October 6, 2008
Table of Contents
- Lifestyle Factors and
Telomerase (Enzyme study)
- Let's Get Classical
- Mediterranean Diet
- Muscle-Wasting in Later
Years (Research from the University of Florida)
Factors and Telomerase
last issue of Experience! discussed the science of telomeres,
including the relationship between telomeres and the aging process. To
click here. Telomeres are parts of chromosomes that affect longevity
and are involved in the maintenance of cells in the immune system.
Shortening of telomeres may indicate an increased risk for disease.
Telomerase is an enzyme that repairs and lengthens telomeres. New
research suggests that lifestyle improvements such as performing more
physical exercise and following a healthier diet can increase the body's
levels of telomerase.
The study, which was published in the journal Lancet Oncology, involved
30 male subjects with low-risk prostate cancer. The men made fundamental
lifestyle changes, which included:
After three months, the
results were analyzed. Not surprisingly, the participants enjoyed health
gains including weight loss and reduced blood pressure. They also had
serum levels of telomerase that were 29 percent higher than when the
study began. In addition, changes were detected in approximately 500
genes. Whereas the activity of disease-preventing genes increased, the
activity of disease-promoting genes (including certain genes linked to
breast cancer and prostate cancer) was suppressed.
- Adopting a diet high
in fruits and vegetables, legumes, soy products, and whole-grain
- Undertaking stress
management activities, such as meditation, for one hour per day; and
- Performing moderate
physical activity, such as walking for 30 minutes per day.
no substitute for blood pressure medication,
but listening to classical
music by Mozart could be a useful supplement to one's comprehensive
program for controlling hypertension. Not a classical music fan? Then
consider a relaxation tape featuring nature sounds.
As reported by HealthDay, researchers at the College of Nursing in
Seattle University (Washington) asked 41 retirement community residents
to listen regularly to a 12-minute Mozart sonata or to a same-length
recording of ocean waves accompanied by a man's voice providing
instructions for breathing and relaxation exercises. The plan called for
participants to take part in their listening activity three times per
week for four months.
The average pre-intervention systolic blood pressure in the Mozart group
was 141 mm/Hg. After the intervention, it was 134.
The average pre-intervention systolic blood pressure in the
relaxation-tape group also was 141 mm/Hg. After the intervention, it was
While researchers stressed that neither of the two interventions should
be contemplated as a replacement for medication, both approaches showed
promise as elements of an overall care plan for managing high blood
Mediterranean Diet Benefits
Most of us know that we can discourage cardiovascular disease
by embracing a Mediterranean diet,
meaning one that is generous in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts,
whole grains, and fish and includes temperate servings of red wine --
but is low in red meat, dairy products, and other forms of alcohol. Now
there is new evidence that such a diet might also reduce the risk for
other health conditions.
A study published in the online version of the British Medical Journal
examined data from 12 previous investigations that had involved
approximately 1.6 million adults whose long-term nutritional habits were
followed, in some cases for periods lasting as long as 18 years.
Compared to people whose nutritional patterns did not resemble the
Mediterranean model, those who closely followed the Mediterranean diet
- Nine percent less likely to have
died from heart disease;
- Thirteen percent less likely to have
Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease; and
- Six percent less likely to have
Muscle-Wasting in Later
Following is a news release
provided by the University of Florida
Health Science Center:
Chemical concoctions can smooth over wrinkles and hide those pesky
grays, but what about the signs of aging that aren't so easy to fix,
such as losing muscle mass? Cutting calories early could help, say
University of Florida researchers who studied the phenomenon in rats.
A restricted-calorie diet, when started in early adulthood, seems to
stymie a mitochondrial mishap that may contribute to muscle loss in
aging adults, the researchers reported recently in the journal PLoS One.
In rats, the scientists found pockets of excess iron in muscle cell
mitochondria, the tiny power plants found in every cell. The excess iron
affects the chemistry inside the mitochondria, sparking the formation of
harmful free radicals that can lead a mitochondrion straight to the
emergency exit, said Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., a UF professor of
aging in the UF College of Medicine and the Institute on Aging.
Leeuwenburgh was the senior author of the study and of a related report
published online this month in Aging Cell that details the damage done
by excess iron in mitochondria.
become less efficient at an old age and we need to understand why this
is," Leeuwenburgh said. "One thing, maybe, is the accumulation of redox-active
metals in cells. If the mitochondria become unhappy or are ready to kick
the bucket, they have proteins in the inner and outer membranes that
they can open up and commit suicide. They're tricky beasts."
The suicidal mitochondria can damage the rest of the muscle cell,
leading to cell death and perhaps to muscle wasting, a big problem for
adults as they reach their mid-70s, Leeuwenburgh added.
"Muscle is critical for your overall well-being," Leeuwenburgh said. "As
you walk, muscle functions partly as a pump to keep your blood going.
Muscle is an incredible source of reserves."
The researchers found increasing amounts of iron in the muscle cells of
aging rats fed a typical unrestricted diet. The older the rats got, the
more iron accumulated in the mitochondria and the more damage was done
to its RNA and DNA. Rats of the same ages that were kept on a
calorie-restricted diet -- about 60 percent of the food typically
ingested -- seemed to maintain more normal iron levels in mitochondria,
the researchers reported.
"The novel thing here is that iron is accumulating in places it does not
normally accumulate," said Mitch Knutson, Ph.D., a UF assistant
professor of food science and human nutrition and a study co-author.
"Such iron accumulation in muscle was quite unexpected. This may be of
concern because more people are genetically predisposed to developing
iron overload than we originally thought."
The problem occurs when metals such as iron accumulate in the
mitochondria and react with oxygen. Iron can change the chemical
structure of oxygen, triggering its metamorphosis into a free radical,
an unstable atom that can upset the delicate balance inside the
mitochondria. The result? Leeuwenburgh describes it sort of like
"Not all free radicals are harmful," Leeuwenburgh said. "To just use
antioxidants to neutralize all free radicals is a huge misconception
because some radicals are helpful. You just need to try and target very
specific free radicals that form in specific parts of the body."
Researchers don't know exactly what causes iron to accumulate in
mitochondria in aging animals, but a breakdown in how iron is
transported through cells could be one reason why, Leeuwenburgh said.
Understanding how caloric restriction limits the problem in rats could
help researchers better understand how to combat it, he added.
Russell T. Hepple, Ph.D., an associate professor of kinesiology and
medicine at the University of Calgary in Canada, said the findings are
another step forward in linking iron to muscle cell death, but there are
more questions researchers must answer.
"They've shown that apoptosis (cell death) goes up in aging muscle but
where does that happen?" Hepple asked. "There are more than muscle cells
in muscle. (For example) in older adults there are inflammatory cells."
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