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Luteolin shows promise as treatment for skin aging and inflammation
University of Freiburg (Germany), January 8, 2021
According to news reporting from Freiburg, Germany, research stated, “Luteolin belongs to the group of flavonoids and can be found in flowers, herbs, vegetables and spices. It plays an important role in defending plants, for example against UV radiation by partially absorbing UVA and UVB radiation.”
The news correspondents obtained a quote from the research from the University of Freiburg, “Thus, luteolin can also decrease adverse photobiological effects in the skin by acting as a first line of defense. Furthermore, anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activities of luteolin were described on keratinocytes and fibroblasts as well as on several immune cells (e.g., macrophages, mast cell, neutrophils, dendritic cells and T cells). Luteolin can suppress proinflammatory mediators (e.g., IL-1b, IL-6, IL-8, IL-17, IL-22, TNF-a and COX-2) and regulate various signaling pathway (e.g., the NF-kB, JAK-STAT as well as TLR signaling pathway). In this way, luteolin modulates many inflammatory processes of the skin. The present review summarizes the recent in vitro and in vivo research on luteolin in the field of skin aging and skin cancer, wound healing as well as inflammatory skin diseases, including psoriasis, contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis.”
According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “Luteolin might be a promising molecule for the development of topic formulations and systemic agents against inflammatory skin diseases.”
This research has been peer-reviewed.
Poor gut health connected to severe COVID-19, new review shows
Korea University, January 11, 2021
- Severe cases of COVID-19 often include GI symptoms
- Chronic diseases associated with severe COVID-19 are also associated with altered gut microbiota
- A growing body of evidence suggests poor gut health adversely affects prognosis
- If studies do empirically demonstrate a connection between the gut microbiota and COVID-19 severity, then interventions like probiotics or fecal transplants may help patients
Washington, D.C. – January 12, 2021 – People infected with COVID-19 experience a wide range of symptoms and severities, the most commonly reported including high fevers and respiratory problems. However, autopsy and other studies have also revealed that the infection can affect the liver, kidney, heart, spleen–and even the gastrointestinal tract. A sizeable fraction of patients hospitalized with breathing problems also have diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, suggesting that when the virus does get involved in the GI tract it increases the severity of the disease.
In a review published this week in?mBio,?microbiologist Heenam Stanley Kim, Ph.D, from Korea University’s Laboratory for Human-Microbial Interactions, in Seoul, examined emerging evidence suggesting that poor gut health adversely affects COVID-19 prognosis. Based on his analysis, Kim proposed that gut dysfunction–and its associated leaky gut–may exacerbate the severity of infection by enabling the virus to access the surface of the digestive tract and internal organs. These organs are vulnerable to infection because they have widespread ACE2–a protein target of SARS-CoV-2–on the surface.
“There seems to be a clear connection between the altered gut microbiome and severe COVID-19,” Kim said.
Studies have demonstrated that people with underlying medical conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity face a higher risk of severe COVID-19. Risk also increases with age, with older adults most vulnerable to the most serious complications and likelihood of hospitalization. But both of these factors–advanced age and chronic conditions–have a well-known association with an altered gut microbiota. This imbalance can affect gut barrier integrity, Kim noted, which can allow pathogens and pathobionts easier access to cells in the intestinal lining.
So far, the link between gut health and COVID-19 prognosis hasn’t been empirically demonstrated, Kim noted. Some researchers have argued, he said, that unhealthy gut microbiomes may be an underlying reason for why some people have such severe infections.
What studies have been done hint at a complicated relationship. A study on symptomatic COVID-19 patients in Singapore, for example, found that about half had a detectable level of the coronavirus in fecal tests–but only about half of those experienced GI symptoms. That study suggests that even if SARS-CoV-2 reaches the GI tract, it may not cause problems. Kim also noted that a person’s gut health at the time of infection may be critical for symptom development.
Many recent studies have found reduced bacterial diversity in gut samples collected from COVID-19 patients, compared to samples from healthy people. The disease has also been linked to a depletion of beneficial bacterial species – and the enrichment of pathogenic ones. A similar imbalance has been associated with influenza A infection, though the 2 viruses differ in how they change the overall microbial composition.
The depleted bacterial species associated with COVID-19 infection include some families that are responsible for producing butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid, which plays a pivotal role in gut health by reinforcing gut-barrier function.
Kim said he started analyzing the studies after realizing that wealthy countries with a good medical infrastructure–including the United States and nations in Western Europe–were among the hardest hit by the virus. The “western diet” that’s common in these countries is low in fiber, and “a fiber-deficient diet is one of the main causes of altered gut microbiomes,” he said, “and such gut microbiome dysbiosis leads to chronic diseases.”
The pathogenesis of COVID-19 is still not fully understood. If future studies do show that gut health affects COVID-19 prognosis, Kim argued, then clinicians and researchers should exploit that connection for better strategies aimed at preventing and managing the disease. Eating more fiber, he said, may lower a person’s risk of serious disease. And fecal microbiota transplantation might be a treatment worth considering for patients with the worst cases of COVID-19.
