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.
Supplement combo lowers Alzheimer's disease risk
December 29 2014. On December 16, 2014, the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease reported positive results for a combination of three nutrients in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease in older individuals.
The trial included 198 participants in the Tone Project, which enrolled men and women aged 65 years and older in Tone town, Japan. Subjects were offered the choice of receiving nutritional supplementation, taking part in a two year exercise program, or participating in both treatments. Beginning in 2002, 171 men and women who elected to receive supplements were given capsules containing 290 mg EPA and 203 mg DHA from fish oil, 240 mg Ginkgo biloba leaf extract and 84 mg lycopene from tomato for three years. Neuropsychological testing was administered at the beginning of the study and at the first and second follow-up visits during 2004-2005 and 2008-2009.
Over follow-up, 76 subjects were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Adherence to the supplement regimen was associated with a 31% lower adjusted risk of the disease in comparison to no supplementation. Although engaging in the exercise regimen was associated with a 21% lower risk of Alzheimer's disease compared with those who did not take part in the program, the benefit was no longer observed after adjustment for a number of factors.
"To our knowledge, this is the first intervention study to report the positive effect of a combination of supplements on Alzheimer's disease prevention," authors Shogyoku Bun and colleagues announce. "Altogether, supplementation of multiple nutrients, rather than a single nutrient, may hold better promise to tackle this complicated disease."
"It is also noteworthy that three years of supplementation intervention seems to have maintained its positive effect even three to four years after its completion," they remark. "This gives us a new insight that the protective effect of supplementation may persist for several years."
Alpha-lipoic acid supplementation benefits diabetic stroke patients
December 26 2014. An article published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences reports a positive outcome for a trial of type 2 diabetics recovering from stroke who were treated with the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid.
"Cerebral ischemia-reperfusion neuronal apoptosis is closely related to the severity of oxidative stress," write L. Zhao and F.X. Hu of Hedong District People's Hospital in Linyi, China, in their introduction to the article. "Alpha-lipoic acid is the strongest antioxidant used in clinic. It has functions including antioxidation, scavenging free radicals, and decreasing oxidative stress level, with exact efficacy in treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy and diabetic nephropathy."
The study enrolled 90 diabetics between the ages of 60 and 92 years with a history of cerebral artery thrombotic infarction. The treatment group received 600 milligrams alpha-lipoic acid and the control group received 3 grams vitamin C per day intravenously for three weeks. Glucose, hemoglobin A1c, lipids, endogenous antioxidants superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase, malondialdehyde (a marker of oxidative stress), and other factors were measured in blood samples collected before and after treatment, and National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale scores were calculated.
At the end of the treatment period, plasma SOD and glutathione peroxidase levels were increased and malondialdehyde levels had decreased in both groups; however the improvements were significantly greater in those who received alpha-lipoic acid. Similarly, improvement in assessments of glucose control that occurred in both groups was of greater significance among those treated with lipoic acid, and while Stroke Scale Scores decreased in both groups, the alpha-lipoic acid group exhibited more improvement.
The authors conclude that "Alpha-lipoic acid was safe and effective in the treatment of aged type 2 diabetes mellitus complicated with acute cerebral infarction, significantly reducing the patient's oxidative stress, blood glucose and lipid levels and being able to improve islet function."
Nighttime electronic device use lowers melatonin levels
December 24 2014. On December 22, 2014, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science published the findings researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital of a suppressive effect for evening use of light-emitting electronic devices on sleep and melatonin secretion.
"Electronic devices emit light that is short-wavelength-enriched light, which has a higher concentration of blue light -- with a peak around 450 nm -- than natural light," explained lead author Anne-Marie Chang. "This is different from natural light in composition, having a greater impact on sleep and circadian rhythms."
