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.
Delayed association between insufficient vitamin D and cognitive impairment among exceptionally long lived individuals
January 31 2014. In an article published online on January 2, 2014 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine report a delayed association between vitamin D insufficiency and the risk of cognitive impairment among Ashkenazi Jewish men and women aged 95 and older. “Although epidemiological data suggest that vitamin D may play a role in protecting against cognitive dysfunction in the general elderly population, whether this association exists in populations with exceptional longevity (centenarians), in whom dementia risk is delayed in proportion to their life span, has not been determined,” Sofiya Milman, MD and her colleagues note in their introduction to the article.
The study compared 253 Ashkenazi Jews between the ages of 95 and 109 years with 2,451 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III aged 70 years or older. Mini-Mental State Examination and clock drawing test results were used to assess cognitive function. Serum 25-hydoxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] measurements revealed a rise in insufficient levels among the NHANES III group in association with increasing age. A correlation between vitamin D insufficiency and cognitive impairment was observed in both groups. Among the exceptionally long-lived group, the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency was comparable with that of NHANES III subjects who were as much as 25 years younger.
“Higher vitamin D levels may be a marker of delayed aging, because they are associated with better cognitive function in people achieving exceptional longevity,” the authors conclude. “These findings may lead to better understanding of mechanisms that mediate aging and cognitive decline and may result in interventions that would help maintain cognition for the duration of the life span in the general elderly population.”
Deficient vitamin D levels increase the risk of severe preeclampsia
January 29 2014. An article published online on January 22, 2014 in the journal Epidemiology reports an association between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of severe preeclampsia in pregnant women. The disorder is characterized by protein in the urine and a rise in blood pressure that can increase the risk of death during pregnancy.
Lisa M. Bodnar, PhD, MPH, RD and her associates measured serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in stored serum collected at less than 26 weeks gestation from 3,703 women who enrolled in the Collaborative Perinatal Project from 1959 to 1966. Mild preeclampsia was subsequently diagnosed in 560 women and severe preeclampsia in 157 participants. Women whose vitamin D levels were greater than 50 nanomoles per liter (20 nanograms/milliliter), had a risk of developing severe preeclampsia that was 40% lower than the risk experienced by women with lesser levels.
“For decades, vitamin D was known as a nutrient that was important only for bone health,” noted Dr Bodnar, who is an associate professor at the University of Pittsburg School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “Over the past 10 to 15 years, scientists have learned that vitamin D has diverse functions in the body beyond maintaining the skeleton, including actions that may be important for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.”
“Scientists believe that severe preeclampsia and mild preeclampsia have different root causes,” added senior author Mark A. Klebanoff, MD, MPH, of the Center for Perinatal Research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Severe preeclampsia poses much higher health risks to the mother and child, so linking it with a factor that we can easily treat, like vitamin D deficiency, holds great potential.”
Higher vitamin D levels predict reduced rate of progression in early MS
January 27 2014. Having a higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level upon an initial episode suggestive of multiple sclerosis (MS) could reduce the chance of a second episode or other signs of disease progression according to an article published online on January 20 in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Neurology.
The study evaluated data from 465 participants in the Betaferon/Betaseron in Newly Emerging multiple sclerosis for Initial Treatment (BENEFIT) trial, which evaluated early versus delayed interferon beta-1b treatment in patients with an initial episode of neurological dysfunction suggestive of MS. (Definitive diagnosis of MS requires the occurrence of a second clinical event.) The subjects were followed for up to five years, during which magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was conducted quarterly for 12 months, and at 18, 24, 36, 48 and 60 months. For the current study, Alberto Ascherio, MD, DrPH, and his associates examined the association between the risk of disease progression and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels measured at least once among four time points over the two years following enrollment in the BENEFIT trial.
Having a higher serum level of vitamin D was associated with a reduced rate of conversion to MS over the follow-up period. “By the end of the follow-up at 60 months, those patients with serum 25(OH)D concentrations greater than or equal to 50 nmol/L [20 ng/mL] had a 4-times lower change in T2 lesion volume, a 2-fold lower rate of brain atrophy, and lower disability than those below50 nmol/ [20 ng/mL],” the authors report.
