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.
Increased cognitive impairment and physical disability in MS patients with low vitamin D
The annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, held April 10-17, 2010 in Toronto, was the site of the presentation of the findings of a greater incidence of advanced physical disability and cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients with reduced levels of serum vitamin D.
In one study, associate professor of neurology Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, MD and her colleagues at the University at Buffalo measured vitamin D and vitamin D byproducts in serum samples from 208 patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, 28 patients with secondary progressive MS (the more destructive form of the disease), and 22 individuals who did not have MS. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brains of 163 participants assessed brain lesions and atrophy, which are characteristic of the disease.
The researchers found vitamin D insufficiency in 93 percent of those with secondary progressive MS, compared to 81.7 percent of those with less severe disease. Higher levels of vitamin D and its byproducts were associated with improved disability test scores, and reduced brain atrophy lesions.
In another study, University of Buffalo research professor of neurology Sarah A. Morrow, MD and her associates assessed vitamin D levels and neuropsychological function in 136 multiple sclerosis patients. "Results showed that MS patients who were impaired on tests of executive function --critical reasoning and abstract thinking -- and the ability to plan and organize, were more likely to be deficient in vitamin D," Dr Morrow stated. "This relationship held true when controlling for the season during which vitamin D was measured, as well as depression, which is known to be associated with lower vitamin D levels."
"Clinical studies are necessary to assess vitamin D supplementation and the underlying mechanism that contributes to MS disease progression," Dr Weinstock-Guttman recommended.
Another reason not to drink sodas
An article published online on April 23, 2010 in the FASEB Journal (Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) reveals that high levels of phosphates, compounds that contain the mineral phosphorous found in sodas and other processed foods, may be linked to a shorter life span. High phosphate levels have been associated with an increase in the prevalence and severity of several age-related complications, including chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular calcification, and muscle and skin atrophy.
M. Shawkat Razzaque, MD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s Department of Medicine, Infection and Immunity examined the impact of phosphate levels in three groups of mice. The first group was missing a gene known as klotho, which causes them to have elevated levels of phosphate as well as numerous features associated with premature aging, including infertility and muscle wasting. The second group was missing klotho as well as another gene, which, when simultaneously absent, lowers phosphate. The third group was also missing the two genes, but was given a high phosphate diet.
Dr Razzaque found that while none of the mice in the first and third groups lived beyond 15 weeks, those in the second group lived to 20 weeks and did not show the features of premature aging evident in the other mice. The finding suggests that phosphate toxicity is the primary cause of premature aging in mice missing klotho.
"Humans need a healthy diet and keeping the balance of phosphate in the diet may be important for a healthy life and longevity," Dr Razzaque noted.
"Soda is the caffeine delivery vehicle of choice for millions of people worldwide, but comes with phosphorous as a passenger" FASEB Journal editor in chief Gerald Weissmann, MD commented. "This research suggests that our phosphorous balance influences the aging process, so don't tip it."
Grapes reduce metabolic syndrome in animal study
A presentation on April 26, 2010 at the Experimental Biology convention in Anaheim, California revealed a protective effect for grapes against the development of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that includes increased abdominal fat, hypertension, high triglycerides, lowered glucose tolerance and inflammation, which are associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and diabete.
Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System gave a diet enhanced with powered blend of green, red and black grapes to rats bred to become overweight, while a control group received the equivalent in calories and sugars for three months. At the end of the treatment period, animals that received diets enhanced with grapes had improved cardiac function and glucose tolerance, and lower triglycerides, blood pressure, and markers of inflammation and oxidative stress compared to animals that did not receive grape powder. "Reducing these risk factors may delay the onset of diabetes or heart disease, or lessen the severity of the diseases," remarked E. Mitchell Seymour, PhD, who was the study’s lead researcher and manager of the University of Michigan Cardioprotection Research Laboratory. "Ultimately it may lessen the health burden of these increasingly common conditions."
The benefits of grapes observed in the study are likely due to the fruit’s phytochemical content. "The possible reasoning behind the lessening of metabolic syndrome is that the phytochemicals were active in protecting the heart cells from the damaging effects of metabolic syndrome,” explained Cardioprotection Research Laboratory head Steven Bolling, MD. “In the rats, inflammation of the heart and heart function was maintained far better."
