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September 25, 2009

Vitamin K study supports triage hypothesis of degenerative disease

Vitamin K study supports triage hypothesis of degenerative disease

An analysis conducted by Joyce C. McCann, PhD and Bruce N. Ames, PhD at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute provides support for Dr Ames' triage hypothesis, which proposes that our bodies have evolved to allocate often scarce micronutrients to functions that are critical to short term survival rather than to those which protect long term health.

Chronic insufficient intake of many vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids causes DNA damage, mitochondrial decay and cellular aging, which, while not affecting immediate survival, can lead to degenerative diseases later in life. "Natural selection favors short-term survival at the expense of long-term health," explained Dr Ames in an introduction to his hypothesis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006. "I hypothesize that short-term survival was achieved by allocating scarce micronutrients by triage, in part through an adjustment of the binding affinity of proteins for required micronutrients. If this hypothesis is correct, micronutrient deficiencies that trigger the triage response would accelerate cancer, aging, and neural decay but would leave critical metabolic functions, such as ATP production, intact."

Drs Ames and McCann reviewed hundreds of articles concerning vitamin K and its 16 known dependent proteins for the current analysis. Studies of mice in which vitamin K-dependent proteins were rendered inoperative revealed that five of these proteins have functions that are essential to survival, and 5 are less critical. The body preferentially distributes vitamin K to the liver to preserve coagulation when vitamin K levels are reduced; however, suboptimal vitamin K intake and anticoagulant-induced vitamin K deficiency have been linked with such age related conditions as bone fragility, arterial and kidney calcification, cardiovascular disease, and possibly cancer. "A triage perspective reinforces recommendations of some experts that much of the population and warfarin/coumadin patients may not receive sufficient vitamin K for optimal function of vitamin K-dependent proteins that are important to maintain long-term health," the authors write.

The report, which appeared online on August 19 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was published in the October, 2009 issue. The analysis is the first in a series conducted by Drs Ames and McCann to test the triage hypothesis. "Encouraging support for the triage theory from our vitamin K analysis suggests that experts aiming to set micronutrient intake recommendations for optimal function and scientists seeking mechanistic triggers leading to diseases of aging may find it productive to focus on micronutrient-dependent functions that have escaped evolutionary protection from deficiency," Dr McCann stated.

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The premise of taking actions to maintain youthful health and vigor is based on findings from peer-reviewed scientific studies that identify specific factors that cause us to develop degenerative disease. These studies suggest that the consumption of certain foods, food extracts, hormones, or drugs will help to prevent common diseases that are associated with normal aging.

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An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by Clark et al. (1996) showed that 200 mcg of supplemental selenium a day reduced overall cancer mortality by 50% in humans compared to a placebo group not receiving supplemental selenium. This 9-year study demonstrated that a low-cost mineral supplement could cut the risk of dying from cancer in half in certain individuals.

In the March 17, 1999, issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Zhang et al. 1999), associations between intakes of specific nutrients and subsequent breast cancer risk were investigated in 83,234 women who were participating in the Harvard Nurses' Health Study. Breast cancer risks were significantly lower in women who consumed alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin, and vitamins A and C. Among premenopausal women who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol (a known risk factor in breast cancer), beta-carotene lowered risk. Premenopausal women who consumed 5 or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables had modestly lower risk of breast cancer than those who had less than 2 servings a day.

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