Twelve healthy adults were randomized to read a light-emitting eBook or a printed book in dim room light approximately four hours before bedtime for five evenings. At the end of the five day period, participants switched their assignments. Blood samples collected during portions of the study were analyzed for melatonin levels. Sleep latency, time and efficiency were assessed via polysomnography.
eBook reading was associated with more time needed to fall asleep and less rapid eye movement sleep in comparison with reading a printed book. Evening melatonin levels were suppressed by an average of 55.12% in eBook readers, while those who read printed books had no suppression. Compared to printed book reading, the onset of melatonin release in response to dim light occurred 1 ½ hours later the day following reading of an eBook.
"Our most surprising finding was that individuals using the e-reader would be more tired and take longer to become alert the next morning," Dr Chang reported. "This has real consequences for daytime functioning, and these effects might be worse in the real world as opposed to the controlled environment we used."
"We live in a sleep-restricted society, in general," she added. "It is important to further study the effects of using light-emitting devices, especially before bed, as they may have longer term health consequences than we previously considered."
More on how resveratrol works
December 22 2014. Resveratrol, a substance that occurs in red grapes and wine, has been associated with a number of benefits in experimental research. The compound is believed to exert its effects via activation of a gene known as SIRT1, which has been associated with longevity. Although questions that arose concerning this mechanism were answered by subsequent research that confirmed SIRT1 as a target of resveratrol, the current research, described online in Nature on December 22, 2014, reveals another pathway for resveratrol that is activated by lower doses.
The finding came about in the course of research conducted by Paul Schimmel, PhD, of the Scripps Research Institute, which involved enzymes known as tRNA synthetases, which aid in the translation of genetic material into amino acids. Senior research associate Mathew Sajish observed that resveratrol had a similar stress response property as the tRNA synthetase known as TyrRS, which is involved in the formation of the amino acid tyrosine. "I began to see TyrRS as a potential target of resveratrol," Dr Sajish stated.
Drs Schimmel and Sajish found that resveratrol can occupy the place of tyrosine in TyrRS, which then initiates a stress response involving PARP-1 that, in turn, activates protective and longevity-associated genes, including SIRT6. The pathway is activated by significantly lower doses of resveratrol than those utilized in research that evaluated the compound's effect on SIRT1.
"We believe that TyrRS has evolved to act as a top-level switch or activator of a fundamental cell-protecting mechanism that works in virtually all forms of life," commented Dr Sajish.
"We think this is just the tip of the iceberg," Dr Schimmel remarked. "We think there are a lot more amino-acid mimics out there that can have beneficial effects like this in people. And we're working on that now."
Progeria finding suggests promise for sulforaphane in aging research
December 19 2014. A report published online on December 16, 2014 in the journal Aging Cell describes new findings in the field of the premature aging disorder known as Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS). The disease is caused by mutations in the LMNA gene that lead to the formation of a defective protein that is referred to as progerin. Due to progerin's nonfunctionality, it accumulates in the cell nucleus, resulting in cellular aging and the development of aging-associated diseases in its young victims, including osteoporosis and atherosclerosis.
Professor Karima Djabali and her colleagues at Germany's Technische Universität München determined that both healthy cells and those with the HGPS mutations contain progerin, although in HGPS, the amount is notably higher.
"Progerin is also produced in healthy cells, probably as a byproduct," Dr Djabali stated. "A well-functioning cellular waste disposal system can break down these small quantities of progerin."
However, HGPS induces changes that affect the cells' ability to degrade proteins, resulting in impairment of cellular debris removal mechanisms known as the ubiquitin-proteasome system and autophagy. “These errors in the cellular debris disposal system enhance the effect that progerin accumulates and causes cell damage within a short time," Dr Djabali explained.
A search for compounds that activate proteasomal activity and autophagy resulted in the discovery that culturing HGPS cells with the broccoli compound sulforaphane enhanced progerin clearance by autophagy and reversed some of the damage induced by HGPS.
“Of course our experiments are very basic, but every active substance and every new approach brings us a step closer to a treatment for HGPS patients," Dr Djabali commented. "It could also help us develop antiaging strategies in the future."
Vitamin E supplementation could boost pneumonia protection
December 17 2014. An advance online article in The Journal of Immunology reports findings from experimental research that suggests a role for vitamin E supplementation in protecting against pneumonia.
