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.
Vitamin A may benefit TB patients
February 28 2014. The March 1, 2014 issue of the Journal of Immunology published the finding of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles of a mechanism for vitamin A against the bacteria that cause tuberculosis.
While vitamin A and vitamin D both have antimicrobial activities, the current research revealed that their mechanisms differ, and that only vitamin A reduces total cellular cholesterol. Cholesterol is stored in the cells' lysosomes, which are involved in combating infection. When the lysosomes are filled with cholesterol, it is used by bacteria for nutritional and other purposes.
The researchers determined that a gene known as NPC2 is important in all-trans retinoic acid (the biologically active form of vitamin A) cholesterol regulation. When NPC2 is expressed by the cells in response to vitamin A, they are better able to remove lysosomal cholesterol and combat infection. "We were very surprised that this particular gene was involved, since it has traditionally been associated with cholesterol transport and not immune defense," noted co-first author Elliot Kim, who is currently a graduate student in the department of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.
"If we can reduce the amount of cholesterol in a cell infected with tuberculosis, we may be able to aid the immune system in better responding to the infection," explained senior author Philip Liu, who is an assistant professor of medicine in the divisions of dermatology and orthopedic surgery at the Geffen School of Medicine and Orthopedic Hospital Research Center. "Understanding how nutrients like vitamin A are utilized by our immune system to fight infections may provide new treatment approaches."
Deficient vitamin D levels associated with compromised immune function
February 26 2014. An article appearing ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism associates vitamin D deficiency with elevated markers of inflammation in older men and women, indicating immune dysfunction.
The study included 481 men and 476 women who were subjects in the Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture aging cohort study, which investigated nutritional and other factors in the development of chronic diseases in adults 60 years of age and older. Blood samples were analyzed for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the inflammatory markers serum C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 (IL-6), and the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10).
The researchers observed a decrease in IL-6, CRP, the ratio of IL-6 to IL-10, and the ratio of CRP to IL-10 in association with rising vitamin D levels. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate an association between vitamin D status, markers of inflammation and the IL-6:IL-10 ratio exclusively within free-living, older adults," Mary Ward, PhD, of the University of Ulster and her colleagues announce. "The findings provide evidence that vitamin D deficiency is significantly associated with a more pronounced pro-inflammatory status and that a higher vitamin D status may be required to optimize immune function towards an anti-inflammatory profile."
"Our data suggest vitamin D may be involved in maintaining the health of the immune system as well as the skeletal system," Dr Ward remarked. "This study is the first to find a connection between vitamin D levels and inflammation in a large sample of older individuals."
"The results indicate immune function may be compromised in older individuals with vitamin D deficiency," she added. "Ensuring older individuals have optimal vitamin D levels may be a way to boost immune function in this population, but this needs to be confirmed through additional studies."
Grape seed protects against damaging effects of chemo while boosting its effectiveness
February 24 2014. The January 2014 issue of the journal PLOS ONE presented the findings of researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia of a protective benefit for grape seed extract against one of the damaging effects of chemotherapy known as mucositis. The condition is characterized by inflammation and ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract that particularly the affects the mouth and small intestine.
Dr Ker Yeaw Cheah and colleagues divided 64 rats to receive one of three doses of grape seed extract or water for a period of eight days, during which time the animals were injected with the chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil or saline. On the day after the end of the treatment period, the animals were examined for the presence of intestinal damage and inflammation.
In comparison with rats that received 5-fluorouracil alone, those that received grape seed had less intestinal damage and up to 55% less inflammation. When grape seed was administered with 5-fluorouracil to cultured human colon cancer cells, the drug's ability to inhibit cancer growth was boosted by 26% in comparison to drug treatment alone.
"This is the first study showing that grape seed can enhance the potency of one of the major chemotherapy drugs in its action against colon cancer cells," announced Dr Cheah, who is a researcher at the University of Adelaide's School of Agriculture, Food and Wine. "Our experimental studies have shown that grape seed extract reduced chemotherapy-induced inflammation and damage and helped protect healthy cells in the gastrointestinal tract. While this effect is very promising, we were initially concerned that grape seed could reduce the effectiveness of the chemotherapy . . . In contrast, we found that grape seed extract not only aided the ability of chemotherapy to kill cancer cells, but was also more potent than the chemotherapy we tested at one concentration."