"Our results suggest that identification and correction of vitamin D insufficiency has an important role in the early treatment of MS," they conclude.
Omega 3 has far-reaching effects
January 24 2014. On December 17, 2013, the journal PLoS One published the results of research which indicates that the benefits of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are wider than previously known. The study was the first of its kind to utilize metabolomics, an analysis of metabolites, to learn more about the fatty acids’ benefits in liver disease.
Researchers at Oregon State University studied the effects of omega 3 in the livers of mice in which nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) was induced by a standard Western diet consumed for 16 weeks. Some of the animals received the omega-3 PUFA EPA and/or DHA along with the diet and others received olive oil.
Supplementation with DHA was more effective than EPA at normalizing NASH gene expression markers and other factors altered by the western diet. The team found that DHA affected all major metabolic pathways to exert a protective effect against the diet’s ability to induce the disease. The researchers observed changes in vitamin, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, as well as protein function.
“We were shocked to find so many biological pathways being affected by omega-3 fatty acids,” remarked study coauthor Donald Jump, who is a professor at the Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “Most studies on these nutrients find effects on lipid metabolism and inflammation. Our metabolomics analysis indicates that the effects of omega-3 fatty acids extend beyond that, and include carbohydrate, amino acid and vitamin metabolism.”
“A lot of work has been done on fatty liver disease, and we are just beginning to explore the potential for DHA in preventing or slowing disease progression,” Dr Jump noted.
“Fish oils, a common supplement used to provide omega-3, are also not prescribed to regulate blood glucose levels in diabetic patients,” he added. “But our studies suggest that DHA may reduce the formation of harmful glucose metabolites linked to diabetic complications.”
Higher omega-3 levels equal less brain shrinkage with age
January 22 2014. A report published online on January 22, 2014 in the journal Neurology® reveals an association between higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and greater brain volume in older age. "These higher levels of fatty acids can be achieved through diet and the use of supplements, and the results suggest that the effect on brain volume is the equivalent of delaying the normal loss of brain cells that comes with aging by one to two years," commented lead author James V. Pottala, PhD, of the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls.
The study included 1,111 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, which was a subset study of subjects enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative. Subjects were between the ages of 65 to 80 years upon enrollment. Blood samples were analyzed for red blood cell fatty acid levels and magnetic resonance imaging was conducted a median of eight years later to evaluate brain volume.
Having a higher blood level of EPA combined with DHA was associated with larger total brain volume and hippocampal volume at the time of the MRI scans. (The hippocampus is an area of the brain involved with learning.) No association with ischemic lesion volumes and omega-3 fatty acids was observed.
“In this cohort of postmenopausal women, lower red blood cell EPA plus DHA levels correlated with smaller total and hippocampal brain volumes, the former being an indication of cognitive aging and the latter being centrally involved with Alzheimer’s disease pathology,” Dr Pottala and his colleagues conclude. “This study thus adds to the growing literature suggesting that higher omega-3 fatty acid tissue levels, which can be achieved by dietary changes, may hold promise for delaying cognitive aging and/or dementia.”
Vitamin D deficiency associated with lower survival among prostate cancer patients
January 20 2014. The January 2014 issue of the journal Military Medicine published the finding of researchers at East Tennessee State University of a positive association between higher vitamin D levels and prostate cancer survival.
The participants included veterans diagnosed with prostate cancer prior to May 2007. A percentage of the group had been tested for vitamin D levels, among whom more than half had at least one follow-up test result.
At the end of five years, 27.9% of the men had died. Initial blood test results indicated vitamin D deficiency in over a third of those tested, and follow-up tests revealed improvements resulting in deficiency among less than 20%. Those who were initially revealed to be deficient in vitamin D had a 6% lower risk of surviving prostate cancer in comparison with nondeficient men. For those whose deficiency was detected at follow-up, the risk was 9% lower.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first published report indicating that vitamin D status and monitoring are associated with significantly better outcomes in veteran prostate cancer patients,” authors Tatyana Der, MD and colleagues announce. As possible mechanisms, they cite vitamin D’s influence on cellular invasion, angiogenesis and metastasis, as well as its ability to inhibit growth in prostate cancer cells.
