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.
Meta-analysis associates moderate coffee drinking with lower risk of dying over up to two decades
August 29 2014. The results of a dose-response meta-analysis published online on August 24, 2014 in the American Journal of Epidemiology indicate an association between increased coffee consumption and a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or any cause over up to 23 years of follow-up.
"Coffee is one of the most commonly consumed beverages around the world," write Alessio Crippa and colleagues in their introduction. "Because of its popularity, even small health effects could have important public health consequences."
Researchers at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet selected 21 prospective studies that included a total of 997,464 participants for their analysis. Over the studies' follow-up periods, which ranged from 7.1 to 23 years, 121,915 deaths occurred.
In comparison with subjects who reported no coffee consumption, the greatest reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality over follow-up was found among those who consumed four cups coffee per day. For cardiovascular disease mortality, three cups per day conferred the greatest amount of protection. No effect for coffee on cancer mortality was observed.
The authors remark that coffee's phenolic compounds make the beverage a significant source of antioxidants that provide potential health benefits. They observe that studies have documented protective effects for coffee intake against the risk of Parkinson's disease, gallstones, suicide, and elevations in markers of inflammation related to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
"Findings from this meta-analysis indicate that coffee consumption is inversely associated with all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality," they conclude. The results suggest that only moderate levels of coffee drinking may be needed to provide the greatest amount of protection against premature mortality.
Green tea polyphenols could help reduce spinal cord injury effects
For their study, researchers at First Affiliated Hospital of Liaoning Medical University in Jinzhou, China utilized cultures of rat spinal cord neurons treated with hydrogen peroxide as a model of oxidative damage. Untreated cells served as a control. Varying concentrations of green tea polyphenols were administered for 24 hours prior to evaluation of cell viability, levels of malondialdehyde (a marker of oxidative stress) and superoxide dismutase (SOD, an antioxidant enzyme produced in the body), and the expression of genes and proteins related to apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Incubation of the neurons with hydrogen peroxide resulted in a reduction in cell viability, an elevated level of malondialdehyde and a decrease in SOD. However, neurons that received an intermediate concentration of green tea polyphenols showed a high level of cellular activity and a survival rate of approximately 90%. A reduction in the expression of proapoptotic proteins caspase-3 and Bax, and an increase in antiapoptotic Bcl-2 expression were observed in cells treated with green tea. Malondialdehyde levels were dose-dependently lowered in hydrogen peroxide-treated cells that received tea polyphenols, and superoxide dismutase dose-dependently elevated.
"Our results demonstrate that green tea polyphenols play a protective role in spinal cord neurons under oxidative stress, which can alleviate oxidation damage to the spinal cord neurons and inhibit cell apoptosis," Jianbo Zhao and colleagues conclude. "These findings provide a new theoretical basis for reducing oxidative damage to the spinal cord neurons after spinal cord injury. In vivo experiments are needed to determine the protective effects of green tea polyphenols on spinal cord neurons after injury, and to identify further mechanisms and antioxidative stress pathways."
Pomegranate promising for inflammatory conditions
August 25 2014. Researchers at England's University of Huddersfield and the University of Freiburg in Germany report that punicalagin, a polyphenol compound occurring in pomegranate, inhibits damaging neuroinflammation activated by brain's microglia: central nervous system immune cells that play a role in Alzheimer's disease. The findings, which could be utilized in the treatment of other types of inflammation, including that which occurs in Parkinson's disease, were described in an article published on July 28, 2014 in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
In a series of experiments, pretreatment with varying concentrations of punicalagin significantly inhibited the production of the inflammatory compounds tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6 and prostaglandin E2, in rat microglia exposed to the inflammation-inducing agent lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Researchers Olumakyokun Olajide and associates found that punicalagin interferes with the signaling of nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-κB, a protein involved in inflammation) via several mechanisms.
"These results suggest that punicalagin inhibits neuroinflammation in LPS-activated microglia through interference with NF-κB signaling, suggesting its potential as a nutritional preventive strategy in neurodegenerative disorders," Dr Olajide and colleagues conclude.
The scientists plan to develop punicalagin derivatives that could form the basis of oral pharmaceutical compounds used for neuroinflammation.
"We do know that regular intake and regular consumption of pomegranate has a lot of health benefits – including prevention of neuroinflammation related to dementia," noted Dr Olajide, who is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield. "African mothers normally treat sick children with natural substances such as herbs. My mum certainly used a lot of those substances. And then I went on to study pharmacology!"
Reduced vitamin D levels linked with low ovarian reserves
August 22 2014. The journal Menopause published an article on August 4, 2014 that reveals an association between reduced vitamin D levels and an increase in follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which becomes elevated with the decline in ovulation that occurs during menopause.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill utilized data from 527 premenopausal women between the ages of 35 and 51 years enrolled in the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Uterine Fibroid Study. Stored plasma samples were analyzed for 25-hydroxyvitamin D and FSH was measured urine samples collected within five days prior to the onset of menstruation or during the first five days of the women's cycles.
