Higher selenium levels associated with improved breast cancer survival
Pomeranian Medical University (Poland), April 5 2021.
Research reported on March 16, 2021 in Nutrients revealed an association between higher serum levels of the mineral selenium and a greater chance of 10-year survival among women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Previous research conducted by the current team had uncovered a correlation between low serum selenium levels and greater five-year survival among breast cancer patients. The current study analyzed 10-year survival among women included in the previous investigation.
The study included 538 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer from 2008 to 2015 and received treatment at hospitals associated with Pomeranian Medical University. Age at diagnosis ranged from 26 to 89 years. Blood samples were analyzed for serum selenium levels, which averaged 86.2 micrograms per liter.
The 10-year survival rate was 76.2% for the entire group. Among women whose selenium levels were among the lowest 25% of subjects, 10-year overall survival was 65.1%. Survival percentages improved in association with increasing selenium levels. Among women whose levels were among the top 25%, ten-year survival was 86.7%.
As a possible protective mechanism for selenium, authors Marek Szwiec and colleagues remarked that selenium’s incorporation into selenoproteins protects against oxidative damage and lowers cancer risk. Selenoproteins also play a role in immunity and inflammation, thereby helping to reduce the risk of cancer. Research suggests that selenium’s impact on cell proliferation, programmed cell death and other factors may additionally be involved in its ability to protect against cancer.
“A low selenium level might contribute to worse survival and for women with breast cancer,” the authors concluded. “Future studies in other geographic regions with low soil selenium levels should be done to confirm our findings. If confirmed, a study could be conducted to evaluate the impact of selenium supplementation on survival of breast cancer patients.”
Research shows how a sugary diet early in life could mean memory trouble later
University of Southern California, UCLA & University of Georgia, April 1, 2021
New research shows how drinking sugary beverages early in life may lead to impaired memory in adulthood.
The study, published today in Translational Psychiatry, also is the first to show how a specific change to the gut microbiome — the bacteria and other microorganisms growing in the stomach and intestines — can alter the function of a particular region of the brain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sugar-sweetened beverages are a leading source of added sugars in Americans’ diets. Nearly two-thirds of young people in the United States consume at least one sugary drink each day.
Neuroscientist Scott Kanoski, associate professor of biological sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, has studied the link between diet and brain function for years. His research has shown that consumption of sugary beverages impairs memory function in rats and that those same drinks change the gut microbiome.
In the current study, Kanoski and researchers at UCLA and the University of Georgia, Athens, sought to find out if a direct link exists between changes to the microbiome and memory function.
The scientists gave adolescent rats free access to a sugar-sweetened beverage similar to those that humans drink.
When the rats grew to be adults after about a month, the researchers tested their memories using two different methods. One method tested memory associated with a region of the brain called the hippocampus. The other method tested memory function controlled by a region called the perirhinal cortex.
The researchers found that, compared to rats that drank just water, the rats that consumed high levels of sugary drink had more difficulty with memory that uses the hippocampus. Sugar consumption did not affect memories made by the perirhinal cortex.
“Early life sugar consumption seems to selectively impair their hippocampal learning and memory,” said study lead author Emily Noble, assistant professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences and a former postdoctoral fellow at USC Dornsife.
The scientists then checked the rats’ gut microbiomes and found differences between those that drank the sweet beverage and those that drank water. The sugar drinkers had larger populations of two particular species of gut bacteria: Parabacteroides distasonis and Parabacteroides johnsonii.
The researchers then asked if the Parabacteroides bacteria could, without the help of sugar, affect the rats’ memory function. They transplanted Parabacteroides bacteria that were grown in the lab into the guts of adolescent rats that drank just water. The rats receiving the bacteria showed memory impairment in the hippocampus when they grew to adulthood much the same as the sugar-drinking rats.
The scientists also found that, unlike the sugar-drinking rats, the transplanted rats also showed memory impairment in the perirhinal cortex. This difference provides further evidence that altered brain function associated with diet may actually be rooted in changes to the gut microbiome.
Previous studies have transplanted the entire gut microbiome from one group of animals to another, producing similar changes to brain function. However, this study is among the first to do so with just two specific species.
“It was surprising to us that we were able to essentially replicate the memory impairments associated with sugar consumption not by transferring the whole microbiome, but simply by enriching a single bacterial population in the gut,” said Kanoski, who is a corresponding author on the study.
Finally, the scientists examined the activity of genes in the hippocampus, comparing rats that drank the sugary beverage to those that drank just water and comparing water drinkers to those transplanted with Parabacteroides.