“There are several compelling reasons for testing and treating prostate cancer patients with vitamin D, pending large-scale prospective studies.” they remark. “Indeed, another study found that treating patients with both metastatic prostate cancer and vitamin D deficiency with 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D improved bone pain and muscle strength."
"We recommend that all prostate cancer patients be prescribed 2,000 IU vitamin D3 daily, with this dose appropriately adjusted based on sequential monitoring,” they conclude.
Vitamin D offers pain relief to fibromyalgia sufferers
January 17 2014. A report published on January 17, 2014 in the journal Pain describes the outcome of a trial involving vitamin D supplementation by adults with fibromyalgia which found a benefit for the vitamin in relieving the chronic pain that characterizes the syndrome.
The trial included 30 subjects diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome who had low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of less than 32 nanograms per milliliter. Half of the participants received 1200 IU or 2400 IU vitamin D3, and the remaining half received a placebo for 24 weeks. Serum vitamin D levels were measured before treatment and at 5 and 13 weeks. Pain, health-related quality of life, anxiety and depression, disease-related impairment and physical sensations were evaluated at the beginning of the study and at various time points during examinations at weeks 1, 5, 13, 25 and 49.
Vitamin D was discontinued by those whose serum levels measured over 48 nanograms per milliliter after 13 weeks. A significant reduction in pain occurred over time in those who received the vitamin, while remaining essentially unchanged in the placebo group. Physical role functioning also improved among those given vitamin D, while remaining constant in the control subjects.
"We believe that the data presented in the present study are promising," stated lead author Florian Wepner of the Center of Excellence for Orthopaedic Pain Management in Speising, Austria. "Fibromyalgia syndrome is a very extensive symptom complex that cannot be explained by a vitamin D deficiency alone. However, vitamin D supplementation may be regarded as a relatively safe and economical treatment for fibromyalgia syndrome patients and an extremely cost-effective alternative or adjunct to expensive pharmacological treatment as well as physical, behavioral, and multimodal therapies. Vitamin D levels should be monitored regularly in fibromyalgia syndrome patients, especially in the winter season, and raised appropriately."
Mediterranean diet lowers sudden cardiac death risk in women
January 15 2014. An article published on December 18, 2013 online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports a protective effect for a Mediterranean diet against the risk of undergoing sudden cardiac death among postmenopausal women. The diet, characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, unsaturated fat, nuts, and fish, moderate alcohol intake, and a low intake of saturated fat, has been linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and other conditions in a number of studies.
The investigation evaluated the effects of adherence to a Mediterranean diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet among 93,122 participants who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative study between 1993 and 1998. Dietary questionnaires completed twice during the 10.5 year average follow-up period were scored on adherence to both diets.
Over the follow-up period, 237 sudden cardiac deaths occurred. Among those whose Mediterranean diet scores were among the top 20% of participants, there was an adjusted 33% lower risk of undergoing sudden cardiac death in comparison with women whose scores were among the lowest 20%. Higher DASH diet scores were not correlated with a lower risk of sudden cardiac death after adjustment for numerous factors, however, authors Monica L. Bertoia and her colleagues remark that the intake of salt, an important factor in the DASH diet, was not well characterized by the questionnaires.
The authors point out the association between increased consumption of fish and a lower risk of sudden cardiac death uncovered in this and other studies. “Future research should try to replicate our findings in other populations as well as investigate the association between individual components of these dietary patterns and risk of sudden cardiac death,” they conclude.
Remember to drink your coffee
January 13 2014. An article published on January 12, 2014 in the journal Nature Neuroscience reveals a memory-enhancing effect for caffeine, found in coffee, tea and other beverages.
"We've always known that caffeine has cognitive-enhancing effects, but its particular effects on strengthening memories and making them resistant to forgetting has never been examined in detail in humans," commented senior author Michael Yassa, who is an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. "We report for the first time a specific effect of caffeine on reducing forgetting over 24 hours."
In a double-blinded trial, participants who were not regular caffeine consumers received 200 milligrams of the compound or a placebo five minutes after studying a series of images. Saliva samples collected prior to treatment and one, three and 24 hours afterward tracked caffeine levels. Participants were tested the following day on how well they remembered the images.
