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.
Maintenance rather than repair recommended
April 30, 2012. Swedish researchers argue in the May, 2012 issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences that maintaining the brain's functional capacity rather than relying on its ability to cope with or compensate for cognitive decline is the key to staying mentally youthful.
"The influential 'reserve' notion holds that individual differences in brain characteristics or in the manner people process tasks allow some individuals to cope better than others with brain pathology and hence show preserved memory performance," write Lars Nyberg of Umeå University in Sweden and coauthors. "Here, we discuss a complementary concept, that of brain maintenance (or relative lack of brain pathology), and argue that it constitutes the primary determinant of successful memory aging."
Dr Nyberg and colleagues suggest that past education and career have little to do with long term cognitive function, and that engagement is the secret to successful brain aging. This, they write, supports the "use it or lose it" adage. "There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way towards brain maintenance," Dr Nyberg stated. "Although some memory functions do tend to decline as we get older, several elderly show well preserved functioning and this is related to a well-preserved, youth-like brain."
"Taken together, a wide range of findings provides converging evidence for marked heterogeneity in brain aging," the scientists write. "Critically, some older adults show little or no brain changes relative to younger adults, along with intact cognitive performance, which supports the notion of brain maintenance. In other words, maintaining a youthful brain, rather than responding to and compensating for changes, may be the key to successful memory aging."
Oregano compound induces programmed cell death in prostate cancer cells
April 27, 2012. At the Experimental Biology 2012 conference, held April 21 to 25 in San Diego, it was reported that carvacrol, a compound found in oregano, induces apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cultured prostate cancer cells.
Dr Supriya Bavadekar, PhD, RPh and her colleagues at Long Island University in Brooklyn administered increasing concentrations of carvacrol to androgen-sensitive metastatic human prostate cancer cells and assessed cell viability after 48 and 96 hours. The team observed a dose-dependent effect for carvacrol, due to the induction of apoptosis. The study is the first to reveal an antiproliferative effect for the compound in prostate cancer cells.
"We know that oregano possesses antibacterial as well as anti-inflammatory properties, but its effects on cancer cells really elevate the spice to the level of a super-spice like turmeric," stated Dr Bavadekar, who is an assistant professor of pharmacology at Long Island University's Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. "A significant advantage is that oregano is commonly used in food and has a 'Generally Recognized As Safe' status in the US. We expect this to translate into a decreased risk of severe toxic effects."
"Some researchers have previously shown that eating pizza may cut down cancer risk," she noted. "This effect has been mostly attributed to lycopene, a substance found in tomato sauce, but we now feel that even the oregano seasoning may play a role. If the study continues to yield positive results, this super-spice may represent a very promising therapy for patients with prostate cancer."
Gamma, delta tocopherols linked with cancer protection
April 25, 2012. A commentary published online on April 3, 2012 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research suggests that two forms of vitamin E known as delta and gamma tocopherol may have an advantage over the more commonly available form known as alpha tocopherol in preventing cancer. Gamma and delta tocopherol are found in nuts and vegetable oils, and are also contained in over the counter supplements.
Chung S. Yang of Rutgers of the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and his associates report that animal studies conducted at the university have revealed a protective effect for gamma and delta tocopherols against the initiation and growth of breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer. "When animals are exposed to cancer-causing substances, the group that was fed these tocopherols in their diet had fewer and smaller tumors," Dr Yang stated. "When cancer cells were injected into mice these tocopherols also slowed down the development of tumors."
In one study conducted by Dr Yang, also published in Cancer Prevention Research, delta tocopherol was found to be more effective at preventing colon cancer in a rat model than other forms of vitamin E tested. Dr Yang and his colleagues believe that delta and gamma tocopherol are cancer preventive, whereas alpha-tocopherol may lack the same benefit.
"For people who think that they need to take vitamin E supplements, taking a mixture of vitamin E that resembles what is in our diet would be the most prudent supplement to take," Dr Yang recommended.
Aspirin, metformin share common mechanism
April 23, 2012. A report by scientists from McMaster University, the University of Dundee and the University of Melbourne, published online on April 19, 2012 in the journal Science suggests a common mechanism for salicylate—aspirin's active compound—and the drug metformin in decreasing the risk of several diseases.
