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.
Statins for life extension?
August 30, 2013. Statin drugs are a class of pharmaceuticals commonly prescribed to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. The cardiovascular benefits of a low dose of specific statin drugs may outweigh possible side effects for many individuals.
Researchers have uncovered another potential benefit for statins: that of reducing the rate of telomere shortening. Telomeres are bits of genetic material that cap the ends of the cells' chromosomes. Accelerated telomere shortening has been associated with a greater risk of age-related diseases including cardiovascular disease, as well as premature mortality.
In the September 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal, researchers at Second University of Naples measured white blood cell telomere length as well as the activity of telomerase (the enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length), in 230 statin users and nonusers between the ages of 30 and 86 years. Telomerase levels were found to be higher among statin users independent of a number of factors, including age, smoking status and levels of inflammation. Those who used the drugs also exhibited a reduction in the loss of telomere length that accompanies aging. "By telomerase activation, statins may represent a new molecular switch able to slow down senescent cells in our tissues," commented researcher Giuseppe Paolisso, MD, PhD of the Second University of Naples' Department of Internal Medicine, Surgical, Neurological Metabolic Disease and Geriatric Medicine.
"The great thing about statins is that they reduce risks for cardiovascular disease significantly and are generally safe for most people," added Gerald Weissmann, MD, who is The FASEB Journal's Editor-in-Chief. "The bad thing is that statins do have side effects, like muscle injury. But if it is confirmed that statins might actually slow aging itself—and not just the symptoms of aging—then statins are much more powerful drugs than we ever thought."
Cruciferous vegetable compound could slow osteoarthritis progression
August 28, 2013. An article published online on August 27, 2013 in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism reports that sulforaphane, a compound released following the consumption of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, may help retard the progression of osteoarthritis.
By studying the effects of the compound when given to mice, researchers led by Ian Clark, who is a professor of musculoskeletal biology at the University of East Anglia, observed a reduction in osteoarthritis in animals that received it in comparison with those who did not. The team also uncovered a benefit for the compound when it was tested in cultured human cartilage cells and bovine cartilage tissue. By halting the action of a molecule that causes inflammation, sulforaphane was able to reduce the destruction joint tissue.
"The results from this study are very promising," Dr Clark stated. "We have shown that this works in the three laboratory models we have tried, in cartilage cells, tissue and mice. We now want to show this works in humans. It would be very powerful if we could."
"Although surgery is very successful, it is not really an answer," he continued. "Once you have osteoarthritis, being able to slow its progress and the progression to surgery is really important. Prevention would be preferable and changes to lifestyle, like diet, may be the only way to do that."
"This study is important because it is about how diet might work in osteoarthritis," he added. "Once you know that you can look at other dietary compounds which could protect the joint and ultimately you can advise people what they should be eating for joint health. Developing new strategies for combating age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis is vital, both to improve the quality of life for sufferers and to reduce the economic burden on society."
Increased fruit and vegetable intake linked with lower bladder cancer risk in women
August 26, 2013. The August 2013 issue of the Journal of Nutrition published the discovery of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center of a protective effect for fruit and vegetable intake against the risk of invasive bladder cancer.
Song-Yi Park, PhD and colleagues analyzed data from 185,885 participants in the Multiethnic Cohort Study, a longitudinal study designed to investigate the association of dietary and lifestyle factors with the incidence of cancer. Questionnaires completed upon enrollment provided information on the intake of total fruit and vegetables, total vegetables, light green vegetables, dark green vegetables, yellow-orange vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, total fruit, fruit juice, citrus fruit, and yellow-orange fruit.
Over an average follow-up period of 12.5 years, 429 men and 152 women were diagnosed with bladder cancer. Women whose intake of fruit and vegetables was among the top 25% of the participants had a 65% lower adjusted risk of the bladder cancer in comparison with those whose intake was among the lowest 25%. For vegetables alone, women whose intake was among the highest had a 51% lower risk, and for fruit, the risk was 46% lower when the top and bottom categories of consumption were compared. Yellow-orange vegetables and citrus fruits were identified as particularly protective. When nutrient intake was analyzed, a protective effect was found for vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, alpha carotene, beta carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and folate against bladder cancer risk in women only.
