Broccoli compound extends lifespan in worm model
University of Heidelberg (Germany), February 5 2021.
An article published on January 20, 2021 in Aging reported the findings of a team from the University of Heidelberg in Germany of an association between the intake of the compound sulforaphane derived from broccoli and other Brassicaceae family vegetables and longer survival of the roundworm Caenorhabditiselegan
“Several studies have described the isolation of natural substances from food plants and characterized them as suitable anti-aging agents; such substances include the phenol resveratrol from grapes and berries, the phenol curcumin from turmeric, the alkaloid berberine found in plants used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the polyphenol chlorogenic acid from coffee and tea, and chlorophyll from green vegetables, among others,” wrote Zhimin Qi and colleagues. “We asked whether sulforaphane may influence the lifespan and health span of C. elegans.”
Adding sulforaphane to the worms’ diets increased the lifespan of various strains of C. elegans by an average of 17%. The mechanism of action was attributed to inhibition of abnormal dauer formation protein 2 (DAF-2)-mediated insulin and insulin-like growth factor signaling and its downstream targets, which positively affected other factors. (DAF-2 is part of a metabolic pathway that regulates the rate of aging.)
Sulforaphane also increased health span, resulting in a delay in aging-associated physiologic decline. Mobility, appetite and food intake were greater in worms that received sulforaphane, while the accumulation of the aging-associated pigment lipofuscin was reduced. Other experiments revealed that sulforaphane enhanced oxidative stress resistance.
“We are the first to report that sulforaphane prolongs the lifespan and increases the health span of C. elegans through the inhibition of DAF- 2/insulin/IGF-1 signaling and the activation of DAF- 16/FOXO nuclear transcription in C. elegans,” the authors announced. “Our study provides a promising hint regarding the suitability of sulforaphane as a new anti-aging drug.”
Oral N-acetylglucosamine may be neuroprotective in demyelinating diseases like MS
University of California at Irvine, January 31, 2021
According to news reporting originating in Irvine, California, research stated, “Myelination plays an important role in cognitive development and in demyelinating diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), where failure of remyelination promotes permanent neuro-axonal damage. Modification of cell surface receptors with branched N-glycans coordinates cell growth and differentiation by controlling glycoprotein clustering, signaling, and endocytosis.”
The news reporters obtained a quote from the research from the University of California Irvine, “GlcNAc is a rate-limiting metabolite for N-glycan branching. Here we report that GlcNAc and N-glycan branching trigger oligodendrogenesis from precursor cells by inhibiting platelet-derived growth factor receptor-alpha cell endocytosis. Supplying oral GlcNAc to lactating mice drives primary myelination in newborn pups via secretion in breast milk, whereas genetically blocking N-glycan branching markedly inhibits primary myelination. In adult mice with toxin (cuprizone)-induced demyelination, oral GlcNAc prevents neuro-axonal damage by driving myelin repair. In MS patients, endogenous serum GlcNAc levels inversely correlated with imaging measures of demyelination and microstructural damage.”
According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “Our data identify N-glycan branching and GlcNAc as critical regulators of primary myelination and myelin repair and suggest that oral GlcNAc may be neuroprotective in demyelinating diseases like MS.”
This research has been peer-reviewed.
Happiness really does come for free: study
McGill University (Quebec), February 9, 2021
Economic growth is often prescribed as a sure way of increasing the well-being of people in low-income countries, but a study led by McGill and the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technologies at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) suggests that there may be good reason to question this assumption. The researchers set out to find out how people rate their subjective well-being in societies where money plays a minimal role, and which are not usually included in global happiness surveys. They found that the majority of people reported remarkably high levels of happiness. This was especially true in the communities with the lowest levels of monetization, where citizens reported a degree of happiness comparable to that found in Scandinavian countries which typically rate highest in the world. The results suggest that high levels of subjective well-being can be achieved with minimal monetization, challenging the perception that economic growth will automatically raise life satisfaction among low-income populations.
To explore how monetization affects people’s sense of well-being, the researchers spent time in several small fishing communities, with varying degrees of monetization, in the Solomon Islands and Bangladesh, two very low-income countries. Over a period of a few months, with the help of local translators, they interviewed citizens in both rural and urban areas a number of times. The interviews, which took place both in person and through phone calls at unexpected moments, were designed to elicit information about what constituted happiness for the study subjects, as well as to get a sense of their passing moods, their lifestyle, fishing activities, household income, and level of market integration.
In all, the researchers interviewed 678 people, ranging in age between their mid-twenties and early fifties, with an average age of about 37. Almost 85 % of the study participants were male. The disproportionate number of men in the study was due to the fact that cultural norms in Bangladesh made it difficult to interview women. In the Solomon Islands, responses to the study questions from men and women were not significantly different. However, this is not necessarily applicable to the situation in Bangladesh, as men and women’s social realities and lifestyles differ so much. Further research will need to address whether gender-related societal norms impact the association found in this study.