The problem with gut health goes beyond COVID-19, though, he said. Once the pandemic passes, the world will still have to reckon with chronic diseases and other problems associated with poor gut health.
“The whole world is suffering from this COVID-19 pandemic,” Kim said, “but what people do not realize is that the pandemic of damaged gut microbiomes is far more serious now.”
Coffee Boosts Survival in Colorectal Cancer Patients
Dana Farber Cancer Institute, January 12th 2021
Does coffee help you get through the day? If so, you may be poised to live a longer, healthier life thanks to these truly magical beans
Coffee, one of the world’s most popular beverages, is a panacea of potential health benefits. Loaded with antioxidants, coffee has been shown to imbue anti-inflammatoryproperties and disease protection when consumed in moderation.[i] But you don’t have to stop at just one cup. Thanks to a recent study, coffee’s known benefits have been given a ringing endorsement — benefits that may increase with each cup you drink.
Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute published a large observational study[ii]nested within a clinical trial of novel drug treatments for patients with colorectal cancer. The study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, analyzed dietary patterns and long-term health outcomes for a cohort of patients who had completed phase 3 of the randomized clinical trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.
Coffee Gets a Boost From Science
Data were collected from more than 1,500 patients being treated for advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer. Dietary intake and lifestyle questionnaires were obtained during and post-treatment, then correlated and analyzed for patterns over time.
Specific analysis of coffee intake was included, with participants being excluded from the coffee cohort for aberrant caloric intake (<600 or >4200 kcal for men; <500 or >3500 kcal for women) and if cancer had worsened or death had occurred within 90 days of enrollment. Final data analysis was performed on information from 1,171 patients.
The study results provide a real boost for coffee drinkers. Patients who reported drinking two to three cups of coffee a day were likely to live longer overall and had a longer time before their disease worsened compared to those who didn’t drink coffee. In good news for the caffeine-sensitive, the anticancer benefits were observed in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee drinkers.
These results confirmed the findings of prior studies on coffee’s effects on cancer[iii] and add scientific weight to coffee’s growing reputation as a disease-fighting superfood. But can more of a good thing be too much?
Another Cup of Coffee? Just Say Yes
Despite such promising research findings, many believe that drinking multiple cups of coffee each day can lead to ill health. For individuals with caffeine sensitivities, moderation should be exercised. That being said, for the colorectal cancer patients enrolled in this study, the benefits increased the more coffee they consumed.
The impressive life-extending and cancer-delaying benefits were observed at two to three cups daily, however the greatest measure of benefit was observed in patients who consumed four or more cups each day.[iv]
Researchers posit that these benefits may be related to coffee’s ability to decrease blood insulin levels by sensitizing tissues to the effects of insulin, or to coffee’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiangiogenic (tumor-inhibiting) effects.[v]
Coffee’s Impressive Anticancer Effects
While this study highlights the association between daily coffee consumption and improved outcomes in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, the authors point out that association does not equal causation and further study is needed to determine if there is a causal relationship.
According to senior author, Dr. Kimmie Ng, “Although it is premature to recommend a high intake of coffee as a potential treatment for colorectal cancer, our study suggests that drinking coffee is not harmful and may potentially be beneficial.”[vi]
In metastatic forms of cancer, cancer cells break away from the original tumor site and migrate, via the blood or lymphatic system, to form new tumors in other parts of the body.[vii] Since coffee’s anticancer effects have been demonstrated on a variety of different cancers, including colorectal, liver, breast, head and neck cancers,[viii] its potential as an anticancer treatment is attracting attention from researchers.
A meta-analysis examining coffee consumption and colorectal cancer risk detected a significant protective effect from coffee in seven U.S. studies.[ix] But the health benefits of coffee don’t stop there; it may offer a veil of protection for both body and mind.
Drink Coffee for Disease Prevention and Longer Life
Coffee consumption was the focus of a meta-analysis of the PubMed and Web of Science research databases through March 2019 reviewing 40 studies involving nearly 4 million individuals. Researchers found that intakes of around 3.5 cups of coffee per day lowered the risk of all-cause mortality, results that were irrespective of age, weight, alcohol consumption, smoking status and caffeine content of the coffee.[x]
Another impressive benefit of coffee involves its ability to stabilize the body’s insulin response. In a meta-analysis published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care journal, which included 28 studies involving more than 1.1 million people, coffee consumption was shown to be inversely associated with the risk of Type 2 diabetes, another effect that was dose-dependent and applied to both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee types.[xi]
Coffee: Good for Energy and Mood
While the energy-boosting effects of coffee are legendary, did you know that coffee can also improve your mood? A 2011 study showed that coffee can stimulate the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with enhanced mood effects, in the brain.[xii]
Don’t like the taste of coffee? Not to worry — there are other ways to infuse your body with coffee’s mood-enhancing properties. In a randomized clinical trial published in the peer-reviewed journal, Advances in Mind Body Medicine, patients seeking mood support for moderate depression were administered coffee enemas as part of a detoxification strategy aimed at enhancing mood and reducing protracted withdrawal symptoms from psychotropic medication tapering.