Approximately 75% of the participants had deficient vitamin D levels below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). For each 10 ng/mL increase in serum vitamin D, an adjusted 14% decrease in urinary FSH was observed.
The finding corroborates that of studies examining the association between vitamin D levels and antimüllerian hormone (AMH), another indicator of ovarian reserve. The authors also note that earlier menopause has been documented studies of women with lifelong reduced sun exposure, which suggests long term vitamin D deficiency as a mechanism.
"This suggests that vitamin D may influence ovarian reserve and, as such, may have implications for fecundability in older women," Anne Marie Z. Jukic and colleagues conclude. "The mechanism through which vitamin D may affect FSH is unknown and warrants further investigation."
Higher magnesium levels linked to lower risk of stroke
August 20 2014. Findings derived from the Nurses' Health Study suggest a protective effect for magnesium against the risk of ischemic stroke in women.
The study, described online on August 12, 2014 in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, included 459 Nurses' Health Study participants who experienced an ischemic stroke prior to June 2006 and an equal number of control subjects matched for age, ethnicity and other factors. Blood samples collected between 1989 and 1990 were analyzed for plasma magnesium.
Subjects whose magnesium levels were among the lowest fifth of participants had a risk of stroke that was 34% higher than those whose levels were among the top fifth. Those whose levels were lower than 0.82 micromoles per liter had a 57% greater risk of total ischemic stroke, and a 66% higher risk of thrombotic stroke than women who had higher levels.
To authors Sally N. Akarolo-Anthony and her associates' knowledge, the association between magnesium levels and ischemic stroke risk has been evaluated in only one other prospective study. They remark that although only 1% of the body's magnesium exists in plasma, levels are strongly correlated with intracellular magnesium and could be a better indicator of the mineral's status than dietary intake. They note that risk factors for stroke, including diabetes and hypertension, have been associated with reduced magnesium levels, and that there is evidence that magnesium could help protect against blood clot formation.
"The results of this study suggest that low plasma magnesium may be associated with increased risk of ischemic stroke," the authors conclude. "If confirmed, our findings may have significant public health impact because magnesium deficiency is potentially modifiable."
Noncardiac surgery mortality risk increased by insufficient vitamin D
August 18 2014. The journal Anesthesia & Analgesia published an article online on August 13, 2014 that reports an association between reduced vitamin D levels and a greater risk of serious complications, including cardiovascular events, infections and death, following noncardiac surgery.
Earlier investigation involving cardiac surgery patients failed to find a protective effect for vitamin D against in-hospital complications—a finding which could be the result of the excessive level of injury and inflammation resulting from this type of surgery. For the current study, Dr Alparslan Turan and colleagues at the Cleveland Clinic analyzed data from 3,509 noncardiac surgery patients whose serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were measured within three months prior to or one month following surgery. Insufficient levels of 10 to 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) were uncovered in over 60% of the subjects and deficient levels of lower than 10 ng/mL approached the level of 20% of those studied.
Those whose vitamin D levels were among the top one-fifth of participants at greater than 36 ng/mL had a risk of in hospital morbidity or mortality that was less than half that of subjects whose levels were among the lowest fifth at less than 13 ng/mL. The researchers observed a 7% reduction in severe in-hospital outcomes in association with each 5 ng/mL increase in serum vitamin D.
"While causality cannot be determined from our retrospective analysis, the association suggests that a large randomized trial of preoperative vitamin D supplementation and postoperative outcomes is warranted," Dr Turan and coauthors conclude.
Decreased arterial stiffness associated with antioxidant supplementation
August 15 2014. The results of a meta-analysis published online on August 6, 2014 in the Journal of Nutrition indicate that supplementing with antioxidant nutrients could help protect against arterial stiffening that occurs with aging. The condition is associated with atherosclerosis, diabetes and other conditions.
Ammar W. Ashor and colleagues at England's Newcastle University selected 20 randomized trials that included a total of 1,909 participants aged 22 to 63 for their analysis. Studies involved vitamin C and/or E alone, or a combination of antioxidant vitamins and/or mineral supplementation. Arterial stiffness was evaluated via pulse-wave velocity measurement or other methods.
Pooled analysis of the data revealed a significant reduction in arterial stiffness associated with antioxidant supplementation in comparison with a placebo or no treatment. The benefit was more pronounced in studies in which arterial stiffness was experimentally induced or in primary prevention trials, and was more effective among those with lower plasma vitamin C and E prior to supplementation. Antioxidant vitamins were associated with improvement in arterial stiffness regardless of the participants' age or length of treatment.
