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 isoflavone intake associated with lower blood pressure
March 28, 2012. At the American College of Cardiology's 61st Annual Scientific Session, held March 24-27 this year in Chicago, Safiya Richardson of Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons reported that adults who consumed a greater amount of isoflavones, which are plant-based compounds found in soy and other foods, have lower systolic blood pressure than those who consume lesser amounts.
For the current investigation, Dr Richardson and her associates analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, which examined the development and determinants of cardiovascular disease in 5,115 African American and Caucasians who were aged 18-30 years old upon enrollment in 1985. During the twentieth year of follow-up, the participants completed extensive dietary surveys. Among those whose intake of flavones was among the highest 25 percent of subjects at over 2.5 milligrams per day, systolic blood pressure was 5.5 mmHg lower on average than those whose intake was among the lowest fourth at less than 0.33 milligrams.
"This could mean that consuming soy protein, for example, in combination with a DASH diet – one that is high in fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains – could lead to as much as a 10 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure for pre-hypertensives, greatly improving their chances of not progressing to hypertension," Dr Richardson commented. "Any dietary or lifestyle modification people can easily make that doesn't require a daily medication is exciting, especially considering recent figures estimating that only about one third of American hypertensives have their blood pressure under control."
She announced that the study "is the first to show a benefit in African Americans, who have a higher incidence of high blood pressure, with an earlier onset and more severe end-organ damage."
Too good to be true?
March 26, 2012. A letter published in the March 26, 2012 issue of the American Medical Association journal of Archives of Internal Medicine reveals the results of a study which found that adults who ate chocolate more frequently had a lower body mass index (BMI) compared to those who consumed it infrequently. Higher body mass index is a component of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of factors linked to the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego analyzed data from 1,017 men and women aged 20 to 85 years who had no cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or abnormal low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels upon enrollment in the UCSD Statin Study, which examined the noncardiac effects of statin drugs. Participants were queried concerning how many times per week they consumed chocolate, and food frequency questionnaires were completed by the majority of subjects.
The participants in the current study consumed chocolate an average of twice per week. Although greater frequency of chocolate intake was associated with increased calorie consumption and saturated fat intake, those who consumed chocolate more often had a lower body mass index than those who consumed it infrequently in several adjusted models.
"Our findings—that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI—are intriguing," Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD and her colleagues write. "They accord with other findings suggesting that diet composition, as well as calorie number, may influence BMI."
"A randomized trial of chocolate for metabolic benefits in humans may be merited," they conclude.
Prostaglandin D2 implicated in pattern baldness
March 23, 2012. The March 21, 2012 issue of Science Translational Medicine reported the discovery of scientists from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine of a role for elevated levels of a protein known as prostaglandin D2 in male pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia. The finding could result in a treatment for the condition, which affects eight out of ten men under the age of 70.
In research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2011, George Cotsarelis, MD and his colleagues found that hair follicle stem cells in bald areas of the scalp were maintained, but appeared to lack an activator that would convert them to progenitor cells. The current research revealed significantly elevated levels of prostaglandin D2 in bald tissue compared to tissue derived from non-balding areas. When tested on human hair follicles and applied topically to mice, prostaglandin D2 significantly inhibited hair growth, while a prostaglandin D2 derivative known as 15-dpGJ2 completely inhibited growth. Hair growth inhibition was determined to occur via a prostaglandin D2 receptor known as GPR44.
In mice bred to have elevated levels of prostaglandin D2 in their skin, hair loss, miniaturization of hair follicles and enlargement of oil glands occurred, all of which are characteristic of human androgenetic alopecia.
"Although a different prostaglandin was known to increase hair growth, our findings were unexpected, as prostaglandins haven't been thought about in relation to hair loss, yet it made sense that there was an inhibitor of hair growth, based on our earlier work looking at hair follicle stem cells," commented Dr Cotsarelis, who is the chair of Dermatology at Penn State.
"These results define prostaglandin D2 as an inhibitor of hair growth in androgenetic alopecia and suggest the prostaglandin D2-GPR44 pathway as a potential target for treatment," Dr Cotsarelis and his colleagues conclude.