"Earlier studies have shown that vitamin E can help regulate the aging body's immune system, but our present research is the first study to demonstrate that dietary vitamin E regulates neutrophil entry into the lungs in mice, and so dramatically reduces inflammation, and helps fight off infection by this common type of bacteria," announced lead author Elsa N. Bou Ghanem, PhD, of Tufts University School of Medicine.
To evaluate the ability of vitamin E to modulate neutrophil (the most common type of white blood cell) responses in older animals in order to improve their resistance, 4 month old and 22 to 24 month old mice were given a diet supplemented with or without extra alpha-tocopherol for four weeks prior to being infected with pneumonia. Two days following infection, older control animals had a thousand times greater bacterial burden, 2.2-fold higher levels of neutrophil recruitment to the lung and a 2.25-fold increased rate of lethal septicemia in comparison with younger mice. These effects were largely prevented in the vitamin E-supplemented older mice, which had levels of neutrophils in their lungs that were comparable to younger controls.
"A growing body of research suggests vitamin E could make up for the loss of immune response caused by aging," noted co-senior author Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD. "Whether vitamin E can help protect people against this type of pneumonia affecting older adults requires more research."
"Our work provides a better understanding of how nutrition can play a role in modulating how the immune system responds to infection," co-senior author John M. Leong, MD, PhD, concluded.
Supplementation urged for weight loss surgery patients
December 15 2014. A review published on November 26, 2014 in the journal Obesity Surgery warns those who have undergone bariatric surgery, such as gastric banding and gastric bypass, not to ignore their physician's recommendation to supplement their diets, particularly with regard to vitamin A.
"Obesity is increasing vastly in the world, and the number of bariatric surgeries being performed is also increasing," write Rui Azevedo Guerreiro and Rui Ribeiro in their introduction to the article. "Patients being submitted to bariatric surgeries, especially malabsorptive procedures, have an increased risk of developing nutrient deficiencies, which can culminate in symptomatic hypovitaminosis, if supplementation is not done correctly."
Decreased food intake, an increase in vomiting, and the consumption of an unbalanced diet, combined with reduced absorption that occurs with some types of surgery, result in insufficient levels of a number of key nutrients, including vitamins A, B1, B12, C, D, E, and K, folate, iron, selenium, zinc, and copper. Having too little vitamin A, which is a common occurrence in those who have undergone bariatric surgery, can lead to night blindness, dry eye, corneal ulcer, involuntary eye movement, and even total blindness. Other critical eye nutrients that are diminished by weight loss surgery include vitamins B1 and E, and copper.
"There is a risk that bariatric surgery patients, who do not take the vitamin and mineral supplements prescribed to them, could develop eye-related complications because of nutrient deficiencies," stated Dr Azevedo Guerreiro of Hospital Curry Cabral in Lisbon, Portugal. "Such complications after bariatric surgery are not frequent, but if undetected, they can have devastating consequences for the patients."
"The real prevalence of these complications is unknown but the rarity of clinical reports that link nutrient deficiency with eye-related complications could also mean that no one is looking for such problems," added Dr Ribeiro.
Coenzyme Q10 may protect low birth weight infants from heart disease in adulthood
December 12 2014. An article in the December 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal suggests a role for coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supplementation in the prevention of heart disease in individuals born with a low birth weight, who are known to be at risk later in life.
"Low birth weight and rapid postnatal growth increases risk of cardiovascular-disease; however, underlying mechanisms are poorly understood," write Susan E. Ozanne of England's Medical Research Council and her colleagues. "Previously, we demonstrated that rats exposed to a low-protein diet in utero that underwent postnatal catch-up growth (recuperated) have a programmed deficit in cardiac coenzyme Q that was associated with accelerated cardiac aging.
Dr Ozanne's team gave low birth weight rats a standard diet supplemented with CoQ10 from 21 days to 12 months of age. A separate group of low birth weight animals was given an unsupplemented standard diet. Normal birth weight rats served as controls.
