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.
Healthy midlife behavior predicts successful aging
October 31, 2012. An article published online on October 22, 2012 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reports that common-sense healthy behaviors practiced in midlife help ensure successful aging.
Researchers in England analyzed data from 5,100 men and women enrolled in the Whitehall II cohort study, established between 1985 and 1988. Responses to questionnaires administered between 1991 and 1994 ascertained smoking status, alcohol intake, physical activity levels, and fruit and vegetable intake. Subjects underwent clinical examinations every five years. Successful aging at 60 years of age or older was defined as the absence of a history of cancer, heart disease, diabetes or stroke, good physical, cognitive, cardiovascular and respiratory function, good mental health and no disability.
Five hundred forty-nine participants died over follow-up, and 953 met the successful aging criteria. Moderate alcohol intake was associated with 31 percent greater odds of successful aging and a 40 percent greater chance of surviving compared with heavy or no intake. Not smoking, being physically active and eating fruit and vegetables on a daily basis were similarly associated with successful aging and survival. The odds of successful aging increased with the practice of each additional behavior. Those who engaged in all four behaviors were more than three times as likely to experience successful aging compared to those who practiced none of the behaviors.
"Although individual healthy behaviours are moderately associated with successful aging, their combined impact is quite substantial," authors Séverine Sabia PhD and colleagues conclude. "Multiple healthy behaviours appear to increase the chance of reaching old age disease-free and fully functional in an additive manner. Our results should motivate lifestyle changes that not only reduce mortality and morbidity, but also improve quality of life at older ages."
Women lacking calcium at risk of primary hyperparathyroidism
October 19, 2012. On October 19, 2012, the British Medical Journal reported the finding of researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital of a protective effect for calcium from diet and supplements against primary hyperparathyroidism, a condition in which overactive parathyroid glands secrete too much parathyroid hormone, which can result in bone weakness and fractures.
The current study evaluated data from 58,354 nurses who were between the ages of 39 and 66 years upon enrollment in the Nurses' Health Study I in 1986. Responses to dietary questionnaires completed after enrollment were evaluated for the intake of calcium from diet and supplements. Over a 22 year follow-up period, 277 cases of primary hyperparathyroidism were diagnosed.
Women whose dietary calcium was among the top one-fifth of participants had a 44 percent lower adjusted risk of developing primary hyperparathyroidism compared to those whose intake was among the lowest fifth. When the intake of calcium from supplements containing more than 500 milligrams per day was analyzed, the risk of primary hyperparathyroidism was 31 percent less among those who supplemented in comparison with those who did not use calcium supplements.
"To our knowledge, we report results from the first prospective study of the relation between calcium intake and risk of primary hyperparathyroidism," Julie M. Paik and her colleagues announced. "In women, increased dietary and supplemental calcium intake was associated with a reduced risk for developing primary hyperparathyroidism, independent of age, body size, diet, and other factors."
In an accompanying commentary, James Norman of the Norman Parathyroid Center concludes that "Paik and colleagues' study provides evidence to support physicians in confidently encouraging female patients to take calcium supplements. Daily calcium supplements in modest doses are likely to provide more benefits than risks given that even mild primary hyperparathyroidism has important clinical associations and, over many years, even a moderate increase in calcium concentration probably helps reduce the incidence of parathyroid tumors."
Hormone extends average life span in animal study
October 17, 2012. The online journal eLife published an article on October 15, 2012 which reveals a significant life-extending effect for fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21), a hormone produced during calorie restriction, in male and female mice.
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center professor of molecular biology and pharmacology Dr Steven Kliewer and his associates discovered that male mice bred to overexpress FGF21 survived a median of 30 percent longer and female mice lived 40 percent longer than normal mice, while consuming greater amounts of food. Evaluation of glucose homeostasis suggests that overexpression of FGF21 results in increased insulin sensitivity. FGF21, which helps the body adapt to starvation, appears to block the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 signaling pathway that contributes to insulin resistance.
While overexpression of FGF21 confers obvious benefits, it also appears to lower bone density, which raises concerns that the hormone could be problematic if administered to humans. Nevertheless, the finding offers further insights into the mechanisms of longevity in mice and other mammals. Further research is ongoing to determine FGF21's effect on maximum life span among the surviving animals in the current study.
"Prolonged overproduction of the hormone FGF21 causes mice to live extraordinary long lives without requiring a decrease in food intake," noted coauthor David Mangelsdorf, who is chairman of pharmacology at UT Southwestern and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "It mimics the health benefits of dieting without having to diet."
"Aging and aging-related diseases represent an increasing burden on modern society," he observed. "Drugs that slow the aging process would be very desirable. These findings raise the possibility of a hormone therapy to extend life span."
Curcumin may help prevent metastasis
October 15, 2012. Writing in an article published online on October 5, 2012 in the journal Carcinogenesis, German and Italian researchers report a protective effect for curcumin, a compound that occurs in the spice turmeric, against metastasis of prostate cancer in an animal model.
