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.
Higher omega-3 intake could improve trial results
August 30, 2019. An article published on August 8, 2019 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that insufficient doses of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) could be to blame for some trial results in which supplementation failed to substantially increase red blood cell omega-3 fatty acid levels reported as the Omega-3 Index. Omega-3 Index values are used to evaluate the effectiveness of a person’s omega-3 intake, with a range of 8-12% considered to be supportive of overall health.
"A low dose could make a study show no effect of EPA and DHA, which makes the literature more indecisive and the medical community more skeptical of omega-3 benefits," co-lead author Kristina Harris Jackson, PhD, RD, remarked.
By analyzing data from 14 trials that examined the effects of varying doses of omega-3 fatty acids on the Omega-3 Index among a total of 1,422 men and women, Dr Jackson and colleagues developed a model equation that can be used to predict Omega-3 Index levels from a given daily dose of EPA and DHA. Among variables considered in the determination of the equation, Omega-3 Index levels at the start of supplementation, dose of EPA and DHA, and the form of fish oil used as a source of omega-3 were included in the final model. The authors remarked that these three factors explained 62% of the variance in response.
As an illustration, for someone with a baseline Omega-3 Index of 4%, 1750 milligrams per day of a triglyceride fish oil formula or 2500 milligrams of an ethyl ester formulation would be predicted to elevate the Omega-3 Index to 8% in 13 weeks with 95% certainty.
"The recommended doses are simply average responses, but individual responses to EPA and DHA are still very difficult to predict," Dr Jackson noted.
Decreased nutrient levels linked with frailty
August 28, 2019. An article appearing online on August 7, 2019 in The Journal of the American Medical Directors Association reveals an association between lower blood levels of several nutrients and a greater risk of frailty among older men and women.
"Frailty occurs when a number of systems in the body lose reserve capacity and therefore the ability to 'bounce back' after even trivial illnesses,” explained principal investigator Rose-Anne Kenny. “It is an important and challenging state; commonly associated with aging but also common in patients of any age who have major surgery, cancer treatments and severe infections. The hall mark of frailty is muscle weakness. If it is recognized in its early stages, it can be reversed. However, the longer it is present, the more difficult is it to 'bounce back.’”
The study included 4,068 participants in The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) who were aged 50 or older. Participants underwent three frailty assessments and blood samples were tested for folate, vitamin B12, vitamin D, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Increases in all three measures of frailty were associated with lower levels or insufficiencies of lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin D. Prefrailty was associated with lower levels of lutein and vitamin D.
"We have presented evidence in the largest study to date that lower levels of specific vitamins and antioxidants - and having low levels of more than one micronutrient - is consistently and progressively associated with the most commonly used methods for measuring frailty,” announced lead author Dr Aisling O'Halloran, who is a senior research fellow at TILDA.
“Our data suggest that low micronutrient status has potential as an easily modifiable marker and intervention target for frailty and supports further investigation into micronutrient supplementation and fortification to prevent frailty and disability among older adults,” the authors conclude.
How zinc fights infections
August 26, 2019. Research reported on August 22, 2019 in PLOS Pathogens explored zinc’s ability to fight bacterial infections.
“Zinc deficiency affects one-third of the world’s population and is associated with an increased susceptibility to bacterial infection,” authors Bart Eijkelkamp and colleagues noted. “Although zinc supplementation therapies can reduce the impact of disease, the molecular basis for protection remains unclear.”
For the current investigation, mice were provided with diets that resulted in a 70% lower level of serum zinc than animals given standard lab chow. The animals were then exposed to the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia.
The researchers observed that animals that received zinc restricted diets had a significantly greater bacterial burden in various areas of the body 36 hours after exposure than the animals that received adequate zinc, particularly in the nose, throat and blood. Elemental bio-imaging of the lungs showed decreased zinc concentrations in deficient mice and both groups showed migration of zinc to specific regions of the lungs upon infection. “These data show that zinc co-localizes with the invading pathogen in murine lungs,” the authors explained.