At the end of the 44-day lifestyle-modification program, patients reported a 50% reduction in symptoms, with coffee enemas being credited for alleviating acute withdrawal symptoms by helping to synthesize glutathione, a potent antioxidant that plays a critical role in cellular detoxification functions.
Low fitness linked to higher psoriasis risk later in life
University of Gothenburg (Sweden), January 14, 2021
In a major register-based study, scientists at University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have now demonstrated a connection between inferior physical fitness in young adults and elevated risk of the autoimmune disease psoriasis. For the male recruits to compulsory military training who were rated as the least fit, the risk of developing psoriasis later was 35 percent higher than for the fittest.
The study was based on data on more than 1.2 million men conscripted, aged 18, into the Swedish Armed Forces between the years 1968 and 2005. During the enrollment process, all these young men underwent the same fitness test on an exercise bicycle. The researchers divided the data, according to how fit the men were, into three levels (low, medium, and high fitness). They then merged the data with other registers, using Sweden’s National Patient Register to obtain diagnostic codes for psoriasis and the joint disease psoriatic arthritis. The men who had already received one of these diagnoses before conscription were excluded from the study.
Later in life, between the ages of 37 and 51, just over 23,000 of the conscripts developed psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. In the low-fitness group, 2.5 percent developed one or both of these diseases, while only 1.7 percent in the high-fitness group did so. In calculating this risk differential, the scientists adjusted for other risk factors, such as body mass index (BMI).
Association not causal
Thus, the less fit the men were when they were recruited, the higher the proportion of them who later fell ill with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. In the low-fitness group, the risk of developing psoriasis was 35 percent higher, and that of developing psoriatic arthritis 44 percent higher, than in the high-fitness group.
“We show that there’s an association between lower fitness and raised risk of developing psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, but we don’t show a causal connection. So we can’t say that these health conditions can be prevented by exercising,” says the study’s first author Marta Laskowski, a doctoral student in dermatology at the University of Gothenburg and resident physician (specialist trainee) at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
Group in need of monitoring
The group of men who were least fit was also the smallest: just under 48,000 or 3.9 percent of all the conscripts in the study. This is a group that healthcare services should try to monitor regularly.
“Low fitness was already known to boost the risk of incurring cardiovascular disease, and psoriasis as such is linked to raised cardiovascular disease risk, too. The results from our study confirm the reasons for assessing people’s fitness early in life, to identify individuals at a higher risk for adverse health outcomes later in life,” Laskowski says.
Previous research has indicated that, in general, people with psoriasis are less fit than those without it who engage in an equal amount of physical activity. However, the reasons for this difference have not been fully clarified.
“One weakness of our study is that we weren’t been able to monitor the trends of the men’s fitness during the intervening years, between their conscription and the disease onset. We’re also lacking data on smoking, which is a known risk factor for psoriasis,” Laskowski explains.
Scaly skin patches
Some 300,000 Swedes have psoriasis in a mild, moderate, or severe form. It is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disease that affects women as often as men. What triggers its onset is not entirely clear, but heredity is known to play a large part in combination with external factors. The most common type, plaque psoriasis, causes reddened, flaking, and itchy skin lesions (plaques).
Psoriasis sufferers also often have other diseases. Some 30 percent get the inflammatory joint condition known as psoriatic arthritis. Examples of other known comorbidities are obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression.
In recent years, treatment options have substantially improved. Today, besides ointments with local effects, there are drugs that have systemic effects. Recent years have also seen the emergence of efficacious biological agents that modulate the signaling cascade in the inflammatory process that drives psoriasis.
Older, fitter adults experience greater brain activity while learning
Boston University Medical Center, January 13, 2021
Older adults who experience good cardiac fitness may be also keeping their brains in good shape as well.
In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, older adults who scored high on cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) tests performed better on memory tasks than those who had low CRF. Further, the more fit older adults were, the more active their brain was during learning. These findings appear in the journal Cortex. Difficulty remembering new information represents one of the most common complaints in aging and decreased memory performance is one of the hallmark impairments in Alzheimer’s disease.
Healthy young (18-31 years) and older adults (55-74 years) with a wide range of fitness levels walked and jogged on a treadmill while researchers assessed their cardiorespiratory fitness by measuring the ratio of inhaled and exhaled oxygen and carbon dioxide. These participants also underwent MRI scans which collected images of their brain while they learned and remembered names that were associated with pictures of unfamiliar faces.
The researchers found that older adults, when compared to younger adults, had more difficulty learning and remembering the correct name that was associated with each face. Age differences in brain activation were observed during the learning of the face-name pairs, with older adults showing decreased brain activation in some regions and increased brain activation in others. However, the degree to which older adults demonstrated these age-related changes in memory performance and brain activity largely depended on their fitness level. In particular, high fit older adults showed better memory performance and increased brain activity patterns compared to their low fit peers. The increased brain activation in the high fit older adults was observed in brain regions that show typical age-related decline, suggesting fitness may contribute to brain maintenance. Higher fit older adults also had greater activation than young adults in some brain regions, suggesting that fitness may also serve a compensatory role in age-related memory and brain decline.