"Unlike chemotherapy, grape seed appears to selectively act on cancer cells and leave healthy cells almost unaffected," she observed.
Multivitamin supplementation associated with lower cataract risk
February 21 2014. The February, 2014 issue of the journal Ophthalmology published the findings of a team from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School of a protective effect for multivitamin supplements against the risk of cataract development in middle-aged men.
The current study involved 14,641 U.S. men aged 50 years and older enrolled in the Physicians' Health Study II. Participants were randomized to receive a daily multivitamin or a placebo beginning in 1997. Over an average 11.2 year follow-up period, 1,817 cases of cataract were diagnosed.
Among men who received vitamin supplements there was a 9% lower risk of cataract in comparison with the placebo group. When nuclear cataract (at the eye lens center) was examined, the risk was 13% lower in the vitamin supplemented group.
The findings are consistent with two other trials of multivitamin supplementation for the prevention of cataract. "Taken together, our findings in Physicians' Health Study II and two prior trials indicate that long-term daily multivitamin use may have a small to moderate beneficial effect on risk of cataract, particularly nuclear cataract," the authors conclude.
Lead author and Harvard Medical School researcher William C. Christen, ScD, noted that "If multivitamins really do reduce the risk of cataract, even by a modest 10 percent, this rather small reduction would nonetheless have a large public health impact."
Greater magnesium intake could help protect against fracture risk
February 19 2014. The November 2013 issue of the journal Bone published the finding of Norwegian researchers that higher magnesium content of one's drinking water may help protect against hip fracture.
For their study, Cecilie Dahl of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and associates utilized data from the National Population Register as well as a trace metal survey of 556 waterworks supplying 64% of the Norwegian population. Among approximately 700,000 subjects between the ages of 50 to 85 years followed from 1994 to 2000, 5,472 men and 13,604 women experienced a fracture of the hip, according to a national registry.
A low average level of calcium and magnesium in the country's water was observed; however, no association between calcium and hip fracture was found. Among men whose drinking water was among the top one-third in magnesium content, there was a 20% lower risk of hip fracture in comparison with those whose water was among the lowest third and for women, the risk was 10% lower. Living in a city in comparison to a rural environment was associated with a 23% increase in hip fracture risk in men and a 24% increase in women.
In Norway, which has a high incidence of hip fracture, calcium carbonate is added to the water to help prevent corrosion by making the water less acidic. "Perhaps water utility companies should use dolomite in addition, or as an alternative, to lime," Dr Dahl suggested. "Dolomite contains both magnesium and calcium, while lime contains only calcium carbonate."
"More research is needed to get a more reliable result of the relationship between drinking water and hip fractures and to get a better picture of the biological mechanism in the body," she concluded.
Poor resolution of inflammation found in Alzheimer's brains
February 17 2014. The journal Alzheimer's and Dementia published an article online on February 4, 2014 which describes impaired resolution of inflammation in the brains of men and women with Alzheimer's disease. Resolution of inflammation occurs when molecules known as specialized pro-resolving mediators clear microorganisms and/or dead cell debris via phagocytosis, followed by the release of growth factors which help repair tissue. Although acute inflammation is a natural protective response to infection or injury, chronic inflammation in the brain, such as occurs in Alzheimer's disease, leads to damage and brain cell death.
For their investigation, Professor Marianne Schultzberg of Sweden's Karolinska Institutet and her associates examined brain tissue from ten patients with Alzheimer's disease and an equal number who did not have the disease. They also examined the cerebrospinal fluid of 15 Alzheimer's disease patients, 20 patients with mild cognitive impairment and 21 non-impaired subjects. A lower level of molecules that resolve inflammation was found in the brains and cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer's disease patients in comparison with normal individuals. The researchers additionally uncovered an association between reduced levels of the molecules and decreased cognitive function.
Dr Schultzberg and her associates are currently investigating the effects of pro-resolving molecules derived from omega-3 fatty acids in cell cultures and in animal models. "Our hypothesis is that stimulation of resolution of inflammation in Alzheimer's disease may result in reduced neuronal death in the brain, and in turn have a beneficial effect in disease progression and cognition," stated Dr Schultzberg, of the Karolinska Instituet's Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society. "This is an entirely new approach and provides the opportunity to develop new treatment principles for Alzheimer's disease."