It was determined that phagocytes, which are immune cells that ingest harmful foreign particles (including bacteria), accumulate zinc and utilize the mineral as a direct antimicrobial agent. Mice that received zinc deficient diets survived approximately 30 hours less than those that given normal diets.
"Dietary zinc is associated with immune function and resistance to bacterial infection," Dr Eijkelkamp commented. "Our work shows that zinc is mobilized to sites of infection where it stresses the invading bacteria and helps specific immune cells kill Streptococcus pneumoniae."
"Our findings highlight the importance of ensuring dietary zinc sufficiency as part of any population-wide strategy to control the burden of pneumococcal disease in conjunction with vaccination and other antimicrobial approaches," lead researcher Christopher McDevitt concluded.
Ginkgo shows promise against type 2 diabetes
August 23, 2019. An article published on August 7, 2019 in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy reports a benefit for an extract of Ginkgo biloba in rats with type 2 diabetes.
"Gingko biloba is one of the oldest living tree species,” commented coauthor Helal Fouad Hetta, PhD, who is a postdoctoral fellow and scientist at the University of Cincinnati. “It is commonly available as an oral tablet, extract, capsule or tea.”
Forty rats were divided into four groups of ten. Three groups received a high-fat diet for eight weeks followed by an injection of streptozotocin to induce diabetes. One group of diabetic rats subsequently received an extract of Ginkgo biloba and the other group received magnetized water for four weeks.
"Extracts derived from Ginkgo biloba have been frequently used in traditional medicine and have been shown to exhibit antioxidant potency," Dr Hetta remarked. "Magnetized water, which has been passed through a magnetic field, has also been reported to reduce blood glucose and improve antioxidant status and lipid profiles in diabetic rat models."
Failure of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells was observed in untreated diabetic rats, however, beta cell mass and function increased among treated groups to nearly normal levels. (Ginkgo-treated animals experienced the greatest benefit.) Antioxidant status also improved in treated groups while pancreatic oxidative stress levels declined.
"In diabetic rats Ginkgo biloba had a very good effect on the beta cells of Langerhans—cells in the pancreas responsible for insulin secretion—by creating a restorative effect similar to what we see in healthy nondiabetic rats," Dr Hetta explained.
"We still need more evidence about possible benefits for type 2 diabetes so there is ongoing research," Dr Hetta added. "Our findings need to be tested in human clinical trials of large sample size.”
Trial finds PEA safe, effective for knee osteoarthritis
August 21, 2019. The June 2019 issue of Inflammopharmacology reported the outcome of a randomized, double-blind trial that revealed safety and efficacy for supplementation with palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) among individuals with knee osteoarthritis.
Palmitoylethanolamide is a fatty acid that is naturally produced in the body as part of a healthy immune response.
The trial included 111 men and women with mild to moderate osteoarthritis in one or both knees who were given a placebo, 300 milligrams (mg) PEA or 600 mg PEA daily for eight weeks. Questionnaires concerning pain, stiffness and function, and a scaled assessment of knee pain intensity were completed by the participants at the beginning of the study, on day two, and after one, four and eight weeks. Depression, anxiety and stress; sleep quality, stress level assessment, health-related quality of life, and blood factors were evaluated at the beginning and end of the trial.
In comparison with the placebo group, participants who received PEA experienced a significant reduction in pain and stiffness. Function significantly improved among those who received 600 mg PEA. Both doses of PEA were associated with improvements in pain intensity scores and anxiety. The number of participants who had no pain increased among both groups that received PEA, while decreasing slightly among the placebo group by the end of the trial.
Strengths of the current study noted by authors Elizabeth Steels of the University of Sydney and colleagues include the double-blind, placebo-controlled design, inclusion of a population with osteoarthritis, the use of PEA as a stand-alone treatment and other factors.
“This is the first human clinical study to demonstrate the effectiveness of PEA for knee joint osteoarthritic pain,” they announce. “The study demonstrated that palmitoylethanolamide may be a novel treatment for attenuating pain and reducing other associated symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.”
When liver disease affects the brain
August 19, 2019. The September 2019 issue of the Journal of Hepatology reported findings of researchers at the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne, the Vaud University Hospital Centre, the Centre for Biomedical Imaging, the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne and the University Hospitals of Geneva of the effects of chronic liver disease on the brain.