According to the researchers this study highlights that CRF is not only important for physical health, but is also associated with brain function and memory performance. “Importantly, CRF is a modifiable health factor that can be improved through regular engagement in moderate to vigorous sustained physical activity such as walking, jogging, swimming, or dancing. Therefore, starting an exercise program, regardless of one’s age, can not only contribute to the more obvious physical health factors, but may also contribute to memory performance and brain function,” explained corresponding author Scott Hayes, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and the Associate Director of the Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center at the VA Boston Healthcare System.
The researchers caution that maintaining high levels of fitness through physical activity will not entirely eliminate or cure age- or Alzheimer’s disease related decline, but it may slow down the decline. Future studies following individuals’ fitness and physical activity levels, memory, and brain function over the course of years would more directly address this issue.
Workaholism leads to mental and physical health problems
National Research University (Russia), January 13, 2021
Workaholism or work addiction risk is a growing public health concern that can lead to many negative mental and physical health outcomes such as depression, anxiety or sleep disorder. Perception of work (job demands and job control) may become a major cause of employees’ work addiction. The international group of researchers including the HSE University scientist explored the link between work addiction risk and health-related outcomes using the framework of Job Demand Control Model. The results were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Workaholics are people who usually work seven and more hours more than others per week. There are potential reasons for that: financial problems, poor marriage or pressure by their organization or supervisor. What can differentiate a workaholic behaviour from similar behaviour like work engagement? Workaholism is also known as a behavioural disorder, which means the excessive involvement of the individual in work when an employer doesn’t require or expect it.
The scientists aimed to demonstrate the extent to which the work addiction risk is associated with the perception of work (job demands and job control), and mental health in four job categories suggested by Karasek’s model or Job Demand-Control-Support model (JDCS). The JDCS model assumes four various work environments (four quadrants) in which workers may experience a different level of job demands and job control: passive, low-strain, active, and tense/job-strain. Job control is the extent to which an employee feels control over doing work.
“Passive” jobs (low job control, low job demands) might be satisfying to a worker as long as the workers reach the set goal. “Low strain” jobs have high job control and low job demands. Individuals in this category are not particularly at risk of mental health problems, and it corresponds typically to creative jobs such as architects. “Active” workers have high job demands and high job control. They are highly skilled professionals with responsibilities, such as heads or directors of companies. Those highly skilled workers have very demanding tasks but they have high levels of decision latitude to solve problems. Finally, workers at risk of stress-related disorders are those within the “job strain” group (high demand and low control). For example, healthcare workers from emergency departments are typically in job strain because they cannot control the huge workload.
The study was conducted in France because it is one of the industrial countries with growing numbers of occupations. The authors of the research collected data from 187 out of 1580 (11.8%) French workers who agreed to participate in a cross-sectional study using the WittyFit software online platform. The self-administered questionnaires were the Job Content Questionnaire by Karasek, the Work Addiction Risk Test, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale and socio-demographics. The authors of this study divided all the participants based on their occupational groups and investigated the link between work addiction risk and mental and physical health outcomes.
‘One of the novelties of this research was to introduce vulnerable occupational groups to organizations or job holders. For example, if we find that work addiction risk can be found more in some occupations and may result in negative outcomes for the health situation then we can give this information to decision makers in this organization or, for example, to the ministry of health. And they could intervene to prevent this problem,’ explains Morteza Charkhabi, Associate Professor at the Institute of Education at the HSE University.
The results show that high job demands at work are strongly associated with work addiction risk but the job control level does not play the same role. The prevalence of work addiction risk is higher for active and high-strain workers than for passive and low-strain workers. These two groups of workers appeared to be more vulnerable and therefore can suffer more from the negative outcomes of work addiction risk, in terms of depression, sleep disorder, stress and other health issues.
‘We found that job demands could be the most important factor that can develop work addiction risk. So this factor should be controlled or should be investigated by the organization’s manager, for example, HR staff, psychologists. Also another conclusion could be the job climate like job demands of each job category can influence the rate of work addiction risk. Thus in this study we actually focused on external factors like job demands not internal factors like the personal characteristics,’ adds Morteza Charkhabi.
The researchers found that people with higher work addiction risk compared to people with low work addiction risk have twice the risk of developing depression. Sleep quality was lower to workers with high risk of work addiction compared to workers with low risk of work addiction. Also women had almost twice the work addiction risk than men.
Study reveals: Men should eat walnuts to prevent prostate cancer
University of California at Davis, January 11, 2021
This is according to researchers from the University of California, Davis, who found that walnuts, aside from helping to reduce excess cholesterol and increasing insulin sensitivity, are also capable of reducing the levels of a protein associated with prostate cancer.
According to nutritionist Paul Davis, who acted as the study’s lead researcher, their findings provide additional evidence that walnuts, despite being high in fats, are actually a great addition to a healthy diet.