"Although there's not a particular direct correlation between this study and what humans should do, it's very interesting to postulate that a diet higher in phytochemical-rich fruits, such as grapes, may benefit humans," he added.
Resveratrol may help protect the brain following a stroke
In an article published online on April 8, 2010 in the journal Experimental Neurology, Johns Hopkins University researchers report a protective effect for resveratrol against damage caused by stroke. Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in wine, red grapes, and other plant foods that is believed to be responsible for many of the benefits associated with wine drinking. “Epidemiological and experimental reports have linked mild-to-moderate wine and/or grape consumption to a lowered incidence of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and peripheral vascular risk,” the authors note in their introductory remarks.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine Sylvain Doré, PhD and colleagues gave mice a modest dose of resveratrol two hours prior to inducing ischemic stroke. Among animals that received the compound, less brain damage occurred compared to mice that did not receive resveratrol. The researchers found that resveratrol increases levels of heme oxygenase, an enzyme that protects neurons in the brain. This protection was lost in mice in which heme oxygenase was selectively deleted and in cultured mouse neuronal cells treated with a heme oxygenase inhibitor, which suggests that heme oxygenase induction is in part responsible for resveratrol’s effects. "Our study adds to evidence that resveratrol can potentially build brain resistance to ischemic stroke," Dr Doré stated. "Resveratrol itself may not be shielding brain cells from free radical damage directly, but instead, resveratrol, and its metabolites, may be prompting the cells to defend themselves.”
Further research conducted by Dr Doré’s team suggests that resveratrol could also be given after a stroke to help prevent damage. If resveratrol’s mechanism is indeed indirect, the amount needed to protect the brain may not be a lot. "It's not likely that brain cells can have high enough local levels of resveratrol to be protective," Dr Doré remarked. "Even a small amount may be sufficient."
Vitamin B6 and folate intake associated with lower cardiovascular disease mortality
In an article published online on April 15, 2010 in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, Japanese researchers report the discovery of a reduced risk of heart failure in men and a lower risk of heart disease and stroke in women whose diets include relatively high amounts of the B vitamins folate and vitamin B6.
Osaka University professor of public health Hiroyasu Iso, MD and his colleagues evaluated data from 23,119 men and 35,611 women aged 40 to 79 who participated in the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study Group. Dietary questionnaire responses were analyzed for folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 levels. Subjects were followed for a median of 14 years, during which 2,087 deaths from cardiovascular disease occurred, including 424 deaths from coronary heart disease and 986 deaths from stroke.
The researchers found an association between increased dietary folate and vitamin B6 intake and a reduction in mortality from coronary heart disease, stroke and total cardiovascular disease in women. Adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors or elimination of supplement users from the analysis failed to significantly impact the associations. For men, folate and vitamin B6 appeared to be protective against heart failure mortality. No associations with cardiovascular mortality were found for vitamin B12.
The authors explain the findings by the ability of folate and vitamin B6 to lower homocysteine, an amino acid which, when elevated, has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Although the vitamin is present in vegetables, fish, whole grains and other foods, men and women residing in Japan tend to have a lower intake of vitamin B6 than Americans,.
“Japanese people need more dietary intake of folate and vitamin B-6, which may lead to the prevention of heart disease,” Dr Iso remarked.
DHA could improve male fertility
The February, 2010 issue of the Journal of Lipid Research published the results of study at the University of Illinois which is the first to demonstrate a direct role for the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in sperm formation.
For their research, Manabu T. Nakamura and associates used mice genetically modified to lack the ability to synthesize DHA, arachidonic acid, and n6-docosapentaenoic acid. These animals have a deficit in sperm formation and are infertile. The genetically modified mice and normal mice were given diets supplemented with arachidonic acid or DHA from weaning until 16 weeks of age.
Genetically modified animals that received DHA experienced a breeding success rate similar to normal mice, and showed normal sperm count and formation, as opposed to those that did not receive DHA.
"In our experiment, we used 'knockout' mice that lacked the gene responsible for an enzyme important in making docosahexaenoic acid,” explained Dr Nakamura. “In the absence of DHA, male mice are basically infertile, producing few if any misshaped sperm that can't get where they need to go."