In cirrhosis of the liver, the inability of the organ to filter ammonium can cause cerebral edema and sometimes results in hepatic encephalopathy. “Ammonium is a substance produced when proteins break down, some of which is directed to the brain where it is transformed into glutamine - used for the production of neurotransmitters - while the other part is filtered by the liver and excreted in the urine," explained Valérie McLin of the University of Geneva.
The team discovered that liver-induced brain disturbances occur in a mouse model as early as two weeks following the onset of liver dysfunction. "Based on earlier studies, we thought it will take about six weeks to see an impact, i.e. at the beginning of the deterioration of the animal's health," commented Dr Cristina Cudalbu of the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne. "We tracked each animal individually by putting it in a high magnetic field MRI every two weeks so we could carry out high resolution spectroscopy."
Outward signs of liver disease appear between four and eight weeks. "From that moment, we observed that in addition to there being an excess of ammonium in the brain, the concentration of the two other molecules drops: vitamin C, an antioxidant, and creatine, which fulfils many functions, including energy-related functions," reported first author Olivier Braissant. "These appear in a second phase after the ammonium in the blood rises."
The team recommends the investigation of creatine and vitamin C supplementation as neuroprotective strategies.
Researchers explore effects of high uric acid levels
August 16, 2019. An article published on August 15, 2019 in PLOS Genetics describes an investigation into factors associated with high uric acid levels that exist in approximately 20% of humans and are associated with gout, kidney stones and other conditions. "Uric acid levels often go up with age," remarked senior author Pankaj Kapahi, PhD, of the Buck Institute in Novato, California. "Gout is also associated with premature mortality in humans. Conversely, studies from the Institute for Aging Research led by Nir Barzilai at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine show that many centenarians are genetically predisposed to having low levels of uric acid."
In a fruit fly model of humans who, unlike most other species, lack a gene that metabolizes uric acid, the research team observed an increase in uric acid stone formation in response to a purine-rich diet. (Purines are uric acid precursors found in high amounts in meat and alcohol.) The addition of purines to the diet shortened the genetically modified flies’ lifespan by nearly 50%. Suppression of the insulin-like signaling pathway (involved in nutrient sensing) lowered uric acid in the modified flies, which suggests a target for drug development.
The researchers determined that an increase in free radicals generated by NADPH oxidase (NOX) were involved in kidney stone formation and early death in the genetically modified flies. "We were able to inhibit the increase in free radicals using the common antioxidant vitamin C which reduced the burden of kidney stones and improved survival in the animals," reported lead researcher Sven Lang, of Saarland University in Germany.
"People can be at genetic risk for high uric acid and not know it," Dr Kapahi noted. "Medical practitioners haven't been paying sufficient attention to uric acid and perhaps they should."
Flavonoid intake associated with lower risk of dying from major diseases
August 14, 2019. A study reported on August 13, 2019 in Nature Communications found that people who consumed higher amounts of flavonoids had a lower risk of dying of cancer and heart disease compared to those who consumed lesser amounts. Flavonoids are compounds that occur in fruit, tea and other plant foods.
Nicola Bondonno and associates at Edith Cowan University analyzed 23 years of data from 53,048 men and women enrolled in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort. They found that subjects who consumed approximately 500 milligrams flavonoids per day had the lowest risk of heart disease or cancer-related mortality. The protective effect was strongest for those at greater risk of these diseases due to smoking or consuming more than two alcoholic beverages per day.
"These findings are important as they highlight the potential to prevent cancer and heart disease by encouraging the consumption of flavonoid-rich foods, particularly in people at high risk of these chronic diseases," Dr Bondonno commented. "But it's also important to note that flavonoid consumption does not counteract all of the increased risk of death caused by smoking and high alcohol consumption. By far the best thing to do for your health is to quit smoking and cut down on alcohol.”
"We know these kind of lifestyle changes can be very challenging, so encouraging flavonoid consumption might be a novel way to alleviate the increased risk, while also encouraging people to quit smoking and reduce their alcohol intake," she added.
