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.
Chondroitin sulfate as good as NSAID for knee arthritis
May 31 2017. A trial reported on May 22, 2017 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases determined that the nutritional supplement chondroitin sulfate was as effective for knee osteoarthritis as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib (Celebrex) which, while commonly prescribed, is associated with potentially severe long term side effects.
The trial included 604 men and women with osteoarthritis of the knee. Participants were randomized to groups that were treated for 6 months with 800 milligrams (mg) pharmaceutical grade chondroitin sulfate plus a placebo tablet, 200 mg celecoxib plus a placebo, or two placebo tablets daily. Pain, joint function, and overall acceptability were assessed at 1, 3 and 6 months.
At the end of the trial, significantly greater improvement in pain and joint function had occurred among participants who received chondroitin sulfate or celecoxib in comparison with those who received a placebo. No significant differences were observed between effects associated with celecoxib and chondroitin sulfate, nor were there significant differences in adverse events reported by recipients of either treatment and the placebo.
"This compelling benefit-risk profile, in light of the known clinical risks associated with chronic usage of NSAIDS and paracetamol, underscores the potential importance of pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate in the management of knee osteoarthritis, especially in the older population requiring long-term treatment," write Jean-Yves Reginster of Liège State University in Belgium and colleagues.
“A 800 mg/day pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate is superior to placebo and similar to celecoxib in reducing pain and improving function over 6 months in symptomatic knee osteoarthritis patients,” they conclude. “This formulation of chondroitin sulfate should be considered a first-line treatment in the medical management of knee osteoarthritis.”
Chocolate intake associated with lower afib risk
May 29 2017. In research published on May 23, 2017 in the journal Heart, Elizabeth Mostofsky and colleagues report a lower risk of a type of heart arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation among regular consumers of chocolate.
The current study included 26,400 men and 29,100 women between the ages of 50 and 64 years who enrolled in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Study from 1993 to 1997. Dietary questionnaires completed upon enrollment provided information concerning chocolate intake during the preceding year. Subjects were followed until the end of 2009, during which 3,346 new cases of atrial fibrillation occurred.
The researchers observed a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation among subjects who consumed one to three servings per month of chocolate in comparison with those whose intake was less than one monthly serving. Among subjects who consumed one weekly serving, the risk of atrial fibrillation was 17% less, and a 20% lower risk occurred among those who consumed two to six weekly servings. For men, the greatest protective effect occurred with the intake of two to six weekly servings, which was associated 23% lower risk of atrial fibrillation, and for women, one weekly serving was associated with a 21% lower risk compared to one per month. "Despite the fact that most of the chocolate consumed in our sample probably contained relatively low concentrations of the potentially protective ingredients, we still observed a robust statistically significant association," the authors concluded.
“Prevention of atrial fibrillation is a high-priority in cardiovascular health," note Sean D. Pokorney and Jonathan P. Piccini in an accompanying editorial. “To date, effective preventive therapies have been elusive if not nonexistent. Therefore, studies like the Danish chocolate study are important because we need to identify additional potential targets for atrial fibrillation prevention.”
Omega 3s could help protect against food-borne pathogens
May 26 2017. An article appearing on March 23, 2017 in Research in Microbiology suggests a role for omega 3 fatty acids in protecting against Listeria monocytogenes, a food-borne bacterium that is the cause of a potentially life-threatening disease known as listeriosis.
“Our study has shown that common, naturally occurring fatty acids can switch off the specific genes that make the listeria bacterium dangerous,” reported corresponding author Birgitte Kallipolitis of the University of Southern Denmark. “We tested omega-3 fatty acids, and it took them about half an hour to neutralize the listeria bacteria.”
PrfA protein is a regulator of virulence factors needed for bacterial entry, intracellular replication and cell-to-cell bacterial spread. The activation of virulence genes by PrfA occurs primarily in blood and during intracellular infection. “Our theory is that the fatty acids do something to the PrfA protein so that it cannot switch on the virulence genes, and we´re very interested in finding out what exactly is occurring,” Dr Kallipolitis explained.
“It´s interesting that naturally occurring, completely harmless and actually healthy fatty acids can be used to suppress dangerous bacteria such as listeria,” she added. “The long-term perspective is that it may prove possible to develop new treatment methods – not only against listeria, but also against other dangerous bacteria that are currently resistant to antibiotics.”