As detailed in their study, Davis’ team fed mice — all of which were genetically predisposed to develop prostate cancer — with whole walnuts or walnut oil for 18 weeks. Compared with those that ate the same diet but without walnuts, the walnut-fed mice developed much smaller and slower-growing prostate tumors. The researchers also found that the walnut-rich diet helped reduce prostate cancer growth by 30 to 40 percent.
This, Davis and his team noted, could be linked to the lower levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), a protein strongly associated with prostate cancer, that they observed in the walnut-fed mice.
Compounds in walnuts affect the expression of prostate cancer-related genes
Aside from determining the effects of a walnut-rich diet on prostate tumor growth, the researchers’ experiment on mice was also designed to identify which components of walnuts are responsible for their anti-tumor properties. Walnuts are known to be rich in essential nutrients, such as zinc, magnesium and selenium. They are also an excellent source of fiber and essential fats like omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their heart and brain benefits, among others.
To find out if these healthy components, particularly omega-3s, contribute to walnuts’ anti-tumor effects, the researchers used soybean oil as a control. Soybean oil has a similar fatty acid profile to walnuts. The researchers found that while walnuts and walnut oil reduced cholesterol and slowed prostate cancer growth in mice, soybean oil did not. This confirmed their suspicion that other walnut components or a combination of these nutrients are responsible for the improvements, not just omega-3s.
On the other hand, the researchers found that walnuts can influence the expression of genes involved in tumor growth and metabolism. “The energy effects from decreasing IGF-1 seem to muck up the works so the cancer can’t grow as fast as it normally would,” Davis explained. “Also, reducing cholesterol means cancer cells may not get enough of it to allow these cells to grow quickly.”
Besides the expression of IGF-1, Davis and his team discovered that some components of walnuts also affected the activities of proteins like adiponectin, the tumor suppressor PSP94 and COX-2, all of which are markers for reduced prostate cancer risk. However, they were not able to pinpoint which compounds in walnuts were involved in slowing prostate cancer growth.
A similar study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio arrived at the same conclusion, with the researchers noting that eating a modest amount of walnuts can help protect men against prostate cancer. These findings are especially important, given the fact that prostate cancer affects one in six American men, making it the most common cancer among men.
According to experts, environmental factors such as diet play an important role in the development of prostate cancer. While it is true that nuts are great foods to add to a healthy diet, they differ in the nutrients and plant compounds that they provide. Walnuts, for instance, contain ellagitannins, melatonin and gamma-tocopherol, all of which are known for their ability to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation and the expression of genes linked to chronic illnesses like cancer.
Can a mother’s stress impact children’s disease development?
University of Cincinnati, January 19, 2021
Stress on an expectant mother could affect her baby’s chance of developing disease – perhaps even over the course of the child’s life, UC researchers have found.
Psychosocial factors creating stress — such as lack of social support, loneliness, marriage status or bereavement — may be mutating their child’s mitochondrial DNA and could be a precursor to a host of diseases, according to a University of Cincinnati study.
“There are a lot of conditions that start in childhood that have ties to mitochondrial dysfunction including asthma, obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism,” says Kelly Brunst, PhD, assistant professor of environmental and public health sciences in the UC College of Medicine and lead author of the study.
“The fetal and infant period is a vulnerable time for environmental exposure due to heightened development during these periods,” says Brunst. “We don’t just wake up one day and have asthma or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The programming effects resulting from environmentally induced shifts occur over time and likely start during gestation at the molecular and cellular level. These shifts alter physiological states that likely play a role in who is going to go on and develop adverse health outcomes.”
As part of the study, researchers sequenced the mitochondrial genome and identified mutations in 365 placenta samples from birth mothers in Boston and New York City from 2013-18. A multivariable regression model was used to look at maternal lifetime stress in relation to the number of gene mutations in the placenta mitochondrial genome.
Women experiencing increased psychosocial stress — that can range from sexual assault, domestic violence or serious injury to incarceration, physical or mental illness and family hardship — over their lifetime exhibited a higher number of placental mitochondrial mutations. The strongest associations were observed among Black women. Higher stress-related DNA mutations in the placenta were seen in Black and white women, but not in Hispanic women.
The study’s findings were published in the scholarly journal Biological Psychiatry.
“The idea behind this work is about understanding how our environment, in this case maternal stress and trauma, impact mitochondrial function and ultimately neurobehavioral development,” says Brunst. “The hope is to gain insight as to why certain children are vulnerable to developing a range of complex conditions previously linked to environmental exposures such as chronic stress or air pollution.”
“We ask about events that might have occurred prior to their pregnancy even during the mother’s own childhood as part of our study,” says Brunst. “So what this is telling us is that the stress that a woman has experienced even before she is pregnant might have an impact on the fetal mitochondrial genome.”
Brunst said there are some diseases for which Black women are more at risk — obesity, diabetes and certain cancers — so they might be more affected by stress and subsequently develop these diseases which have also been linked to stress.”
“What was interesting about the study was that Hispanics exposed to stress had fewer placental mitochondrial DNA mutations,” says Brunst.