"It's important to consume a variety of different flavonoid compounds found in different plant-based food and drink,” Dr Bondonno noted. "Flavonoids have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and improve blood vessel function, which may explain why they are associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer."
Study finds higher testosterone levels associated with lower blood pressure
August 12, 2019. The May 2019 issue of Medicine reported the findings of researchers at Shantou University Medical College of a relationship between higher levels of free and bioavailable testosterone and lower blood pressure in men.
“Because testosterone bound to sex hormone binding globulin is biologically inactive, the concentration of total testosterone may not always reflect the true androgen status,” Qingtao Yang, MD, and colleagues write. “Therefore, free testosterone and bioavailable testosterone may be better reflections of biological activity than total testosterone alone.”
The study included 253 men between the ages of 40 and 79 years. Blood samples were analyzed for levels of serum testosterone, albumin and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). Questionnaires completed by the participants provided information concerning lifestyle factors.
Sixty-two men had hypertension and 191 had normal blood pressure. With and without adjustment for age and lifestyle factors, higher free and bioavailable testosterone levels were associated with lower systolic blood pressure, and lower diastolic pressure was associated with higher bioavailable testosterone. Among participants whose total testosterone was among the top 25% of participants, the risk of hypertension was 50% lower than men whose levels were among the lowest 25%. Those whose free testosterone and bioavailable testosterone levels were among the top 25% had risks of high blood pressure that were 65% lower than men whose levels were among the lowest. Hypertension was also associated with higher levels of SHBG.
The authors remark that there could be several mechanisms for testosterone in blood pressure normalization. They note that testosterone receptors have been identified in endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells.
“Our results also show that bioavailable and total testosterone are inversely associated with systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and hypertension in men,” they conclude. “Therefore, testosterone replacement therapy may represent potential beneficial vascular effects.”
Lower vitamin D levels associated with increased nonmotor symptoms among Parkinson’s disease patients
August 9, 2019. An article published on August 6, 2019 in the journal Acta Neurologica Scandinavica reported the findings of researchers in China of an association between lower serum vitamin D levels and greater nonmotor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients.
"As various nonmotor symptoms place a burden on individuals with Parkinson's disease and their caregivers, vitamin D might be a potential add-on therapy for improving these neglected symptoms," commented senior author Chun Feng Liu, MD, PhD, of the Second Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University in China.
The study compared 182 patients with Parkinson’s disease with 185 healthy control subjects that were matched for age and sex. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and bone mineral density of the lumbar spine and femoral neck were measured in both groups, and cognition, depression and anxiety, sleep quality, fatigue severity and fall incidence during the previous month were assessed.
Serum vitamin D levels and bone mineral density of the lumbar spine and femoral neck were significantly lower in Parkinson’s disease patients than the healthy control group. The incidence of falls was nearly 50% among the participants whose vitamin D levels were among the lowest third at less than 14 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) in contrast 16% among those whose levels were higher than 19 ng/mL.
“Parkinson’s disease patients with lower vitamin D levels had a significantly higher frequency of falls and insomnia,” the authors report. “They also had significantly higher scores for the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, depression, and anxiety.”
“These data support further study of vitamin D supplementation for its possible benefits on both the clinical symptoms and quality of life of patients with Parkinson’s disease,” they conclude.
Melon-derived compound protects against diet-induced NASH
August 7, 2019. The results of a study reported on August 1, 2019 in the journal Nutrients found that GliSODin®, a supplement produced from a superoxide dismutase-rich melon extract, helps prevent nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in mice given a high-fat and high-cholesterol diet. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is the advanced middle stage of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which fat deposits accumulate in the liver despite little or no alcohol intake among those affected.
For the study, male mice were given a normal diet, a diet containing high amounts of fat and cholesterol, or a high-fat and cholesterol diet with the addition of GliSODin®. After 21 weeks, the animals’ livers were examined.
While the animals fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet had enlarged livers, those that received GliSODin® had less liver weight and volume. Total plasma cholesterol and liver triglycerides were lower in the group that received GliSODin®, which suggests that GliSODin® decreases lipid accumulation that causes NASH. Lipid droplets in the liver that were increased in the high fat and cholesterol diet group were lower among mice that received GliSODin® and the GliSODin® group failed to exhibit liver fibrosis.