Although it appears counterintuitive not to destroy bacteria such as listeria, according to Dr Kallipolitis, it makes sense. “When the growth of the bacterium is not threatened, it does not begin to develop new survival strategies that may make it resistant to attack,” she observed. “Bacteria can develop resistance to attacks, and we have many examples of how this merely creates new and even bigger problems for combating them. It might be a better strategy to let them live and instead aim to neutralize their capacity to cause disease.”
Higher omega 3 levels linked to improved brain blood flow
May 24 2017. The June 2017 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease featured an article by Daniel G. Amen, MD, of the Amen Clinics, Inc., and his colleagues that documents an association between higher levels of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and increased blood flow in three areas of the brain’s cerebrum.
The study included 166 participants seen at a psychiatric clinic, who had data available concerning blood levels of the omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging of the brain was conducted to assess blood flow in 128 brain regions. Neurocognitive status was evaluated via standard computerized testing.
Dr Amen’s team found an association between higher EPA plus DHA levels and brain blood flow, as well as with cognition. "This is very important research because it shows a correlation between lower omega 3 fatty acid levels and reduced brain blood flow to regions important for learning, memory, depression and dementia," he remarked.
"This study is a major advance in demonstrating the value of nutritional intervention for brain health by using the latest brain imaging," commented George Perry, PhD, of the University of Texas at San Antonio, who is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
"Although we have considerable evidence that omega 3 levels are associated with better cardiovascular health, the role of the 'fish oil' fatty acids in mental health and brain physiology is just beginning to be explored,” added coauthor William S. Harris, PhD, of the University of South Dakota School of Medicine in Vermillion. “This study opens the door to the possibility that relatively simple dietary changes could favorably impact cognitive function."
Father’s vitamin D intake affects child’s height, weight
May 22 2017. The European Congress on Obesity, held in Porto, Portugal was the site of the presentation of the finding of an association between greater preconception vitamin D intake by fathers and increased height and weight in their sons and daughters at the age of 5 years.
The study included data from men, women and children enrolled in Ireland’s Lifeways Cross-Generation Cohort Study. Food frequency questionnaires completed by the parents at the mother’s first prenatal trimester visit were analyzed for vitamin D and calorie intake. The children’s height and weight was ascertained at age 5 and 9 years.
Among 213 father-child pairs, higher vitamin D intake by the fathers prior to the children’s conception was associated with an increase in average height and weight in comparison with children whose fathers consumed less. The association was no longer significant when the children reached 9 years of age. Mothers’ vitamin D intake during the first and second trimester of pregnancy was not associated with their children’s height in this study.
When the children’s time spent outdoors was examined, an association was observed between three or more hours playing outside on the weekends and greater height at 5 years of age, which suggests a benefit for vitamin D on growth and development.
"Paternal vitamin D intake was positively and prospectively associated with offspring's height and weight at 5 years old, independent of maternal characteristics, meriting further investigation of familial dietary pathways," note Dr Cilia Mejia-Lancheros and colleagues at University College Dublin. "One reason this may occur is that father's nutrition status may somehow influence the health, quality and function of their germ cells, which are involved in reproduction. Thus, maternal nutrition may not be the only key factor in offspring's growth development and health.”
New research adds evidence to association between omega 3 levels and brain maintenance
"We studied a primary network of the brain -- the frontoparietal network - that plays an important role in fluid intelligence and also declines early, even in healthy aging," commented Marta Zamroziewicz, who is the lead author of both papers. "In a separate study, we examined the white matter structure of the fornix, a group of nerve fibers at the center of the brain that is important for memory."
In the first study, six omega 3 fatty acids were measured in the plasma of 100 older adults. Fluid intelligence, and frontal and parietal gray matter volume were also assessed. It was determined that higher levels of alpha-linolenic acid, stearidonic acid and eicosatrienoic acid were associated with greater fluid intelligence and gray matter volume of the left frontoparietal cortex.
The second study measured plasma omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, and evaluated memory and regional white matter microstructure in 94 older adults. The researchers found that a balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids was associated with better memory and white matter microstructure of the fornix.
