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.
Hydrogen sulfide on the longevity horizon
January 30, 2013. An article published online on January 7, 2013 in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology summarizes the increasing evidence for hydrogen sulfide (H2S), a gas produced in the body that declines with aging, in the promotion of longevity.
Zhi-Sheng Jiang and colleagues at the University of South China in Hunan reviewed the cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits of hydrogen sulfide as well as its effect on the gene klotho, which is involved in lifespan extension. "Data available so far strongly suggest that H2S may become the next potent agent for preventing and ameliorating the symptoms of aging and age-associated diseases," Dr Jiang stated.
In the cardiovascular system, hydrogen sulfide promotes relaxation of the vascular endothelium and smooth muscle cells, and suppresses the formation of macrophage-derived foam cells that occurs during the development of atherosclerosis. Increased hydrogen sulfide levels have been correlated with reduced coronary heart disease severity.
The antioxidant effect of hydrogen sulfide prevents oxidative damage that has long been associated with age-related conditions. It also inhibits pro-inflammatory factors that further contribute to age-related disease. In addition, H2S upregulates the gene klotho, which extends lifespan through several pathways. Other potential areas of benefit for hydrogen sulfide include central nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, diabetes and cancer. (The anticancer compound sulforaphane releases relatively large amounts of hydrogen sulfide.)
"A better understanding of the roles of H2S in aging can provide insights into potential therapeutic interventions against aging and reduce age-associated diseases," the authors write. "More specifically, data available so far strongly suggest that H2S may become the next potent preventive and therapeutic agent for preventing and ameliorating the symptoms of aging and age-associated diseases, and this should be addressed in future studies."
Reduced vitamin D levels immediately prior to diagnosis associated with greater risk of breast cancer
January 28, 2013. An article that appeared online this month in the journal Cancer Causes and Control reports an association between decreased serum levels of vitamin D and a greater risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women serving in the military.
The study included 600 women with breast cancer and 600 healthy, age-matched control subjects who were active-duty members of the U.S. military service. Prediagnostic serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of those with breast cancer were compared with serum vitamin D levels of the control subjects.
While no significant associations between vitamin D and breast cancer were observed, when the analysis was restricted to those whose vitamin D levels were measured no more than 90 days prior to diagnosis, a different picture emerged. For this group, having a serum vitamin D level that was among the lowest one-fifth of participants was associated with a more than three-times greater risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in comparison with the risk experienced by women whose levels were among the top fifth. Lead researcher Cedric Garland, DrPH, who is a professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, believes that this time period may be important because it is likely to be the phase in which tumors most actively recruit blood vessels required for their growth.
"While the mechanisms by which vitamin D could prevent breast cancer are not fully understood, this study suggests that the association with low vitamin D in the blood is strongest late in the development of the cancer," Dr Garland stated. "Based on these data, further investigation of the role of vitamin D in reducing incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, particularly during the late phases of its development, is warranted."
Chances of living to 100 projected to increase exponentially over next few decades
January 25, 2013. In an article published online on January 22, 2013 on the British Medical Journal's website, King's Fund Chief Economist John Appleby suggests that there is no end in sight to the growing chance of living to 100 years. Yet for those who worry about the world's overpopulation, Appleby assures us that the growth rate of the world's population, while increasing, is doing so at a declining rate and that as life expectancy improves in various countries, their populations tend to settle at a point at which births equal deaths.
While 24 British citizens were congratulated on reaching the age of 100 in 1917, a total of 9,736 received their congratulations in 2011. The UK's Office of National Statistics estimates that approximately 40 percent of girls born in 2013 will live to be 100, in comparison with 13 percent born in 1951. They project that number to increase to 60 percent of females born in 2060. Life expectancy for men, while not as great as that of women, has also increased. Although several countries have experienced a reduction in life expectancy, due primarily to the presence of HIV and increased alcohol intake, most of the planet's nations have also witnessed an increase in life expectancy. A reduction in the risk of childhood death accounts for much of the improvement.