"Our study supports the fruit and vegetable recommendation for cancer prevention," Dr Park stated. "However, further investigation is needed to understand and explain why the reduced cancer risk with higher consumption of fruits and vegetables was confined to only women."
Calorie restriction could boost cancer therapy
"While we know that consuming excess calories is associated with increased cancer risk, far less clarity exists in the scientific literature about how calorie restriction and the body's metabolism can potentially affect the body's response to cancer treatment," stated lead researcher Jean-Ehrland Ricci, PhD of the French Institute for Health and Medical Research in Nice. "By understanding the link between metabolism and the body's natural cancer suppressors and activators, we can perhaps improve the efficacy of therapy and improve survival for patients suffering from specific types of cancer."
Mice bred to develop B-cell lymphoma were given a normal diet or one that contained 25% fewer calories for one week, after which the groups were subdivided to receive ABT-737 (a drug that induces cancer cell death) or no treatment for 17 days. Following the discontinuation of ABT-737, all four groups were allowed unlimited access to food.
While calorie restriction or ABT-737 alone did not significantly improve survival in comparison with mice who received neither treatment (who survived an average of 30 days), animals who received both therapies survived an average of 41 days. Calorie restricted animals that received ABT-737 had fewer circulating lymphoma cells, which suggests that consuming less calories sensitized the animals to treatment. When the researchers tested the effect of calorie restriction mimetics in cultured lymphoma cells, they observed a reduction in the expression of the protein Mcl-1, which is associated with several cancers.
"This is just the beginning of our journey to bring these research findings to the clinical setting," Dr Ricci noted. "We next want to examine what component of a reduced-calorie diet – fats, sugars, or another food compound – influenced the lymphoma cells' improved sensitivity to treatment."
Copper implicated in Alzheimer's disease
August 21, 2013. An article appearing ahead of print on August 19, 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences links copper, an essential dietary mineral, with the development of Alzheimer's disease. Copper is used by blood vessels, nerves and bones, yet only very low amounts are needed in the diet.
In the current series of experiments, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that, in addition to increased levels of amyloid beta (a protein found in high amounts in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients), accumulation of copper in the brain capillaries of aging mice was associated with a reduction in low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 (LRP1, which helps clear amyloid beta from the brain by transporting it across the blood-brain barrier). When the team gave young mice drinking water for 90 days that contained a low level of copper that was comparable to the amount provided by a normal diet in humans, they observed similar findings.
"It is clear that, over time, copper's cumulative effect is to impair the systems by which amyloid beta is removed from the brain," explained lead author Rashid Deane, PhD, who is a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center's Department of Neurosurgery. "This impairment is one of the key factors that cause the protein to accumulate in the brain and form the plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease."
"Copper is an essential metal and it is clear that these effects are due to exposure over a long period of time," he cautioned. "The key will be striking the right balance between too little and too much copper consumption. Right now we cannot say what the right level will be, but diet may ultimately play an important role in regulating this process."
Flavonoid compounds shown to combat pancreatic cancer cells in recent studies
August 19, 2013. Studies conducted at the University of Illinois, published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research and Food and Chemical Toxicology, reveal an anticancer effect for apigenin and luteolin in human pancreatic cancer cells. The flavonoid compounds, found in celery, fruit and herbs, were discovered to inhibit an enzyme that reduces apoptosis—programmed cell death that occurs as a result of DNA damage.
In the first study, Jodee L. Johnson and Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia tested the effects of flavonoids and other compounds derived from citrus fruit on two human pancreatic cell lines. They found that apigenin induced cell death via the inhibition of a nuclear factor kappa B signaling pathway and by activating the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis. In the second study, pretreatment of pancreatic cancer cells with apigenin or luteolin for 24 hours prior to administering chemotherapeutic drugs significantly inhibited cell proliferation and increased a pro-apoptotic factor.
