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.
Carnosic acid protects the eyes
November 30, 2012. The November, 2012 issue of the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science reported that carnosic acid, a compound occurring in the herb rosemary, helped protect the eyes' retina from degeneration and hydrogen peroxide-induced toxicity.
Acting on previous findings of a protective effect for carnosic acid against free-radical damage in the brain, Stuart A. Lipton, MD, PhD, who is the director of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute's Del E. Webb Neuroscience, Aging, and Stem Cell Research Center, and his colleagues tested the effect of carnosic acid on retina-derived cell lines treated with hydrogen peroxide, which promotes oxidative stress, a factor believed to be involved in the progression of age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. The team found that carnosic acid induced the production of antioxidant enzymes and lowered free radicals and peroxides.
In a study involving dark-adapted rats, those that received carnosic acid prior to white light exposure experienced less retinal damage. Increases in outer retinal nuclear layer thickness measured in carnosic acid-treated animals indicated improved retinal photoreceptor protection. Treated rats also exhibited improved electroretinogram activity, a measure of photoreceptor function. "These findings suggest that carnosic acid may potentially have clinical application to diseases affecting the outer retina, including age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, in which oxidative stress is thought to contribute to disease progression," the authors conclude.
Dr Lipton revealed that "We're now developing improved derivatives of carnosic acid and related compounds to protect the retina and other brain areas from a number of degenerative conditions, including age-related macular degeneration and various forms of dementia."
Reduced folate levels, metabolic syndrome associated with depression
November 28, 2012. The Journal of Affective Disorders published findings this year of an association between reduced levels of the B vitamin folate with melancholic depression, which is characterized by typical depressive symptoms. In a separate article, the researchers reported an association between the presence of metabolic syndrome and non-melancholic depression, which is characterized by worry, anxiety and low self-esteem.
For the study involving folate, Jussi Seppälä, MD, of the Hospital District of Southern Savo, Finland, and colleagues utilized data from 1,328 men and 1,478 women between the ages of 45 and 74 years who took part in the Finnish type 2 diabetes survey. Responses to questionnaires concerning diet and depressive symptoms were used to determine folate levels and the presence of melancholic or non-melancholic depression.
One hundred thirty-eight subjects were categorized as having melancholic depression, and non-melancholic depression was uncovered in 29 participants. Dr Seppälä and associates found a 45 percent lower risk of melancholic depression among participants whose folate intake was among the top one-third of subjects compared to those whose intake was among the lowest third.
In the metabolic syndrome study, blood samples from 2,820 participants in the Finnish type 2 diabetes survey were analyzed for plasma glucose and lipids, and measurements of blood pressure, height, and weight and waist circumference were obtained in order to determine the presence of metabolic syndrome. When compared to nondepressed individuals, the adjusted risk of metabolic syndrome was twice as high among those with non-melancholic depression.
"The findings have practical implications in the care of patients with depressive symptoms," Dr Seppälä commented. "For example, it may be wise to avoid medication causing weight gain among patients with non-melancholic depression, whereas melancholic depressive symptoms may call for a closer look at the quality of the patient's diet."
Findings in yeast shed light on calorie restriction
November 23, 2012. The journal Nature published an article online onNovember 21, 2012 that provides new information on how calorie restriction extends life span.
Adam L. Hughes, PhD and Daniel Gottschling, PhD of Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center report the results of their latest research involving yeast cells. They found that a structure within the cells known as the vacuole (whose animal counterpart is the lysosome) becomes less acidic early in the yeast cell's life span, resulting in a reduction in the ability of this organelle to store specific nutrients. These nutrients build up in the cell and overwhelm the mitochondria, which are the cell's power plants. When the mitochondria become exhausted by consuming the surplus, they become dysfunctional. "Until now, the vacuole's role in breaking down proteins was thought to be of primary importance," explained Dr Hughes, who is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr Gottschling's laboratory. "We were surprised to learn it was the storage function, not protein degradation, that appears to cause mitochondrial dysfunction in aging yeast cells."
"Normally, mitochondria are beautiful, long tubes, but as cells get older, the mitochondria become fragmented and chunky," noted Dr Gottschling, who is a member of the Fred Hutchinson Center's Basic Sciences Division. "The changes in shape seen in aging yeast cells are also observed in certain human cells, such as neurons and pancreatic cells, and those changes have been associated with a number of age-related diseases in humans."
"There has been a lot in the scientific literature and the general media lately about how what you eat affects the aging process, but it has been incredibly confusing," Dr Gottschling remarked. "Now we have a new paradigm for understanding how genetics and environment interact to influence lifespan, aging and age-related diseases. That's what I'm really excited about."