Although people are living longer, the chances of doing so in good health are not quite as high. In Britain, life expectancy increased by 4.6 percent since 1990, yet healthy life expectancy increased by 3 percent. Continued improvements in medical treatment and better prevention efforts will help make the increasing number of years one can expect to live as productive and enjoyable as possible.
Vitamin D could help treat triple-negative breast cancer
January 23, 2013. The January 21, 2013 issue of The Journal of Cell Biology published a report by Susana Gonzalo at Saint Louis University and her associates that indicates a possible benefit for vitamin D in triple-negative breast cancer, one of the more treatment resistant forms of the disease. Triple-negative breast cancer tumors do not express receptors for estrogen, progesterone or HER2, and are therefore unresponsive to hormone-targeted therapies.
Dr Gonzalo's research discovered a molecular pathway in women with triple negative breast cancer and mutations in a tumor suppressor gene known as BRCA1. Loss of BRCA1 function impairs the cells' ability to repair DNA double-strand breaks and halt the proliferation of damaged cells.
It was recently discovered that the loss of another DNA repair factor known as 53BP1 enables the proliferation of BRCA1-deficient cells. Dr Gonzalo's team discovered that the protease cathepsin L degrades 53BP1, and that vitamin D restores it. "It's a new pathway that explains how breast cancer cells lose 53BP1," stated Dr Gonzalo, who is an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Saint Louis University. She added, however, that the mechanism behind the increase in cancer cells' nuclear cathepsin L has not been defined.
In further research utilizing tissue samples from breast cancer patients with BRCA1 mutations or triple-negative breast cancer, the team found high levels of nuclear cathepsin L and decreased levels of 53BP1 and vitamin D receptor. These markers identify which populations might best benefit from cathepsin inhibitors or vitamin D therapy.
Review emphasizes resistance training, good nutrition to maintain muscle mass
January 21, 2013. A review published by The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) Nutrition Working Group affirms the value of resistance training coupled with adequate nutrient intake to avoid sarcopenia: the loss of muscle mass that commonly occurs with aging. The condition increases the risk of falling and subsequent injury, and is a significant cause of disability.
The review emphasizes the importance of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folic acid, as well as avoidance of high amounts of acid-producing foods. Daily protein intake should be 1.0 to 1.2 grams per kilogram body weight; however, an excess intake of meat and cereals should be avoided because of their acid-producing effects in the body. Fruit and vegetables, on the other hand, are alkalinizing, thus benefitting muscle and bone. Vitamin D is also important for muscle as well as bone and should be supplemented in many cases, especially among institutionalized older individuals. Vitamin B12, with or without folic acid (another B vitamin), additionally plays a role in muscle function and strength.
"The most obvious intervention against sarcopenia is exercise in the form of resistance training," stated coauthor Jean-Philippe Bonjour, who is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Geneva's Service of Bone Diseases. "However, adequate nutritional intake and an optimal dietary acid-base balance are also very important elements of any strategy to preserve muscle mass and strength during aging."
"Strategies to reduce the numbers of falls and fractures within our aging populations must include measures to prevent sarcopenia," noted coauthor Ambrish Mithal. "At present, the available evidence suggests that combining resistance training with optimal nutritional status has a synergistic effect in preventing and treating sarcopenia. We hope that further studies will shed light on other effective ways of preventing and treating this condition."
Folic acid metabolism defect identified
January 18, 2013. The January 8, 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the outcome of research conducted at The University of Texas at Austin which revealed a role for a specific enzyme involved in folic acid metabolism in protecting against neural tube defects. Folic acid supplementation has reduced the incidence of neural tube defects (which include spina bifida and anencephaly) by up to 70 percent, but the reason for the remaining cases had been, until now, unknown.