Curcumin shows promise for Parkinson's
March 21, 2012. Research conducted at Michigan State University discovered that curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, helps prevent clumping of alpha-synuclein, a protein whose aggregation is one of the first steps in Parkinson's disease. The study was described in an article published in the March 16, 2012 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
In earlier research, Michigan State associate professor of physics and astronomy Lisa Lapidus and postdoctoral researcher Basir Ahmad demonstrated that a decrease in the speed of folding or reconfiguration of alpha-synuclein increases its tendency to clump with other proteins. In the current study, the duo showed that attachment of curcumin to alpha-synuclein stops clumping and increases its folding rate, moving it out of the zone at which it is likely to clump. "We conclude that alpha-synuclein is prone to aggregation because its reconfiguration rate is slow enough to expose hydrophobic residues on the same timescale that bimolecular association occurs," the authors write. "Curcumin rescues the protein from aggregation by increasing the reconfiguration rate into a faster regime."
"Our research shows that curcumin can rescue proteins from aggregation, the first steps of many debilitating diseases," Dr Lapidus stated. "More specifically, curcumin binds strongly to alpha-synuclein and prevents aggregation at body temperatures."
"Curcumin's usefulness as an actual drug may be pretty limited since it doesn't go into the brain easily where this misfolding is taking place," she added. "But this kind of study showcases the technique of measuring reconfiguration and opens the door for developing drug treatments."
Study reaffirms protective effects of seven factors against the risk of dying over 14 year period
March 19, 2012. An article published online on March 16, 2012 in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows a clear decline in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or from all causes over a 14 year average period in association with the presence of a greater number of mainly controllable health factors.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Atlanta analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of 1988-1994, 1999-2004 and 2005-2010 for their research, which included a total of 44,959 participants. Survey responses and physical examinations provided information on the following cardiovascular health metrics: smoking status, physical activity level, body mass index, healthy diet intake, total serum cholesterol, blood pressure and fasting blood glucose. Mortality data obtained through 2006 ascertained 2,673 deaths, including 1,085 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 576 ischemic heart disease deaths over a median follow-up period of 14.5 years.
Subjects were scored on optimal status for each of the seven health metrics, i.e., not smoking, being physically active and having healthy body mass index, diet, serum cholesterol, blood pressure and hemoglobin A1C (indicating desirable glucose levels). Less than 2 percent of all participants met all seven goals. Having two or more optimal factors was associated with a 27 percent lower adjusted risk of dying of cardiovascular disease compared to one or no factors, and this risk continued to decline in association with an increasing number of factors to reach a 76 percent reduction with the presence of six or more factors. Additionally, having six or more factors was associated with a 51 percent lower risk of dying of any cause.
"Our findings indicate that the presence of a greater number of cardiovascular health metrics was associated with a graded and significantly lower risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality," the authors conclude.
Calorie restriction helps regulate glucose and maintain gray matter volume in aged primate model
March 16, 2012. In an article published online on March 13, 2012 in the journal Diabetes, Sterling C. Johnson and his colleagues at William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital and the University of Wisconsin report a benefit for calorie restriction in glucose regulation and related improvement in brain volume in older rhesus monkeys.
The current study utilized 27 monkeys that received calorie restricted diets beginning in middle age and 17 control monkeys that were allowed to eat as much as they wanted for eight hours per day. To investigate the hypothesis that calorie restriction, via its positive effect on insulin signaling, could improve neural atrophy related to insulin dysregulation in areas of the brain affected by neurovascular and neurodegenerative disorders, the researchers evaluated insulin resistance through the use of glucose tolerance testing and insulin measurement, and assessed regional brain volumes using magnetic resonance imagining (MRI). Motor task learning and performance were analyzed in 26 animals.
While six of the control animals had preclinical or diabetes-like glucoregulatory dysfunction, no calorie restricted animals were found to have glucoregulatory impairment. Increased insulin sensitivity predicted increased gray matter in the parietal and frontal cortices of both groups; however, each unit increase in insulin sensitivity predicted more gray matter in the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and other regions with a high density of insulin receptors in the calorie restricted group relative to the control animals. Hippocampal gray matter volume adjusted by insulin sensitivity was correlated with learning and memory and performance.
"In summary, increased insulin sensitivity among calorie restricted monkeys was associated with more gray matter in parietofrontal cortices, hippocampus, and other regions that vary in insulin receptor density and signaling," the authors conclude. "Among controls, higher insulin sensitivity showed a positive relationship with gray matter volume in parietofrontal cortices with low insulin receptor density, but predicted less gray matter in structures and areas that have high receptor density. Calorie restriction or calorie restriction mimetics may benefit some specific brain regions and aspects of task learning and performance."
Berry brain benefit
March 14, 2012. A review published online on January 23, 2012 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry describes a multitude of positive effects for berries on neurologic function. "A growing body of preclinical and clinical research has identified neurological benefits associated with the consumption of berry fruits," write Marshall G. Miller and Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD of Tufts University in their introduction to the article. "In addition to their now well-known antioxidant effects, dietary supplementation with berry fruits also has direct effects on the brain. Intake of these fruits may help to prevent age-related neurodegeneration and resulting changes in cognitive and motor function."
