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.
Ashwagandha supplementation associated with improved female sexual function
October 30 2015. An article appearing in 2015 in BioMed Research International revealed the outcome of a pilot study that found improvements in sexual function among women who received a highly concentrated ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root extract.
The study included 50 women aged 21 to 50 years diagnosed with female sexual dysfunction, which included hypoactive sexual desire disorder, female sexual arousal disorder, female orgasmic disorder or combined genital and subjective arousal disorder. Twenty-five women received 300 milligrams ashwagandha twice per day with food and the remainder received a placebo for eight weeks. Sexual function (including desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain), sexual distress, sexual activity, response to therapy and tolerability of therapy were evaluated before treatment, and at four and eight weeks.
Women who received ashwagandha had improved sexual function scores in the areas of arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction; improvement in sexual distress, and an increased number of successful sexual encounters by the end of the treatment period compared with the placebo group. Fifteen of the 25 women who received ashwagandha rated their response to treatment as excellent and nine rate their response as good. No adverse effects were observed.
As a possible mechanism, authors Swati Dongre and colleagues note that ashwagandha may reduce the effects of chronic stress (which interferes with sexual response) by lowering serum cortisol. In men, the herb has been shown to increase serum testosterone, which is involved in sexual function in both genders.
"The results suggest that ashwagandha root extract could be useful for the treatment of female sexual function," the authors conclude. "The lack of adverse effects suggests that the extract is safe to consume."
Study finds reduced percentage of deaths from leading causes over past several decades
October 28 2015. The October 27, 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association featured an article titled "Temporal Trends in Mortality in the United states, 1969-2013," that documents a decline in the age-standardized death rate from five out of six leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, unintentional injuries and diabetes.
A team from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta analyzed data from the US National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the years 1969 through 2013. During this time period, the age-standardized death rate per 100,000 individuals declined from 1278.8 to 729.8 for all causes—a 42.9% reduction. Deaths from stroke declined by 77%, from heart disease by 67.5%, for unintentional injuries by 39.8%, from cancer by 17.9% and from diabetes by 16.5%. However deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) increased by 100%, although they began to decline during the last time point analyzed while the declines in other diseases slowed somewhat.
Years of potential life lost for all causes declined by 52.4% from 1969 to 2013. When individual diseases were examined, premature deaths were lower among all but COPD.
"Further disease-specific studies are needed to investigate these trends," authors Jiemin Ma, PhD, MHS, and colleagues conclude. "Regardless of the changes in death rates, the increasing numbers of old persons in the United States and growth of the U.S. population will pose a considerable challenge for health care delivery in the coming decades."
Saffron reduces oxidative stress in metabolic syndrome patients
October 26 2015. The September-October 2015 issue of Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine published the finding of Iranian researchers of a beneficial effect for supplementation with saffron (Crocus Sativus) on the pro-oxidant-antioxidant balance of those with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms associated with an increase in the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
"Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of pro-oxidants and antioxidant defense in favor of pro-oxidants," explain authors Tayyebeh Kermani of Birjand University of Medical Sciences and colleagues. "It is typically associated to augmented formation of reactive oxygen species, and is thought to play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis and development of cardiovascular disease and its related complications."
In a randomized, double-blind trial, 75 men and women with metabolic syndrome received a placebo or 50 milligrams saffron twice daily for twelve weeks. Blood samples collected upon enrollment and at six and twelve weeks were analyzed for serum pro-oxidant-antioxidant balance.
At six and twelve weeks, serum pro-oxidant-antioxidant balance was significantly reduced among those who received saffron, indicating improvement in oxidative stress or antioxidant protection. The authors note that crocetin, a carotenoid found in saffron, and crocin, another saffron component, have free radical scavenging capabilities that may be responsible for the current study's findings. They suggest that saffron may be useful in the prevention of some reactive oxygen species-related processes associated with the development of atherosclerosis.
"To our knowledge this relatively small preliminary randomized placebo-controlled study is the first investigation on the effect of saffron on pro-oxidant-antioxidant values in humans," the authors announce. "Further studies should be undertaken in order to determine the exact constituent of saffron that has the greatest antioxidant effect, and the dosage required for optimum effect on pro-oxidant-antioxidant balance," they conclude.
Supplementation with vitamin B3 reduces nonmelanoma skin cancer recurrence
October 23 2015. The October 22, 2015 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine published the outcome of a randomized trial which found a protective effect for supplementation with a form of vitamin B3 against the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer in high-risk patients.
The Oral Nicotinamide to Reduce Actinic Cancer (ONTRAC) study included 386 men and women with a history of at least two basal or squamous cell carcinomas within five years prior to enrollment. Participants received a placebo or 500 milligrams of the nicotinamide form of vitamin B3 for twelve months.