"These findings have important implications for the Western diet, which tends to be misbalanced with high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids and low amounts of omega-3 fatty acids," Zamroziewicz stated.
"These two studies highlight the importance of investigating the effects of groups of nutrients together, rather than focusing on one at a time," concluded corresponding author Aron K. Barbey. "They suggest that different patterns of polyunsaturated fats promote specific aspects of cognition by strengthening the underlying neural circuits that are vulnerable to disease and age-related decline."
Metformin shows promise for the treatment of a cause of autism
May 17 2017. A “Brief Communication” published in Nature Medicine on May 15, 2017 reports the outcome of a study conducted in mice which suggests that the diabetes drug metformin could be useful in the treatment of Fragile X syndrome, an inherited cause of some autism spectrum disorders.
"This is some of the most exciting research work in my career, as it offers great promise in treating a pernicious genetic disease for which there is no cure," enthused co-senior author Nahum Sonenberg, who is a professor at McGill University's department of biochemistry.
Fragile X syndrome is caused by defects in the Fragile X Mental Retardation 1 gene, which results in the production of abnormal brain proteins, dysregulated neuron connections, and behavioral aberrations.
Using a mouse model of Fragile X syndrome, researchers at McGill University, the University of Edinburgh and Université de Montréal discovered that ten days of treatment with metformin normalized brain connections and behavior.
"Metformin has been extensively used as a therapy for type 2 diabetes for more than 30 years, and its safety and tolerability are well documented," observed coauthor Christos G. Gkogkas of the University of Edinburgh's Patrick Wild Centre.
"This makes the drug an ideal candidate for fast-tracked clinical trials and, if all goes well, a readily available drug for the treatment of Fragile X syndrome," added coauthor Jean-Claude Lacaille, who is a professor in the Department of Neurosciences at Université de Montréal.
"Basically, it's something like a wonder drug," Dr Sonenberg noted. "It is a simple story in terms of the description of the corrections allowed by the drug. What is more complicated is the molecular mechanism, how exactly it works. We need to study, in the lab, what molecules metformin interacts with and what cellular functions are affected."
Calcium, vitamin D may protect against early menopause
May 15 2017. The June 2017 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the finding of Boston researchers of a lower risk of early menopause among women who consumed higher amounts of vitamin D and calcium. Premature menopause, defined as the cessation of ovarian function prior to the age of 45 years, affects approximately 10% of women.
"Laboratory evidence relating vitamin D to some of the hormonal mechanisms involved in ovarian aging provided the foundation for our hypothesis,” commented leader author Alexandra C. Purdue-Smithe. “However, to our knowledge, no prior epidemiologic studies have explicitly evaluated how vitamin D and calcium intake may be related to risk of early menopause."
The investigation included 116,430 women who were between the ages of 25 and 42 years upon enrolling in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Questionnaires completed by the participants at enrollment and every two years thereafter provided information concerning lifestyle and medical conditions. Dietary information was collected five times during the course of the 20 year study.
Early menopause was experienced by 2,041 subjects over follow-up. Among women whose calcium was categorized as high, the risk of early menopause was 13% less than among those whose intake was low. Having a higher intake of vitamin D was associated with a 17% reduction in risk.
"The large size of this study allowed us to consider a variety of potential correlates of a healthy lifestyle that might explain our findings; however, adjusting for these factors made almost no difference in our estimates," Dr Smith remarked. "In addition to placing women at higher risk of adverse future health outcomes, early menopause is also problematic as women are increasingly delaying childbearing into their later reproductive years . . . As such, it is important to identify modifiable risk factors for early menopause, such as diet."
Meta-analysis affirms faster cold recovery among zinc acetate lozenge users
May 12 2017. The results of a meta-analysis reported in the Spring 2017 issue of Open Forum Infectious Diseases provides further evidence in support of the use of zinc acetate lozenges to shorten the duration of the common cold.
“Five previous meta-analyses concluded that there is strong evidence that zinc lozenges can shorten the duration of colds, although there were shortcomings in the Cochrane review,” note authors Harri Hemilä of the University of Helsinki and colleagues. “The benefit of zinc lozenges in the controlled trials has not been uniform; however, most of the negative trials appear to have been the result of either too low a daily zinc dose or inappropriate excipients that bound the zinc ions.”