Participants who received caffeine were better able to identify images viewed the day before, and to recognize those that were similar but different. "If we used a standard recognition memory task without these tricky similar items, we would have found no effect of caffeine," Dr Yassa explained. "However, using these items requires the brain to make a more difficult discrimination--what we call pattern separation, which seems to be the process that is enhanced by caffeine in our case."
"The next step for us is to figure out the brain mechanisms underlying this enhancement," he stated. "We can use brain-imaging techniques to address these questions. We also know that caffeine is associated with healthy longevity and may have some protective effects from cognitive decline like Alzheimer's disease. These are certainly important questions for the future."
Curcumin/Boswellia shows promise in chronic kidney disease
January 10 2014. The July 2013 issue of the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine reports the finding of researchers at Baylor University of a reduction in a marker of inflammation among chronic kidney disease patients given a combination of Curcuma longa (curcumin) and Boswellia serrata.
The study included sixteen individuals receiving standard care for chronic kidney disease who were not undergoing dialysis. Participants were randomized to receive capsules containing curcumin from turmeric extract plus Boswellia serrata, or a placebo for eight weeks. Blood samples collected before and after treatment were analyzed for plasma interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor alpha (markers of inflammation), and the endogenous antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase, as well as serum C-reactive protein (CRP, another marker of inflammation.)
Participants' blood test results at the beginning of the study revealed increased inflammation and reduced glutathione peroxide levels. At the study’s conclusion, those who received curcumin and Boswellia serrata experienced a reduction in interleukin-6 in comparison with pretreatment values, indicating decreased inflammation, while IL-6 values rose among those who received a placebo.
In their discussion of the findings, the authors remark that curcumin and Boswellia serrata have been separately shown to lower interleukin-6 via inhibition of the nuclear factor kappa beta and mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways. Although tumor-necrosis factor-alpha was not reduced in the current study, they observe that the ACE inhibiting drugs used by the majority of the patients, which are known to lower tumor-necrosis factor-alpha, could have influenced the results.
“Our findings partially support previous research on the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin and Boswellia serrata,” Jennifer J. Moreillon and colleagues write. “Larger randomized trials are needed to further investigate the role of anti-inflammatory supplements in moderate chronic kidney disease. Particularly, it is of great importance to determine how these compounds decrease inflammation and thus, cardiovascular mortality.”
Reduced vitamin D, magnesium associated with increased insulin resistance
January 08 2014. The November 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research published the findings of a study conducted at Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute in Puducherry, India, of reduced levels of vitamin D, calcium and magnesium in diabetic individuals, as well as associations between decreased concentrations of serum vitamin D and magnesium with increased insulin resistance.
The study compared 30 diabetic men and women with an equal number of nondiabetic control subjects matched for gender and age. Fasting blood samples were analyzed for serum glucose, insulin, 25-hydroxyvitamin-D3 and insulin levels, and insulin resistance was determined.
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 levels averaged 12.29 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) among those with type 2 diabetes in comparison with 19.55 ng/mL in the healthy controls. Serum calcium and magnesium levels were also significantly lower and fasting glucose, insulin and insulin resistance were greater among those with diabetes. A significant correlation was determined between lower vitamin D levels and higher insulin levels as well as insulin resistance. Additionally, higher vitamin D levels were correlated with increased magnesium status, and low magnesium with insulin resistance.
In their discussion, authors Mahendra Bhauraoji Gandhe and colleagues suggest that serum magnesium levels be measured in obese men and women as a predictor of insulin resistance and increased diabetes risk. They further remark that magnesium supplementation could help delay the onset of the disease.
“High risk population should be screened thoroughly and must be placed on vitamin D supplements,” they write. “As per our observation, we hereby advise all our type 2 diabetes mellitus patients to take vitamin D and calcium regularly. Those who are using sunscreen with high SPF (sun protection factor) should receive supplements of vitamin D and calcium.”
Higher vitamin D during pregnancy benefits offspring
January 06 2014. The January 2014 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism contained a report of the findings of researchers from England’s Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton of a muscle strength benefit in the children of mothers who had higher vitamin D levels during pregnancy.
