Life Extension Magazine

Life Extension Magazine June 2012

Book Review

In The News

DHA Helps Preserve Brain Volume

DHA Helps Preserve Brain Volume

The journal Neurology® reports a beneficial effect for higher red blood cell membrane levels of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) on brain volume and memory in older men and women.* “To our knowledge, no prior study has related red blood cell fatty acid composition to subclinical markers of future dementia,” the authors note in their introduction.

Zaldy S. Tan, MD, MPH, and colleagues measured red blood cell omega-3 fatty acid levels in 1,575 dementia-free subjects. Magnetic resonance imaging assessed brain volume, and cognitive tests evaluated various aspects of memory and mental function.

Dr. Tan’s team found a reduction in total cerebral brain volume, visual memory, executive function, and abstract thinking, among those whose DHA intake was among the lowest 25% of participants compared to those whose intake was higher.

Editor’s Note: DHA lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of blood clots, and decreases serum triglyceride levels, all of which benefit the vascular system and may help delay the onset of brain aging.

—D. Dye

Reference

* Neurology. 2012 Feb 28;78(9):658-64.

Vitamin D Relieves Menstrual Symptoms

Vitamin D Relieves Menstrual Symptoms

A letter published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported the results of a study of women with primary dysmenorrhea which found that a single high dose of oral vitamin D3 reduced pain over a two month period.*

Italian researchers enrolled forty women who reported at least four painful periods over the previous six months and whose serum vitamin D levels were lower than 18 ng/mL. Twenty participants were administered 300,000 IU vitamin D3 five days before the beginning of their next menstrual cycle, while the remainder received a placebo. Pain symptoms were scored before treatment and at one and two months.

Women who received vitamin D3 reported a reduction in pain over two months compared to the placebo group. While 40% of subjects who received a placebo took drugs for pain at least once over the course of the trial, none who received vitamin D reported needing the drugs.

Editor’s Note: In an invited commentary in the journal, Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson, ScD and JoAnn E. Manson, MD, remark that it is important to determine how long a reduction in pain in association with a single dose of vitamin D would last. They note that, “If 300,000 IU is required every two months, this would equate to approximately 5,000 IU/day, considerably higher than the tolerable upper intake level set by the Institute of Medicine of 4,000 IU/day.”

—D. Dye

Reference

* Arch Intern Med. 2012 Feb 27;172(4):366-7.

Taurine Protects Against Coronary Heart Disease in Women with High Cholesterol

Taurine Protects Against Coronary Heart Disease in Women with High Cholesterol

An article in the European Journal of Nutrition revealed that the amino acid taurine may be protective against heart disease in women with elevated cholesterol levels.*

Yu Chen, PhD, MPH, and her colleagues analyzed data from subjects in the NYU Women’s Health Study, which enrolled over 14,000 women from 1985 to 1991. Dr. Chen’s team averaged taurine levels measured in prediagnostic serum samples from 223 participants who developed coronary heart disease and 223 women who had no history of the disease over the study’s twenty-year follow-up period.

Although no significant relationship between taurine and coronary heart disease was found for the entire study population, when women with high cholesterol were analyzed, a different picture emerged. Hypercholesterolemic women whose intake of taurine was among the top one-third of subjects had a 61% lower risk of heart disease compared to those in the lowest third.

Editor’s Note: If the findings are replicated, supplemental taurine or increased taurine intake from food might be recommended for women with elevated cholesterol, who have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

—D. Dye

Reference

* Eur J Nutr. 2012 Feb 10.

Widespread Vitamin D Deficiency Among Nursing Home Residents Linked to Earlier Death

Widespread Vitamin D Deficiency Among Nursing Home Residents Linked to Earlier Death

A study of nursing home residents described in an article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reveals a link between being deficient in vitamin D and having a greater risk of dying over more than two years of follow up.*

The study included 961 female nursing home residents residing in Austria whose age was greater than 70 years. Participants’ serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels averaged 7 ng/mL, and 93% of the subjects had levels lower than the recommended 20 ng/mL.

Over an average follow-up of 27 months, 284 deaths occurred. For subjects whose vitamin D level was among the lowest 25% of participants at less than 5.6 ng/mL, the risk of dying was 49% greater than those whose level was over 10.2 ng/mL.

