated. "In people who are older or taller, these mitochondria in the longest nerves are in even worse shape by the time they reach the feet."
If the hypothesis is confirmed, it could lead to the development of drugs that enhance the function of older mitochondria, which could be a boon for patients with neuropathy.
Happiness rewarded with longevity
The results of a meta-analysis published in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being reveal a significant association between happiness and longer life.
University of Illinois professor emeritus of psychology Ed Diener and Micaela Y. Chan of the University of Texas selected over 160 studies involving both animal and human subjects for their review. The human studies examined aspects of subjective well-being including life satisfaction, absence of negative emotions, optimism and positive emotions. The majority of these studies concluded that depression, anxiety, lack of enjoyment of daily activities and pessimism are linked with more disease and decreased survival. In animal studies, increased stress, such as having numerous cage mates, elevated the risk of heart disease, and reduced immune function and life span. “We reviewed eight different types of studies,” stated Dr Diener, who is also a senior scientist for the Gallup Organization. “And the general conclusion from each type of study is that your subjective well-being – that is, feeling positive about your life, not stressed out, not depressed – contributes to both longevity and better health among healthy populations.”
“I was almost shocked and certainly surprised to see the consistency of the data,” he remarked. “All of these different kinds of studies point to the same conclusion: that health and then longevity in turn are influenced by our mood states.”
“Happiness is no magic bullet, but the evidence is clear and compelling that it changes your odds of getting disease or dying young.” he concluded. “Although there are a handful of studies that find opposite effects, the overwhelming majority of studies support the conclusion that happiness is associated with health and longevity. Current health recommendations focus on four things: avoid obesity, eat right, don’t smoke, and exercise. It may be time to add ‘be happy and avoid chronic anger and depression’ to the list.”