For their research, Dean Appling and his associates used mice in which the gene encoding a folic acid enzyme known as Mthfd1l was lacking. The enzyme controlled by the gene is needed for cells to produce the metabolite known as formate, which is necessary for proper embryonic development.
Mouse embryos lacking the enzyme had neural tube defects that were prevented in part by supplementing the mother animals with sodium formate. The researchers suggest that women of childbearing age could eventually be screened for the human Mthfd1l gene, and that the mouse model utilized in the current study could be used to test the protective effects of other nutrients beside folic acid against neural tube defect development.
"Now, we've found that mutation of a key folic acid enzyme causes neural tube defects in mice," stated Dr Appling, who is a professor of biochemistry at the University of Texas' College of Natural Sciences. "This is the clearest mechanistic link yet between folic acid and birth defects."
"This work reveals that one of the ways that folic acid prevents birth defects is by ensuring the production of formate in the developing embryo, and it may explain those 30 percent of neural tube defects that cannot be prevented by folic acid supplementation," he concluded.
Supplements, fortified milk better than sun exposure to raise kids' vitamin D levels
January 16, 2013. An article published online on January 14, 2013 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics suggests that consuming vitamin D supplements or milk that is fortified with vitamin D is more important than sun exposure or skin pigmentation when it comes to raising children's levels of the vitamin.
Jonathon Maguire, MD of St Michael's Hospital in Toronto and his colleagues evaluated serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D in 1,898 children between the ages of one and five years who participated in the TARGet Kids! program, which involved a collaboration between University of Toronto child health outcomes researchers and physicians from the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Parents provided data on the children's ingestion of vitamin D-containing supplements, cow's milk intake and other information.
Fifty-seven percent of the children used supplements that contained vitamin D. While skin pigmentation and season (which influences the amount of sun exposure one receives) were associated with vitamin D status, supplementation and milk drinking were associated with stronger effects. Supplementing with vitamin D was found to increase 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels by 3.4 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) in comparison with not supplementing.
"Early childhood is a critical stage in human development, so achieving and maintaining optimal vitamin D levels in early childhood may be important to health outcomes in later childhood and adulthood," stated Dr Maguire, who is a researcher and pediatrician at St. Michael's Hospital. "When it comes to maintaining sufficient vitamin D stores in young children, the story is about dietary intake of vitamin D through vitamin D supplementation and cow's milk."
"Although excessive cow's milk intake has been associated with iron deficiency, vitamin D supplementation and sensible cow's milk intake represent excellent targets for increasing 25-hydroxyvitamin D level in young children," the authors conclude.
High Fiber Diet Could Inhibit Prostate Cancer Spread
January 14, 2013. The January, 2013 issue of Cancer Prevention Research published findings of the University of Colorado Cancer Center which reveal a protective effect for inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) against the metastasis of prostate cancer in an animal model of the disease. Inositol hexaphosphate is a compound that is abundant in high fiber diets, which are more prevalent among non-Western cultures that, while having a similar incidence of prostate cancer as Westerners, have a significantly lower risk of the cancer progressing.
"Researchers have long been looking for genetic variations between Asian and Western peoples that could explain the difference in prostate cancer progression rates, but now it seems as if the difference may not be genetic but dietary," stated lead author Komal Raina, PhD. "Asian cultures get IP6 whereas Western cultures generally do not."
Rajesh Agarwal and colleagues studied the effects of IP6 in TRAMP (transgenic adenocarcinoma of the mouse prostate) mice, which are genetically modified to develop metastatic prostate cancer. Four week old mice were given water that contained 1 percent, 2 percent, 4 percent or no IP6 for 24 weeks. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the prostate was periodically conducted to assess prostate volume and tumor vascularity.
The team found a reduction in prostate tumor metastasis in animals that received higher concentrations of IP6 that was due in part to the ability of the compound to reduce new blood vessel formation. They discovered a decrease in a glucose transporter protein known as GLUT-4 in the prostates of treated mice, and observed that IP6 decreased glucose metabolism and membrane phospholipid synthesis. "The study's results were really rather profound," Dr Raina commented. "We saw dramatically reduced tumor volumes, primarily due to the antiangiogenic effects of IP6."