Editor’s Note: “We believe that our findings, together with previous data on institutionalized elderly, strongly point to the need for immediate action to prevent and treat vitamin D deficiency in these patients,” the authors write. “Considering the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency it seems reasonable to initiate vitamin D supplementation (at least 800 IU/day) even without previous 25-hydroxyvitamin D testing in such individuals.”

—D. Dye

Reference

* J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Feb 8.

Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation Lowers Interleukin-6 and Provides Antioxidant Benefits in Coronary Artery Disease Patients

In a trial described in the journal Nutrition, researchers in Taiwan compared the effects of twelve weeks of supplementation with 60 or 150 mg/day of CoQ10, or a placebo in 40 men and women with coronary artery disease.* Plasma CoQ10 levels, markers of inflammation including high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 and homocysteine; malondialdehyde (a marker of lipid peroxidation) and levels of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) were measured before and after the treatment period.

At the beginning of the study, having a higher CoQ10 level was associated with a lower level of interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein. Among those who received the higher CoQ10 dose, interleukin-6 levels decreased by 14% and malondialdehyde levels were significantly lower by the end of the trial compared to baseline levels. Both groups that received CoQ10 experienced greater SOD activity.

Editor’s Note: Inflammation plays a role in the development of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the Western world. While coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supplementation is known to benefit the heart, few studies have investigated its role in protecting against inflammation in heart disease patients.

—D. Dye

Reference

* Nutrition. 2012 Feb 16.

Resveratrol Improves Post-Meal Glucose Levels in Pilot Study

Resveratrol Improves Post-Meal Glucose Levels in Pilot Study

The results of a study of resveratrol supplementation published in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences indicate a benefit for resveratrol supplementation in men and women with impaired glucose tolerance.*

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine enrolled ten overweight subjects aged 65 and older with elevated fasting and two-hour glucose. Participants were randomized to 1.0, 1.5 or 2 grams resveratrol per day, to be consumed for four weeks. Fasting and postmeal glucose, as well as insulin levels, were measured before and at the end of the treatment period, and endothelial function was assessed during the meal test at the beginning and end of the study.

While fasting glucose levels remained unchanged after four weeks, peak postmeal glucose levels decreased by an average of 19 mg/dL and three hour glucose levels also declined. Participants additionally experienced improved insulin sensitivity and a trend toward better postmeal endothelial function.

Editor’s Note: The relatively high doses of resveratrol tested in the study were not associated with significant adverse events or changes in liver enzymes.

—D. Dye

Reference

* J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012 Jan 4.

Higher Lutein and Zeaxanthin Levels May Help Guard Against Cataract

In the British Journal of Nutrition, Finnish researchers report that increased plasma levels of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with a lower risk of cataract in older individuals.*

The study included 1,130 men and 559 women who enrolled in the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study from 1998-2001. Plasma samples collected between 2005 and 2008 were analyzed for carotenoids and other factors.

From the beginning of the current investigation through 2008, 113 cataracts were diagnosed, including 108 nuclear cataracts, resulting in a four-year nuclear cataract incidence of 6.4%. Among subjects whose lutein levels were among the top one-third of participants, there was a 42% lower risk of being diagnosed with nuclear cataract and for those whose zeaxanthin levels were among the top third, the risk was 41% lower risk, compared to subjects whose plasma levels were in the lowest third.

Editor’s Note: While three cross-sectional studies have found a lower risk of nuclear cataract or their progression in association with higher serum levels or dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin, the current study’s authors note that a recent FDA review concluded that there was no credible evidence to support a protective effect for lutein or zeaxanthin on cataract risk. However, Dr. Karppi and colleagues remark that there are factors that could explain previous inconsistent study results.

—D. Dye

Reference

* Br J Nutr. 2011 Oct 18:1-7.

More Evidence for Aspirin in Cancer Prevention

More Evidence for Aspirin in Cancer Prevention

Articles published recently in The Lancet and The Lancet Oncology add evidence to a benefit for aspirin in protecting against cancer and preventing metastasis.*

The first article analyzed data from 51 trials that compared the effects of daily aspirin to no aspirin on the risk of cardiovascular events. The researchers observed a 15% lower risk of dying of cancer over the course of the trials for those who received daily aspirin, which improved to a 37% reduction for those who received aspirin for five years or more.

The second study reviewed five trials that sought to determine the effect of daily aspirin on the effects of vascular events. Over an average 6.5 year follow up, those who received aspirin had a 36% lower risk of being diagnosed with cancer with distant metastases.