"Apigenin alone induced cell death in two aggressive human pancreatic cancer cell lines," stated Dr de Mejia. "But we received the best results when we pretreated cancer cells with apigenin for 24 hours, then applied the chemotherapeutic drug gemcitabine for 36 hours."
"Even though the topic is still controversial, our study indicated that taking antioxidant supplements on the same day as chemotherapeutic drugs may negate the effect of those drugs," she said. "That happens because flavonoids can act as antioxidants. One of the ways that chemotherapeutic drugs kill cells is based on their pro-oxidant activity, meaning that flavonoids and chemotherapeutic drugs may compete with each other when they're introduced at the same time."
"If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables throughout your life, you'll have chronic exposure to these bioactive flavonoids, which would certainly help to reduce the risk of cancer," she noted.
Finasteride lowers risk of prostate cancer without affecting long term survival
August 16, 2013. The August 15, 2013 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a follow-up to the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial which found that the drug finasteride, prescribed for prostate hypertrophy and male pattern baldness, lowered the risk of prostate cancer while having no impact on survival.
Finasteride had been reported by researchers involved in the seven-year Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in comparison with placebo; however, a slightly greater percentage of participants who received the drug developed high-grade cancer. This led to a warning concerning the drug being issued by the FDA in 2011.
For the follow-up study, Ian M. Thompson Jr., MD, of the University of Texas and his associates evaluated data from 18,880 participants in the original trial. Information concerning prostate cancer diagnoses was collected for one year following the trial's conclusion, and mortality data was obtained for the participants for a period of up to 18 years following enrollment.
Prostate cancer was diagnosed in 14.9% of the placebo group and 10.5% of those who received finasteride. No significant difference was found in ten-year survival among all subjects and among those with high-grade cancer.
"What that tells us is that in men who take finasteride, a third fewer will be diagnosed with prostate cancer," Dr Thompson commented. "If you look at the number of prostate cancers that are diagnosed annually and multiply that by 30 percent, that's the number of cancers we might be able to prevent each year."
"That's more than 71,000 men," he noted. "That's more than 175 jumbo jets full of men who won't get cancer, who won't face treatments with side effects like sexual dysfunction."
"If we can free thousands of men each year from that unnecessary burden, we could use those resources for other important medical interventions, reducing death and suffering from disease."
Homocysteine linked with diminished cognitive function in older men and women
August 14, 2013. An article published online on August 5, 2013 in the Journal of Affective Disorders reports an association between higher levels of plasma homocysteine and an increased risk of cognitive impairment in older adults.
Researchers from the University of Western Australia and Royal Perth Hospital recruited 358 individuals aged 50 and older with depressive symptoms, among whom 70% met the criteria for major depression. Fasting blood samples were analyzed for total plasma homocysteine, serum vitamin B12 and red blood cell folate levels. Cognitive tests administered included the Mini-mental state examination and tests of verbal fluency, naming, word list immediate recall, word list delayed recall and drawing (visual) recall.
Seventy-one participants had high homocysteine levels, defined in this study as 13 micromoles per liter or more. In subjects with and without major depression, those with higher homocysteine levels had lower median folate and vitamin B12 levels. "The results of this cross-sectional study show that in this sample of older adults, elevated total homocysteine was associated with weaker performance in tests of immediate and delayed memory and global cognitive performance when compared to those with normal total homocysteine," authors Andrew H. Ford and his colleagues report.
"The finding that high total homocysteine is associated with cognitive inefficiency in later life independent of depressive status has potential public health implications," they note. "Homocysteine can be reliably lowered by around by daily supplementation with vitamin B12 and folic acid, making it a potential modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment in depressed older adults."
"Homocysteine lowering B-vitamin supplementation may offer a potential therapeutic target to try and mitigate the often-disabling impact of cognitive deficits found in this population," they conclude.