Gene activity did, in fact, change in both the rats that consumed the sugar-sweetened beverages and the rats transplanted with Parabacteroides. The genes that were affected control how nerve cells transmit electrical signals to other nerve cells and how they send molecular signals internally.
The results of this study confirm a direct link, on a molecular level, between the gut microbiome and brain function.
In future studies, Kanoski and the researchers hope to determine if changing habits, such as eating a healthier diet or increasing exercise, can reverse the harm to memory caused by elevated sugar consumption earlier in life.
Exercise, healthy diet in midlife may prevent serious health conditions in senior years
Boston University School of Medicine, March 31, 2021
Following a routine of regular physical activity combined with a diet including fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods may be key to middle-aged adults achieving optimal cardiometabolic health later in life, according to new research using data from the Framingham Heart Study published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.
Cardiometabolic health risk factors include the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of disorders such as excess fat around the waist, insulin resistance and high blood pressure. Presence of the metabolic syndrome may increase the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.
Researchers noted it has been unclear whether adherence to both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and their 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans – as opposed to only one of the two – in midlife confers the most favorable cardiometabolic health outcomes later in life. The physical activity guidelines recommend that adults achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week, such as walking or swimming. The dietary guidelines, which were updated in January 2021, offer suggestions for healthy eating patterns, nutritional targets and dietary limits.
In an analysis of data from participants of the Framingham Heart Study, which began more than 70 years ago in Framingham, Massachusetts, investigators examined data from 2,379 adults ages 18 and older and their adherence to the two guidelines. They observed that meeting a combination of the two recommendations during midlife was associated with lower odds of metabolic syndrome and developing serious health conditions as participants aged in their senior years in 2016-2019 examinations.
“Health care professionals could use these findings to further promote and emphasize to their patients the benefits of a healthy diet and a regular exercise schedule to avoid the development of numerous chronic health conditions in the present and in later life,” said corresponding author Vanessa Xanthakis, Ph.D., FAHA, assistant professor of medicine and biostatistics in the Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine in Boston. “The earlier people make these lifestyle changes, the more likely they will be to lower their risk of cardiovascular-associated diseases later in life.”
Study participants were selected from the third generation of the Framingham Heart Study. Participants (average age 47, 54% women) were examined between 2008 and 2011. Researchers evaluated physical activity using a specialized device known as an omnidirectional accelerometer. The device, which tracks sedentary and physical activity, was worn on the participant’s hip for eight days. Researchers also collected dietary information from food frequency questionnaires to measure the kinds and levels of food and nutrients consumed.
In this investigation, researchers observed that among all participants, 28% met recommendations of both the physical activity and dietary guidelines, while 47% achieved the recommendations in only one of the guidelines. Researchers also observed that:
- participants who followed the physical activity recommendations alone had 51% lower odds of metabolic syndrome;
- participants who adhered to the dietary guidelines alone had 33% lower odds; and
- participants who followed both guidelines had 65% lower odds of developing metabolic syndrome.
“It is noteworthy that we observed a dose-response association of adherence to diet and physical activity guidelines with risk of cardiometabolic disease later in life,” Xanthakis said. “Participants who met the physical activity guidelines had progressively lower risk of cardiometabolic disease as they increased adherence to the dietary guidelines.”
All study participants were white adults, therefore, the findings cannot be generalized to people in other racial or ethnic groups. Additional studies with a multiethnic participant sample are needed, researchers said.
Research involving sulforaphane suggests protective effects against neurological diseases
Seoul National University (South Korea), April 1, 2021
According to news reporting from Seoul, South Korea, research stated, “Sulforaphane, a potent dietary bioactive agent obtainable from cruciferous vegetables, has been extensively studied for its effects in disease prevention and therapy.”
Our news correspondents obtained a quote from the research from Seoul National University: “Sulforaphane potently induces transcription factor nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-mediated expression of detoxification, anti-oxidation, and immune system-modulating enzymes, and possibly acts as an anti-carcinogenic agent. Several clinical trials are in progress to study the effect of diverse types of cruciferous vegetables and sulforaphane on prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, atopic asthmatics, skin aging, dermatitis, obesity, etc. Recently, the protective effects of sulforaphane on brain health were also considerably studied, where the studies have further extended to several neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, autism spectrum disorder, and schizophrenia. Animal and cell studies that employ sulforaphane against memory impairment and AD-related pre-clinical biomarkers on amyloid-b, tau, inflammation, oxidative stress, and neurodegeneration are summarized, and plausible neuroprotective mechanisms of sulforaphane to help prevent AD are discussed. The increase in pre-clinical evidences consistently suggests that sulforaphane has a multi-faceted neuroprotective effect on AD pathophysiology.”