Any way you look at it, higher dietary antioxidant capacity linked with less inflammation
November 21, 2012. An article published on October 30, 2012 in Nutrition Journal that compares the effect of four different assays of dietary total antioxidant capacity (TAC) on inflammation found an anti-inflammatory effect for higher dietary antioxidant intake as determined by all assays.
The study included 443 healthy Japanese women aged 18 to 22 years. Diet history questionnaire responses were used to assess dietary total antioxidant capacity via the following assays of commonly consumed food items: ferric reducing ability of plasma (FRAP), oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC) and total radical-trapping antioxidant parameter (TRAP). Blood samples were analyzed for serum C-reactive protein (CRP, a marker of inflammation) and other values.
Elevated serum CRP levels of 1 milligram per liter or higher were uncovered in 5.6 percent of the subjects. Those whose diets had a high total antioxidant capacity as determined by FRAP had a 61 percent lower risk of elevated CRP compared to those whose diets had low values. High total antioxidant capacity as assessed via ORAC also had a protective effect although the researchers did not consider it significant. TEAC and TRAP assays indicated 68 percent and 69 percent lower risks of elevated CRP in association with high total antioxidant capacity.
"The dietary total antioxidant capacity values of elevated serum CRP concentration group were significantly lower than those of normal CRP group," Satomi Kobayashi and colleagues write. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the association between dietary TAC and elevated CRP concentration in a non-western population."
"Dietary TAC was inversely associated with serum CRP concentration in young Japanese women regardless of assay," they conclude. "Further studies are needed in other populations to confirm these results."
Vitamin C critical for developing fetal brain
November 19, 2012. Findings from a study of guinea pigs published on October 31, 2012 in the journal PLoS One reveal a significant role for vitamin C in fetal brain development. Guinea pigs, along with humans, cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, which makes them a useful animal model of ascorbate deficiency.
Professor Jens Lykkesfeldt and his associates at the University of Copenhagen divided 80 pregnant guinea pigs to receive a diet that contained a high or low amount of vitamin C. Upon their birth, pups from each group of mothers were also divided to receive diets containing high or low levels of the vitamin.
Upon examination of the pups' brains it was found that those born to vitamin C deficient mothers had a reduction in volume in the hippocampus, an area involved in memory. Supplementing these pups with vitamin C after birth did not appear to undo the damage done by their prenatal environment.
"Even marginal vitamin C deficiency in the mother stunts the fetal hippocampus, the important memory centre, by 10-15 per cent, preventing the brain from optimal development," Professor Lykkesfeldt noted. "We used to think that the mother could protect the baby. Ordinarily there is a selective transport from mother to fetus of the substances the baby needs during pregnancy. However, it now appears that the transport is not sufficient in the case of vitamin C deficiency. Therefore it is extremely important to draw attention to this problem, which potentially can have serious consequences for the children affected."
"People with low economic status who eat poorly - and perhaps also smoke - often suffer from vitamin C deficiency," he added. "Because it takes so little to avoid vitamin C deficiency, it is my hope that both politicians and the authorities will become aware that this can be a potential problem."
Reduced vitamin D levels linked to type 1 diabetes
November 16, 2012. The December, 2012 issue of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) journal Diabetologia published the results of a study conducted by Cedric Garland, DrPH and his associates at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine which uncovered an association between low vitamin D3 serum levels and the development of type 1 diabetes.
Dr Garland's team measured the 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of frozen serum samples from the Department of Defense Serum Registry for disease surveillance for 1,000 type 1 diabetics and 1,000 military service members without the disease who had their blood drawn near the same date. The time from blood collection to diabetes diagnosis ranged from a month to ten years, with a median time of one year.
An inverse relationship was observed between higher serum vitamin D levels and a reduced risk of insulin-requiring diabetes. Subjects whose vitamin D levels were among the lowest one-fifth of participants had 3.5 times the risk of developing c diabetes compared to those whose levels were highest. Dr Garland estimated that the level of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D needed to prevent type 1 diabetes is 50 nanograms per milliliter based on the study's findings.
"Previous studies proposed the existence of an association between vitamin D deficiency and risk of and type 1 diabetes, but this is the first time that the theory has been tested in a way that provides the dose-response relationship," stated Dr Garland, who is a professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at UC San Diego. "While there are a few conditions that influence vitamin D metabolism, for most people, 4000 IU per day of vitamin D3 will be needed to achieve the effective levels."
