Life Extension Magazine

Life Extension Magazine November 2008

In The News

Brain Food

Brain Food

In a recent issue of the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science Fernando Gómez-Pinilla summarized the latest findings concerning the effects of various foods on the brain, noting that some foods have a drug-like effect.*

In an analysis of over 160 studies, omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, and ALA) emerged as significant dietary compounds to enhance learning and memory and prevent mental disorders. Another important brain nutrient is the B vitamin folic acid. Insufficient folic acid has been linked with depression and cognitive impairment, and supplementation with the vitamin has been demonstrated to be helpful in the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia.

“Understanding the molecular basis of the effects of food on cognition will help us to determine how best to manipulate diet in order to increase the resistance of neurons to insults and promote mental fitness,” Dr. Gómez-Pinilla concluded.

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Gómez-Pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008 Jul;9(7):568-78.

Higher Plasma Vitamin C Levels Linked with Reduced Diabetes Risk

Higher Plasma Vitamin C Levels Linked with Reduced Diabetes Risk

In a recent issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers at the University of Cambridge report an association between higher plasma vitamin C levels and a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.*

The study included 21,831 nondiabetic participants in the EPIC-Norfolk study. Vitamin C levels were measured, and dietary questionnaires were administered upon enrollment. Over a 12 year follow-up period, 423 men and 312 women developed diabetes.

Participants in the top 20% of plasma vitamin C had a 62% lower risk of developing diabetes compared with those in the lowest fifth. Fruit and vegetable intake also emerged as protective.

“The strong independent association observed in this prospective study, together with biological plausibility, provides persuasive evidence of a beneficial effect of vitamin C and fruit and vegetable intake on diabetes risk,” the authors conclude.

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Harding AH, Wareham NJ, Bingham SA, et al. Plasma vitamin C level, fruit and vegetable consumption, and the risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes mellitus: the European prospective investigation of cancer—Norfolk prospective study. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jul 28;168(14):1493-9.

Common Spices Help Inhibit AGE

Common Spices Help Inhibit AGE

The Journal of Medicinal Food published a report by researchers at the University of Georgia which revealed that common spices not only confer antioxidant benefits, but offer significant protection against the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).* AGE compounds activate the immune system, leading to inflammation and tissue damage.

James Hargrove and colleagues tested extracts of 24 herbs and spices for their phenolic content, antioxidant potential, and glycation inhibitory activity. Cloves and cinnamon emerged as the leading spices in phenolic content. The team discovered a strong correlation between phenol content and ability to block AGE formation. In addition to cloves and cinnamon, the remaining spices also demonstrated an ability to inhibit AGE formation, but greater concentrations of the extracts were needed to achieve a similar effect.

“Because herbs and spices have a very low calorie content and are relatively inexpensive, they’re a great way to get a lot of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power into your diet,” Dr. Hargrove advised.

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Dearlove RP, Greenspan P, Hartle DK, Swanson RB, Hargrove JL. Inhibition of protein glycation by extracts of culinary herbs and spices. J Med Food. 2008 Jun;11(2):275-81.

Poor Vitamin D Status Linked with Greater Eight-Year Mortality Risk

In a recent report from the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Johns Hopkins report an association between reduced vitamin D levels and a greater risk of dying over an eight-year period.*

Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of 13,331 participants were measured between 1988 and 1994. Over the 8.7 year median follow-up period, 1,806 deaths occurred. Among participants whose vitamin D levels placed them among the lowest 25% of participants, there was a 26% higher risk of dying, compared with those whose levels were in the top 25%.

“Randomized clinical trials will be needed to determine whether vitamin D supplementation at higher doses could have any potential benefit in reducing future mortality risk in those with 25-hydroxyvitamin D deficiency,” the authors conclude.

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Melamed ML, Michos ED, Post W, Astor B. 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and the risk of mortality in the general population. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Aug 11/25;168(15):1629-37.

High Omega-3 Diet Linked with Lower Heart Disease Risk

High Omega-3 Diet Linked with Lower Heart Disease Risk

In the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Akira Sekikawa, MD, and colleagues concluded that, rather than genetic factors, the omega-3 content of Japanese diets may be responsible for the lower risk of heart disease observed in this population.*

Their study involved 281 men living in Japan, 306 Caucasian American men; and 281 Japanese-American men living in Hawaii. Blood tests measured total fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids EPA, DHA, and DPA, obtained by consuming fish.

Although total fatty acid levels were similar among all subjects, the percentage of fish-based fatty acids was twice as high among Japanese men compared with both American groups. Men living in Japan had significantly less atherosclerosis, as indicated by decreased intima-media thickness.

“Increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids in the US could have a very substantial impact on heart disease,” Dr. Sekikawa stated.

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Sekikawa A, Curb JD, Ueshima H, et al. Marine-derived n-3 fatty acids and atherosclerosis in Japanese, Japanese-American, and white men: a cross-sectional study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008 Aug 5;52(6):417-24.

Wonder Drugs May Treat Many Conditions

At the 2008 Congress of European Pharmacological Societies, Professor Marc Feldmann of the Imperial College London predicted that drugs he helped develop to treat rheumatoid arthritis may prove to be effective for many more medical conditions, including atherosclerosis.*

The drugs, which block a cytokine known as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), include infliximab, etanercept, and adalimumab, and have shown a dramatic protective effect in patients afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease. These agents have also shown to be of benefit for other autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, including Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis, and ulcerative colitis.

Dr. Feldmann believes that similar drugs may have the potential to treat many other conditions, and is currently researching their effect on atherosclerosis.

He notes the possibility that “cytokines play a critical role in all diseases involving multiple biological processes, thus providing therapeutic targets for all unmet medical needs.”

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Available at: http://www.ephar2008.org/downloads EPHAR08CouldArthritisWonder DrugsProvideCluesForAllDisease.pdf. Accessed August 13, 200

Nutrient Combination Improves Memory and Learning

A combination of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) with uridine and choline improved memory and learning in animals, and could offer benefits for Alzheimer’s patients, according to a new study.* These nutrients, found in a range of foods including fish, eggs, and beets, have previously been shown to support cognitive function when given separately.

Scientists at MIT supplemented gerbils with either two or three of the nutrients for four weeks and measured cognitive performance with various maze tests. They also measured brain phospholipid levels and compared them to control animals.

The combination of DHA, uridine, and choline produced the greatest improvement in memory. The gerbils that received all three supplements also had up to 70% more phospholipids in brain cell membranes than those that received none.

The researchers concluded that cognitive ability improved due to increased formation of brain synapses, where information is passed between neurons. The scientists are now exploring the possibility of a nutrient cocktail for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

—Michael J. Hall, ND

Reference

* Holguin S, Martinez J, Chow C, Wurtman R. Dietary uridine enhances the improvement in learning and memory produced by administering DHA to gerbils. FASEB J. 2008 July 7.