She says one explanation could be what researchers call the “Hispanic paradox.” It is the epidemiological phenomenon documenting better health and lower mortality relative to non-Hispanic whites despite greater risk and lower socioeconomic status for Hispanics.”
“Despite exposure to more stress and trauma, sociocultural dynamics specific to Hispanics may attenuate experiences of stress which in turn has downstream effects on psychophysiological mechanisms and better outcomes,” says Brunst. “This is just one possible explanation.”
Meta-analysis finds association between greater omega-3 fatty acid consumption and lower risk of venous thromboembolism
Central South University (China), January 6, 2021
According to news originating from Changsha, People’s Republic of China, research stated, “This study aims to investigate the effect of fish and omega-3 fatty acids consumption on the risk of VTE.”
Our news reporters obtained a quote from the research from Central South University: “A comprehensive literature search in the databases of PubMed, Web of Science, and Embase (up to September 2020), was conducted to identify the prospective cohort studies concerning the associations of fish and omega-3 fatty acids consumption with the risk of VTE. The pooled relative risk (RR) of VTE for the highest vs. lowest category of fish and omega-3 fatty acids consumption, as well as their corresponding 95% confidence interval (CI) were calculated. A total of seven articles with eight prospective cohort studies were included. Specifically, six studies were related to fish consumption, and the overall multi-variable adjusted RR showed no significant relationship between fish consumption and the risk of VTE (RR = 1.02, 95% CI: 0.93-1.11; P = 0.709). In the four studies related to omega-3 fatty acids consumption, the overall multi-variable adjusted RR suggested that omega-3 fatty acids consumption was associated with a lower risk of VTE (RR = 0.89, 95% CI: 0.80-0.98; P = 0.024). Moreover, two studies were related to recurrent VTE, and the overall multi-variable adjusted RR demonstrated a significant inverse association between omega-3 fatty acids consumption and the risk of recurrent VTE (RR = 0.45, 95% CI: 0.25-0.81; P = 0.008).”
According to the news editors, the research concluded: “Although current evidence is still insufficient to demonstrate any relationship between fish consumption and the risk of VTE, omega-3 fatty acids consumption seems to be associated with a lower risk of both VTE and recurrent VTE. Further large well-designed prospective cohort studies are warranted to elaborate the issues examined in this study.”
Landmark human study is first to reveal strong links between gut microbes, diet and health
Researchers identified microbes that positively or negatively correlate with an individual’s risk of certain serious conditions, including diabetes and heart disease
University of Trento (Italy), Harvard University, Kings College London, January 11, 2021
Diets rich in certain plant-based foods are linked with the presence of gut microbes that are associated with a lower risk of developing conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to recent results from a large-scale international study that included researchers from King’s College London, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the University of Trento, Italy, and health science start-up company ZOE.
- The largest and most detailed study of its kind uncovered strong links between a person’s diet, the microbes in their gut (microbiome) and their health.
- International study uses metagenomics and blood chemical profiling to uncover a panel of 15 gut microbes associated with lower risks (and 15 with higher risks) for common illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
- Some of the identified microbes are so novel that they have not yet been named.
- These findings could be used to provide personalized dietary advice for better health, based on gut microbiome testing.
The PREDICT 1 study analyzed detailed data on the composition of participants’ gut microbiomes, their dietary habits, and cardiometabolic blood biomarkers. The researchers found evidence that the microbiome is linked with specific foods and diets, and that, in turn, certain microbes in the gut are linked to biomarkers of metabolic disease. Surprisingly, the microbiome has a greater association to these markers than other factors, such as genetics. Their report, authored by Dr. Francesco Asnicar (University of Trento) and Dr. Sarah Berry (King’s College London) and coordinated by Tim Spector (King’s College London) and Nicola Segata (University of Trento), appears in Nature Medicine.
Dr. Sarah Berry, Reader in Nutrition Sciences at King’s College London said, “As a nutritional scientist, finding novel microbes that are linked to specific foods, as well as metabolic health, is exciting. Given the highly personalised composition of each individuals’ microbiome, our research suggests that we may be able to modify our gut microbiome to optimize our health by choosing the best foods for our unique biology.”
For example, the findings reveal that having a microbiome rich in Prevotella copri and Blastocystis species was associated with maintaining a favorable blood sugar level after a meal. Other species were linked to lower post-meal levels of blood fats and markers of inflammation.
Professor Tim Spector, Epidemiologist from King’s College London, who started the PREDICT study program and is scientific founder of ZOE explains, “When you eat, you’re not just nourishing your body, you’re feeding the trillions of microbes that live inside your gut.”
Researchers also discovered that the makeup of subjects’ gut microbiome was strongly associated with specific nutrients, foods, food groups and overall diet composition. The researchers found robust microbiome-based biomarkers of obesity, as well as markers for cardiovascular disease and impaired glucose tolerance, which are key risk factors for COVID. These findings can be used to help create personalized eating plans designed specifically to improve one’s health.