At the end of one year, the incidence of new nonmelanoma skin cancers was 23% lower among those who received nicotinamide compared to the placebo. For basal cell carcinomas, the risk was 20% lower and for squamous cell carcinomas, the risk was 30% lower. Nicotinamide supplementation was additionally associated with a reduction in precancerous sun-induced lesions. There was a trend toward greater effectiveness among subjects with higher numbers of cancers over the previous five years, however, the researchers stated that, in light of nicotinamide's safety and low cost, the difference was insufficient to warrant restricting treatment to a specific subgroup. "Nicotinamide is widely accessible as an inexpensive over-the-counter vitamin supplement and presents a new opportunity for the chemoprevention of nonmelanoma skin cancers that is readily translatable into clinical practice," they conclude.
"This is the first clear evidence that we can reduce skin cancers using a simple vitamin, together with sensible sun protection," stated senior author, Diona L. Damian, PhD, who is a professor of dermatology at the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. "We hope that these findings can be immediately translated into clinical practice. However, people at high risk of skin cancer still need to practice sun safe behavior, use sunscreens and have regular check-ups with their doctor."
Higher vitamin D levels may be protective against acute rhinosinusitis
October 21 2015. The October 2015 issue of the journal Medicine reported the outcome of a study of participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2006 which found a lower incidence of acute rhinosinusitis among men and women with higher levels of serum vitamin D. Acute rhinosinusitis affects an estimated 30 million or more Americans per year and, while caused mainly by viral infections, is the fifth leading cause of antibiotic prescriptions.
The analysis included 3,921 subjects aged 17 and older whose blood samples were analyzed for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Approximately 16% of the subjects reported having a cold, sinus problem or earache within the preceding 24 hours of interviews that were conducted upon enrollment.
Vitamin D levels of 0-9.9 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) were found in 7.1% of the participants, 33.7% had levels of 10-19.9 ng/mL and 40% had levels ranging from 20-29.9 ng/mL. Compared to subjects whose vitamin D levels were 20 ng/mL or more, those with lower levels had a 33% greater risk of acute rhinosinusitis within 24 hours of their interview. Each 10 ng/mL increase in vitamin D was determined to be associated with a 12% reduction in risk.
"Although previous studies have shown that vitamin D status is associated with the risk of various respiratory diseases, our work provides important supporting evidence to suggest that appropriate vitamin D supplementation may offer a novel approach to lowering the risk of acute rhinosinusitis and by extension the risk of chronic rhinosinusitis in the general population," Ayesha N. Khalid, MD, MBA, and colleagues write. "High-quality, randomized controlled trials are warranted to determine whether vitamin D supplementation in individuals with low vitamin D status may affect the incidence and severity of acute rhinosinusitis in the general population."
Diabetes risk lower in those who supplement with chromium
Boston researchers analyzed data from 28,539 men and women enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2010. Subject interview responses provided information concerning the use of supplements over the preceding 30 days. The presence of diabetes was defined as having a glycated hemoglobin value of at least 6.5% or having been diagnosed with the disease.
The use of supplements that contain chromium was reported by 28.8% of the subjects. Among those who used chromium-containing supplements, the risk of diabetes was 27% lower in comparison with those who did not use them. In contrast, those who consumed any supplement that did not contain chromium had no significantly different risk of diabetes than those who consumed no supplements at all.
In their discussion of the findings, authors David J. McIver of Boston Children’s Hospital and colleagues note that human trials evaluating the effect of doses ranging from 200 to 1000 micrograms chromium per day have resulted in improvement in insulin sensitivity and glucose with no adverse effects. They observe that chromium may be involved in carbohydrate, lipid and protein metabolism, although some study results have been inconsistent.
“In summary, we showed chromium supplementation in adults to be associated with significantly lower odds of an individual having diabetes,” the authors conclude. “Although causality cannot be determined, this study provides strong evidence that a large-scale study to determine the causal effect of chromium on diabetes is warranted.”
Although aspirin has long been known for its ability to block cyclooxygenase (COX) 1 and 2, thereby reducing the production of prostaglandins involved in pain and inflammation (the discovery of which landed John Robert Vane the 1982 Nobel Prize in Medicine), aspirin rapidly converts in the body to salicylic acid, which, while having similar pharmacological effects, is less effective than aspirin at inhibiting COX. By screening extracts prepared from human tissue culture cells, Daniel Klessig, of the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research and his colleagues discovered that salicylic acid binds to human high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), a protein involved in the inflammatory process of a number of diseases. "We've identified what we believe is a key target of aspirin's active form in the body, salicylic acid, which is responsible for some of the many therapeutic effects that aspirin has," Dr Klessig stated. "This protein, HMGB1, is associated with many prevalent, devastating diseases in humans, including rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, sepsis and inflammation-associated cancers, such as colorectal cancer and mesothelioma."