Dr Hemilä and associates selected three randomized, double-blind controlled trials that evaluated the effect of zinc acetate lozenges against the common cold among a total of 199 participants. Zinc dosages ranged from 80 to 92 milligrams (mg) per day.
It was determined that zinc lozenges increased the rate of recovery by a factor of three in comparison with a placebo. On the fifth day of treatment, 70% of subjects who received zinc had recovered from their colds in comparison with 27% of the placebo group.
“The 80 to 92 mg/day doses used in the zinc acetate lozenge trials are substantially higher than the recommended daily intakes of 11 mg/day for men and 8 mg/day for women in the United States,” the authors observe. “However, zinc has been administered in doses of 100 to 150 mg/day to certain patient groups for months with few adverse effects.”
They conclude that people who come down with colds could try using zinc acetate lozenges beginning within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, in doses not to exceed 100 milligrams zinc per day.
Safety issues emerge after approval of one out of three drugs
May 10 2017. A report appearing on May 9, 2017 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) documents the development of safety issues for 32% of new drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2001 and 2010.
"That is very rarely a drug withdrawal, but more commonly a black box warning, or drug safety communication issued by the FDA to let physicians and patients know that new safety information has been determined," explained corresponding author Joseph S Ross, MD, MHS, of Yale University School of Medicine.
Dr Ross and colleagues examined data concerning 222 new pharmaceuticals and biologics. They found that nearly a third were affected by a postmarket safety event that included 59 safety communications, 61 boxed warnings and 3 withdrawals during a median follow-up period of 11.7 years.
Because trials conducted to evaluate a drug for approval enroll less than 1,000 patients, who are followed for six months are less, long-term safety risks may not be evident until the drugs are approved and used by a greater number of individuals for a longer period of time. In the current study, median time from approval to an initial safety event was found to be 4.2 years.
Biologics, psychiatric drugs, and accelerated and near–regulatory deadline approval were significantly associated with a higher rate of safety issues. “Our finding that therapeutics approved after the shortest regulatory review times were associated with a lower frequency of postmarket safety events conversely raises the possibility that some approval packages provide clearer evidence of safety, allowing for more rapid regulatory approval,” the authors observe.
"The high frequency of postmarket safety events highlights the need for continuous monitoring of the safety of novel therapeutics throughout their life cycle," they conclude.
Low dose aspirin use associated with reduced breast cancer risk
May 08 2017. An article appearing on May 1, 2017 in Breast Cancer Research reports an association between regular intake of low dose aspirin and a decreased risk of the most common type of breast cancer. “This is the first report to suggest that the reduction in risk occurs for low-dose aspirin and not for regular-dose aspirin and only among women with the hormone receptor-positive/HER2-negative subtype,” Christina A. Clarke, PhD, MPH, and colleagues announce.
The investigation included 57,164 participants in the California Teacher’s Study, who completed questionnaires concerning aspirin use and other data from 1995 to 1996. Follow-up questionnaires completed during 2005-2006 included information pain reliever dosage.
Prior to 2013, invasive breast cancer was diagnosed in 1,457 women. Among subjects who reported consuming at least three low dose aspirin tablets per week, the risk of developing invasive breast cancer was 16% lower than women who reported no usage of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, which include aspirin). For estrogen or progesterone receptor-positive, HER2-negative cancer, regular low dose aspirin use was associated with a 20% lower risk.
“The study found an interesting protective association between low-dose aspirin and breast cancer," stated Dr Clarke. "We did not by and large find associations with the other pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. We also did not find associations with regular aspirin since this type of medication is taken sporadically for headaches or other pain, and not daily for prevention of cardiovascular disease.""We already knew that aspirin is a weak aromatase inhibitor and we treat women with breast cancer with stronger aromatase inhibitors since they reduce the amount of estrogen postmenopausal women have circulating in their blood," noted corresponding author Leslie Bernstein. “Aspirin also reduces inflammation, which may be another mechanism by which aspirin taken regularly can lower risk of breast cancer developing or recurring."