"Salicylate, a plant product, has been in medicinal use since ancient times," Simon A. Hawley and colleagues write in their introduction to the article. "More recently, it has been replaced by synthetic derivatives such as aspirin and salsalate, both rapidly broken down to salicylate in vivo."
The authors explain that salsalate or aspirin administered in high doses result in the activation by salicylate of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a regulator of cell growth and metabolism. AMPK is known to be activated by exercise as well as the antidiabetic drug metformin. "We're finding this old dog of aspirin already knows new tricks," commented co-principle investigator Dr Greg Steinberg, who is an associate professor of medicine in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University and the Canada Research Chair in Metabolism and Obesity. "In the current paper we show that, in contrast to exercise or metformin which increase AMPK activity by altering the cells' energy balance, the effects of salicylate are totally reliant on a single Ser108 amino acid of the beta 1 subunit.
"We show that salicylate increases fat burning and reduces liver fat in obese mice and that this does not occur in genetically modified mice lacking the beta1 subunit of AMPK," he noted.
The fact that both metformin and aspirin activate AMPK suggests that their recently publicized benefits in reducing the risk of cancer could be due to a shared mechanism. However, only further studies can confirm the validity of this interesting hypothesis.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation could help reduce smoking's harm
April 20, 2012. The results of a study presented on May 20, 2012 at the World Congress of Cardiology held in Dubai revealed a protective effect for omega-3 fatty acids against some of the adverse cardiovascular effects of smoking.
Greek researchers divided 16 healthy, young smokers to receive two grams per day omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo for four weeks. The participants' arterial health and aortic stiffness before and after smoking were evaluated at the beginning of the study and at the end of the treatment period.
Before treatment, cigarette smoking resulted in adverse changes in arterial function, which were improved after four weeks of omega-3 fatty acid treatment. The placebo group, however, experienced no significant differences.
"These findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the detrimental effects of smoking on arterial function, which is an independent prognostic marker of cardiovascular risk," commented Dr Gerasimos Siasos of the University of Athens Medical School's Hippokration General Hospital. "The cardioprotective effects of omega-3 fatty acids appear to be due to a synergism between multiple, intricate mechanisms involving anti-inflammatory and antiatherosclerotic effects. Furthermore, AHA recommends that people without documented history of coronary heart disease should consume a variety of fish (preferably oily – rich in omega-3 fatty acids) at least twice per week."
"The World Heart Federation strongly encourages all smokers to quit," added Dr Kathryn Taubert, who is the Chief Science Officer at the World Heart Federation. "The only way to protect your body from the harmful effects of tobacco is to stop smoking. We encourage all people, both smokers and nonsmokers, to eat healthy diets, which includes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids."
Type 2 diabetes increases, metformin decreases Parkinson's disease risk
April 18, 2012. In an article published online on April 10, 2012 in the journal Parkinsonism and Related Disorders, researchers from Taiwan report a benefit for the drug metformin in reducing the risk of Parkinson's disease in diabetic patients, who are at increased risk of developing Parkinson's. Metformin, which is derived from the French lilac known as Galega officinalis, has been used to treat diabetes for a number of years and has recently been associated with other benefits, including the prevention of cardiovascular mortality and some cancers.
Mark Wahlqvist of Taiwan's National Health Research Institutes and his colleagues analyzed data from 800,000 men and women included in the Taiwan National Health Insurance database from 1996 to 2007, which provided information on the presence of diabetes and Parkinson's disease, and the use of oral antihyperglycemic drugs, including sulfonylurea drugs and metformin. Subjects with type 2 diabetes were age- and gender-matched with those who were free of the disease.
The risk of developing Parkinson's disease among diabetics was more than double that of nondiabetics, however, treatment with oral antidiabetic drugs significantly reduced the risk. Nevertheless, when drug treatment was broken down according to the type of drug used, treatment with sulfonylureas was associated with an increase in Parkinson's disease risk and metformin with a decrease, either alone or in combination with sulfonylurea drugs. For those who initiated metformin treatment first without insulin, the risk of Parkinson's disease diminished by 60 percent.
A suggested mechanism for metformin in Parkinson's disease prevention is a resetting of energy metabolism regulation in the cells, similar to what would be expected to result from diet and exercise.
"An exciting aspect of the finding is that metformin seems to be working to protect the brain against neurodegeneration which contributes to Parkinsonism," Dr Walhqvist enthused. "This means it may also be considered a relevant therapy for the prevention of dementia as well."
