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.
Telomere shortening rate in cells linked to life span of individual whole organism
September 28, 2012. An article published online on September 27, 2012 in the journal Cell Reports describes the finding of researchers in Madrid of an association between the rate of increase in the percentage of short telomeres over a lifetime and the length of life of individual animals. Telomeres, which are sequences of DNA that cap and protect the ends of chromosomes, shorten with the age of a cell and are a marker of cellular aging. While studies have correlated shorter telomeres with diseases or their risk factors, the current study's findings are the first to use telomere measurements to predict the life expectancy of mammals.
"Aberrantly short telomeres result in decreased longevity in both humans and mice with defective telomere maintenance," write María Blasco and her associates at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre. "Normal populations of humans and mice present high interindividual variation in telomere length, but it is unknown whether this is associated with their lifespan potential."
In contrast with studies that evaluated telomere length once over time in a large group of individuals (transversal population studies) Dr Blasco and colleagues measured telomere length throughout the lifespan of two varieties of mice. "In the transversal studies, it appears that individuals with short telomeres have a significantly increased probability of developing illnesses, including cancer," Dr Blasco explained. "But this information is not applicable to a specific individual."
The team found that mice that lived longer were those that had less telomere shortening over time in comparison with other animals, rather than longer telomeres at any given age.
"The important thing is not so much the long telomeres at any given time as the tendency or the evolution of the length of the telomeres over time," lead author Elsa Vera concluded.
Large study links reduced vitamin D levels with increased risk of heart disease and premature death
September 26, 2012. On August 30, 2012, the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology reported a protective effect for higher vitamin D levels against the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and death from any cause over up to 29 years of follow-up.
Børge Nordestgaard of the University of Copenhagen and his associates evaluated data from 4,410 men and 5,709 women enrolled in the Copenhagen City Heart Study whose plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were measured between 1981 and 1983. The subjects were followed up to the present, during which 3,100 ischemic heart disease events, 1,625 heart attacks and 6,747 deaths occurred.
Participants whose vitamin D levels were among the lowest 5% at less than 15 nanomoles per liter were compared with those whose levels were among the top 50% at over 50 nanomoles per liter. "We have now examined the association between a low level of vitamin D and ischemic heart disease and death in the largest study to date," announced first author Peter Brøndum-Jacobsen. "We observed that low levels of vitamin D compared to optimal levels are linked to 40% higher risk of ischemic heart disease, 64% higher risk of heart attack, 57% higher risk of early death, and to no less than 81% higher risk of death from heart disease."
"With this type of population study, we are unable to say anything definitive about a possible causal relationship," Dr Nordestgaard noted. "But we can ascertain that there is a strong statistical correlation between a low level of vitamin D and high risk of heart disease and early death. The explanation may be that a low level of vitamin D directly leads to heart disease and death. However, it is also possible that vitamin deficiency is a marker for poor health generally."
Mother's prenatal choline could lower children's risk of stress-related illness
September 21, 2012. The FASEB Journal's August, 2012 issue published the finding of New York researchers of a protective effect for maternal intake of the B vitamin choline against an infant's risk of developing stress-related illness later in their lives.
The study included 26 women in the third trimester of their pregnancies who were assigned to 450 milligrams or 930 milligrams choline per day for twelve weeks. Placental and venous cord blood samples were analyzed for DNA methylation, via which methyl groups containing carbon and hydrogen are attached to DNA. The researchers, led by Marie Caudill, PhD, RD of Cornell University, found an increase in DNA methylation in children whose mothers received 930 milligrams choline per day, which lessened the expression of genes that regulate cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress. Children born to mothers who received the higher dose of choline had 33 percent less cord plasma cortisol compared to those born to mothers who received the lower dose. "The study is important because it shows that a relatively simple nutrient can have significant effects in prenatal life, and that these effects likely continue to have a long-lasting influence on adult life," stated coauthor Eva K. Pressman, MD, who is the director of the high-risk pregnancy program at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "While our results won't change practice at this point, the idea that maternal choline intake could essentially change fetal genetic expression into adulthood is quite novel."
"One day we might prescribe choline in the same way we prescribe folate to all pregnant women," she added. "It is cheap and has virtually no side effects at the doses provided in this study. In the future, we could use choline to do even more good than we are doing right now."
Vitamin E may help prevent cancer in men and women with genetic disorder
September 19, 2012. The September 15, 2012 issue of Clinical Cancer Research published an article that describes research conducted at the Cleveland Clinic which suggests a protective effect for vitamin E in individuals with Cowden syndrome, a genetic disorder that increases the risk of developing cancer. Patients with the syndrome have a 35 percent lifetime risk of developing epithelial thyroid cancer, and women have an 85 percent risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Mutations in succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) genes (involved in energy production) that can occur in Cowden syndrome patients may be behind the increased cancer risk. Ying Ni and Charis Eng, MD PhD evaluated lipid peroxidation in human cells carrying the mutation and found an increase in reactive oxygen species, which results in higher levels of peroxidation. This increase rendered the cells resistant to apoptosis (programmed cell death), which is one of the ways that the body eliminates cancer cells.