Resveratrol could help protect the arteries
May 05 2017. On May 4, 2017, the American Heart Association's Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology | Peripheral Vascular Disease 2017 Scientific Sessions was the site of a presentation of the finding of a reduction in arterial stiffness in association with the intake of resveratrol, a compound that occurs in red wine and grapes. Stiffness of the aorta (the largest artery) is associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
The study included 57 type 2 diabetic men and women. Participants received 100 mg per day resveratrol for two weeks, followed by 300 mg resveratrol daily for two weeks and a placebo for four weeks. Carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity was conducted after each phase to evaluate aortic stiffness.
Overall, there was a trend toward reduced aortic stiffness in association with resveratrol. In a subset of subjects with greater arterial stiffness at the beginning of the study, 300 mg resveratrol lowered aortic stiffness by 9.1% and 100 mg reduced stiffness by 4.8%, while stiffness increased in association with the placebo.
"This adds to emerging evidence that there may be interventions that may reverse the blood vessel abnormalities that occur with aging and are more pronounced in people with type 2 diabetes and obesity," commented senior author Naomi M. Hamburg, MD, MS, of Boston University. "The effect of resveratrol may be more about improving structural changes in the aorta, and less about the relaxation of blood vessels, and people with more normal aortic stiffness may not get as much benefit.”
"We found that resveratrol also activates the longevity gene SIRT1 in humans, and this may be a potential mechanism for the supplements to reduce aortic stiffness,” added lead author Ji-Yao Ella Zhang, PhD. “Studies with longer treatment are needed to test the effects of a daily resveratrol supplement on vascular function."
Lutein/zeaxanthin benefits more than meets the eye
May 03 2017. An article that appeared on February 15, 2017 in Nutritional Neuroscience reports a positive effect for supplementation with the macular carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin on psychological stress, cortisol levels, and emotional and physical health in young men and women. The antioxidant nutrients are best known for their benefit in age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness among older Europeans and North Americans.
The research involved 59 young adults enrolled in the Lutein, Vision and Mental Acuity II (LAMA II) randomized, double-blind trial that compared the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin to a placebo. Participants received 13 milligrams (mg) or 27 mg of a combination of lutein plus zeaxanthin, or a placebo daily for one year. Serum cortisol and macular pigments, macular pigment optical density, and behavioral data were assessed at the beginning of the study and at 6 and 12 months.
At the trial’s onset, macular pigment optical density was correlated with anxiety, symptom inventory and psychological stress scores, as well as with serum cortisol, which increases during stress. At six months, psychological stress, serum cortisol, and physical and emotional health measures were improved among those who received lutein and zeaxanthin in comparison with a placebo. The outcomes were found to be maintained or further improved at 12 months.
Due to a propensity to deposit in neural tissue of specific regions of the brain and eyes, lutein and zeaxanthin may benefit both areas. "This compelling research demonstrates the expanded benefits of supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin isomers to help address the huge public health concern surrounding elevated stress and cortisol levels," commented Abhijit Bhattacharya, whose company supplied the nutrients being tested. "The results of LAMA II serve as a strong foundation on which new macular carotenoids science can be built."
Vitamin D levels higher in exercisers
May 01 2017. The April 1, 2017 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism published the finding of researchers at Johns Hopkins University of a correlation between increased physical activity and higher levels of vitamin D. Higher levels of vitamin D and exercise was also associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
The study included 10,342 men and women who were free of coronary heart disease and heart failure upon enrollment in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study between 1987 to 1989. Physical activity levels were assessed during follow-up visits that took place over a 19.3-year period. Stored serum samples obtained at the second visit were analyzed for 25-hydroxyvitamin D3.
Subjects who achieved American Heart Association recommended physical activity levels had average levels of vitamin D that were higher than those who had intermediate and poor levels of activity. Following adjustment for lifestyle and other factors, those who met the recommended levels had a 31% lower risk of being deficient in vitamin D than those with poor activity levels. Subjects in the recommended activity group with levels of vitamin D of 30 ng/mL or more had a 24% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
The association between exercise and vitamin D was stronger in subjects of European ethnicity than among African Americans. The authors noted that European-Americans as well as those who engage in exercise are likelier to be supplement users. “We did find that vitamin D supplement use was higher among those with increased physical activity,” they observed.
"In our study, both failure to meet the recommended physical activity levels and having vitamin D deficiency were very common" stated coauthor Erin Michos, MD, MS, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The bottom line is we need to encourage people to move more in the name of heart health."