Dr Klessig's team identified two salicylic acid derivatives that are more effective than salicylic acid at blocking the inflammatory activity of HMBG1. "We've identified both synthetic and natural derivatives of salicylic acid which are 50 to 1000 times more potent than salicylic acid or aspirin in suppressing the pro-inflammatory activity of extracellular HMGB1, thereby providing proof of concept that more effective salicylic acid-based drugs are attainable," he concluded.
"Some scientists have suggested that salicylic acid should be called 'vitamin S', due to its tremendous beneficial effects on human health," noted lead author Hyong Woo Choi, "and I concur."
Red wine benefits type 2 diabetics
October 14 2015. A study reported on October 13, 2015 in the Annals of Internal Medicine found a benefit for moderate wine intake in adults with type 2 diabetes. The authors of the report concluded that, while wine's alcoholic content plays a positive role in glucose metabolism, the benefits of red wine also involved nonalcoholic factors.
Acting on the results of a pilot trial which found a reduction in fasting plasma glucose among type 2 diabetics who began drinking wine in moderation, researchers at Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev initiated a two year trial that compared the effects of drinking red wine, white wine or mineral water among 224 diabetics between the ages of 45 and 75 years. Genetic assessment of ethanol metabolism was conducted before the treatment period and evaluation of glycemic control, sleep quality and other factors was conducted at the beginning and end of the trial.
Genetically slow ethanol metabolizers experienced significantly greater glycemic control in association with drinking wine in comparison with participants who were fast metabolizers. Compared to those who consumed water, wine drinkers experienced better sleep. When metabolic syndrome components were evaluated, drinking red wine was associated with a greater reduction than white wine. "The differences found between red and white wine were opposed to our original hypothesis that the beneficial effects of wine are mediated predominantly by the alcohol," commented lead investigator Iris Shai. "Approximately 150 mL of the dry red or white tested wines contained approximately 17 grams ethanol and approximately 120 calories, but the red wine had sevenfold higher levels of total phenols and 4 to 13-fold higher levels of the specific resveratrol group compounds than the white wine. The genetic interactions suggest that ethanol plays an important role in glucose metabolism, while red wine's effects additionally involve non-alcoholic constituents."
Cranberries may help protect the heart
October 12 2015. Research presented at the annual BerryHealth Benefits Symposium 2015 on October 12 revealed an association between cranberry juice intake and improved vascular function in healthy men.
"Cranberry juice is a rich source of phytonutrients, including proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins and phenolic acids," explained lead researcher Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, PhD, of the Division of Cardiology, Pulmonology and Vascular Medicine at the University Duesseldorf, Germany. "Due to this robust profile of polyphenols, our team sought to evaluate the immediate vascular impact of drinking one, 450 mL (16 ounces) glass of cranberry juice with a different range of concentrations of cranberry polyphenols."
In a randomized, crossover trial, ten men between the ages of 18 to 40 years received juice concentrate mixed with water in varying concentrations. Flow-mediated vasodilation (an evaluation of endothelial function), blood pressure and arterial stiffness were measured before intake and at one, two, four, six and eight hours post-consumption. Urine and plasma samples collected over a 24 hour period were analyzed for levels of 60 cranberry polyphenols and their metabolites.
Dr Mateos' team found improvement in flow-mediated dilation in association with all concentrations of cranberry juice. Benefit was noted as early as one hour with a duration of up to six hours. Systolic blood pressure was reduced among those who received the highest concentration. Plasma and urine polyphenol concentrations varied in accordance with the compound evaluated and the amount consumed by each individual.
"Our results lay the groundwork to better understand the array of potential vascular and cardiovascular health benefits of cranberry polyphenols," Dr Rodriguez-Mateos remarked. "Significant improvements in vascular function from drinking two cups of cranberry juice suggest an important role for cranberries in a heart-healthy diet."
Supplement reverses circadian slow down
October 9 2015. On October 8, 2015 in Cell Metabolism, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel report the finding that polyamines present in all living cells control the circadian clock in cells and animals, and that supplementation with polyamines, which decline with age, can restore circadian rhythms in aged mice to those characteristic of younger animals. "Impaired circadian rhythmicity has been linked to a wide variety of age-related diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and inflammation," notes lead researcher Gad Asher, of the Weizmann Institute's Department of Biological Chemistry.
In research conducted by Dr Asher's team, treatment of young mice with a compound that inhibits the synthesis of polyamines resulted in a circadian slow down of approximately 11 minutes per day compared to untreated mice. However, supplementation with spermidine, a polyamine found in soy, corn, peas and other food that has been linked with longevity, speeded up treated animals' circadian clocks by eight minutes. "This discovery demonstrates the tight intertwining between circadian clocks and metabolism and opens new possibilities for nutritional interventions that modulate the clock's function," Dr Asher stated. "Our findings basically rely on experiments with mice, and if they hold true in humans, they will have broad clinical implications. The ability to repair the clock simply through nutritional intervention, namely polyamine supplementation, is exciting and obviously of great clinical potential."