“I am very excited that we have been able to translate this cutting edge science into an at-home test in the time it has taken for the research to be peer reviewed and published,” says Spector. “Through ZOE, we can now offer the public an opportunity to discover which of these microbes they have living in their gut. After taking ZOE’s at-home test, participants will receive personalized recommendations for what to eat, based on comparing their results with the thousands of participants in the PREDICT studies. By using machine learning, we can then share with you our calculations of how your body will respond to any food, in real-time through an app.”
The researchers found in subjects who ate a diet rich in healthy, plant-based foods were more likely to have high levels of ‘good’ gut microbes. Conversely, diets containing more highly processed plant-based foods were more likely to be associated with the ‘bad’ gut microbes.
“We were surprised to see such large, clear groups of what we informally call ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microbes emerging from our analysis,” affirmed Nicola Segata, PhD, professor and principal investigator of the Computational Metagenomics Lab at the University of Trento, Italy and leader of the microbiome analysis in the study. “It is also exciting to see that microbiologists know so little about many of these microbes that they are not even named yet. This is now a big area of focus for us, as we believe they may open new insights in the future into how we could use the gut microbiome as a modifiable target to improve human metabolism and health.”
PREDICT 1 was an international collaboration to study links between diet, the microbiome, and biomarkers of cardiometabolic health. The researchers gathered microbiome sequence data, detailed long-term dietary information, and results of hundreds of cardiometabolic blood markers from just over 1,100 participants in the U.K. and the U.S. PREDICT 2 completed its primary investigations in 2020 with a further 1,000 U.S participants, and PREDICT 3 launched a few months ago.
Mindfulness can improve mental health and wellbeing—but unlikely to work for everyone
Cambridge University (UK), January 18, 2021
Mindfulness courses can reduce anxiety, depression and stress and increase mental wellbeing within most but not all non-clinical settings, say a team of researchers at the University of Cambridge. They also found that mindfulness may be no better than other practices aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing.
Mindfulness is typically defined as ‘the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment’. It has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way of increasing wellbeing and reducing stress levels.
In the UK, the National Health Service offers therapies based on mindfulness to help treat mental health issues such as depression and suicidal thoughts. However, the majority of people who practice mindfulness learn their skills in community settings such as universities, workplaces, or private courses. Mindfulness-based programmes are frequently promoted as the go-to universal tool to reduce stress and increase wellbeing, accessible to anyone, anywhere.
Many randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have been conducted around the world to assess whether in-person mindfulness training can improve mental health and wellbeing, but the results are often varied. In a report published today in PLOS Medicine, a team of researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge led a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the published data from the RCTs. This approach allows them to bring together existing—and often contradictory or under-powered—studies to provide more robust conclusions.
The team identified 136 RCTs on mindfulness training for mental health promotion in community settings. These trials included 11,605 participants aged 18 to 73 years from 29 countries, more than three-quarters (77%) of whom were women.
The researchers found that in most community settings, compared with doing nothing, mindfulness reduces anxiety, depression and stress, and increases wellbeing. However, the data suggested that in more than one in 20 trials settings, mindfulness-based programmes may not improve anxiety and depression.
Dr. Julieta Galante from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, the report’s first author, said: “For the average person and setting, practising mindfulness appears to be better than doing nothing for improving our mental health, particularly when it comes to depression, anxiety and psychological distress—but we shouldn’t assume that it works for everyone, everywhere.
“Mindfulness training in the community needs to be implemented with care. Community mindfulness courses should be just one option among others, and the range of effects should be researched as courses are implemented in new settings. The courses that work best may be those aimed at people who are most stressed or in stressful situations, for example health workers, as they appear to see the biggest benefit.”
The researchers caution that RCTs in this field tended to be of poor quality, so the combined results may not represent the true effects. For example, many participants stopped attending mindfulness courses and were not asked why, so they are not represented in the results. When the researchers repeated the analyses including only the higher quality studies, mindfulness only showed effects on stress, not on wellbeing, depression or anxiety.
When compared against other ‘feel good’ practices such as exercise, mindfulness fared neither better nor worse. Professor Peter Jones, also from Cambridge’s Department of Psychiatry, and senior author, said: “While mindfulness is often better than taking no action, we found that there may be other effective ways of improving our mental health and wellbeing, such as exercise. In many cases, these may prove to be more suitable alternatives if they are more effective, culturally more acceptable or are more feasible or cost effective to implement. The good news is that there are now more options.”
The researchers say that the variability in the success of different mindfulness-based programmes identified among the RCTs may be down to a number of reasons, including how, where and by whom they are implemented as well as at whom they are targeted. The techniques and frameworks taught in mindfulness have rich and diverse backgrounds, from early Buddhist psychology and meditation through to cognitive neuroscience and participatory medicine—the interplay between all of these different factors can be expected to influence how effective a programme is.
The number of online mindfulness courses has increased rapidly, accelerated further by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this review has not looked at online courses, studies suggest that these may be as effective as their offline counterparts, despite most lacking interactions with teacher and peers.