Prenatal vitamin D suggested as MS preventive
November 14, 2012. In an article published online on November 14, 2012 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, UK researchers recommend vitamin D supplementation for pregnant women as a protective measure against the development of multiple sclerosis (MS) by their children.
Children born during winter have a lower risk of multiple sclerosis, and those born during the summer have a greater risk in comparison with the rest of the population, which suggests a protective prenatal role for vitamin D. Vitamin D is formed in the skin during exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays of a specific wavelength range, which are insufficient for vitamin D production between the months of October and March at 52 degrees latitude or more from the equator.
Dr Ruth Dobson of Queen Mary Institute of London and her associates analyzed data from ten studies including 151,978 men and women with MS in order to explore the association between variation in prenatal sun exposure and disease risk. They found that subjects born in April had a 5 percent increase in MS risk and those born between October and November had a 7 percent lower risk. Additional analysis confirmed the finding, and extended the increased risk into May. Latitude appeared to impact the observed to expected ratio of MS patients, however, further analysis reduced the significance of the finding.
"This study, which uses the largest number of patients to date, confirms and extends the month of birth effect seen in MS," the authors write. "Through the demonstration of an interaction between month of birth effect magnitude and latitude, it supports ambient UV radiation, and hence maternal vitamin D levels, as prenatal environmental modulators of MS risk. This finding, which supports concepts hypothesized some years previously, surely adds weight to the argument for early intervention studies to prevent MS through vitamin D supplementation."
Green tea compound could help normalize glucose response
November 12, 2012. The results of a study described online on October 5, 2012 in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research suggest that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a compound in green tea, could help reduce the spike in blood sugar that occurs following the consumption of starchy food. The finding could benefit humans with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that include elevated blood glucose levels, which are linked to an increased risk of diabetes.
A team led by Joshua D. Lambert of Pennsylvania State University fed fasting mice corn starch, maltose, sucrose or glucose and pretreated some of them with EGCG. Mice that received corn starch and EGCG had a 50 percent reduction in post meal blood glucose levels in comparison with animals that did not receive EGCG. EGCG did not impact animals that received maltose, sucrose or glucose, suggesting that the compound may affect the way the body converts starch into sugar. In further experimentation, EGCG reduced the activity of alpha amylase, a starch-digesting enzyme secreted by the pancreas, by 34 percent.
"The spike in blood glucose level is about 50 percent lower than the increase in the blood glucose level of mice that were not fed EGCG," stated Dr Lambert, who is assistant professor of food science in agricultural sciences at Penn State. "If what you are eating with your tea has starch in it then you might see that beneficial effect," Lambert said. "So, for example, if you have green tea with your bagel for breakfast, it may reduce the spike in blood glucose levels that you would normally get from that food."
Since EGCG doesn't appear to reduce the effect of sugars, consuming sweetened green tea with a starchy food would still result in blood sugar spikes. "That may mean that if you add sugar into your green tea, that might negate the effect that the green tea will have on limiting the rise in blood glucose level," Dr Lambert explained.
The dose of EGCG used in the current study was equivalent to the human dose of that found in a cup and a half of green tea. "The relatively low effective dose of EGCG makes a compelling case for studies in human subjects," the authors conclude.
Reduced antioxidant levels in PAD involved in increased lower extremity blood pressure during exercise
November 9, 2012. An article published on September 24, 2012 in the Journal of Physiology reveals a protective role for antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, against the rise in blood pressure that occurs in the legs of individuals with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) during exercise. Peripheral artery disease is characterized by poor blood flow and pain in the lower extremities due to the presence of plaque (atherosclerosis).
Lawrence Sinoway and his colleagues at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute compared the effects of exercise in subjects with and without PAD. They found an increase in blood pressure in the legs of PAD patients compared to those without the disease. Preadministration of high dose intravenous ascorbic acid reduced this effect in PAD patients by 50 percent. In another experiment in which subjects with and without PAD had their leg muscles electrically stimulated, increases in blood pressure were greater in those with PAD, indicating that the response came directly from the muscle, rather than from the brain.
"Past studies have shown that having low antioxidant levels and increased reactive oxygen species -- chemical products that bind to body cells and cause damage -- is related to more severe PAD," commented lead author Matthew Muller, who is postdoctoral fellow in Dr Sinoway's lab. "This study shows that blood pressure increases more with exercise in more severe PAD cases. By infusing the antioxidant vitamin C into the blood, we were able to lessen the increase in blood pressure during exercise."