Higher vitamin C levels linked to lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke
February 14 2014. A presentation at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual Meeting, held in Philadelphia from April 26 to May 3, 2014, revealed a protective effect for high plasma levels of vitamin C against the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke is characterized by bleeding in the brain and, although less common than ischemic stroke, is associated with a greater risk of mortality.
"Scurvy is caused by vitamin C deficiency, specifically a plasma vitamin C concentration of less than 11 micromoles per liter, and may have hemorrhagic manifestations," write authors Stèphane Vannier, MD, of Pontchaillou University Hospital in Rennes, France and colleagues. "Vitamin C depletion (less than 38 micromoles per liter) is associated with cardiovascular diseases and could increase intracerebral hemorrhage risk."
The researchers compared plasma ascorbate levels of 65 acute intracerebral hemorrhage patients with an equal number of control subjects. Subjects with stroke had depleted vitamin C levels averaging 35.3 micromoles per liter, in comparison with the control group, whose levels were normal at an average of 56.2 micromoles per liter. Depleted levels of vitamin C were also associated with longer hospitalization.
"Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight in our study," Dr Vannier stated. "More research is needed to explore specifically how vitamin C may help to reduce stroke risk. For example, the vitamin may regulate blood pressure."
"There are multiple physiopathological mechanisms given the involvement of vitamin C in blood pressure regulation and collagen synthesis," the authors note. "Additional work is required to confirm our findings."
Low dose aspirin associated with reduced risk of dying among heart failure patients over two year median
February 12 2014. In an article published on February 3, 2014 in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure, researchers from Ireland report a survival benefit for low dose aspirin among heart failure patients.
The study evaluated 1,476 men and women enrolled in a heart failure disease management program. Aspirin was prescribed to 892 subjects, among whom 828 were recommended a low dose of 75 milligrams per day. Over a follow-up period of up to twelve years (median 2.6 years), 464 deaths occurred.
Subjects who used low dose aspirin had a 42% lower adjusted risk of dying over follow-up and 30% lower risk of being hospitalized for heart failure in comparison with nonusers. Those who used high dose aspirin experienced a risk of dying similar to those who did not use the drug.
Authors Margaret Bermingham and her colleagues observe that in recent trials that identified a greater risk of cardiovascular and heart failure events in aspirin users in comparison with those who used the anticoagulant drug warfarin, the dose of aspirin ranged from 162 to 135 milligrams per day, which is much higher than the low dose commonly used in Europe. They remark that the current findings "challenge the belief that aspirin should be avoided in secondary prevention patients who go on to develop heart failure and suggest that patients on higher antiplatelet doses may benefit from dose reduction."
"Unlike previous prospective studies in highly selected populations and retrospective cohort studies which have raised concerns about higher antiplatelet doses of aspirin in heart failure, the present study demonstrates a significant reduction in risk of mortality and morbidity associated with the use of low-dose aspirin in heart failure patients when adjusted for clinically relevant variables," they conclude.
Dietary supplements part of a healthy lifestyle
February 10 2014. A review published on February 6, 2014 in Nutrition Journal concludes that, rather than compensating for poor eating and a lack of exercise, the use of nutritional supplements is part of an overall healthy lifestyle among the majority of those who use them.
"Compiling the available data on the health habits of dietary supplement users, we gained a sharper insight into the positive lifestyle choices of this large segment—one half to two-thirds—of the American population that takes supplements," remarked coauthor Annette Dickinson, PhD. "Evidence from numerous surveys shows that dietary supplement users are more likely than nonusers to adopt a number of positive health-related habits such as consuming healthier diets, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight, and avoiding tobacco products."
"Dietary supplement users typically make healthful habits part of each day, and many stick with their supplement regimen for years," added coauthor Douglas McKay, ND. "Their supplement use doesn't appear to be something trendy, but more of a planned strategy they maintain for the long haul."
Drs Dickinson and McKay found that reliance upon food alone to receive one's nutrients resulted in intake levels below the Estimated Average Requirement for many nutrients. This status was improved by 50% by the consumption of enriched and fortified foods, and was further improved by supplementation.