Early stages of monetization may be detrimental to happiness
The researchers found that in the communities where money was in greater use, such as in urban Bangladesh, residents reported lower levels of happiness.
“Our study hints at possible ways of achieving happiness that are unrelated to high incomes and material wealth,” says Eric Galbraith, a professor in McGill’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the senior author on the study, which was recently published in PLOS One. “This is important, because if we replicate these results elsewhere and can pinpoint the factors that contribute to subjective well-being, it may help us circumvent some of the environmental costs associated with achieving social well-being in the least developed nations.”
“In less monetized sites, we found that people reported a greater proportion of time spent with family and contact with nature as being responsible for making them happy,” explains Sara Miñarro, the lead author on the study who is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at (ICTA-UAB). “But with increasing monetization, we found that the social and economic factors commonly recognized in industrialized countries played a bigger role. Overall, our findings suggest that monetization, especially in its early stages, may actually be detrimental to happiness.”
Interestingly, while other research has found that technology and access to information from faraway cultures with different lifestyles may affect people’s sense of their own well-being by offering standards to which people compare their own lives, this did not appear to be the case in these communities.
“This work adds to a growing realization that important supports for happiness are not in principle related to economic output,” adds Chris Barrington-Leigh, a professor in McGill’s Bieler School of the Environment. “When people are comfortable, safe, and free to enjoy life within a strong community, they are happy—regardless of whether or not they are making any money.”
Depressed moms who breastfeed boost babies’ mood, neuroprotection and mutual touch
Study first to show EEG patterns shift as a result of feeding method and affectionate touch in depressed and non-depressed moms and babies
Florida Atlantic University, February 10, 2021
About 1 in 9 mothers suffers from maternal depression, which can affect the mother-infant bond as well as infant development. Touch plays an important role in an infant’s socio-emotional development. Mothers who are depressed are less likely to provide their babies with soothing touch, less able to detect changes in facial expressions, and more likely to have trouble regulating their own emotions. In addition, infants of depressed mothers exhibit similar brain functioning patterns as their depressed mothers, which also are linked to temperament characteristics. Infants of depressed mothers are at a high risk of atypical and potentially dysregulated social interaction.
A first-of-its-kind study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science examined the developing mother-infant relationship by studying feeding method (breastfeeding and/or bottle-feeding) and affectionate touch patterns in depressed and non-depressed mother-infant dyads as well examining the infant’s electroencephalogram activity (EEG) during development. Affectionate touch was coded during the mother-infant feeding context and included stroking, massaging and caressing initiated by either mother or infant.
For the study, researchers evaluated 113 mothers and their infants and assessed maternal depressive symptoms, feeding and temperament or mood. They collected EEG patterns (asymmetry and left and right activity) from infants at 1 and 3 months old and videotaped mother-infant dyads during feeding to assess affectionate touch patterns in both mother and baby. They specifically focused on alterations in EEG activation patterns in infants across development to determine whether feeding and maternal depression are interactively related to changes in resting frontal EEG asymmetry and power.
Data from EEG activity, published in the journal Neuropsychobiology, revealed that mother-infant affectionate touch differed as a function of mood and feeding method (breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding), affecting outcomes for infants of depressed mothers compared to non-depressed mothers. Researchers observed a reduction in infant touch toward their mothers only with the infants in the depressed and bottle-fed group. Affectionate touch of mothers and infants varied by depression interacting with feeding type, with breastfeeding having a positive effect on both maternal and infant affectionate touch. Infants of depressed and breastfeeding mothers showed neither behavioral nor brain development dysregulation previously found in infants of depressed mothers.
“We focused on mother-infant affectionate touch patterns during feeding in our study because touch is a form of mutual interaction established in early infancy, used to communicate needs, soothe, and downregulate stress responses, and because mothers and infants spend a significant amount of time feeding across the first three months postpartum,” said Nancy Aaron Jones, Ph.D., lead author, an associate professor, and director of the FAU WAVES Emotion Laboratory in the Department of Psychology in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, and a member of the FAU Brain Institute. “As experience with maternal mood and feeding pervade the infant’s early environment, we chose to examine how these factors interact to affect mother-infant affectionate touch, focusing fastidiously on the key roles of individual variation in temperament and EEG activation patterns.”