Reduced magnesium levels predict end stage renal disease in type 2 diabetics
April 16, 2012. In an article published online in Diabetes Care on April 12, 2012, researchers from Osaka General Medical Center and Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan report their finding of a two times greater risk of end stage renal disease among diabetics with decreased levels of magnesium compared to those with higher levels.
The study included 144 men and women with type 2 diabetic nephropathy and 311 with nondiabetic chronic kidney disease who were hospitalized between April, 2001 and December, 2007. Blood samples collected upon admission or shortly thereafter were analyzed for serum magnesium and other values. Low magnesium levels were defined as 1.8 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less.
One hundred two subjects with diabetic nephropathy and 135 with nondiabetic kidney disease progressed to end stage renal disease over a median follow-up period of 23 months. While progression to end stage disease among nondiabetics was similar among those with low and high levels of magnesium, for type 2 diabetics, a low magnesium level was associated with a 2.12-fold greater risk compared to the risk experienced by those with high magnesium levels.
The study is the first, to the authors' knowledge, to demonstrate the influence of reduced magnesium levels on renal outcome in men and women with advanced type 2 diabetic nephropathy. They remark that it is unclear why the mineral emerged as protective in diabetic kidney disease but not in nondiabetic kidney disease.
"We showed that hypomagnesemia independently predicts the progression to end stage renal disease in patients with advanced type 2 diabetic nephropathy," Yusuke Sakaguchi and colleagues write. "Our findings suggest that magnesium supplementation may be renoprotective in this population. The precise pathogenesis of magnesium deficiency in type 2 diabetic nephropathy should be further investigated."
April 13, 2012. In a recent issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, a team from Louisiana State University Agricultural Center reports a beneficial effect for tree nuts on reducing a cluster of risk factors collectively known as metabolic syndrome, which is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease.
Carol O'Neil, PhD, MPH, RD and her associates evaluated data from 13,292 men and women aged 19 and older upon enrollment in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). Twenty-four hour recall data was analyzed for the intake of almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts.
Nut consumers were defined as those who consumed at least ¼ ounce tree nuts per day. These participants had a decreased prevalence of metabolic syndrome risk factors that included abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, elevated fasting glucose and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in comparison with those who did not consume nuts, and a 5 percent lower overall incidence of metabolic syndrome, defined as having three or more risk factors. Additionally, nut consumers had a lower level of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, compared to nonconsumers.
"One of the more interesting findings was the fact that tree nut consumers had lower body weight, as well as lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference compared to nonconsumers," Dr O'Neil stated. "The mean weight, BMI, and waist circumference were 4.19 pounds, 0.9kg/m2 and 0.83 inches lower in consumers than nonconsumers, respectively."
Earlier research conducted by Dr O'Neil's team found that nut consumption in the United States is relatively low, and that the quality of the diet improves when nuts are added. "Tree nuts should be an integral part of a healthy diet and encouraged by health professionals—especially registered dietitians," she recommended.
Meta-analysis concludes that supplementing with vitamin C is associated with lower blood pressure
April 11, 2012. In a review published online on April 4, 2012 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore report a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure in associated with vitamin C supplementation.
For their analysis, Edgar R. Miller III and his colleagues selected 29 randomized clinical trials conducted between 1996 and 2011 that involved the oral administration of vitamin C for at least two weeks. Average pretreatment systolic blood pressure ranged from 117 to 175 mmHg, and diastolic from 73 to 97 mmHg. The dose of vitamin C used in the studies varied from 60 to 4000 milligrams per day, with a median dose of 500 milligrams daily.
In a pooled analysis of the trials' participants, vitamin C supplementation was associated with a 3.84 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 1.48 mmHg reduction in diastolic pressure. When trials involving patients with hypertension were analyzed, reductions averaged 4.85 mmHg and 1.67 mmHg. Mechanisms posited for vitamin C in reducing blood pressure include an increase in a cofactor for endothelial nitric oxide synthase (which increases the production of nitric oxide), and improvement of endothelial function of brachial and coronary arteries.
"This meta-analysis is the first quantitative review of randomized trials evaluating the effect of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure," the authors announce. "In short-term trials, vitamin C supplementation reduced systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Long-term trials on the effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure and clinical events are needed."