"This indicates that during normal, everyday activities such as walking, an impaired antioxidant system -- as well as other factors -- plays a role in the increased blood pressure response to exercise," he added. "Therefore, supplementing the diet with antioxidants may help these patients, but more studies are needed to confirm this concept."
Diabetes lower in tea drinkers worldwide
November 7, 2012. An article published online on November 7, 2012 in the journal BMJ Open reveals an association between black tea drinking and a lower incidence of diabetes around the world.
European researchers analyzed prevalence data from the World Health Organization for respiratory diseases, infectious diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, and independently collected sales data for black tea from 50 countries. Countries that sold the most black tea per person included Ireland, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Russia, and countries with the lowest concentration of black tea drinkers included South Korea, Brazil, China, Venezuela and Mexico.
The researchers observed an association between rising black tea consumption and a decline in diabetes. Black tea consumption was not correlated with the other four diseases. Further statistical analysis confirmed the association. While green tea contains catechins that have anti-inflammatory and other properties, the authors remark that the fermentation process that green tea undergoes to become black tea results in the formation of complex flavonoids known as theaflavins and thearubigins that provide additional health benefits.
"This innovative study establishes a linear statistical correlation between high black tea consumption and low diabetes prevalence in the world," Ariel Beresniak and colleagues write. "These results are consistent with biological and physiological studies conducted on the effect of black tea on diabetes and confirm the results of a previous ecological study in Europe."
Although an association does not establish causality, the results strongly suggest the need for further investigation to explore the possible protective effects of tea drinking against one of the most devastating diseases of our time.
Complementary medicine helps arthritis patients
November 5, 2012. The November, 2012 issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing published an article by researchers in Beirut, Lebanon that discusses the widespread use of complementary and alternative therapies among men and women with arthritis.
Professor Nada Alaaeddine, who is the Head of the Regenerative and Inflammation Lab in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of St Joseph, and colleagues assessed the use of alternative and complementary therapies among 250 Lebanese adults aged 20 to 90 with rheumatoid or osteoarthritis. Questionnaires completed by the participants provided information on type of therapies used and disease status, including pain intensity, sleeping pattern and activity level, before and after treatment.
Fifty-eight subjects reported the use of complementary or alternative arthritis therapies in addition to conventional medicine. Those who used complementary therapies tended to be younger than nonusers, and were likelier to have osteoarthritis than rheumatoid arthritis. Therapies reported included herbs, exercise, massage, acupuncture, meditation, yoga and dietary supplements. Overall, complementary and alternative therapies reduced pain, increased sleep and improved the ability to engage in daily activities. Side effects, which were reported in a minority of subjects, were not considered serious and were reversible.
"Our study underlines the importance of healthcare professionals being knowledgeable about the potential use of CAT when providing medical care to patients with arthritis" Dr Alaaeddine commented. "Complementary and alternative therapy use is increasing and this study shows that it provided self-reported benefits for patient with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis."
Higher vitamin D levels protective against bladder cancer
November 2, 2012. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published an article online on October 29, 2012 that reports a protective effect for high plasma vitamin D levels against urothelial bladder cancer.
Initial experimentation with vitamin D treatment in four bladder cancer cell lines resulted in the observation of an arrest of growth and higher levels of FGFR3 in cells with low expression of the protein. (The presence of FGFR3 overexpression and mutations characterize a group of nonmuscle-invasive bladder cancers with good prognosis.) The researchers then compared 1125 patients with urothelial bladder cancer with 1,028 control subjects who participated in the Spanish Bladder Cancer/EPICURO Study. Plasma samples obtained at the time of diagnosis were analyzed for 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 and tumor tissue was analyzed to determine FGFR3 mutational status and expression.
Participants were categorized as having vitamin D levels that were sufficient at 30 ng/mL or higher, insufficient at 20-29.99 ng/mL, slightly deficient at 15-19.99 ng/mL, moderately deficient at 10-14.99 ng/mL, or severely deficient at less than 10 ng/mL. Those with 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels that were slightly, moderately or severely deficient had an over 50 percent greater risk of bladder cancer in comparison with participants whose levels were sufficient. The association of vitamin D deficiency with bladder cancer appeared to be stronger among smokers and for those with muscle-invasive tumors, particularly among those with low FGFR3 expression.
"This is the largest study assessing the risk of UBC in relation to 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 levels and the first one analyzing this association in the context of the molecular features of the tumor and the biological effects of vitamin D," the authors announce. "Because FGFR3 mutation and overexpression are markers of better outcome, our findings suggest that individuals with low levels of plasma 25(OH)D3 may be at high risk of more aggressive forms of urothelial bladder cancer."
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