Asymmetry patterns in certain infant populations, such as those of depressed mothers differ from the asymmetry patterns of typically developing infants and children. While EEG asymmetry measures the balance of the right and left hemisphere activity, infants of depressed mothers exhibit patterns of right frontal asymmetry, due in part to hypoactivation of the left hemisphere within the frontal region. This pattern of brain activation (greater right asymmetry) is similar to the pattern observed in depressed adults and is thought to represent heightened negative affect as well as motor tendencies for withdrawal and inhibited approach behaviors.
In addition to the tactile behavior changes, the infants in this study displayed differential brain activation patterns as a function of maternal depression and feeding group status. Not only were the infants’ EEG patterns affected by their mother’s depression status, stable breastfeeding experience also interacted with the depression group to impact EEG patterns across early development. Left frontal asymmetry in infants was associated with having a non-depressed mother and infant care experiences in the form of stable breastfeeding. Left frontal activity has been associated with advancing maturation, positive emotions, as well as higher order processing skills. Notably, EEG patterns of infants of depressed mothers showed right frontal asymmetry; however, shifts to greater left frontal activation (left frontal hyperactivation change) were found in those infants with stable breastfeeding experiences.
Analysis from the study also revealed that infant breastfeeding duration and positive temperamental characteristics predicted infant affectionate touch patterns, suggesting that early infant experiences, and more broadly, their underlying neurochemical regulatory processes during feeding could influence the development of infant physiology and behavior, even for infants of depressed mothers.
“Ultimately, our study provides evidence that the sensitive caretaking that occurs, even for mothers with postnatal depression in the context of more predominant breastfeeding, may redirect neurophysiological, temperamental, and socio-emotional risk through dyadic tactile experiences across early development,” said Aaron Jones.
Vitamin D supplementation: possible gain in life years combined with cost savings
German Cancer Research Center, February 11, 2021
In recent years, three meta-analyses of clinical studies have come to the conclusion that vitamin D supplementation was associated with a reduction in the mortality rate from cancer of around 13 percent. Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have now transferred these results to the situation in Germany and calculated: If all Germans over the age of 50 were to take vitamin D supplements, up to 30,000 cancer deaths per year could possibly be avoided and more than 300,000 years of life could be gained – in addition, health care costs could be saved.
For several years now, scientists have been investigating the influence of an adequate supply of vitamin D on the prognosis of numerous diseases. The focus is particularly on inflammatory diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases and cancer.
Three meta-analyses of large clinical studies have been published in recent years on the question of how vitamin D supply affects cancer mortality rates. The studies* came to the same conclusion: cancer mortality is reduced by around 13 percent with vitamin D supplementation – across all cancers. Only methodologically high-quality randomized trials from all parts of the world were included in the meta-analyses. Exactly what biological mechanisms might underlie this is not yet clear.
“In many countries around the world, the age-adjusted rate of cancer mortality has fortunately declined over the past decade,” says Hermann Brenner, an epidemiologist at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). “However, given the often considerable costs of many new cancer drugs, this success has often come at a high price. Vitamin D, on the other hand, is comparatively inexpensive in the usual daily doses.”
Vitamin D deficiency is common in the elderly population and especially among cancer patients. Brenner and colleagues now calculated what costs would be incurred by vitamin D supplementation of the entire population of Germany from the age of 50. They contrasted this sum with the potential savings for cancer therapies, which are often associated with costs in the range of several 10,000 euros, particularly in the case of advanced cancers during the last months of patients’ lives.
The scientists based this calculation on a daily administration of 1,000 international units of vitamin D at a cost of 25 euros per person per year. In 2016, approximately 36 million people over the age of 50 lived in Germany, resulting in annual supplementation costs of 900 million euros.
The researchers took the cost of cancer treatment from the scientific literature, assuming mean additional treatment costs of €40,000 for the last year of life. A 13 percent reduction in cancer mortality in Germany corresponded to approximately 30,000 fewer cancer-related deaths per year, the treatment costs of which amounted to €1.154 billion in the model calculation. Compared with the costs of vitamin supplementation, this model calculates an annual saving of €254 million.
The researchers determined the number of years of life lost at the time of cancer death using data from the German Federal Statistical Office. Brenner considers the costs and effort of a routine determination of the individual vitamin D level to be dispensable, since an overdose is not to be feared with a supplementation of 1000 international units. Such a prior testing had not been made in the clinical trials either.
“In view of the potentially significant positive effects on cancer mortality – additionally combined with a possible cost saving – we should look for new ways to reduce the widespread vitamin D deficiency in the elderly population in Germany. In some countries, foods have even been enriched with vitamin D for many years – for example, in Finland, where cancer mortality rates are about 20 percent lower than in Germany. Not to mention that there is mounting evidence of other positive health effects of adequate vitamin D supply, such as in lung disease mortality rates,” says Brenner, adding, “Finally, we consider vitamin D supplementation so safe that we even recommend it for newborn babies to develop healthy bones.”