When the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E was administered to the cells, oxidative damage was prevented and the cells were no longer resistant to apoptosis. "These findings support the notion that vitamin E may be useful as an anticancer therapeutic adjunct or preventive agent, especially for Cowden syndrome patients harboring SDH mutations, and its protective properties should be further explored," stated Dr Eng, who is the Director of the Genomic Medicine Institute and Director of its Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare at the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute.
Drs Ni and Eng hypothesize that alpha-tocopherol's lipid solubility may be the reason for its ability to protect cells from lipid peroxidation in this study. "Our study supports the notion that alpha-tocopherol may be useful as a therapeutic adjunct or preventative agent, especially for individuals with germline SDHx variants/mutations," the authors conclude.
Greater intake of EPA, DHA linked with lower endometrial cancer risk
September 14, 2012. An article published online on August 22, 2012 in the European Journal of Nutrition reports a protective effect for the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) against the risk of endometrial cancer. Endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterus) is the fourth most common cancer in U.S. women, and has been linked to obesity, hormone replacement and other factors.
Yale researchers matched 688 women diagnosed with endometrial cancer with 674 control subjects who did not have the disease. Dietary questionnaire responses were analyzed for the intake of fish, fish oil, omega-6 fatty acids, total omega 3 fatty acids, and individual omega-3 fatty acids including linolenic acid, EPA, DHA and docosapentaenoic acid.
While total omega-3 fatty acid consumption was not found to be associated with the risk of endometrial cancer, women whose intake of EPA was among the top 25 percent of participants had a 43 percent lower risk of endometrial cancer compared with those whose intake was among the lowest fourth. For DHA, subjects whose intake was highest had a 36 percent lower risk of the disease compared with the lowest 25 percent. Although total fish intake did not appear to be protective against endometrial cancer, women who reported using fish oil supplements within one to five years prior to receiving their diagnosis or being interviewed for the study had a 37 percent lower risk compared to those who did not use the supplements.
"Our study suggests an inverse association between long-chain dietary n-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA and fish oil supplement use with risk of endometrial cancer," the authors conclude. "Future studies should further explore associations with intake of specific fatty acids, food sources, and blood and tissue biomarkers to understand better the associations between these fatty acids and endometrial cancer risk."
Antioxidants could help protect against dementia
September 12, 2012. The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease recently published the findings of German researchers of a correlation between higher levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C and a reduction in the risk of dementia.
"Oxidative stress is believed to play a central role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, a neurodegenerative disease," Professor Gabriele Nagel of the University of Ulm and her associates write. "Antioxidants may prevent the onset Alzheimer's disease as high dietary intake of vitamin C and E were reported to be associated with lower risk of the disease. The objective of this study was to evaluate the serum levels of antioxidants in persons with mild dementia to test whether it is associated with lower levels of antioxidants."
The study included participants in the cross-sectional IMCA ActiFE (Activity and Function in the Elderly in Ulm) study of men and women aged 65 to 90 residing in Ulm and its surrounding area. The researchers compared 74 participants with mild dementia with 158 gender matched, healthy control subjects. Blood samples were evaluated for beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, lycopene and coenzyme Q10.
An association between higher blood levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C were associated with a lower risk of dementia. Participants whose beta-carotene levels were among the top one-third of participants had a risk of dementia that was 87 percent lower than that experienced by those whose levels were among the lowest third. For vitamin C, the risk experienced by subjects with the highest levels was 71 percent less than participants whose levels were lowest.
"In order to possibly influence the onset and development of Alzheimer's disease, we need to be aware of potential risk factors", stated Dr Nagel. "Longitudinal studies with more participants are necessary to confirm the result that vitamin C and beta-carotene might prevent the onset and development of Alzheimer's disease."
Soy could provide protection against BPA-induced brain changes
September 10, 2012. Research summarized in an article appearing in the September, 2012 issue of the online journal PLoS One suggests a protective effect for soy against anxiety and accompanying changes in adolescent brain gene expression induced by bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disrupting compound occurring in plastics and resins that has been associated with adverse human effects.
Researchers at North Carolina State University exposed a group of rats to BPA from gestation through puberty and fed them soy based or soy free diets. Other groups were given a soy based diet or soy free diet without BPA, and 29 rats on a soy free diet were exposed to the female hormone ethinyl estradiol. Blood testing confirmed BPA levels in those exposed to be equivalent to average human concentrations and levels of genistein, a compound that occurs in soy, were within the range found in humans who include soy in their diets.
Among juvenile or adult rats, exposure to BPA was associated with increased anxiety which, in turn, was associated with changes in the expression of the genes known as estrogen receptor beta and melanocortin receptor 4 within the brain's amygdala, a region involved with fear and stress responses. However, in rats that received soy based diets, no significant effect of BPA on gene expression or anxiety was noted, indicating a protective effect.
