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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine March 2008
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SAMe Deficiency Linked to Development of Alzheimer’s Disease

SAMe Deficiency Linked to Development of Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, have reported a possible link between deficiency in the naturally occurring chemical, S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe) and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Working with mice bred to possess genetic risk factors for the development of dementia, investigators noted that these mice developed oxidative damage leading to cognitive impairment when deprived of the B-vitamin, folic acid.

The mice were found to be deficient in SAMe, which acts as a methyl donor throughout the body, facilitating countless biochemical reactions. When the animals were supplemented with SAMe, neurodegeneration was alleviated. SAMe deficiency promotes overexpression of a protein, presenilin-1, which in turn increases production of amyloid-beta, an aberrant protein directly implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. “These findings directly link nutritional deficiency and genetic risk factors, and support supplementation with [SAMe] for Alzheimer’s therapy,” investigators concluded.1 Subsequent research by the same team confirmed and supported these conclusions.2

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

1. Tchantchou F, Graves M, Ortiz D, Chan A, Rogers E, Shea TB. S-adenosyl methionine: A connection between nutritional and genetic risk factors for neuro-degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease. J Nutr Health Aging. 2006 Nov-Dec;10(6):541-4.
2. Chan A, Shea TB. Folate deprivation increases presenilin expression, gamma-secretase activity, and Abeta levels in murine brain: potentiation by ApoE deficiency and alleviation by dietary S-adenosyl-methionine. J Neurochem. 2007 Aug;102(3):753-60.

Is Vitamin D Deficiency to Blame for Autism?

Is Vitamin D Deficiency to Blame for Autism?

A new theory may explain the dramatic rise in autism cases seen in recent decades, while offering a simple “cure” for the alarming epidemic. Dr. John Cannell, a physician who has previously proposed a link between seasonally dwindling vitamin D levels and susceptibility to influenza, has published a novel hypothesis regarding vitamin D’s implications for the developmental brain disorder, autism. Published in Medical Hypotheses, he proposes that physician-encouraged sunlight avoidance has contributed to widespread vitamin D deficiency.1

“Animal data has repeatedly shown that severe vitamin D deficiency during gestation [adversely affects] dozens of proteins involved in brain development,” writes Dr. Cannell. Vitamin D-deficient rats are born with “increased brain size and enlarged ventricles, abnormalities similar to those found in autistic children.” What’s more, he notes, “Children with vitamin D-deficient rickets have several autistic markers that apparently disappear with high-dose vitamin D treatment.” Autism is also more common at higher latitudes, where vitamin D production is known to be problematic, especially during winter.2

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

1. Cannell JJ. Autism and vitamin D. Med Hypotheses. 2007 Oct 4; [Epub ahead of print].
2. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS &grid=&xml=/health/2007/07/16/hvitamins116.xml. Accessed December 5, 2007.

Pomegranate Juice Shows Promise as Erectile Dysfunction Treatment

Pomegranate Juice Shows Promise as Erectile Dysfunction Treatment

A recent well-controlled trial of pomegranate juice for the treatment of mild-to-moderate erectile dysfunction in men concluded, “subjects were more likely to have improved scores when pomegranate juice was consumed.”1 The randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover trial, conducted at a Beverly Hills men’s clinic, enrolled 53 men with mild-to-moderate impotence. Subjects blindly consumed pomegranate juice, or placebo, for four weeks. After a two-week washout period, they switched treatments.

Efficacy was assessed using two standardized scoring systems for quantification of erectile function—the International Index of Erectile Function and the Global Assessment Questionnaires. Although results did not achieve overall statistical significance, the small pilot study was considered encouraging. Investigators hope that longer studies using larger cohorts may achieve statistically significant results. The present findings support the conclusions of an earlier trial using an animal model, in which pomegranate juice reversed erectile dysfunction symptoms.2 Improvements were attributed to pomegranate’s potent antioxidant activity.

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

1. Forest CP, Padma-Nathan H, Liker HR. Efficacy and safety of pomegranate juice on improvement of erectile dysfunction in male patients with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study. Int J Impot Res. 2007 Nov-Dec;19(6):564-7.
2. Azadzoi KM, Schulman RN, Aviram M, Siroky MB. Oxidative stress in arteriogenic erectile dysfunction: prophylactic role of antioxidants. J Urol. 2005 Jul;174(1):386-93.

Fish Oil Alters Lipid Metabolism, Reduces Weight Gain

Japanese researchers have discovered that dietary fish oils promote weight loss by increasing lipid metabolism in the intestine.* Scientists have known for some time that the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), lower blood lipid levels and reduce the tendency for obesity.

