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Grapes may help protect organs from metabolic syndrome's damaging effects
April 29, 2013. The results of a study presented on April 22, 2013 at the Experimental Biology conference held in Boston suggest a protective effect for grapes against the damaging effect of metabolic syndrome on the body's organs. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of factors including hypertension, elevated glucose, increased waist circumference and disordered blood lipids that increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The condition increases inflammation and oxidative stress, which results in damage to the body's tissues.
E. Mitchell Seymour, PhD, of the University of Michigan Health System and his associates tested the effects of supplementation with a blend of green, red and black grape powder in rats prone to obesity that were provided with a high fat diet for 90 days. Unsupplemented animals that were given diets containing the same amount of calories served as controls.
The researchers observed lower levels of serum C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 in animals that received whole grape powder in comparison with the control group, indicating a decrease in inflammation. Grape-supplemented animals also had reduced liver, kidney and abdominal fat, and improved antioxidant defense proteins in the heart, abdominal fat, skeletal muscle, liver, brain and kidneys.
"Our study suggests that a grape-enriched diet may play a critical role in protecting against metabolic syndrome and the toll it takes on the body and its organs," Dr Seymour stated. "Both inflammation and oxidative stress play a role in cardiovascular disease progression and organ dysfunction in Type 2 diabetes. Grape intake impacted both of these components in several tissues which is a very promising finding."
Vitamin E may help protect liver from obesity-related condition
April 26, 2013. The annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology held in Boston was the site of a presentation on April 24, 2013 which adds more evidence to findings of a protective effect for vitamin E against nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the most severe form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
For the current research, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine associate professor Danny Manor and his associates studied mice bred to lack the alpha-tocopherol transfer protein, which regulates the body's vitamin E levels. They found an increase in oxidative stress, injury and inflammation in the animals' livers, which was reduced by supplementation with vitamin E. Nevertheless, vitamin E supplementation did not prevent lipid deposits, which indicates that alpha-tocopherol transfer protein is needed in order to fully benefit from dietary vitamin E. "Supplementation with vitamin E averted the majority of NASH-related symptoms in these animals, confirming the relationship between vitamin E deficiency and liver disease," Dr Manor reported. "These findings may have a significant impact on public health, as the vast majority of adults in the United States do not consume the amount of vitamin E recommended by the National Institute of Medicine."
"NASH piggybacks on the two great epidemics of our time: obesity and Type 2 diabetes," Dr Manor observed. "Right now, we really don't understand how NASH progresses from mild liver damage to severe liver failure. Our results will enable us to dissect the different steps in this progression, as well as study how oxidative stress affects liver function more generally, giving possible insights into other related disorders."
"Simple and affordable dietary intervention may benefit people at risk for this debilitating disease," he noted.
Berries improve neuronal housekeeping
April 24, 2013. In an abstract summarizing the results of a study reported at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting, published on April 9, 2013 in The FASEB Journal, researchers from Tufts University report a benefit for strawberry and blueberry consumption in improving autophagy in the brain. Autophagy is a process employed by the body to clear the accumulation of unnecessary or damaged cellular components that have been implicated in some disorders. "Most diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's have shown an increased amount of toxic protein," explained research team member Shibu Poulose, PhD, of Tufts' Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. "Berries seem to promote autophagy, the brain's natural housekeeping mechanism, thereby reducing the toxic accumulation."
In a study led by Dr Barbara Shukitt-Hale, rats were provided with a control diet or a diet supplemented with strawberries or blueberries for two months prior to and 30 days following irradiation of the brain (which results in oxidative and inflammatory stress to that organ). Some of the animals underwent examination of their brains 36 hours following irradiation and the remaining animals were examined after 30 days.
The team observed a reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress in rats that received diets enhanced with either berry, as well as improved indicators of autophagy activation in comparison with untreated animals. "After 30 days on the same berry diet, the rats experienced significant protection against radiation compared to control," Dr Poulose reported. "We saw significant benefits to diets with both of the berries, and speculate it is due to the phytonutrients present."
"We have a lot of animal work that suggests these compounds will protect the aged brain and reverse some of behavioral deficits," stated Dr Shukitt-Hale. "We are hoping it will translate to human studies as well."
Greater trans fat intake linked with increased risk of death from any cause over seven years
April 22, 2013. The May, 2013 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the finding of a study funded by the National Institutes of Health which uncovered an association between higher trans fat intake and a greater risk of death from any cause over seven years of follow-up. Although previous research has linked the intake of trans fat with an increased risk of several chronic diseases, no other study has examined the association between trans fat consumption and all-cause mortality to the authors' knowledge.