"The beneficial effects of antioxidant vitamins on vascular stiffness may be explained by the reduction of the damaging effects of free radicals on structural and functional components of the vessel walls," the authors explain. "Antioxidant vitamins inactivate free radicals, reduce inflammation, and therefore protect the integrity of the vascular wall. Furthermore, antioxidant vitamins increase the bioavailability of the vasodilator and anti-inflammatory molecule nitric oxide."
They add that the arterial response to supplementation is different for each vitamin, which suggests that each one has specific effects on the vascular wall.
"The potential public health importance of these findings remains to be tested in suitably designed personalized (or stratified) intervention studies," they conclude.
Hip fracture predicted by increased oxidative stress
August 13 2014. The Journal of Bone and Mineral Research published an article online on June 23, 2014 that describes how oxidative stress levels predicted hip fracture in a prospective study of postmenopausal women.
Tianying Wu, MD, PhD, of the University of Cincinnati and her colleagues evaluated data from 996 participants aged 60 years or older upon enrollment in the Nurses' Health Study between 1989 and 1990. Blood samples obtained at enrollment were analyzed for plasma fluorescent oxidation products (FlOP, an indicator of global oxidative burden) at three excitation/emission wavelengths.
Over a follow-up period of up to 23 years, 44 hip fractures occurred. Women whose FlOP levels were among the middle two-thirds of the group had more than double the risk of hip fracture in comparison with those whose levels were among the lowest third, and for women whose levels were highest, the risk was over two and a half times greater. Among the three wavelengths measured, FlOP_320, which is formed when oxidation products react with DNA in the presence of metals, was significantly associated with hip fracture risk.
"To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study among postmenopausal women demonstrating that oxidative stress was a significant predictor for hip fracture," announced Dr Wu, who is an assistant professor at the UC College of Medicine Department of Environmental Health. "Because FlOP_320 is generated in the presence of metals, its strong association with hip fractures may reflect the co-existing effect of reactive oxygen species and heavy metal."
"If our findings are confirmed in other studies, adding this marker into the existing fracture assessment model could improve the prediction of hip fracture in postmenopausal women," she added.
Diabetics gain longevity edge with drug therapy
August 11 2014. Type 2 diabetes is known to shorten life span, but recent research has revealed that a medication commonly used to treat it might enable diabetics to live longer on average than those without the disease.
Writing in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, Professor Craig Currie of Cardiff University and his colleagues report that treatment with metformin improved survival over follow-up in diabetics in comparison with those treated with sulphonylurea drugs, as well as in comparison with untreated nondiabetics.
"What we found was illuminating," Dr Currie stated. "Patients treated with metformin had a small but statistically significant improvement in survival compared with the cohort of nondiabetics, whereas those treated with sulphonylureas had a consistently reduced survival compared with nondiabetic patients. This was true even without any clever statistical manipulation."
The study included 78,241 diabetics treated with metformin and 12,222 prescribed sulphonylureas, matched with 90,463 nondiabetic control subjects. Nondiabetics experienced a 15% lower adjusted median survival time in comparison with diabetics treated with metformin. For those receiving sulphonylurea monotherapy, median s1urvival time was 38% lower than metformin-treated patients.
"Surprisingly, the findings indicate that this cheap and widely prescribed diabetic drug may have beneficial effects not only on patients with diabetes but also for people without, and interestingly, people with type 1 diabetes," Dr Currie observed. "Metformin has been shown to have anticancer and anti-cardiovascular disease benefits. It can also reduce prediabetics' chances of developing the disease by a third."
"This does not mean that people with type 2 diabetes get off Scott free," he cautioned. "People lose on average around eight years from their life expectancy after developing diabetes. The best way to avoid the condition altogether is by keeping moderately lean and taking some regular light exercise."
Calcium supplementation associated with reduced all-cause mortality over 9.4 year follow-up
August 8 2014. Findings from a study examining the association between calcium intake and subclinical cardiovascular disease in diabetics not only failed to find an adverse effect for calcium on any measure of calcified plaque, but also uncovered a modest reduction in all-cause mortality over a 9.4 year average period in women who supplemented with the mineral.
The study, described online on August 6, 2014 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition included 720 participants in the Diabetes Heart Study recruited between 1998 and 2005. Questionnaires administered upon enrollment provided information concerning calcium and vitamin D intake from diet and supplements. Calcified atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary and carotid arteries, and abdominal aorta was measured via computed tomography (CT).
No association between any measure of calcified plaque and calcium intake from diet or supplements was observed, nor was increased calcium intake associated with a greater risk of all-cause mortality over follow-up. On the contrary, among women who supplemented with calcium there was a 38% lower adjusted risk of death from all causes over follow-up in association with each 500 milligram increase in calcium evaluated in this study.