Previous experimentation by the team uncovered an inhibitory effect for curcumin against the expression of pro-inflammatory immunomodulator cytokines that include CXCL1 and CXCL2, which are associated with breast cancer metastases. The current research found a similar inhibitory action for curcumin in prostate carcinoma cells via inhibition of nuclear factor kappa-beta (NFκB). Upon testing curcumin in a mouse model of prostate cancer, a significant decrease in lung metastases was observed.
"Chronic inflammation can induce a metastasis prone phenotype in prostate cancer cells by maintaining a positive pro-inflammatory and pro-metastatic feedback loop between NFκB and CXCL1/-2," the authors write. "Curcumin disrupts this feedback loop by the inhibition of NFκB signaling leading to reduced metastasis formation in vivo."
"Due to the action of curcumin, the tumor cells synthesize smaller amounts of cytokines that promote metastasis," commented lead researcher Beatrice Bachmeier of Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich. "As a consequence, the frequency of metastasis formation in the lungs is significantly reduced, in animals with breast cancer, as we showed previously, or carcinoma of the prostate, as demonstrated in our new study."
"This does not mean that the compound should be seen as a replacement for conventional therapies," she added. "However, it could play a positive role in primary prevention – before a full-blown tumor arises – or help to avert formation of metastases. In this context the fact that the substance is well tolerated is very important, because one can safely recommend it to individuals who have an increased tumor risk."
Dr Bachmeier is planning a clinical trial to evaluate the effects of curcumin in treatment-resistant prostate cancer patients.
Increased antioxidant levels linked with less inflammation after hip fracture
October 12, 2012. The October, 2012 issue of the journal Clinical Nutrition published the results of a study of hip fracture patients which found a decrease in inflammatory markers among those with higher serum levels of specific antioxidants.
The study included 148 women aged 65 and older who participated in The Baltimore Hip Studies, a randomized trial designed to evaluate the effect of exercise on bone and muscle loss following hip fracture. Blood samples collected within 15 days following the fracture and at two, six and twelve months were analyzed for interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alphaR1 (TNF-aR1), which are markers of inflammation, and serum antioxidants including alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene.
Inflammatory biomarkers were highest and antioxidants were lowest immediately following hip fracture. The Maryland researchers found an association between lower TNF-aR1 and higher levels of alpha-tocopherol and total carotenoids at the first blood collection. All carotenoids except lycopene were individually associated with TNF-aR1 reductions at baseline. Additionally, higher total baseline carotenoids were associated with a reduction in interleukin-6. "While serum concentrations of both classes of these dietary antioxidants were associated with less inflammation, the carotenoids generally demonstrated stronger relationships than vitamin E with both sTNF-aR1 and IL-6," Christopher R. D'Adamo and his colleagues commented. "The reason for this discrepancy is unknown, but the fact that the half-lives of the serum carotenoids (between 26 and 76 days) are much longer than those of vitamin E (13 hours for gamma-tocopherol and 57 hours for a-tocopherol) suggests that carotenoids might potentially provide more sustained anti-inflammatory activity than vitamin E due to their extended period of systemic circulation."
"These findings suggest that a clinical trial increasing post-fracture intake of vitamin E and the carotenoids may be warranted," the authors conclude.
Osteoarthritis risk raised by diabetes
October 10, 2012. In an article published ahead of print on September 21, 2012 in the journal Diabetes Care, European researchers reveal a significantly increased risk of severe osteoarthritis necessitating arthroplasty (joint surgery) in adults with type 2 diabetes.
The study included 927 men and women between the ages of 40 and 80 years who enrolled in 1990 in the Bruneck cohort, a prospective study of the epidemiology and pathogenesis of cardiovascular, neurologic and musculoskeletal diseases. Physical examinations conducted upon enrollment ascertained the presence of diabetes and other conditions. Sixty-nine participants met the criteria for type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study. The subjects were evaluated at follow-up visits conducted every five years for a 20 year period.
Over follow-up, arthroplasties for severe hip or knee osteoarthritis were performed in 13 diabetic and 73 nondiabetic subjects, which was equivalent to more than double the adjusted risk of severe arthritis among the diabetic participants. In an additional analysis conducted in 2010, participants with diabetes were also found to have more severe arthritis symptoms and signs of inflammation compared to nondiabetics.
Authors Georg Schett, MD of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and his colleagues remark that the metabolic changes involved in obesity rather than damage to the joints caused by greater weight may be responsible for the elevated risk of arthritis observed in those with type 2 diabetes. "To our best knowledge, this is the first time that it was shown that diabetes can be considered as an independent predictor of severe osteoarthritis necessitating joint arthroplasty," they announce. "The link between osteoarthritis and type 2 diabetes suggests that alterations in glucose metabolism directly affect joint integrity independently of body weight and creates room for hope that adequate control of glucose metabolism hampers development of osteoarthritis."
Apple intake associated with oxidized LDL reduction
October 8, 2012. An article published on September 29, 2012 online in the Journal of Functional Foods reveals a role for apple polyphenols in preventing the oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, a type of cholesterol that, when elevated, has been linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. "When LDL becomes oxidized, it takes on a form that begins atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries," explained lead researcher Robert DiSilvestro, who is a professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and a researcher at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "We got a tremendous effect against LDL being oxidized with just one apple a day for four weeks."