Dr. Galante added: “If the effects of online mindfulness courses vary as widely according to the setting as their offline counterparts, then the lack of human support they offer could cause potential problems. We need more research before we can be confident about their effectiveness and safety.”
Compound from chicory reveals possible treatment strategy for neurodegenerative disorders
Northwest A&F University (China), January 10, 2021
In a new research report published online in The FASEB Journal, scientists used mice to show that chicoric acid, a component of chicory, may help reduce memory impairment associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly other neurodegenerative diseases.
“Chicoric acid, a nutraceutical component of chicory, also exists extensively in Echinacea purpurea, lettuce, dandelion, and other edible plants and vegetables,” said Xuebo Liu, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work at the College of Food Science and Engineering, Northwest A&F University, in Yangling, China. “Chicoric acid mitigated lipopolysaccharide-induced amyloidogenesis and memory impairment via inhibiting NFκB signal pathway, suggesting that chicoric acid supplementation might be a plausible therapeutic intervention for neuroinflammation-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.”
To reach their conclusions, Liu and colleagues used three groups of mice: a control group, a group that received lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and another group that received both LPS and chicoric acid (CA). Learning and memory capabilities were evaluated using two separate behavioral tests (Y-maze and Morris water maze) four hours after LPS injection. They found that the LPS-treated mice took a longer time to find the platform compared to the control group, whereas supplementation with CA significantly decreased the escape latency. Next, the hidden platform was removed to perform a probe trial. Compared with the control group, the mice stimulated by LPS swam across the entire pool and spent less time in the target quadrant, with a lower number of platform crossings. The mice treated with CA plus LPS exhibited a significant increase in the average time spent in the target quadrant, with more crossings of the platform.
“These are provocative findings, but with the caveat that the LPS regime is not likely a model of long-term memory impairment,” said Thoru Pederson, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “But the possibility remains that chicoric acid could prove to be a beneficial human nutraceutical for overall memory acuity.”
Including unhealthy foods may diminish positive effects of an otherwise healthy diet
Rush University Medical Center, January 11, 2021
Eating a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has a positive impact on health, but little is known about the effects of including unhealthy foods in an otherwise healthy diet. Now researchers at Rush University Medical Center have reported diminished benefits of a Mediterranean diet among those with high frequency of eating unhealthy foods. The results of their study were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association on Jan. 7.
“Eating a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, fish and whole grains may positively affects a person’s health,” said Puja Agarwal, Ph.D., a nutritional epidemiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush Medical College. “But when it is combined with fried food, sweets, refined grains, red meat and processed meat, we observed that the benefits of eating the Mediterranean part of the diet seems to be diminished.”
A Mediterranean diet is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in older adults.
The observational study included 5,001 older adults living in Chicago who were part of the Chicago Health and Aging Project, an evaluation of cognitive health in adults over the age of 65 conducted from 1993 to 2012. Every three years, the study participants completed a cognitive assessment questionnaire that tested basic information processing skills and memory, and they filled out a questionnaire about the frequency with which they consumed 144 food items.
The researchers analyzed how closely each of the study participants adhered to a Mediterranean diet, which includes daily consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, fish, potatoes and unrefined cereals, plus moderate wine consumption. They also assessed how much each participant followed a Western diet, which included fried foods, refined grains, sweets, red and processed meats, full-fat dairy products and pizza. They assigned scores of zero to five for each food item to compile a total Mediterranean diet score for each participant along a range from zero to 55.
The researchers then examined the association between Mediterranean diet scores and changes in participants’ global cognitive function, episodic memory and perceptual speed. Participants with slower cognitive decline over the years of follow-up were those who adhered closest to the Mediterranean diet, along with limiting foods that are part of Western diet, whereas participants who ate more of the Western diet had no beneficial effect of healthy food components in slowing cognitive decline.
There was no significant interaction between age, sex, race or education and the association with cognitive decline in either high or low levels of Western diet foods. The study also included models for smoking status, body mass index and other potential variables such as cardiovascular conditions and findings remained the same.
“Western diets may adversely affect cognitive health,” Agarwal said. “Individuals who had a high Mediterranean diet score compared to those who had the lowest score were equivalent to being 5.8 years younger in age cognitively.”
Agarwal said that the results complement other studies showing that a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes and also support previous studies on Mediterranean diet and cognition. The study also notes that most of the dietary patterns that have shown improvement in cognitive function among older adults, including the Mediterranean, MIND, and DASH diets, have a unique scoring matrix based on the amount of servings consumed for each diet component.
“The more we can incorporate green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries, olive oil, and fish into our diets, the better it is for our aging brains and bodies. Other studies show that red and processed meat, fried food and low whole grains intake are associated with higher inflammation and faster cognitive decline in older ages,” Agarwal said. “To benefit from diets such as the Mediterranean diet, or MIND diet, we would have to limit our consumption of processed foods and other unhealthy foods such as fried foods and sweets.”
The study and its findings cannot be readily generalized. Future longitudinal studies on diet and cognition among the middle-aged population are needed to extend these findings.