The review published in The Lancet Oncology analyzed observational studies that compared the risk of cancer experienced by aspirin and nonaspirin users. The results indicate a 38% lower risk of colorectal cancer over a 20-year period in association with aspirin use.

Editor’s Note: In a commentary published in The Lancet, Dr. Andrew T. Chan and Dr. Nancy R. Cook of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School write that, “Rothwell and colleagues’ impressive collection of data moves us another step closer to broadening recommendations for aspirin use. Moreover, future evidence-based guidelines for aspirin prophylaxis can no longer consider the use of aspirin for the prevention of vascular disease in isolation from cancer prevention.”

—D. Dye

Reference

* Lancet. 2012 Mar 21. Lancet Oncol. 2012 Mar 21.

Aloe May Boost the Efficacy of Chemotherapy

Aloe May Boost the Efficacy of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy, despite its many side effects, remains one of the mainstay treatments for people who have been diagnosed with cancer. New research is focusing on ways to enhance the efficacy and toxicity of chemotherapy through biological means. Aloe possesses several anticancer mechanisms. It contains compounds that stimulate the immune system, control cell growth and replication, and act as antioxidants. Italian scientists conducted a study comparing the use of aloe in combination with chemotherapy versus chemotherapy alone. They recruited 240 participants with solid metastatic tumors and randomized the participants to receive chemotherapy with or without aloe. The group treated with chemotherapy and aloe had significantly higher rates of tumor regression and disease control; achieving a 44% increase in response to therapy and 25% better disease control over chemotherapy alone.*

Editors Note: There are 250 known varieties of aloe. While Aloe vera may be the most familiar, scientists consider Aloe arborescens to be among the most medicinally valuable because it contains active compounds at a much higher concentration than other varieties.

—A. Pryce

Reference

* In Vivo. 2009 Jan-Feb;23(1):171-5

Obesity Epidemic in America Found Significantly Worse Than Previously Believed

The scope of the obesity epidemic in the United States has been grossly underestimated, according to a study published in the journal PLoS ONE. Researchers found that the Body Mass Index (BMI) substantially under-diagnoses obesity when compared to the Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) scan, a direct simultaneous measure of body fat, muscle mass, and bone density.* The disparity is particularly significant for women of advancing age, those with high blood leptin levels, and the normal weight obese (NWO). Researchers also derived a leptin-revised BMI estimate of body fat for clinical use in the absence of DXA.

Co-authors Nirav Shah, MD, MPH, the current New York State Commissioner of Health and Eric Braverman, MD, the Founder and President of PATH Foundation NY, recognize the convenience, safety, and low cost of the BMI, yet agree that it is an outdated mathematical equation which needs to evolve in order to correctly evaluate body fat. The study suggests that adjusting the BMI will have broad population health implications, since obesity contributes to multiple co-morbidities such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.

“These estimates are fundamental to US policy addressing the epidemic of obesity and are central to designing interventions aimed at curbing its growth…Yet they [current policies] may be flawed because they are based on the BMI,” says Shah and Braverman.

They go on to articulate, “Obesity, body fat, and increased adiposity are more prevalent than the American public and American physicians are aware of.”

The principle findings of the study suggest that as many as 39% of Americans who are classified as overweight are actually obese by adiposity measures. Misclassification occurred more frequently in women than in men, and was exacerbated by increasing age. Hyperleptinemia of aging explains why diets fail Americans who are eating less calories as they age but still gaining weight.

According to Shah and Braverman, “Adiposity and hyperleptinemia are more significant than BMI in predicting high risk obesity.” Patients with hyperleptinemic states can be corrected by a variety of hormones, nutrients, medication, and lifestyle changes. Dopaminergic transmission also may suppress hyperleptinemia.

“The BMI is an insensitive measure of obesity, prone to under-diagnosis, while direct fat measurements are superior because they show distribution of body fat,” Dr. Braverman added.

These findings provide a basis for aging individuals to have their blood tested for leptin and request their body fat percentage be measured when they get their bone density scan. In the near future, a leptin blood test for reversal and treatment of obesity may become as common as testing cholesterol for heart disease and hemoglobin A1c for diabetes.

Reference

* Measuring Adiposity in Patients: Utility of Body Mass Index (BMI), Percent Body Fat, and Leptin PLoS ONE April 2nd, 2012 by Nirav R. Shah, MD, MPH and Eric R. Braverman, M.D. www.pathfoundationny.org