The study involved 51 healthy, middle-aged men and women who were divided to receive one whole apple, a capsule containing 194 milligrams polyphenols, or a placebo for four weeks. While those who consumed apples experienced a 40 percent reduction in oxidized LDL, the study also found a benefit for capsules containing polyphenols, which are antioxidant compounds that occur in apples. "We think the polyphenols account for a lot of the effect from apples, but we did try to isolate just the polyphenols, using about what you'd get from an apple a day," Dr DiSilvestro stated. "We found the polyphenol extract did register a measurable effect, but not as strong as the straight apple. That could either be because there are other things in the apple that could contribute to the effect, or, in some cases, these bioactive compounds seem to get absorbed better when they're consumed in foods."
He added that apple polyphenol extracts could prove useful "perhaps in higher doses than we used in the study, or for people who just never eat apples."
Aspirin could help preserve cognitive function in older women
October 5, 2012. An article appearing online on October 3, 2012 in the journal BMJ Open reports the conclusion of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Gothenburg that daily aspirin might help retard the decline in cognitive function experienced by older women with heart disease.
Anne Börjesson-Hanson and her colleagues analyzed data from 681 women aged 70 to 92 enrolled in the Prospective Population Study of Women and the H70 Birth Cohort Study in Gothenburg, Sweden. Six hundred-one subjects had a 10 percent or higher ten year risk of any cardiovascular event according to the Framingham scale, and 129 women consumed daily low dose aspirin as a preventive. Participants underwent tests of cognitive function, including memory speed, verbal fluency and dementia assessment, at the beginning of the study and at follow-up after five years.
While average cognitive function scores had declined at follow-up, the decline was less in women who reported using aspirin to help protect against heart attack or stroke. The positive effect for aspirin was greater for those who were using aspirin at enrollment through follow-up.
While the authors caution the observational nature of the study does not prove that aspirin protects the brain, they conclude that "Low-dose aspirin treatment may have a neuroprotective effect in elderly women at high cardiovascular risk."
Another study supports link between reduced vitamin D levels and premature African-American mortality
October 3, 2012. An article published online on August 31, 2012 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, reports an association between lower levels of vitamin D and an increased risk of dying among African Americans and Caucasians over an 8.5 year period. While the risk of dying was greater among African-Americans compared to Caucasians, their vitamin D levels were lower, supporting the hypothesis that vitamin D insufficiency could account for their shorter average life span.
Stephen B. Kritchevsky, PhD of Wake Forest School of Medicine and his colleagues evaluated data from 2,638 men and women between 71 and 80 years of age. Parathyroid hormone and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were measured upon enrollment.
The risk of dying rose in association with declining levels of vitamin D. Having a serum vitamin D level of less than 10 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) was associated with more than double the risk of dying than the risk associated with levels of at least 30 ng/mL. Elevated parathyroid levels were also associated with increased mortality. While African-American subjects experienced a 22 percent greater risk of dying than Caucasians, the risk was modified after adjusting for vitamin D.
"We observed vitamin D insufficiency (defined as blood levels <20 ng/ml), in one third of our study participants. This was associated with nearly a 50 percent increase in the mortality rate in older adults," stated Dr Kritchevsky. "We all know that good nutrition is important to overall health and our study adds to a growing body of literature that underscores the importance of vitamin D and indicates that poor vitamin D nutrition is wide-spread. The good news is it's easy to improve vitamin D status either through increased skin exposure to sunlight or through diet or supplements."
Melatonin could improve sleep in patients receiving beta-blockers
October 1, 2012. The October, 2012 issue of the journal Sleep published a report by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston which suggests that melatonin could help relieve the disordered sleep often experienced by individuals being treated for hypertension with beta-blocker drugs.
Frank Scheer, PhD, MSc and his associates randomized 16 hypertensive men and women treated with the beta-blockers atenolol or metoprolol to receive 2.5 milligrams melatonin or a placebo nightly for three weeks. Sleep was assessed prior to and at the end of treatment during four-day laboratory admissions.
At the study's conclusion, participants who received melatonin slept an average of 36 minutes longer, had 7.6 more efficient sleep and decreased sleep onset to stage two sleep compared with those who received the placebo. While melatonin increased stage two sleep by 41 minutes compared to the placebo group, time spent in other stages did not vary significantly. Although a "rebound effect" has been suggested for melatonin (meaning that it can become more difficult to sleep after the hormone is discontinued), sleep onset latency continued to be reduced the night following the end of treatment. "Over the course of three weeks, none of the study participants taking the melatonin showed any of the adverse effects that are often observed with other, classic sleep aids," stated Dr Scheer, who is an associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "In fact, melatonin had a positive carry-over effect on sleep even after the participants had stopped taking the drug."
"Beta-blockers have long been associated with sleep disturbances, yet until now, there have been no clinical studies that tested whether melatonin supplementation can improve sleep in these patients," he noted. "We found that melatonin supplements significantly improved sleep."
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