"We looked at sperm count, shape, and motility and tested the breeding success rate, and the mice lacking DHA simply were not able to breed," lead author Manuel Roqueta-Rivera noted. “It was very striking. When we fed the mice DHA, all these abnormalities were prevented."
The researchers plan to further explore DHA’s impact on male fertility. "We get hints from looking at sperm in the DHA-deficient animals about what type of pathology we may be looking at and why these polyunsaturated fatty acids are important,” Dr Nakamura said. “But we're still at the starting point in understanding the mechanisms that are involved and we need to do more research at the cellular level."
Study identifies dietary pattern associated with lower Alzheimer’s disease risk
An article scheduled to appear in the June, 2010 issue of the Archives of Neurology reveals the finding of Columbia University researchers of specific foods that correlate with a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease when included as a regular part of the diet.
The current study included 2,148 participants in the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project recruited in 1992 and 1999. Subjects underwent physical and neurological examinations upon enrollment and every 1.5 years thereafter for an average of 4 years, at which time any cases of dementia were diagnosed. Food intake during the year prior to the initial assessment, as reported by dietary questionnaire responses, was categorized by the researchers into 30 groups based on nutrient composition.
Over the follow-up period, Alzheimer’s disease was diagnosed in 253 participants. The researchers found that a dietary pattern that included relatively high amounts of salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, fruits, and cruciferous, dark and leafy green vegetables, while including low amounts of high-fat dairy products, red and organ meats and butter was associated with a lower risk of developing the disease. Those whose intake of these nutrients was among the highest one-third of subjects had a 38 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared with those whose intake was in the lowest third.
“Epidemiological evidence linking diet, one of the most important modifiable environmental factors, and risk of Alzheimer’s disease is rapidly increasing,” write authors Yian Gu, PhD and colleagues. “For example, vitamin B12 and folate are homocysteine-related vitamins that may have an impact on Alzheimer’s disease via their ability of reducing circulating homocysteine levels, vitamin E might prevent Alzheimer’s disease via its strong antioxidant effect and fatty acids may be related to dementia and cognitive function through atherosclerosis, thrombosis or inflammation via an effect on brain development and membrane functioning or via accumulation of beta-amyloid.”
“Our findings provide support for further exploration of food combination–based dietary behavior for the prevention of this important public health problem,” they conclude.
More dietary fiber associated with lower risk of COPD
An article published in the April 1, 2010 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology reveals an association between increased fiber intake and a reduced risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the fourth leading cause of mortality in Europe and the U.S.
The study included data from 71,365 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and 40,215 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Dietary questionnaires were analyzed for type and frequency of fiber intake. Between 1984 and 2000, 832 cases of COPD were newly diagnosed among the combined subjects.
After adjustment for age, smoking status, body mass index and other factors, subjects in the top 20 percent of fiber intake were found to have a 33 percent lower risk of newly diagnosed COPD compared with those in the lowest 20 percent. The protective effect of fiber was strongest in women. When fiber intake was analyzed by type, only fiber from cereal sources was significantly associated with a reduction in COPD risk.
“The biologic explanation for a potential benefit of fiber intake is related to both its antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties,” write authors Raphaelle Varraso of INSERM and Harvard researchers Walter C. Willett and Carlos A. Camargo, Jr. “Even if the exact mechanism between dietary fiber and inflammation is unclear, it has been reported in epidemiologic data that fiber intake is associated with both a lower level of C-reactive protein and various proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukins 6 and 18 and tumor necrosis factor alpha, and a higher level of the antiinflammatory cytokine adiponectin.”
“For COPD prevention, the most important public health message remains smoking cessation, but our data suggest that diet, another modifiable risk factor, might also influence COPD risk,” they conclude.
Greater fish oil intake linked with lower fatal heart attack risk
An article published online on March 24, 2010 in the Journal of Nutrition revealed the finding of Dutch researchers that increased fish and omega-3 fatty acid consumption is associated with a lower risk of fatal coronary heart disease (CHD) in a population with low fish intake.