According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “The anti-AD-like evidence of sulforaphane seen in cells and animals indicates the need to pursue sulforaphane research for relevant biomarkers in AD pre-symptomatic populations.”
Curcumin Found To Outperform Pneumococcal Vaccines In Protecting Infants
UCLA, April 1, 2021
Despite no evidence of its effectiveness to prevent disease, public health agencies and the medical community insist that infants and children between the ages of 2 and 12 months require up to four shots of the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV). Now new research finds a substance in turmeric, curcumin, may outperform the vaccine in providing long lasting protection against potentially deadly lung damage in infants.
Pneumococcal bacteria are the most common cause of bacterial infections in children and a frequent cause of infections in adults. Infection starts in the nose or throat where it may persist for weeks or months. Pneumococcal infections are also the most common complication of seasonal influenza.
Researchers at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed), using disease models, found curcumin provided long-term protection against the damage caused by inadequate lung function.
Their study, published online by the American Journal of Physiology, Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, found curcumin provided protection against bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BDP), a condition characterized by scarring and inflammation, and against hyperoxia, in which too much oxygen enters the body through the lungs.
Virender K. Rehan, MD, the LA BioMed lead researcher who authored the study said this was the first study to discover long-term benefits using curcumin to protect lung function in infants. “Curcumin is known to have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, making it a promising therapy,” Dr. Rehan stated.
BDP is considered to be one of the most common chronic lung diseases of infancy in the U.S. and labeled as a pneumococcal clinical risk group to be targeted with up to four doses of the Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine between the ages of 2 and 12 months. The first shot is usually given when the child is 2 months old. The booster shots are then given at 4 months, 6 months, and 12 to 15 months of age. Physicians are also recommending a child who is between the ages of 24 months and 5 years old should receive 1 or 2 additional doses of this vaccine.
Dr. Manjeet Kumar, specialist in pediatric medicine says the finding could revolutionize the pneumococcal vaccine schedules for children before the age of one year. “We know the Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines have been particularly ineffective in the last decade for most children and Dr. Rehan’s study is demonstrating a long-term protective mechanism which is now absent through standard vaccination practices,” he stated.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines claim to prevent diseases caused by seven of the most common types of pneumococcal bacteria, however emerging evidence is showing these claims to be exaggerated. “It appears to be protecting against serious forms of the disease less than 20% of the time, depending on the person,” stated Dr. Kumar. This is a large discrepancy from the 97% effectiveness claimed by health authorities.
Dr. Kumar emphasized the wealth of scientific literature supporting curcuminoids in disease prevention and hopes to see such treatments expanded throughout mainstream medicine. “We have hundreds of scientific studies supporting curcuminoid and curcumin derivatives in preventing disease, with enhanced biological activity and far more stable and bioavailable than current medications and vaccines on the market–it is no surprise they are outperforming pharmaceuticals.”
Curcumin derivatives are currently being synthesized by both pharmaceutical and natural health industries due to their potency and antioxidant activity. Studies suggest that the bioavailability of curcumin and possibly its derivatives is greatest in the lungs and colon protecting from a diversity of cancers.
Dr. Kumar will soon be involved in clinical trials to conduct active surveillance for invasive pneumococcal disease to assess the serotype and antibiotic resistance patterns and provide conclusive evidence on how curcumin derivatives are now outperforming all pneumococcal vaccines and medications to designated risk groups.
One of the most comprehensive summaries of a review of 700 turmeric studies to date was published by the respected ethnobotanist James A. Duke, Phd. He showed that turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic, debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse side effects.
Duke found more than 50 studies on turmeric’s effects in addressing Alzheimer’s disease. The reports indicate that extracts of turmeric contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds, including sixdifferent COX-2-inhibitors (the COX-2 enzyme promotes pain, swelling and inflammation; inhibitors selectively block that enzyme). By itself, writes Duke, curcumin – the component in turmeric most often cited for its healthful effects – is a multifaceted anti-inflammatory agent, and studies of the efficacy of curcumin have demonstrated positive changes in arthritic symptoms.