The current investigation examined data from 18,513 participants in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, which enrolled 30,239 African American and Caucasian men and women aged 45 and older between 2003 and 2007. Dietary questionnaires completed upon enrollment provided information on the intake of calories and total and specific fats, including trans fat. Over seven years of follow-up 1,572 deaths occurred.
The risk of dying over follow-up increased with rising trans fat intake levels. Among those whose consumption of trans fat was among the top one-fifth of participants, the adjusted risk of dying from any cause was 24% greater than those whose intake was lowest. A similar risk was observed for men and women whose intake was among the second highest group.
In their explanation of the findings, the authors remark that increased trans fat intake has been associated with such markers of inflammation as interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and C-reactive protein, and that increased inflammation is involved in the development of cardiovascular disease
as well as cancer. "More studies are needed to further evaluate the contribution of trans fatty acids to death from all causes," they conclude.
Adherence to cancer-preventive guidelines lowers risk of dying over 12.8 year period
April 19, 2013. The results of a study described online on April 3, 2013 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest that following guidelines established by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) could significantly reduce the risk of dying prematurely.
A team of European researchers examined data from 378,864 participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study, which enrolled men and women between the ages of 25 and 70 between 1992 and 2000. Male participants were scored on their adherence to six WCRF/AICR recommendations, which included being as lean as possible without becoming underweight, being physically active as part of everyday life, limiting consumption of energy-dense foods and avoiding sugary drinks, consuming mainly plant-based foods, limiting the consumption of red meat and processed meat, and limiting alcoholic beverages. Women were scored on the same criteria, with the addition of breastfeeding their infants for up to six months.
Over a median of 12.8 years, 23,828 deaths occurred. Among men whose scores were highest at 5-6 points and women who scored 6-7 points, the risk of dying over follow-up was 34 percent less than those whose scores were lowest at 0-2 points for men and 0-3 points for women. The reduction was greatest for respiratory disease, followed by circulatory disease and cancer. Each point increase was associated with a 13 percent lower risk of dying over the follow-up period.
"Results of this study suggest that following WCRF/AICR recommendations could significantly increase longevity," authors Anne-Claire Vergnaud and colleagues conclude. "These results are of primary importance to increase the awareness and the compliance of the population to those major recommendations as well as understand how to reduce the mortality burden worldwide."
Don't worry about too much vitamin E
April 17, 2013. In a review published online on March 15, 2013 in the Journal of Lipid Research, vitamin E expert and Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences Professor Maret Traber reports that consuming too much vitamin E shouldn't be a concern, because of the body's innate ability to excrete excessive amounts.
"Unlike vitamins A and D, alpha-tocopherol (which is also a fat-soluble vitamin) does not accumulate to 'toxic' levels in the liver or extra-hepatic tissues," writes Dr Traber in her introduction to the article. "Indeed, when toxicologists searched for evidence of adverse effects of excess alpha-tocopherol, the only consistent finding was the observation that vitamin E caused increased bleeding tendencies, likely as a result of interference with vitamin K status."
Dr Traber explains that two systems in the liver control the level of vitamin E in the body, both of which remove excessive amounts. The vitamin is then secreted into the plasma for uptake by the body's tissues, where it is harmless.
"Toxic levels of vitamin E in the body simply do not occur," Dr Traber noted. "Unlike some other fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A and D, it's not possible for toxic levels of vitamin E to accumulate in the liver or other tissues."
"I believe that past studies which have alleged adverse consequences from vitamin E have misinterpreted the data," she remarked. "Taking too much vitamin E is not the real concern. A much more important issue is that more than 90 percent of people in the U.S. have inadequate levels of vitamin E in their diet."
Vitamin D improves muscle function
April 8, 2013. The March, 2013 issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reports the finding of researchers at Newcastle University in England of a positive effect for vitamin D supplementation on the muscle function of deficient adults.
Twelve participants underwent magnetic resonance spectroscopy of a lower leg muscle before and after twelve weeks of vitamin D supplementation in order to evaluate phosphocreatine recovery kinetics as an assessment of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Phosphocreatine is used by the cells' mitochondria to manufacture adenosine triphosphate (ATP)--a molecule needed by muscle for movement. Rapid replenishment of phosphocreatine by the mitochondria following muscle contraction is an indicator of improved mitochondrial efficiency.