The study included 678 pregnant participants in the Southampton Women’s Survey. The women’s serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were measured at 34 weeks of gestation. When their children were four years old, hand grip strength, lean mass, percent lean mass and physical activity were assessed.
A correlation was observed between higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and an increase in hand grip strength. An additional association was found between total lean mass and increased vitamin D concentrations, which was reduced after adjustment for several factors.
"These associations between maternal vitamin D and offspring muscle strength may well have consequences for later health; muscle strength peaks in young adulthood before declining in older age and low grip strength in adulthood has been associated with poor health outcomes including diabetes, falls and fractures,” stated lead researcher Nicholas C. Harvey, who is a Senior Lecturer at the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit. “It is likely that the greater muscle strength observed at four years of age in children born to mothers with higher vitamin D levels will track into adulthood, and so potentially help to reduce the burden of illness associated with loss of muscle mass in old age."
Coauthor and Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit Director Cyrus Cooper added that, “This work should help us to design interventions aimed at optimizing body composition in childhood and later adulthood and thus improve the health of future generations."
Increased intake of specific flavonoids linked with lower diabetes risk
January 03 2014. An article appearing on December 24, 2013 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports the findings of European researchers of a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes among men and women who consumed greater amounts of individual compounds categorized under the flavonoid subclasses known as flavanols and flavonols.
The current study included 26,088 participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Interact Study, which recruited men and women from eight European countries in the 1990s. The study included 11,559 men and women diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over follow-up through 2007. Dietary questionnaire responses were analyzed for the intake of flavanols including flavan-3-ol monomers and proanthocyanidin groups, and the individual flavonols isorhamnetin, kaempferol, myricetin and quercetin.
A decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes was observed in association with rising intake of all flavan-3-ol monomers analyzed, which included the flavanols epigallocatechin 3- gallate, epicatechin 3- gallate, epigallocatechin, epicatechin, catechin, catechin 3- gallate and gallocatechin. For intake of proanthocyanidin dimers (from fruit, wine, chocolate and tea), subjects whose intake was among the top 20% had a 19% lower risk of developing diabetes, and for trimers, the risk was 9% lower in comparison with the lowest group. When flavonols were evaluated, subjects among the top 20% of myricetin intake experienced a 45% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
“In this large, prospective case-cohort study supports a protective role for all individual flavan-3-ol monomers, proanthocyanidins of low polymerization degree, and the flavonol myricetin against type 2 diabetes in men and women across European countries,” authors Raul Zamora-Ros and colleagues conclude. “These results highlight the importance of the assessment of individual flavonoids in addition to that of the flavonoid subclasses. More studies in different populations are needed to confirm these potential inverse associations between the intake of individual flavanols and flavonols and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”
JAMA reports reduced functional decline in Alzheimer’s patients given vitamin E
January 01 2014. The January 1, 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports the outcome of a double-blinded trial involving mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease patients which found a reduction in the rate of functional decline in comparison with a placebo among those who received a daily vitamin E supplement.
The trial included 613 predominantly male patients at fourteen Veterans Affairs medical centers. Participants were divided to receive 2,000 international units (IU) vitamin E, 20 milligrams of the drug memantine, both treatments, or a placebo daily over a follow-up period that averaged 2.3 years. The subjects were assessed on their ability to perform activities of daily living, cognitive function, memory and language, psychological and behavioral problems, and time necessitating caregiver assistance at the beginning of the study and every six months thereafter.
While memantine as well as memantine plus vitamin E were not associated with a benefit, functional decline was slowed in patients who received vitamin E, translating into a delay in clinical progression of approximately 6.2 months over follow-up. Those who received the vitamin also needed less caregiver assistance in comparison with the placebo group.
“The current study is one of the largest and longest treatment trials in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease,” Maurice W. Dysken, MD, and colleagues announce. “It is the first large scale clinical trial to assess not only the effectiveness of alpha tocopherol in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, but also the combination of alpha tocopherol and memantine.”
"In contrast to the conclusion drawn from a 2005 meta-analysis of vitamin E, which showed that high-dose vitamin E may increase the risk of all-cause mortality, we found no significant increase in mortality with vitamin E,” they observed. “The annual mortality rate was 7.3 percent in the alpha tocopherol group vs. 9.4 percent for the placebo group."