Duke found more than 200 citations for turmeric and cancer and more than 700 for curcumin and cancer. He noted that in the handbook Phytochemicals: Mechanisms of Action, curcumin and/or turmeric were effective in animal models in prevention and/or treatment of colon cancer, mammary cancer, prostate cancer, murine hepato-carcinogenesis (liver cancer in rats), esophageal cancer, and oral cancer. Duke said that the effectiveness of the herb against these cancers compared favorably with that reported for pharmaceuticals.
Dietary curcumin can stall the spread of fat-tissue by inhibiting new blood vessel growth, called angiogenesis, which is necessary to build fat tissue. Curcumin-treated groups have been found to have less blood vessel growth in fat tissue. Blood glucose, triglyceride, fatty acid, cholesterol and liver fat levels also were lower.
A team of researchers has now demonstrated that slow-wriggling alpha-synuclein proteins are the cause of clumping, or aggregation, which is the first step of diseases such as Parkinson’s. A new study led by Ahmad, which appears in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, shows that curcumin can help prevent clumping.
“Our research shows that curcumin can rescue proteins from aggregation, the first steps of many debilitating diseases,” said Lisa Lapidus, MSU associate professor of physics and astronomy who co-authored the paper with Ahmad. “More specifically, curcumin binds strongly to alpha-synuclein and prevents aggregation at body temperatures.”
When curcumin attaches to alpha-synuclein it not only stops clumping, but it also raises the protein’s folding or reconfiguration rate. By bumping up the speed, curcumin moves the protein out of a dangerous speed zone allowing it to avoid clumping with other proteins.
– Only 1 percent of the elderly in India develop Alzheimer’s disease – this is one-quarter the rate of Alzheimer’s development in North America. This difference is thought to be due in part to regular consumption of curry in India.
– Daily intake of curcumin may decrease the risk of developing polyps in the colon, which in turn, decreases the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
– Regular consumption of turmeric may help to ease pain and inflammation that accompanies arthritis.
– Curcumin may be helpful in the treatment of some cases of cystic fibrosis.
– Curcumin can help to effectively treat skin cancer cells.
– Turmeric may help to prevent the spread of breast cancer cells.
The medicinal properties of turmeric are so significant that the National Institutes of Health is currently conducting clinical trials to determine if turmeric (curcumin) should be a part of conventional treatment recommendations for more than a dozen different diseases.
In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is thought to have many medicinal properties and many in India use it as a readily available antiseptic for cuts, burns and bruises. It is also used as an antibacterial agent.
Accelerated cellular aging associated with mortality seen in depressed individuals
University of California at San Francisco, April 6, 2021
Cells from individuals with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) were found to have higher than expected rates of methylation at specific sites on their DNA, when compared to cells from healthy individuals without MDD, according to a study by a multidisciplinary team of UC San Francisco scientists, in collaboration with others. Methylation is a process by which DNA is chemically modified at specific sites, resulting in changes in the expression of certain genes. Methylation of particular sets of genes, called “DNA methylation clocks,” typically change in predictable ways as people age, but the rate of these changes varies between people. Methylation patterns in individuals with MDD suggested that their cellular age was, on average, accelerated relative to matched healthy controls.
In the study, published April 6, 2021 in Translational Psychiatry, blood samples from individuals with MDD were analyzed for methylation patterns using the ‘GrimAge’ clock – a mathematical algorithm designed to predict an individual’s remaining lifespan based on cellular methylation patterns. Individuals with MDD showed a significantly higher GrimAge score, suggesting increased mortality risk, compared to healthy individuals of the same chronological age – an average of approximately two years on the GrimAge clock.
The individuals with MDD showed no outward signs of age-related pathology, as they and the healthy controls were screened for physical health before entry into the study. The methylation patterns associated with mortality risk persisted even after accounting for lifestyle factors like smoking and BMI. These findings provide new insight into the increased mortality and morbidity associated with the condition, suggesting that there is an underlying biological mechanism accelerating cellular aging in some MDD sufferers.
“This is shifting the way we understand depression, from a purely mental or psychiatric disease, limited to processes in the brain, to a whole-body disease,” said Katerina Protsenko, a medical student at UCSF and lead author of the study. “This should fundamentally alter the way we approach depression and how we think about it – as a part of overall health.”
MDD is one of the most prevalent health concerns globally. According to the World health Organization, some 300 million people (4.4% of the population) suffer from some form of depression. MDD is associated with higher incidence and mortality related to increased rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease among sufferers.