"I do envision testing polyamines in clinical trials as a tool against a wide variety of age-related diseases in humans," he added. "There is evidence in flies and mice that polyamines extend lifespan, and future studies might also support the use of polyamines in humans."
Metabolic syndrome may increase vitamin E need
October 7 2015. An article published on October 7, 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that in those with metabolic syndrome, the need for vitamin E could be greater than among those without it.
Researchers at Ohio State University gave of 10 healthy participants and 10 subjects with metabolic syndrome a natural alpha-tocopherol supplement. Dr Richard S. Bruno and his associates determined that those with metabolic syndrome absorbed less vitamin E than those without the syndrome. However, the researchers found that drinking milk, which contains fat that aids in vitamin E absorption, increased the amount absorbed to between 26.1% and 29.5%, depending upon the health status of the participant. (It is estimated that 10% of vitamin E is absorbed when not simultaneously consumed with fat.)
The researchers found that a lipoprotein in the liver that secretes vitamin E into the blood stream and another lipoprotein generated by the small intestine contained lower levels of vitamin E in participants with metabolic syndrome compared to healthy subjects. "This could imply that people with metabolic syndrome either have impairment of absorption of vitamin E at the small intestine or because of an inability for vitamin E to get out of the liver," stated lead researcher Richard Bruno. "We don't know which - it could be either one or both acting together."
"The fact that people with metabolic syndrome had lower bioavailability of vitamin E was expected, but it had never been studied before and therefore we've had no guidance to make recommendations for that population," he noted. "This work tells us that at least one-third of Americans have higher vitamin E requirements than healthy people. Dietary requirements of nutrients are generally defined only in the context of what a healthy person needs, but considering that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, a healthy person might not be representative of our society."
Meta-analysis affirms whey protein muscle benefit
October 5 2015. A systematic review and meta-analysis published on September 24, 2015 in the journal Sports Medicine concluded that whey protein alone or in combination with other ingredients maximizes lean body mass and upper and lower body strength compared to the ingestion of calorically equivalent carbohydrate or non-whey protein supplements in men and women engaged in resistance training.
Fernando Naclerio of the University of Greenwich and Eneko Larumbe-Zabala of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center selected nine randomized controlled trials that included 192 participants for their analysis. Trials were limited to those of six to twelve weeks duration. Consumption of whey protein, alone or as part of a multi-ingredient formula, was associated with gains in fat-free mass or lean body mass in resistance-trained individuals. Maximal upper and lower body strength was also associated with whey intake. The addition of creatine was found to enhance these positive effects.
"Although several investigations examined the effects of whey protein on muscle mass accretion and strength improvement in resistance-trained individuals, to our knowledge, no study has integrated and quantitatively summarized these results," the authors announce.
"The extra beneficial effects of whey protein-containing supplement on fat-free mass and maximal strength are most evident when consumed as a part of a multi-ingredient containing creatine, whilst whey protein alone seems to produce less clear results," they conclude. "However, more evidence of this is needed."
Vitamin D supplements could help postmenopausal women maintain muscle
October 2 2015.On September 30, the 2015 Annual Meeting of The North American Menopause Society featured a presentation of research conducted at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil which found that supplementing with vitamin D was associated with improved maintenance of muscle mass and increased strength in women up to 12 years past the menopausal transition.
In a double-blind trial, 160 women with a history of falls during the previous year received 1,000 international units (IU) vitamin D3 per day or a placebo for nine months. Total-body dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scanning assessed muscle mass and handgrip strength and a chair-rising test evaluated strength at the beginning and end of the study.
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels increased from an average of 15.0 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) to 27.5 ng/mL among women who received vitamin D, while declining from 16.9 ng/mL to 13.8 ng/mL in the placebo group. Among those who received vitamin D, muscle strength increased by an average of 25.3%. Those who received a placebo experienced a 6.8% decline in muscle mass and were nearly twice as likely to undergo a fall as the vitamin D-supplemented group.
"We concluded that the supplementation of vitamin D alone provided significant protection against the occurrence of sarcopenia, which is a degenerative loss of skeletal muscle, stated lead author Dr. L.M. Cangussu, of Sao Paulo State University's Botucatu Medical School.
North American Menopause Society Executive Director Wulf H. Utian, MD, PhD, DSc(Med), added that "While this study is unlikely to decide the debate over Vitamin D, it provides further evidence to support the use of vitamin D supplements by postmenopausal women in an effort to reduce frailty and an increased risk of falling."