Berries have antioxidant effects, such as that demonstrated for mulberry in Parkinson's disease. Wolfberry, also called gogi berry, may have direct neuroprotective effects that are independent of its antioxidant benefits. In animal studies, blueberries have been associated with a variety of brain benefits, including a reduction in age-related increases in nuclear factor-kappa beta. Aged rats given blueberries, cranberries or blackberries have better balance and control, and a reduction in amyloid beta has been observed in association with blueberry intake in mice bred to develop specific aspects of Alzheimer's disease. In humans with mild cognitive impairment, daily consumption of blueberry juice resulted in improved word list recall and better performance in comparison with subjects who receive a placebo.
"Given that neurodegeneration and cognitive decline are chronic processes, throughout adulthood, future research should also identify critical periods during which increased consumption of berry fruits is most effective and the extent to which berry fruits prevent or even reverse the deleterious effects of aging," the authors conclude. "Furthermore, the optimal dietary intake, necessary duration of supplementation, and longevity of the effects following the cessation of supplementation should also be explored."
Eating red meat increases the risk of dying over up to 28 years of follow-up
March 12, 2012. An article published online on March 14, 2012 in the Archives of Internal Medicine reveals an association between red meat consumption and an increase in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer, or any cause over a follow-up period of up to 28 years.
Harvard School of Public Health research fellow An Pan, PhD and colleagues analyzed data from 37,698 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and 83,644 participants in the Women's Health Study who were free of cancer or cardiovascular disease upon enrollment. Dietary questionnaires completed every four years provided information on the intake of red meat and other foods.
Over the studies' follow-up periods, 23,926 deaths occurred, including 5,910 from cardiovascular disease and 9,464 cancer deaths. Each daily serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 13 percent increased risk of dying of any cause, and each serving of processed red meat with a 20 percent greater risk. For cancer, each serving of unprocessed and processed meat increased the risk of dying by 10 and 16 percent and for cardiovascular disease, by 18 and 21 percent. However, replacing one serving of red meat with poultry, fish, nuts, legumes, low fat dairy products or whole grains lowered the risk of death. "We estimated that 9.3 percent in men and 7.6 percent in women of total deaths during follow-up could be prevented if all the participants consumed fewer than 0.5 servings per day of total red meat," the authors write.
In an invited commentary, Dean Ornish, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco remarked that "More than 75 percent of the $2.6 trillion in annual U.S. health care costs are from chronic disease. Eating less red meat is likely to reduce morbidity from these illnesses, thereby reducing health care costs."
Higher vitamin D levels in men and women with metabolic syndrome associated with reduced mortality over seven years
March 09, 2012. Having an optimal serum level of vitamin D appeared to reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or any cause in men and women with metabolic syndrome who were followed for a period of 7.7 years. The finding was described in an article published online on March 7, 2012 in the journal Diabetes Care.
G. Neil Thomas, PhD of the University of Birmingham in England and his associates evaluated data from 1,801 men and women with metabolic syndrome who were enrolled in the Ludwigshafen Risk and Cardiovascular Health study, which included patients referred for coronary angiography from 1997 to 2000. Fasting blood samples were analyzed for 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], glucose and other factors. Four hundred sixty-two deaths occurred over follow up, of which 267 were due to cardiovascular causes.
For those whose vitamin D levels were classified as optimal at over 75 nanomoles per liter, there was a 75 percent lower risk of mortality over follow-up compared to the risk experienced by those who were categorized as severely deficient with levels of less than 25 nanomoles per liter. The risk of dying of cardiovascular causes was 67 percent lower for those with optimal levels of vitamin D, however, this reduction was limited to sudden death and congestive heart failure, for which this group had 85 percent and 76 percent lower adjusted risks compared to severely deficient subjects.
"In summary, 25(OH)D levels were dose-dependently associated with a robust reduction in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in subjects with the metabolic syndrome," the authors conclude. "We hope these findings will spur interventional randomized, controlled trials to confirm the effects of vitamin D on mortality and, if positive, help establish recommendations for supplementation in these subjects."
Mechanisms for vitamin D, curcumin in Alzheimer's disease identified
March 07, 2012. Writing in the March 6, 2012 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers at the University of California and the Scripps Institute elucidate mechanisms for vitamin D and a synthetic form of curcumin in clearing the brain of amyloid beta, a toxic protein that forms the plaques that are believed to be a major cause of the neurodegeneration that occurs in Alzheimer's disease.