Recuperated rats were found to have reduced aortic CoQ9 (the most common form of ubiquinone in rodents) at 22 days and at 12 months in comparison with normal animals. The recuperated group had increased DNA damage and oxidative stress, and impaired mitochondrial activity, all of which were reduced in CoQ10-supplemented animals. White blood cell CoQ levels were associated with aortic cell telomere length, which suggests that these levels could serve as a marker of vascular aging.
“Our study has answered a question that has puzzled doctors for some time now – why children of low birth weight who grow quickly are prone to heart disease in later life," Professor Ozanne explained. “We believe it’s because they are deficient in coenzyme Q. As this molecule is also then deficient in the individual’s blood cells, it may be possible to develop a simple blood test capable of diagnosing the amount of damage to their aorta and therefore likely to develop heart disease."
“Although our study is only in rodents, it may one day have major implications for both the prevention and early treatment of heart disease," added first author Jane Tarry-Adkins "It suggests that it may be possible to treat at-risk individuals with a safe and cost-effective supplement that has the potential to prevent heart disease before they display any symptoms of the disease."
Pycnogenol reduces cold symptoms and duration
December 10 2014. An article published in the December 2014 issue of Panminerva Medica reveals a benefit for pycnogenol(R), a standardized extract of French maritime pine bark, in relieving the length and symptoms of the common cold.
The study included 70 healthy individuals between the ages of 25 and 65 years who had not contracted a respiratory illness or received the influenza vaccine over the three previous months. An additional 76 untreated men and women served as controls. At the first sign of a cold, the treatment group was instructed to consume 50 milligrams pycnogenol(R) twice per day in addition to best management, while the control group were asked to rely upon best management alone.
Participants who supplemented with pycnogenol(R) experienced symptoms for an average of three days, compared with four days among the controls. They also had a slight reduction in the number of days lost to work, less need for additional treatments, reduced complications and duration beyond four days, and shorter duration of all symptoms, including sore throat, headache, congestion, sneezing and coughing.
“This study finds pycnogenol® to be a safe and effective natural remedy to treat symptoms of the common cold, reduce the number of affected days and decrease complications from the cold without side effects," stated lead researcher Gianni Belcaro, of Chieti-Pescara University in Italy. “The significant effect of pycnogenol® to treat nasal congestion and runny nose can be attributed to the extract’s natural anti-inflammatory, antiedema and antioxidant qualities and for its ability to improve blood circulation. These findings are supported by decades of research on pycnogenol®’s ability to naturally boost the immune system."
“The common cold hits hard around this time of year, disrupting work hours, holiday plans and vacations," commented nutritional medicine expert Dr Steven Lamm. "This study builds on previous research showing pycnogenol® offers measurable symptom-relief naturally, reduces the need for over-the-counter remedies, and shortens the duration of the common cold."
Mediterranean diet could improve cardiovascular function in ED patients
December 8 2014. The annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging, held December 3-6, 2014, was the site of a presentation by Dr Athanasios Angelis concerning the benefit of a Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular performance in patients with erectile dysfunction (ED).
"Erectile dysfunction is not a symptom of aging, it is a bad sign from the body that something is wrong with the vasculature," Dr Angelis explained. "In 80% of cases erectile dysfunction is caused by vascular problems and is a warning that patients are at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke."
"The Mediterranean diet is associated with lower cardiovascular events and could be a way to help erectile dysfunction patients lower their risk," he noted. "We wanted to investigate whether patients with erectile dysfunction who follow this diet have less vascular and cardiac damage."
The research centered on 75 men with ED who were seen at Hippokration Hospital in Athens. The men's diets were scored on adherence to the Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by a greater intake of grains, fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil. Atheromatosis and arteriosclerosis were evaluated via intima-media thickness measurement and carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity, and heart involvement was assessed by evaluating diastolic function and left ventricular mass.