"It's important to give dietary supplement users credit for their efforts to improve their overall wellness profile with thoughtful choices," Dr MacKay acknowledged. "The scientific evidence indicates that they tend to incorporate these products into their lifestyles as part of a broader focus on healthy living, with supplement use just one of a constellation of smart, healthy habits."
Primate brains show omega-3 benefit
February 7 2014. The Journal of Neuroscience published an article on February 5, 2014 in which Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) researchers report a brain benefit for the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in rhesus macaques. The study is the first to utilize functional brain magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) to observe the interaction of multiple brain networks in live non-human primates.
The research involved rhesus macaques between the ages of 17 and 19 who had been given life-long diets that were low or high in DHA. Damien Fair, PA-C, PhD, and his colleagues found stronger connectivity of early visual pathways in the brains of monkeys given high-DHA diets as well as increased connections within brain networks similar to those found in humans, including those related to cognition and higher-level processing. "For example, we could see activity and connections within areas of the macaque brain that are important in the human brain for attention," explained Dr Fair, who is an associate scientist in OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research Center's Division of Neuroscience.
"The data shows the benefits in how the monkeys' brains organize over their lifetime if in the setting of a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids," he concluded. "The data also shows in detail how similar the networks in a monkey brain are to networks in a human brain, but only in the context of a diet rich in omega-3-fatty acids."
Dr Fair plans to compare the behavioral patterns of animals with specific network deficits to humans with neurologic conditions such as autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, in addition to assessing brain development throughout the lives of animals on various diets. "It would be important to see how a diet high in omega-3s might affect brain development early on in their lives, and across their lifespan," he commented.
Young US workers benefit from Mediterranean diet
February 5 2014. A an article published online on February 4, 2014 in the journal PLoS One reveals a protective effect for a Mediterranean diet, characterized by an abundance of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, nuts, fish and olive oil, against the risk of cardiovascular disease in Midwestern firefighters. "To the best of our knowledge, no studies have examined this dietary pattern in a North American occupational cohort," Justin Yang, PhD, of Harvard School of Public Health and his associates announce.
Lifestyle questionnaire responses of 780 male firefighters were scored on their adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet. Subjects whose adherence to the diet was greatest had a 35% lower risk of metabolic syndrome, (a disorder that significantly increases the risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease) in comparison with men whose adherence was lowest. The group with the greatest adherence also had a 43% lower risk of weight gain over the previous five years, lower body fat percentage, greater high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels and lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
"Our study adds more evidence showing the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, even after adjusting for exercise and body weight," commented study coauthor Stefanos Kales, who is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health.
"The logical next steps from our investigation are studies using the workplace to specifically promote Mediterranean dietary habits among firefighters and other U.S. workers," Dr Yang added.
Cinnamon improves liver enzymes and other factors in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
February 3 2014. The February 2014 issue of the journal Nutrition Research described the outcome of a trial conducted by Iranian researchers which revealed a benefit for cinnamon in men and women with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease includes steatosis, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), fibrosis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, and can result in death if left untreated.
The trial included fifty men and women between the ages of 20 and 65 years with NAFLD. Participants were randomized to receive two 750 milligram capsules of cinnamon or a placebo daily for twelve weeks. Blood samples collected before and after the treatment period were analyzed for fasting blood glucose, lipids, liver enzymes and C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
Among those who received cinnamon, a significant reduction in glucose, total cholesterol, insulin resistance, insulin sensitivity, triglycerides, C-reactive protein and liver enzymes occurred, while remaining relatively unchanged among those who received a placebo.
"Although the effects of cinnamon on diabetes and its related blood parameters and lipid profile have been studied in several trials with conflicting results, to our knowledge, this is the first study indicating the therapeutic effects of cinnamon on NAFLD characteristics," authors Faezeh Askari and colleagues announce. "Since insulin resistance, oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, and subsequent reactive oxygen species are among the major known mechanisms in the development of NAFLD and NASH, it is possible that cinnamon may have beneficial effects in the treatment of NAFLD too."
"This study has shown that 1.5 g of cinnamon supplementation for 12 weeks improved NAFLD characteristics and could be a good adjuvant therapeutic option for this disease," they conclude.