Milan Fiala, MD of UCLA and colleagues studied the effects of vitamin D and curcumin on macrophages derived from the blood of healthy subjects and Alzheimer's disease patients. Macrophages are immune cells that engulf and consume pathogens and waste products (a process known as phagocytosis), including amyloid beta. Previous research conducted by the team demonstrated that the function of type I macrophages in Alzheimer's disease patients is improved by the addition of 1-alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, an active form of the vitamin made in the liver and kidneys, as well as by curcuminoids; whereas type II macrophages are improved only by 1-alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3.
Dr Fiala's team determined that 1-alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 is involved in opening a chloride channel which supports the uptake of amyloid beta in phagocytosis by both types of macrophages, and that curcuminoids activate the same chloride channel in type 1 macrophages only. They discovered that 1-alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 stimulated the genetic transcription of the chloride channel and the receptor for 1-alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 in type II macrophages. The mechanisms were dependent upon calcium and signaling by the MAPK pathway which aids in the communication of signaling from the cell membrane's vitamin D3 receptor to its DNA.
"Our findings demonstrate that active forms of vitamin D3 may be an important regulator of immune activities of macrophages in helping to clear amyloid plaques by directly regulating the expression of genes, as well as the structural physical workings of the cells," lead author Mathew T. Mizwicki concluded.
Higher vitamin D intake in girls linked to lower stress fracture risk
March 05, 2012. In an article published online on March 5, 2012 in the American Medical Association journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Boston researchers report an association between higher intake of vitamin D and a lower risk of stress fractures in preadolescent and adolescent girls. The fractures are common among individuals who engage in sports, and occur when stress on a bone is greater than its ability to withstand it.
Kendrin R. Sonneville, ScD, RD of Children's Hospital Boston and colleagues analyzed data from 6,712 girls aged nine to fifteen upon enrollment in the Growing Up Today Study. Questionnaires completed every one to two years from 1996 to 2001 provided information concerning the intake of calcium, dairy products and vitamin D, as well as physical activity levels and other information.
Over the seven year follow-up period, stress fractures occurred in 3.9 percent of the girls. Ninety percent of these occurred in girls who engaged in one hour or more of daily high impact activity. Although no benefit for dairy products or calcium was observed, girls whose vitamin D intake from food and supplements was among the top 20 percent of participants had half the risk of stress fracture in comparison with those whose intake was among the lowest 20 percent. Subjects who participated in high impact activity experienced an even greater protective effect from vitamin D. Restricting the analysis to the intake of vitamin D and calcium from food failed to modify the associations.
"To our knowledge, no previous longitudinal studies have examined the influence of dietary intake on the risk of developing a stress fracture among a general population of female adolescents," the authors announce. They conclude that "Future studies are needed to ascertain whether vitamin D intake from supplements confers a similarly protective effect as vitamin D consumed through dietary intake."
Vitamin D shrinks uterine fibroids in animal study
March 02, 2012. Researchers from Meharry Medical College in Nashville report on February 1, 2012 in the journal Biology of Reproduction that treatment with vitamin D decreased uterine fibroid volume in rats bred to develop the tumors.
Fibroids are the most common benign tumor in women and although they often remain small and symptomless, they frequently grow to a significant size, causing pain and increased menstrual bleeding. Fibroid tumors are less common in Caucasian women than in African-Americans, who are also likelier to be deficient in vitamin D.
The current study utilized twelve rats that had developed fibroid tumors. Sunil K. Halder, PhD, and his associates implanted half of the animals with pumps designed to administer vitamin D3 at a rate of 0.5 micrograms per kilogram daily for three weeks—an amount equivalent to approximately 1,400 international units per day in humans. The remainder of the animals were administered an inert substance. At the end of the treatment period, the rats were examined for tumor size and possible signs of toxicity.
While tumors in the control group were found to have slightly grown, those in the vitamin-D treated rats were 75 percent smaller. Treated animals had reduced expression of a marker of cell proliferation as well as a decrease in hormone receptors.
"The study results provide a promising new lead in the search for a non-surgical treatment for fibroids that doesn't affect fertility," commented Louis De Paolo, PhD of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study.
"Additional research is needed to confirm vitamin D as a potential treatment for women with uterine fibroids," remarked coauthor Ayman Al-Hendy, MD, PhD. "But it is also an essential nutrient for the health of muscle, bone and the immune system, and it is important for everyone to receive an adequate amount of the vitamin."