Researchers at Wageningen University analyzed data from 21,342 participants in The Monitoring Project on Risk Factors for Chronic Diseases (MORGEN) study of men and women aged 20 to 65, in which information on diet, lifestyle and cardiovascular risk factors was collected from 1993 to 1997. Questionnaire responses provided information on type and frequency of fish consumed, which was analyzed for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content. The subjects were followed until January, 2007 during which fatal coronary heart disease and nonfatal heart attacks were documented.
Over the follow-up period, 647 deaths occurred. Eight-two deaths were caused by coronary heart disease, which included 64 heart attacks. Nonfatal heart attacks were documented in 252 subjects. Participants whose intake of EPA and DHA was among the top 25 percent of subjects at a median of 234 milligrams per day had a 49 percent lower risk of fatal coronary heart disease and a 62 percent lower risk of fatal heart attack compared with those whose intake was lowest at 40 milligrams. Those whose fish intake was among the top 25 percent experienced similar benefits. No association was found between fish or EPA and DHA intake and nonfatal heart attack.
The authors hypothesize that the different associations observed for fatal and nonfatal heart attack are due to EPA and DHA’s protective effect against fatal cardiac arrhythmias.
“In a population with low levels of fish consumption, higher intakes of EPA+DHA and fish may protect against fatal CHD in a dose-responsive manner,” they conclude.
Life-extending drug improves cognitive function in mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease
In an article published on April 1, 2010 in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the Buck Institute for Age Research in California report that rapamycin, a drug used in transplant patients that has been shown to extend lifespan in mice and reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in a mouse model, also improves memory and learning in another mouse model of early Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers added rapamycin to the diets of transgenic mice and their normal littermates for 13 weeks. Drug treatment was begun at 4 months of age when amyloid-beta-42 levels are elevated and synaptic dysfunction is observed in the Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Twelve animals from each group received control diets.
Transgenic mice that received rapamycin showed improvements in memory and learning on a water maze test and less brain damage than those that did not receive the drug. "Strikingly, the Alzheimer's mice treated with rapamycin displayed improved performance on the maze, even reaching levels that were indistinguishable from their normal littermates," reported lead researcher Veronica Galvan, PhD, who is an assistant professor at the University of Texas’ Barshop Institute and the Department of Physiology. "Levels of amyloid-beta-42 were also reduced in these mice after treatment, and we are seeing preserved numbers of synaptic elements in the brain areas of Alzheimer's disease mice that are ravaged by the disease process."
"The fact that we are seeing identical results in two vastly different mouse models of Alzheimer's disease provides robust evidence that rapamycin treatment is effective and is acting by changing a basic pathogenic process of Alzheimer's that is common to both mouse models,” she added. “This suggests that it may be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's in humans, who also have very diverse genetic makeup and life histories."
Delayed antioxidant administration reduces radiation damage
A report published in the April, 2010 issue of the journal Radiation Research revealed the unexpected discovery of researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit that delaying the administration of antioxidants following exposure to radiation results in less lethality compared to immediate treatment in an animal model.
Stephen L. Brown and his colleagues at Henry Ford’s Department of Radiation Oncology exposed groups of 14-20 mice to varying doses of total body irradiation. The animals received unsupplemented rodent chow or chow containing antioxidants beginning immediately following irradiation or 12, 24, or 48 hours later. The antioxidant supplements consisted of L-selenomethionine, sodium ascorbate (vitamin C), N-acetylcysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, alpha-tocopherol succinate(vitamin E) and coenzyme Q10.
Among the mice that received 8 Gy of irradiation, 14 out of 18 of those that received antioxidants beginning 24 hours later were alive after 30 days while all of the animals that received unsupplemented diets died. When the time of antioxidant administration was evaluated, animals who received antioxidants 24 hours following total body irradiation experienced the greatest survival compared to the other groups. Lung cells and skin samples from antioxidant treated animals were found to have less reactive oxidant species, confirming the supplements’ mechanism of action against radiation damage.
An explanation provided by the authors for the increase in survival associated with delayed compared to immediate antioxidant administration is that it results in the most efficient repair of radiation injury and the greatest increase in bone marrow cell survival, which is reduced when reactive oxygen species are minimized at an early time point following exposure. “Our results support the value of antioxidants as countermeasures against radiological terrorism, especially in the practical scenario of starting a diet supplemented with antioxidants 24 hours after the exposure,” the authors conclude.