"We knew that BPA could cause anxiety in a variety of species, and wanted to begin to understand why and how that happens," commented lead author and North Carolina State University associate professor of biology Dr Heather Patisaul. "Soy contains phytoestrogens that can also affect the endocrine system, which regulates hormones. It is not clear whether these phytoestrogens are what mitigate the effect of BPA, or if it is something else entirely. That's a question we're hoping to address in future research."
Branched chain amino acids could help one type of autism
September 7, 2012. In a report that appeared on September 6, 2012 in the journal Science, researchers led by Joseph G. Gleeson, MD of the University of California, San Diego report that the administration of branched chain amino acids, which include isoleucine, leucine and valine, could help treat a type of autism accompanied by epilepsy.
The article describes the identification of mutations in the gene BCKDK (branched chain ketoacid dehydrogenase kinase) in families with autism, epilepsy, and intellectual disability. Individuals with the mutations have, among other characteristics, reductions in plasma branched chain amino acids caused by an acceleration in the metabolism of these compounds. In mice in which the gene BCKDK was mutated, neurobehavioral deficits were corrected by branched chain amino acid supplementation.
"Studying the animals was key to our discovery," remarked first author Gaia Novarino, PhD, who is a staff scientist in Dr Gleeson's laboratory. "We found that the mice displayed a condition very similar to our patients, and also had spontaneous epileptic seizures, just like our patients. Once we found that we could treat the condition in mice, the pressing question was whether we could effectively treat our patients."
"It was very surprising to find mutations in a potentially treatable metabolic pathway specific for autism," said Dr Gleeson, who is a professor in the UCSD Department of Neurosciences and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "What was most exciting was that the potential treatment is obvious and simple: Just give affected patients the naturally occurring amino acids their bodies lack."
"We think this work will establish a basis for future screening of all patients with autism and/or epilepsy for this or related genetic mutations, which could be an early predictor of the disease," he added.
Vitamin D improves TB recovery
September 5, 2012. In an article published on September 4, 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, British researchers report a beneficial effect for vitamin D supplementation in tuberculosis (TB) patients being treated with antibiotics. The finding adds evidence to pre-antibiotic era treatment of TB that involved sunbathing (which stimulates the body's production of vitamin D) at sanatoriums.
Ninety-five TB patients were randomized to receive a high dose of vitamin D or a placebo during their initial eight weeks of antibiotic therapy. Blood and sputum samples were analyzed before, during and after treatment.
Participants who received vitamin D experienced more rapid sputum smear conversion, indicating accelerated clearance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from the lungs, as well as a greater decline in factors related to inflammation in comparison with those who received a placebo. "These findings are very significant," stated lead researcher Adrian Martineau, who is a senior lecturer in respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London's Blizard Institute. "They indicate that vitamin D may have a role in accelerating resolution of inflammatory responses in tuberculosis patients. This is important, because sometimes these inflammatory responses can cause tissue damage leading to the development of cavities in the lung. If we can help these cavities to heal more quickly, then patients should be infectious for a shorter period of time, and they may also suffer less lung damage"
"More broadly, the ability of vitamin D to dampen down inflammatory responses without compromising the actions of antibiotics raises the possibility that supplementation might also have benefits in patients receiving antimicrobial therapy for pneumonia, sepsis and other lung infections," he added. "We are hoping to do more work to evaluate the effects of higher doses and different forms of vitamin D to see if they have a more dramatic effect."
Positive lifestyle practices reduce hypertension risk by two-thirds
September 3, 2012. The results of a prospective study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress on August 27, 2012 indicate that the adoption of four healthy lifestyle factors can lower the risk of high blood pressure by 67 percent in men and 63 percent in women.
Professor Pekka Jousilahti of Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki and his associates evaluated data from 9,637 Finnish men and 11,430 women aged 25 to 74 who did not have hypertension at the beginning of the study. Questionnaires provided data on alcohol intake, leisure time physical activity, vegetable consumption and weight. Over an average follow-up period of 16.1 years, high blood pressure developed in 709 men and 890 women.
Subjects who consumed less than 50 grams alcohol per week, engaged in physical activity during their leisure time thrice weekly or more, consumed vegetables on a daily basis and maintained a body mass index of less than 25 kg/m2 had an average risk of developing hypertension that was two thirds less than that of those who had none of these factors. "The risk of hypertension was only one third among those having all four healthy lifestyle factors compared to those having none," Dr Jousilahti stated. "Even having one to three healthy lifestyle factors reduced the risk of hypertension remarkably. For example having two healthy lifestyle factors reduced the risk of hypertension by nearly 50% in men and by more than 30% in women."
"Our study was focused on prevention of hypertension and therefore included subjects who did not have hypertension at baseline," Dr Jousilahti noted. "But the results should apply to the treatment of patients with hypertension, who can reduce their blood pressure by modifying the four lifestyle factors alone, or by making these modifications while taking blood pressure lowering medication."
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