To improve one’s vitamin D levels at absolutely no cost, DKFZ’s Cancer Information Service recommends spending time outdoors in the sunshine, two to three times a week for about twelve minutes. Face, hands and parts of arms and legs should be uncovered and without sunscreen for this period of time.
Poor fitness linked to weaker brain fiber, higher dementia risk
University of Texas Medical Center, February 14, 2021
Scientists have more evidence that exercise improves brain health and could be a lifesaving ingredient that prevents Alzheimer’s disease.
In particular, a new study from UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute suggests that the lower the fitness level, the faster the deterioration of vital nerve fibers in the brain. This deterioration results in cognitive decline, including memory issues characteristic of dementia patients.
“This research supports the hypothesis that improving people’s fitness may improve their brain health and slow down the aging process,” said Dr. Kan Ding, a neurologist from the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute who authored the study.
The study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease focused on a type of brain tissue called white matter, which is comprised of millions of bundles of nerve fibers used by neurons to communicate across the brain.
Dr. Ding’s team enrolled older patients at high risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease who have early signs of memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The researchers determined that lower fitness levels were associated with weaker white matter, which in turn correlated with lower brain function.
Unlike previous studies that relied on study participants to assess their own fitness, the new research objectively measured cardiorespiratory fitness with a scientific formula called maximal oxygen uptake. Scientists also used brain imaging to measure the functionality of each patient’s white matter.
Patients were then given memory and other cognitive tests to measure brain function, allowing scientists to establish strong correlations between exercise, brain health, and cognition.
The study adds to a growing body of evidence pointing to a simple yet crucial mandate for human health: Exercise regularly.
However, the study leaves plenty of unanswered questions about how fitness and Alzheimer’s disease are intertwined. For instance, what fitness level is needed to notably reduce the risk of dementia? Is it too late to intervene when patients begin showing symptoms?
Some of these topics are already being researched through a five-year national clinical trial led by the O’Donnell Brain Institute.
The trial, which includes six medical centers across the country, aims to determine whether regular aerobic exercise and taking specific medications to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels can help preserve brain function. It involves more than 600 older adults at high risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
“Evidence suggests that what is bad for your heart is bad for your brain. We need studies like this to find out how the two are intertwined and hopefully find the right formula to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Rong Zhang of UT Southwestern, who oversees the clinical trial and is Director of the Cerebrovascular Laboratory in the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where the Dallas arm of the study is being carried out.
The research builds upon prior investigations linking healthy lifestyles to better brain function, including a 2013 study from Dr. Zhang’s team that found neuronal messages are more efficiently relayed in the brains of older adults who exercise.
In addition, other teams at the O’Donnell Brain Institute are designing tests for the early detection of patients who will develop dementia, and seeking methods to slow or stop the spread of toxic proteins associated with the disease such as beta-amyloid and tau, which are blamed for destroying certain groups of neurons in the brain.
“A lot of work remains to better understand and treat dementia,” said Dr. Ding, Assistant Professor of Neurology & Neurotherapeutics. “But, eventually, the hope is that our studies will convince people to exercise more.”
A systematic review and meta-analysis of impact of red wine polyphenols on vascular health
University of Birmingham (UK), February 4, 2021
According to news reporting originating from Birmingham, United Kingdom, research stated, “Red wine polyphenols (RWP) are plant-based molecules that have been extensively studied in relation to their protective effects on vascular health in both animals and humans. The aim of this review was to quantify and compare the efficacy of RWP and pure resveratrol on outcomes measures of vascular health and function in both animals and humans.”
Our news editors obtained a quote from the research from the University of Birmingham, “Comprehensive database searches were carried out through PubMed, Web of Science and OVID for randomised, placebo-controlled studies in both animals and humans. Meta-analyses were carried out on acute and chronic studies of RWP in humans, alongside sub-group analysis where possible. Risk-of-bias assessment was carried out for all included studies based on randomisation, allocation, blinding, outcome data reporting, and other biases. Results 48 animal and 37 human studies were included in data extraction following screening. Significant improvements in measures of blood pressure and vascular function following RWP were seen in 84% and 100% of animal studies, respectively. Human studies indicated significant improvements in systolic blood pressure overall (- 2.6 mmHg, 95% CI: [- 4.8, – 0.4]), with a greater improvement in pure-resveratrol studies alone (- 3.7 mmHg, 95% CI: [- 7.3, – 0.0]). No significant effects of RWP were seen in diastolic blood pressure or flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the brachial artery.”
According to the news editors, the research concluded: “RWP have the potential to improve vascular health in at risk human populations, particularly in regard to lowering systolic blood pressure; however, such benefits are not as prevalent as those observed in animal models.”
This research has been peer-reviewed.