Broccoli, cabbage intake improves breast cancer survival
April 9, 2012. The American Association of Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2012, held March 31 through April 4, 2012 was the site of a presentation by Sarah J. Nechuta, MPH, PHD of Vanderbilt University of a survival benefit for breast cancer patients who consumed more cruciferous vegetables. The cruciferous family of vegetables are a source of glucosinolate-derived compounds, including isothiocyanates and indoles, which have been demonstrated to prevent cancer growth and progression in laboratory studies.
Dr Nechuta and her associates evaluated data from 4,886 Chinese breast cancer survivors enrolled in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study of women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2002 and 2006. Cruciferous vegetable intake was assessed upon enrollment and at 18 and 36 months.
Over a median follow up of 5.2 years, 587 deaths (of which 496 were due to breast cancer) and 615 recurrences of the disease were documented. After adjusting for various factors, those whose intake of cruciferous vegetables was among the top 25 percent had a 62 percent lower risk of total and breast cancer mortality and a 35 percent lower risk of recurrence compared with those whose intake was among the lowest fourth.
"Commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables in China include turnips, Chinese cabbage/bok choy and greens, while broccoli and Brussels sprouts are the more commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables in the United States and other Western countries," Dr Nechuta commented. "Second, the amount of intake among Chinese women is much higher than that of U.S. women. The level of bioactive compounds such as isothiocyanates and indoles, proposed to play a role in the anticancer effects of cruciferous vegetables, depend on both the amount and type of cruciferous vegetables consumed."
"Breast cancer survivors can follow the general nutritional guidelines of eating vegetables daily and may consider increasing intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as greens, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, as part of a healthy diet," she advised.
Meta-analysis finds soy effective against hot flashes
April 6, 2012. In a study called the most comprehensive to date to evaluate the effects of soy in menopause, researchers from the U.S. and Japan concluded that two or more servings of soy per day is associated with a significant reduction in hot flash frequency and severity in menopausal women. The findings were published online on March 19, 2012 in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Association.
For their analysis, University of Delaware medical anthropology professor Melissa Melby and her colleagues selected 17 trials that examined the effects of soy isoflavones on hot flash frequency and severity. They found a 20.6 percent reduction in hot flash frequency and a 26.2 percent decrease in severity in comparison with placebo when a median of 54 milligrams soy isoflavones (the amount contained on average in two servings of soy foods) were consumed for six to twelve months. The researchers also determined that isoflavone supplements containing over 18.8 milligrams of genistein, a major isoflavone contained in soy, were over twice as effective in lowering the frequency of hot flashes compared to those that had less genistein.
The findings provide a broader picture of soy's benefits, in regard to which previous studies have produced conflicting results. "When you combine them all, we've found the overall effect is still positive," Dr Melby stated.
Interest in soy's effects on hot flashes is the result of observational studies conducted in Japan where women undergoing menopause have a lower incidence of hot flashes in comparison with women in the U.S. It has been hypothesized that lifelong consumption of soy could be protective against severe menopausal symptoms. "Soy is probably more effective in these women," Dr Melby suggested. "But if you're 50 and you've never touched soy, it's not too late. We've found that it still helps."
Higher vitamin D levels predict longer intensive care survival
April 4, 2012. A study published online on February 12, 2012 in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine reports the discovery of Israeli researchers of longer intensive care unit survival among patients who had greater serum vitamin D levels.
Over a six month period, Professor Howard Amital of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sheba Medical Center and his associates at Meir Medical Center in Kfar-Saba enrolled 130 adults admitted to a university-based hospital intensive care unit who required mechanical ventilation. Blood samples were analyzed for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and other factors. Only 23 of the men and women participating in the study were found to have levels of vitamin D considered by the National Institute of Health to be sufficient at 20 nanograms per milliliter or higher.
The mortality rate of the participants was 44.3 percent at 60 days following admission. Among deceased subjects, those whose vitamin D levels were classified as sufficient survived an average of 24.2 days, while deficient participants lived just 15.3 days on average and had lower levels of white blood cells necessary to fight infection.
"Our results indicate that vitamin D concentration may be either a biomarker of survival or a cofactor," the authors write. "We recommend assessing the effects of vitamin D supplementation in critically ill patients."
Professor Amital advises not waiting until one is in poor health to supplement with vitamin D, and notes that the vitamin impacts immune function in a number of ways, and enhances overall health and well-being.