"These findings show that oral IP6 supplement blocks growth and angiogenesis of prostate cancer in the TRAMP model in conjunction with metabolic events involved in tumor sustenance," the authors conclude. "This results in energy deprivation within the tumor, suggesting a practical and translational potential of IP6 treatment in suppressing growth and progression of prostate cancer in humans."
Higher dietary antioxidant capacity associated with lower cardiovascular disease indicators
January 11, 2013. In an article published online on January 4, 2013 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the University of Connecticut report an association between improved dietary antioxidant capacity and reductions in plasma homocysteine and C-reactive protein (CRP), both of which are markers of increased cardiovascular disease risk.
The study included 4,391 men and women who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2002. Questionnaire responses concerning diet and supplement use over a 24 hour period were analyzed to provide the antioxidant capacities of 43 nutrients. (The antioxidant capacity of 30 flavonoids was determined from food sources only.) Blood samples were analyzed for serum levels of alpha and gamma tocopherols, six carotenoids and CRP, and plasma total homocysteine.
Total antioxidant capacity (TAC) was correlated with serum vitamin E and carotenoid levels. As TAC rose, the risk of having a total homocysteine level of greater than 13 micromoles per liter decreased. Those whose intake of antioxidants was among the top 25 percent of participants had more than double the chance of having a homocysteine level under 13 micromoles per liter in comparison with those whose TAC was among the lowest fourth. A reduction in the risk of having a CRP level of 3 milligrams per liter or higher was also observed in association with increasing TAC. A significant decline in homocysteine and CRP was observed in association with higher TAC from diet combined with supplements or supplements alone, but not with diet alone.
"Dietary TAC was associated with improved serum antioxidant status and decreased risk factors of cardiovascular disease including serum CRP and plasma total homocysteine concentrations," the authors conclude. "The implicated applicability of dietary TAC needs further validation in prospective cohort studies."
Meta-analysis associates lower risk of heart failure with greater omega-3 intake
January 9, 2013.The December, 2012 issue of the journal Clinical Nutrition reported the results of a meta-analysis which indicates a protective benefit for omega-3 fatty acids against the development of heart failure.
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University in Boston selected seven prospective studies that included a total of 176,441 subjects for their analysis. Studies were limited to those that evaluated the association between fish intake, or eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA, which are present in high amounts in oily fish) and heart failure risk. A total of 5,480 cases of heart failure occurred over 7 to 16 years of follow-up.
Among the five studies that examined the association between fish intake and heart failure, a 15 percent lower risk of the condition occurred among subjects whose consumption was categorized as high in comparison with those whose intake was low. When the six studies that evaluated the association between EPA and DHA intake and heart failure were analyzed, a higher intake was associated with a 14 percent lower risk.
The authors remark that EPA and DHA have been associated with a decrease in fatal coronary heart disease as well as improvements in hemodynamics, left ventricular function and inflammation. Because the studies included in the analysis were observational in nature, they suggest that their findings be confirmed in a large, randomized trial.
"If confirmed in a large double blind, placebo controlled randomized clinical trial, EPA/DHA could be added to the list of lifestyle factors and pharmacological agents that can be used for the primary prevention of heart failure," Luc Djoussé and coauthors conclude.
Gene variant found among the very old
January 7, 2013. The January 2, 2013 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience published the discovery of Robert Moyzis of the University of California, Irvine and his colleagues of an increase in a dopamine receptor gene among men and women aged of 90 and older. The variant, known as the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) 7R allele, blunts the signaling of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in the network responsible for reward-driven learning and attention in the brain.