In comparison with a high Mediterranean diet score, low scores were associated with increased intima media thickness, aortic stiffness, left ventricular mass and diastolic dysfunction. "Patients with erectile dysfunction who had unhealthy diets had more vascular and cardiac damage than those who followed the Mediterranean diet," Dr Angelis reported. "Previous studies have shown that patients with erectile dysfunction have vascular damage but we found that the heart is also damaged. This may help to further explain why these patients are more prone to cardiovascular events. The formation of atheroma, the stiffening of the arteries, and the poor functioning of the heart can eventually lead to a cardiac event."
"Our findings suggest that adopting the Mediterranean diet can improve the cardiovascular risk profile of patients with erectile dysfunction and may reduce their chances of having a heart attack or stroke," he concluded. "This needs to be tested in a larger study."
Resveratrol protects against alcohol's carcinogenic effect
December 5 2014. In an article published on November 10, 2014 in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, Robert Sclafani, PhD, of the University of Colorado Cancer Center and his associates discuss the potential for resveratrol to protect against the cancer-inducing effect of alcohol.
"Alcohol bombards your genes," explained Dr Sclafani. "Your body has ways to repair this damage, but with enough alcohol eventually some damage isn’t fixed. That’s why excessive alcohol use is a factor in head and neck cancer. Now, resveratrol challenges these cells – the ones with unrepaired DNA damage are killed, so they can’t go on to cause cancer. Alcohol damages cells and resveratrol kills damaged cells."
The disease known as Fanconi anemia has provided scientists with much of what they know about alcohol and cancer. In Fanconi anemia, DNA crosslinks that are normally repaired by healthy DNA remain unrepaired. This damage puts Fanconi anemia patients at risk of several cancers, including that of the head and neck.
A genetic acclerator of cancer in Fanconi anemia is insufficiently metabolized alcohol. Those who lack the gene for aldehyde dehydrogenase, which is necessary for the metabolism of alcohol, are left with alcohol that is only partially metabolized, as acetyl aldehyde. “With enough alcohol, the body can get behind and end up with a backlog of acetyl aldehyde," Dr Sclafani noted. “Increased exposure to alcohol, loss of the ALDH gene that helps the body process alcohol, and loss of the ability to repair DNA cross links all result in increased cancer risk."
“But when you look at epidemiological studies of head and neck cancer, alcohol is a factor, but by alcohol source, the lowest cancer incidence is in people who drank red wine," Dr Sclafani observed. “In red wine, there’s something that’s blocking the cancer-causing effect of alcohol."
“The more you drink, the more you accumulate DNA damage, and the more chance that one or more cells will accumulate the specific type of DNA damage that can cause cancer," he added. "Now, resveratrol takes out the cells with the most damage – the cells that have the highest probability of being able to cause cancer."
Dr Sclafani has plans to test the protective effect of resveratrol against head and neck cancer and other malignancies.
Mediterranean diet associated with longer telomeres
December 3 2014. Telomeres, which cap the ends of chromosomes, have been the subject of a significant amount of recent research. Longer telomeres have been associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases and increased life span. According to a new report published in the British Medical Journal on December 2, regular consumption of a Mediterranean diet, which has also been linked with a reduction in the risk of chronic disease, is associated with longer telomeres, adding yet another benefit to those found to be associated with this healthy eating pattern.
For the current research, associate Professor Immaculata De Vivo, PhD, MPH, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, utilized data from 4,676 middle-aged participants in the ongoing Nurses' Health Study, which began enrolling subjects in 1976. Dietary questionnaires completed in 1980 were scored for adherence to a Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, grains and olive oil. Blood samples collected from 1989-1990 were analyzed for white blood cell telomere length.
"Our findings showed that healthy eating, overall, was associated with longer telomeres," reported lead author Marta Crous-Bou, who is a postdoctoral fellow in the Channing Division of Network Medicine. "However, the strongest association was observed among women who adhered to the Mediterranean diet."
As possible biologic mechanisms, the authors suggest the protective effects established for the diet against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, both of which accelerate telomere shortening.
"To our knowledge this is the largest population-based study specifically addressing the association between Mediterranean diet adherence and telomere length in healthy, middle-aged women," Dr De Vivo announced. "Our results further support the benefits of adherence to this diet to promote health and longevity."