Vitamin intake from fruit, vegetables, supplements associated with lower risk of pancreatic cancer
August 12, 2013. The June 2013 issue of the Journal of Gastrointestinal Cancer reported the finding of the Mayo Clinic of a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer in association with increased intake of nutrients provided by fruit, vegetables or nutritional supplements.
The study included 384 men and women with pancreatic cancer and 983 control subjects matched for age and other factors. Responses to food frequency questionnaires concerning dietary intake within five years prior to enrollment provided data concerning the intake of magnesium, potassium, selenium, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin, niacin, total alpha-tocopherol, total vitamin A activity, vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and vitamin C, from fruit, vegetables and nutritional supplements.
For all nutrients evaluated, a significantly lower risk of pancreatic cancer was observed for subjects whose intake was among the top one-fifth of participants in comparison those whose intake were lowest. When nutrient intake from supplements containing magnesium, selenium, beta-carotene, niacin, thiamine, vitamin, vitamin B6 or vitamin C alone was analyzed, a significant reduction in the risk of cancer of the pancreas was observed for those who supplemented with the majority of these nutrients in comparison with the risk experienced by nonusers.
Authors Rick J. Jansen and colleagues suggest that the antioxidant property of the nutrients examined may help protect against pancreatic cancer by decreasing oxidative DNA damage and genetic mutation. They note that while the protective effect of nutrients from food alone has been inconsistent, high supplemental nutrient intake has been associated with reduced pancreatic cancer risk. They conclude that "Although the exact mechanism is uncertain, our results highly suggest that eating fruits and vegetables and their corresponding nutrients will reduce the risk of developing pancreatic adenocarcinomas."
Pre-op fatty acids, antioxidants help prevent post-op afib
August 9, 2013. The results of a trial reported on July 31, 2013 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reveal a reduction in postoperative atrial fibrillation in men and women given omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamins C and E. Atrial fibrillation is a type of heart arrhythmia that is a major risk factor for illness and mortality when it occurs following cardiac surgery. Evidence suggests that oxidative stress may play a role in the development of this condition.
Participants included 307 patients scheduled to undergo on-pump heart surgery at the University of Chile Clinical Hospital and the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Santiago. The subjects were randomized to receive a placebo or 2 grams eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)/docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) beginning seven days prior to surgery, and 1 gram vitamin C and 400 international units (IU) vitamin E beginning two days before surgery. Supplementation was continued until discharge from the hospital. Continuous electrocardiographic monitoring performed for 24 to 48 hours after the surgery and Holter monitoring until the fourth postoperative day followed by periodic ECG evaluation detected any new onset atrial fibrillation.
Postoperative atrial fibrillation occurred in 32% of subjects who received a placebo and just 9.7% of the supplemented group. Additionally, those who received the supplements experienced atrial fibrillation later than the placebo group. The researchers calculated that the placebo group had a 3.62 times greater risk of postoperative atrial fibrillation on any day in comparison with participants who received the supplements.
"This short-term, safe, low cost treatment containing readily available substances represents a cost effective strategy that could improve the outcome of patients who undergo on-pump cardiac surgery, as well as other surgeries, involving atrial fibrillation risk, thereby reducing major cardiovascular adverse events, the length of hospital stay, and the overall cost," Ramón Rodrigo and coauthors conclude.
Lowered oxidative stress and reduced DNA damage linked to specific supplements
August 7, 2013. A study described in an article published online on August 5, 2013 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention reveals an ability for several dietary supplements to help prevent oxidative stress and DNA damage.
The current study utilized data from 209 men and women who participated in the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) biomarker study, which enrolled residents of western Washington between 2000 and 2001. Interviews and questionnaires administered following enrollment ascertained the frequency of use for glucosamine, chondroitin, fish oil, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), coenzyme Q10, ginseng, garlic, ginkgo and saw palmetto. Measurement of urinary 8-isoprostane and prostaglandin F2 alpha (PGF2 alpha) assessed oxidative stress levels, and blood samples were analyzed for white blood cell DNA damage and DNA repair capacity.