The finding is the result of an analysis of genetic samples derived from 310 participants in the 90+ Study whose ages ranged from 90 to 109 years. Dr Moyzis and his associates found a 66 percent greater incidence of the variant in the older participants in comparison with a control group of 2,902 men and women aged 7 to 45 years. The DRD4 7 allele was also associated with increased physical activity levels.
In mice that had the DRD4 gene knocked out, life span was decreased by 7 to 9.7 percent in comparison with normal mice or those with one copy of the gene. The animals also exhibited a reduction in spontaneous activity and they failed to live longer when raised in an enriched environment.
"While the genetic variant may not directly influence longevity, it is associated with personality traits that have been shown to be important for living a longer, healthier life," stated Dr Moyzis, who is a professor of biological chemistry at UC Irvine. "It's been well documented that the more you're involved with social and physical activities, the more likely you'll live longer. It could be as simple as that."
"It is clear that individuals with this gene variant are already more likely to be responding to the well-known medical adage to get more physical activity," he added.
Omega‑3 fatty acid supplements may benefit sickle cell anemia patients
January 4, 2013. The January, 2013 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported the outcome of a clinical trial conducted by researchers at London Metropolitan University and Ibn‑Aoaf Paediatric Hospital in Sudan, which found a benefit for supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in children with sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that is inherited by children of African descent. The disease is characterized by vaso-occlusive crises, which are the main cause of hospitalizations, organ damage and mortality.
One hundred forty‑four participants between the ages of 2 and 24 years were randomized to receive capsules containing 390 milligrams EPA and 277.8 milligrams DHA, or a placebo daily for one year. The amount of capsules received daily by each participant ranged from one to four, depending upon age.
At the end of the trial, subjects who received a placebo had an average of one vaso-occlusive event per year, while no events occurred among those who received omega-3. Severe anemia and the need for a blood transfusion were experienced by 16.4 percent of the placebo group, yet among those who received omega-3, the incidence of severe anemia was 3.2 percent and 4.5 percent needed a transfusion.
"DHA, EPA, and their respective metabolites are known to exert a myriad of biochemical and biologic effects, directly and indirectly, including through competitive inhibition of actions of arachidonic acid and its metabolites," the authors write. "However, the synergistic effects of decreased inflammation, blood cell aggregation, adhesion, and oxidative stress and of increased vasodilatation and blood flow may have played a critical role in the amelioration of vaso-occlusive and hemolytic crises in the patients."
"If these findings are replicated in a large multicenter study, omega‑3 fatty acids can be effective, safe, and affordable as a treatment for sickle cell anemia," they conclude.
Reduced mineral intake linked to higher dementia risk
January 1, 2013. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society recently reported the finding of researchers in Japan of a protective effect for a high intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium against the development of vascular dementia.
For the current study, a team from Kyushu University in Fukuoka analyzed data from 1,081 men and women who were free of dementia upon enrollment in the Hisayama Study, a prospective study of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases among residents of Hisayama, Japan. Dietary survey responses provided information on the intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium. Over a 17 year follow-up period, 303 participants developed dementia, of which 166 were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and 98 with vascular dementia.
Among those whose calcium intake was among the highest 25 percent of participants, the risk of developing dementia was 36 percent lower than those whose intake was among the lowest fourth. Having a high intake of magnesium conferred a 37 percent lower risk and high potassium was associated with a 48 percent lower risk when compared to those whose intake was among the lowest. Analysis of men and women who had vascular dementia found risk reductions of 76 percent, 74 percent and 80 percent among those whose levels of calcium, magnesium and potassium were among the highest one-fourth of participants. While the risk of Alzheimer's disease was also reduced in association with higher mineral intake, no linear associations were observed.
"To the best of the knowledge of the authors of the current study, this is the first prospective cohort study showing that higher self-reported dietary intakes of potassium, calcium, and magnesium are associated with a lower risk of dementia," Mio Ozawa and colleagues announce. "Further epidemiological and clinical studies are warranted to determine whether a diet rich in these minerals can lessen the future risk of dementia."
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