“One of the things that’s remarkable about depression is that sufferers have unexpectedly higher rates of age-related physical illnesses and early mortality, even after accounting for things like suicide and lifestyle habits,” said Owen Wolkowitz, MD, professor of psychiatry and a member of UCSF’s Weill Institute for Neurosciences, co-senior author of the study. “That’s always been a mystery, and that’s what led us to look for signs of aging at the cellular level.”
The researchers collected blood samples from 49 individuals with MDD who were unmedicated prior to the study and 60 healthy control subjects of the same chronological age. They analyzed the methylation rates of both groups using the GrimAge clock. While there are numerous methylation-based longevity algorithms, GrimAge is the only one based specifically on methylation patterns associated with mortality.
The researchers say that they don’t yet know if depression causes altered methylation in certain individuals, or if depression and methylation are both related to another underlying factor. It is possible that some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to produce specific methylation patterns in response to stressors, but this has not been well-studied. Alterations in methylation patterns have previously been observed in individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Moving forward, the researchers hope to determine whether pharmacological treatments or therapy may mitigate some methylation changes related to MDD in hopes of normalizing the cellular aging process in affected individuals before it advances. Although the GrimAge methylation clock has been associated with mortality in other populations, no studies have yet determined whether this methylation pattern also predicts mortality in MDD.
“As we continue our studies, we hope to find out whether addressing the MDD with anti-depressants or other treatments alters the methylation patterns, which would give us some indication that these patterns are dynamic and can be changed,” said Synthia Mellon, PhD, professor in the Department of Ob/Gyn & Reproductive Sciences at UCSF and co-senior author of the study.
N-acetylcysteine may help prevent strokes in genetic disorder known as hereditary cystatin C amyloid angiopathy (HCCAA)
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, March 24, 2021
Researchers from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have discovered that a widely used nutritional supplement may significantly reduce the risk of fatal strokes caused by a rare genetic disorder. Additionally, the findings suggest that the supplement could be used to both block precipitation of and break up the formation of amyloid plaque deposits, a common feature found in serious forms of dementia. The findings were published online today by the journal Nature Communications.
The findings centered around a genetic disorder known as hereditary cystatin C amyloid angiopathy (HCCAA). HCCAA is part of a group of diseases in which amyloid proteins build up and deposits form on the walls of blood vessels in the central nervous system. Most people with the leucine to glutamine variant of hCC (L68Q-hCC) that causes this disorder suffer strokes and brain hemorrhages in their 20s, leading to paralysis, dementia and death as these strokes become more frequent. The amyloid deposits observed in cases of HCCAA are implicated in a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Creutzfeldt-Jacob’s and Huntington’s diseases.
“While this is a rare disease, most patients diagnosed with HCCAA die within five years of their first stroke, so there is an incredible need to study this genetic disorder and find effective treatment options,” said Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Applied Genomics at CHOP and lead author of the study.
Since the formation of amyloid-producing proteins is already implicated in HCCAA and other diseases, researchers have studied whether drugs that reduce the aggregation of these proteins have the potential to reduce the toxic oligomers, or polymers made up of a few different molecules. To properly study this strategy in HCCAA, the research team created cell lines expressing both wild type and L68Q-mutant hCC and then attempted to non-toxically interfere with the aggregation of the amyloid-producing proteins. The researchers also studied a supplement called N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), which is sometimes prescribed to break up mucous in the lung and has also been shown to protect against the toxic liver damage caused by an acetaminophen overdose, to determine whether it had an effect on hCC-amyloid protein deposits in skin biopsies of patients with a known diagnosis of HCCAA.
The researchers found that treating these cell lines with NAC breaks the oligomers into monomers, or molecules that have been separated from the chain that brings them together. This in turn helps to prevent the formation of amyloid-producing proteins that lead to the amyloid deposits implicated in strokes and other impairments. The researchers also performed skin biopsies on six patients with the L68Q-hCC variant taking NAC to determine levels of hCC-amyloid protein deposits following treatment. Five of the six patients saw between a 50% and 90% reduction of L68Q-hCC levels, suggesting that this variant is a clinical target for reducing agents such as NAC. This proof-of-concept study led to a clinical trial to see if these results are observed in a larger patient cohort.
“Amyloids cannot precipitate without aggregating, so if we can prevent that aggregation with a drug that is already available, then we could make an incredible difference in the lives of these patients,” Hakonarson said. “Additionally, since we already have genetic testing available to identify these patients, we could conceivably give this treatment early in life and potentially prevent that first stroke from ever occurring.”