The expression of genes that are markers of inflammation were downregulated in association with GliSODin® treatment in comparison with the high-fat and cholesterol-fed group that did not receive GliSODin®, and TBARS, a marker of oxidative stress, were lower. Of note, high-fat, high-cholesterol diet-fed mice that received GliSODin® had TBARS levels that were lower than those of animals that received the normal control diet.
“Our results indicate that melon GliSODin® prevents NASH by reducing hepatic oxidative stress, which is an intrinsic pathological characteristic of NASH,” authors Anna Nakamura and colleagues conclude. “Our results suggest that SOD-rich melon GliSODin® serves as a potential antioxidant in the prevention of NASH.”
Research suggests melatonin and hormone therapy cooperate to reduce breast cancer risk
August 5, 2019. A study reported on July 9, 2019 in Frontiers in Oncology found a benefit for combining melatonin with estradiol-progesterone therapy in mice with metastatic mammary cancer. The finding may have implications for older women who could benefit from hormone replacement but are concerned about possible breast cancer risk.
Using a mouse model of primary and metastatic HER2-positive mammary cancer, researchers at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh administered a diet that contained the hormones beta-estradiol plus progesterone or the same diet without hormones beginning at two months of age. Some animals in both groups also received melatonin in their nighttime drinking water. The regimens were continued until the animals were 14 months old.
Animals that received estradiol with progesterone and those tat received the hormones plus melatonin had a similar number of tumors until the age of 8.6 months. While melatonin or hormone therapy alone did not impact the incidence of tumors through the remainder of the study, the group that received both treatments had a significantly higher percentage of tumor-free mice.
“Melatonin has oncostatic effects on angiogenesis, immune modulation, tumor metabolism, oxidative stress, and apoptosis,” authors Balasunder R. Dodda and colleagues write. “Besides requiring melatonin supplementation, the type of hormone therapy tested is likely important for the observed cancer protection, including the use of natural hormones, low dose hormone therapy, and a reduced progesterone dose.”
“The decrease in melatonin levels near menopause and its cancer-protective and other actions suggest that supplementing nocturnal melatonin levels could improve quality of life (QOL) and sleep for menopausal women and reduce aging and their risks of breast and other cancers, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and diabetes,” they note. “Therefore, supplementing nocturnal melatonin levels may be necessary to reduce breast cancer risk in aging women taking hormone therapy.”
Greater vitamin A, carotenoid intake linked with lower risk of skin cancer
August 2, 2019. An article appearing on July 31, 2019 in JAMA Dermatology reports an association between increased intake of vitamin A and carotenoids and a lower risk of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a common type of skin cancer.
The study included 75,170 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1984 to 2012 and 48,400 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study from 1986 to 2012. Dietary questionnaires completed upon enrollment and approximately every four years during the course of the studies provided information concerning intake of retinol and carotenoids from food and supplements from which average intake was calculated.
During more than 26 years of follow-up, 3,978 cases of SCC were diagnosed. Among men and women who were the study’s top 20% consumers of total vitamin A (the sum of retinol and carotenoids according to their vitamin A activity), the risk of acquiring SCC was 17% lower in comparison with those whose intake was among the lowest 20%. When the nutrients were separately examined, the top 20% consumers of retinol (vitamin A that did not include carotenoid sources), beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, and lutein plus zeaxanthin had risks of developing SCC that were respectively 12%, 14%, 13% and 11% less than the odds experienced by people in the lowest group.
“Future studies are needed to determine whether vitamin A supplementation has a role in chemoprevention of SCC,” write authors Jongwoo Kim, MD, MSc, and colleagues. “Future studies should also consider vitamin A with nicotinamide [vitamin B3], another nutrient identified to be effective in chemoprevention of SCC in a phase 3 clinical trial, as natural chemopreventive agents.”
“Our data further support the contention that supplemental and dietary vitamin A may be beneficial in preventing SCC,” the authors conclude.