Researchers Elizabeth D. Kantor of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and her colleagues found a reduction in urinary PDF2 alpha, indicating lower amounts of oxidative stress, among those who reported consuming 14 or more tablets glucosamine or chondroitin per week. For glucosamine users, the reduction was 40% lower, and for chondroitin users, the reduction was 47% lower in comparison with nonusers. The use of fiber supplements was associated with a 43% reduction in PDF2 alpha, and for those who used coenzyme Q10, there was a 58% lower level of DNA damage compared to nonusers.
"Our results suggest that glucosamine, chondroitin, and fiber supplements are associated with reduced oxidative stress, while CoQ10 supplementation was associated with reduced DNA damage," the authors conclude. "Further research is needed to better understand the associations between use of these popular supplements and oxidative stress/DNA damage, as oxidative stress and DNA damage have been suggested to play a role in several diseases. Our results provide evidence of a potential mechanism by which these supplements may affect disease risk, warranting further research on these potential preventives."
Soy compound shows anti-HIV potential
August 5, 2013. Findings reported in an article published on June 19, 2013 in the journal Retrovirology suggest a possible role for genistein, a compound that occurs in soybeans, in combating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Genistein is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor which blocks communication from the cells' surface sensors to their interior. This communication process is hijacked by HIV, so that the virus can send signals into the cell which enable its entry.
Dr Wu's team additionally discovered that sunitinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor drug, inhibited HIV infection of resting CD4 T cells.
If used by HIV patients, genistein could enable them to avoid the toxicity that is a side effect of standard antiretroviral treatment as well as the loss of effectiveness that occurs when the virus becomes drug-resistant.
"Instead of directly acting on the virus, genistein interferes with the cellular processes that are necessary for the virus to infect cells," explained lead researcher Yuntao Wu, who is a professor with the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Molecular and Microbiology at George Mason University. "Thus, it makes the virus more difficult to become resistant to the drug. Our study is currently it its early stage. If clinically proven effective, genistein may be used as a complement treatment for HIV infection."
"Although genistein is rich in several plants such as soybeans, it is still uncertain whether the amount of genistein we consume from eating soy is sufficient to inhibit HIV," he added.
Preliminary testing of 10 milligrams per kilogram orally administered genistein in rhesus macaques for twelve weeks failed to elicit any adverse effects.
"These results may suggest that similar naturally-occurring kinase inhibitors, with little or no-detectable cytotoxicity, may be good candidates for long-term management of HIV infection," Dr Wu and his co-authors note.
Yet another analysis associates higher vitamin D levels with reduced all-cause mortality
August 2, 2013. The results of a meta-analysis published on July 24, 2013 in BioMed Central Public Health reveal a reduced risk of dying over 6 to 13.5 years of follow-up among men and women with higher, as compared to lower, vitamin D levels.
Lynne Rush of the National Health Service of Greater Glasgow and Clyde and her associates analyzed the findings of nine studies which provided data on serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status and mortality for a total of 24,297 adults of varying ages. Over the studies' follow-up periods, 5,324 deaths occurred. After adjusting for several factors, a 19% higher risk of dying from any cause over follow-up was found among those with lower serum vitamin D as compared to higher levels. When the subjects were analyzed according to age, the adjusted risk of dying was 12% higher for subjects with low vitamin D in studies of subjects whose age averaged less than 65 years, and 25% higher for studies whose participants had an average age of over 65 years.
"As far as we are aware, this is the only systematic review and meta-analysis that has specifically investigated whether the apparent association between low vitamin D status and all-cause mortality is age-dependent," the authors announce. "Although a significant increase in all-cause mortality was found in study participants of all ages with low compared to higher 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, the pooled effect size was lower for studies with participants with an average age of less than 65 years compared to the studies containing older participants."
"Further studies investigating the association between vitamin D deficiency and all-cause mortality in younger adults with adjustment for all important confounders (or using randomised trials of supplementation) are required to clarify this relationship," they conclude.