Researchers Akash Sinha and colleagues observed a reduction in phosphocreatine recovery half-time after treatment with vitamin D, which indicates an improvement in maximal oxidative phosphorylation. "The scans provided a unique window into what is really going on in the muscle as it works," Dr Sinha explained. "Examining this small group of patients with vitamin D deficiency who experienced symptoms of muscle fatigue, we found that those with very low vitamin D levels improved their muscle efficiency significantly when their vitamin D levels were improved."
"We have proved for the first time a link between vitamin D and mitochondria function," Dr Sinha announced. "Of the patients I see, around 60% are vitamin D deficient and most people living north of Manchester will struggle to process enough vitamin D from sunlight alone, particularly during winter and spring. So a simple vitamin D tablet could help boost your energy levels – from within the cells."
Omega-3 fatty acid metabolite inhibits angiogenesis
April 5, 2013. In an article published online on April 3, 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of California, Davis report an antiangiogenic effect for a metabolite of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Angiogenesis occurs when tumors grow new blood vessels, enabling them to grow and spread. The process also occurs during neovascular age-related macular degeneration, in which abnormal blood vessel growth develops within the eye.
Bruce D. Hammock of UC Davis' Department of Entomology and his associates found that epoxydocosopentaenoic acids (EDPs) metabolized from DHA reduce tumor angiogenesis in mice, and that metabolites of the omega-6 acid arachidonic acid known as epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs) slightly increase it. Further research revealed that EDPs additionally suppress endothelial cell migration needed new blood vessel formation.
"Our investigation opens up a new understanding of the pathways by which omega-3 fatty acids exert their biologic effects," noted lead author Guodong Zhang, who is a postdoctoral researcher in Dr Hammock's laboratory. "As far as we know, EDPs are the first signaling lipids that have been discovered to have such potent anticancer effects. Researchers may be able to use EDPs as structural targets to develop stable analogs as anticancer agents."
"Our results designate EDPs and EETs as unique mediators of an angiogenic switch to regulate tumorigenesis," noted study coauthor Katherine W. Ferrara, who is a professor in the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering. "They also implicate a novel mechanistic linkage between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and cancers."
Fish oil may enhance immune function
April 3, 2013. The April, 2013 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology published the findings of researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) of an ability of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to boost the function of a type of leukocyte (white blood cell) known as B cells in a mouse model of colitis. DHA is an omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid found in fish oil that had previously been found to reduce the activity of another type of white blood cell known as T lymphocytes, which are involved in the inflammatory response and other immune functions. The current finding suggests that while fish oil suppresses inflammation, it does so without reducing overall immune response, which indicates that individuals with compromised immune systems could avail themselves of its benefits. "Fish oil may have immune enhancing properties that could benefit immunocompromised individuals," stated lead researcher Jenifer Fenton, PhD, MPH, of MSU's Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.
In the current research, Dr Fenton's team divided the colitis-prone mice to receive a control diet or a diet supplemented with DHA-enriched fish oil for five weeks. B cells from animals that received fish oil exhibited enhanced activation and select antibody production, indicating improved immune responses to pathogens. "This work confirms similar findings on fish oil and B cells from our lab, and moves us one step closer to understanding the immune enhancing properties of EPA and DHA," coauthor S. Raza Shaikh , PhD of East Carolina University commented.
"These results support the hypothesis and an emerging concept that fish oil enhances B cell function in vivo," the authors conclude.
Reduced telomere length associated with a number of age-related diseases
April 1, 2013. A research letter published online on March 27, 2013 in the journal Nature Genetics reports the discovery of European scientists of an association of seven genetic variants with telomere length and age-related disorders. Telomeres are bits of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes, which shorten as a cell ages.
"Although heart disease and cancers are more common as one gets older, not everyone gets them - and some people get them at an earlier age," noted lead research Nilesh Samani of the University of Leicester. "It has been suspected that the occurrence of these diseases may in part be related to some people 'biologically' ageing more quickly than others."
Dr Samani and his colleagues measured average white blood cell telomere length in 48,423 men and women and identified seven length-associated variations. They found a link between the variants and several types of cancer, coronary artery disease, multiple sclerosis and other diseases.
"These are really exciting findings," he said. "We had previous evidence that shorter telomere lengths are associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease but were not sure whether this association was causal or not. This research strongly suggests that biological ageing plays an important role in causing coronary artery disease, the commonest cause of death in the world. This provides a novel way of looking at the disease and at least partly explains why some patients develop it early and others don't develop it at all even if they carry other risk factors."
"The findings open of the possibility that manipulating telomere length could have health benefits," added coauthor Veryan Codd. "While there is a long way to go before any clinical application, there are data in experimental models where lengthening telomere length has been shown to retard and in some situations reverse age-related changes in several organs."
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