"Studies have raised concerns that calcium supplementation may have the unintended negative consequence of increasing cardiovascular disease risk," authors Laura M. Raffield and her associates observe. "In this study, we did not observe any negative cardiovascular impacts of differing calcium intakes from diet and supplements in contrast to some previous reports. Instead, calcium supplement use was associated with lower all-cause mortality risk in women."
Study adds evidence to protective effect of vitamin D against dementia
August 6 2014. A report published online on August 6, 2014 in the journal Neurology® provides more evidence for a link between higher serum vitamin D levels and a lower risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
"We expected to find an association between low vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, but the results were surprising—we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated," reported study coauthor David J. Llewellyn, PhD, of the University of Exeter Medical School.
The analysis included 1,658 participants in the Cardiovascular Health Study, who did not have dementia, cardiovascular disease or stroke upon enrollment. After six years, 171 subjects were diagnosed with dementia, which included 102 cases of Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers found a 53% greater risk of dementia and a 69% higher risk of Alzheimer's disease among subjects with moderate vitamin D deficiency, and more than double the risk of dementia or Alzheimer's disease among those with severe deficiency. A serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of 20 nanograms/milliliter (ng/mL) was determined to be the threshold at which the vitamin became protective.
The study is the first involving vitamin D to utilize a multidisciplinary team and neuroimaging to confirm dementia diagnoses.
"Clinical trials are now needed to establish whether eating foods such as oily fish or taking vitamin D supplements can delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease and dementia," Dr Llewellyn stated. "We need to be cautious at this early stage and our latest results do not demonstrate that low vitamin D levels cause dementia. That said, our findings are very encouraging, and even if a small number of people could benefit, this would have enormous public health implications given the devastating and costly nature of dementia."
Higher vitamin E levels associated with lower hip fracture risk
August 4 2014. An article published online on July 26, 2014 in the journal Osteoporosis International reports the outcome of an analysis of older men and women which uncovered an association between higher vitamin E levels and lower hip fracture risk.
"Experimental evidence has suggested that in addition to its antioxidative effect, alpha-tocopherol could have a possible direct role in bone remodeling," Kristin Holvik of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and her colleagues write in their introduction to the article. "Reviews conclude that higher vitamin E intakes seem to be associated with increased bone mineral density (BMD) and decreased fracture risk."
"We hypothesized that higher serum concentrations of alpha-tocopherol are related to reduced risk of hip fracture in community –dwelling older adults in the country with the world's highest hip fracture incidence."
The current analysis included men and women enrolled in four community-based Norwegian studies conducted between 1994 and 2001. Serum alpha-tocopherol levels of 1,168 subjects between the ages of 65-79 who suffered hip fractures during up to 11 years of follow up were compared to those of 1,434 control subjects from the same cohort.
Serum vitamin E levels showed an inverse association with hip fracture risk. Among subjects in the lowest 25% of serum alpha-tocopherol, the risk of hip fracture was 51% higher than those whose levels were among the top 25%. Adjustment for body mass index, serum vitamin D levels and other factors failed to significantly modify the results.
The authors observe that oxidative stress has been suggested as a contributor to osteoporosis and fractures, and that vitamin E has strong antioxidant properties. Further research will help clarify the role of the vitamin in maintaining bone health.
Lifestyle cancels out stress
August 1 2014. In an article published online on July 29, 2014 in Molecular Psychiatry, Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, and her colleagues report a benefit for positive lifestyle practices in combating the negative effects of stress on telomeres: protective caps at the ends of chromosomes whose rate of shortening is viewed as a marker of aging.
By following 239 healthy postmenopausal women, researchers at UC San Francisco uncovered a significantly increased decline in white blood cell telomere length in association with every major life stressor that occurred over the previous year. However, those who reported greater levels of positive health factors at four time points, including a consuming a healthy diet, engaging in physical activity and experiencing quality sleep, appeared to be protected from stress's adverse effects. "The study participants who exercised, slept well and ate well had less telomere shortening than the ones who didn't maintain healthy lifestyles, even when they had similar levels of stress," reported lead author Eli Puterman, PhD, who is an assistant professor at the university's department of psychiatry. "It's very important that we promote healthy living, especially under circumstances of typical experiences of life stressors like death, caregiving and job loss."
"This is the first study that supports the idea, at least observationally, that stressful events can accelerate immune cell aging in adults, even in the short period of one year," he announced. "Exciting, though, is that these results further suggest that keeping active, and eating and sleeping well during periods of high stress are particularly important to attenuate the accelerated aging of our immune cells."
"These new results are exciting yet observational at this point," Dr Blackburn noted. "They do provide the impetus to move forward with interventions to modify lifestyle in those experiencing a lot of stress, to test whether telomere attrition can truly be slowed."