In the present study, Japanese researchers divided special obesity-prone mice into two high-fat diet groups, with and without fish oil, for five months. They found that body weight gain was significantly reduced among the fish oil-fed group, compared with the other high-fat group. Then, in a separate experiment to measure lipid metabolism at the genetic level, researchers found that ingestion of fish oil for two weeks increased intestinal lipid metabolism-related genes to levels found in the liver, one of the main sites of lipid metabolism. They concluded that “upregulation of intestinal lipid metabolism is associated with the anti-obesity effect of fish oil.”

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

* Mori T, Kondo H, Hase T, Tokimitsu I, Murase T. Dietary fish oil upregulates intestinal lipid metabolism and reduces body weight gain in C57BL/6J mice. J Nutr. 2007 Dec;137(12):2629-34.

Resveratrol Suppresses Prostate Cancer Development

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have shown that prostate cancer-prone mice fed resveratrol experience significant protection against development of the disease.1 Found in red wine and some fruits and vegetables, resveratrol is a polyphenol antioxidant that has previously been shown to extend life span in various organisms.2,3 Investigators wondered if its reputed anticancer activities would extend to prostate cancer prevention.

Special mice bred to develop prostate tumors were fed either resveratrol in ordinary chow, beginning at five weeks of age, or a control diet lacking the phytochemical.1 The animals were examined at 12 or 28 weeks old. Among mice that had received resveratrol in the diet, the incidence of prostate adenocarcinoma was reduced by 7.7-fold. Various biochemical and histological findings indicated that resveratrol suppresses prostate cancer development through a variety of mechanisms.

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

1. Harper CE, Patel BB, Wang J, Arabshahi A, Eltoum IA, Lamartiniere CA. Resveratrol suppresses prostate cancer progression in transgenic mice. Carcinogenesis. 2007 Sep;28(9):1946-53.
2. Valenzano DR, Cellerino A. Resveratrol and the pharmacology of aging: a new vertebrate model to validate an old molecule. Cell Cycle. 2006 May;5(10):1027-32. 3. Valenzano DR, Terzibasi E, Genade T, Cattaneo A, Domenici L, Cellerino CA. Resveratrol prolongs lifespan and retards the onset of age-related markers in a short-lived vertebrate. Curr Biol. 2006 Feb 7;16(3):296-300.

Milk Thistle Extract Suppresses Liver Cancer

Silibinin, a flavonoid derived from milk thistle, demonstrates potent activity against human liver cancer in the laboratory, according to a recent report from scientists at the University of California, Irvine.1 Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) contains silibinin and silymarin—highly bioactive compounds credited with protecting the liver against a variety of insults, such as drug or alcohol-related damage. Silibinin also protects against a variety of other cancers, including prostate, breast, ovary, colon, lung, and bladder carcinomas.2, 3

The present study may be the first, however, to demonstrate silibinin’s potent chemopreventive activity against a variety of liver cancer cell lines. Its anticancer effects included reducing cancer cell proliferation and suppressing cell cycle progression, increasing apoptosis (programmed death of cancer cells), and altering the chromatin structure of cancer cells. Liver cancer is on the rise in the United States;4 silibinin may offer protection against this insidious threat.

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

1. Lah JJ, Cui W, Hu KQ. Effects and mechanisms of silibinin on human hepatoma cell lines. World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Oct 28;13(40):5299-305.
2. Gazák R, Walterová D, Kren V. Silybin and silymarin--new and emerging applications in medicine. Curr Med Chem. 2007;14(3):315-38.
3. Agarwal R, Agarwal C, Ichikawa H, Singh RP, Aggarwal BB. Anticancer potential of silymarin: from bench to bed side. Anticancer Res. 2006 Nov-Dec;26(6B):4457-98.
4. El-Serag HB, Mason AC. Rising incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma in the United States. N Engl J Med. 1999 Mar 11;340(10):745-50.

Long-Term Beta Carotene Keeps Mind Sharp

Long-Term Beta Carotene Keeps Mind Sharp

Long-term use of beta carotene helps prevent mental decline, such as dementia.* Since cognitive decline is thought to be related to oxidative stress, beta carotene’s antioxidant properties may be responsible for its protective benefit.

In this study, Harvard researchers followed more than 4,000 men who were given either 50 mg of beta carotene every other day or a placebo pill. After an average of 18 years, the men who took beta carotene demonstrated significantly higher scores on several cognitive tests compared with the placebo group.

This study also included a short-term group that was followed for an average of one year. The researchers found no difference in cognitive test results for both groups after this shorter time period, highlighting the importance of continuing beta carotene use for cognitive protection. “Long-term supplementation [with beta carotene] may provide cognitive benefits,” investigators concluded.

—Marc Ellman, MD

Reference

* Grodstein F, Kang JH, Glynn RJ, Cook NR, Gaziano JM. A randomized trial of beta carotene supplementation and cognitive function in men: the Physicians’ Health Study II. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Nov 12;167(20):2184-90.

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