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Adherence To A Diet — What Does It Mean?

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Hard on the heels of studies showing that following the Mediterranean diet (MD) or MIND diet can have significant effects on the likelihood of dementia as one ages, comes a very large-scale study showing that the fine-grain details of following the MD can significantly affect the cardiovascular outcomes for an individual as he/she ages, and so, presumably, also the brain health outcomes. At the simplest, “MD is associated with lower CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk but this relationship is confined to higher socioeconomic groups.” Since the MIND diet is quite similar to the the MD diet, presumably these results will also apply to it.

It has been informally obvious for some time that healthy eating focusing on quality vegetables is seriously sensitive to the price of those vegetables: Just perform a search on “health effects of the cost of fresh vegetables” and browse the results. However, the study in question, High adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with cardiovascular protection in higher but not in lower socioeconomic groups… set out to scientifically study the issue and quantify the relationship.

The Background statement for the study is:

It is uncertain whether the cardiovascular benefits associated with Mediterranean diet (MD) may differ across socioeconomic groups.

The study, conducted in Italy, enrolled 18,991 men and women aged 35 years and older from the Molise region and ran for 4.3 years. The degree of adherence to the Mediterranean Diet was was determined by the (self-reported) Mediterranean diet score (9-question version; see also 14-question version). Socioeconomic status (group) was determined by the household income (euros/year) combined with educational level. The individual cardiovascular hazard ratios (risk of heart attack) were calculated by standard statistical techniques).

This study reconfirmed earlier work that the Mediterranean diet (MD) is associated with lower cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. However, it showed that amount of protection provided is sensitive to the socioeconomic status (group) of an individual. Specifically, for higher socioeconomic groups, an increase in the MD score was associated with an increase in protection from CVD risk, but that association was notably weaker for lower socioeconomic groups. Examination of the details of the study inputs showed that for each given MD score group, the socioeconomic subgroups of that score group showed many diet-related disparities such as dietary diversity and different intakes of antioxidants and polyphenols, organic vegetables and whole grain bread consumption.

To a certain extent, this shows that the Mediterranean diet score (MD score) is a blunt instrument. People attaining the same MD score can have such different dietary details that the associated CVD risk protection is significantly different. Since this effect appears independently for education and for income, it is not totally a matter of money, but also education and point of view.

This Moli-sani Project study focused on the MD and protection from CVD. However, the accumulation of findings culminating in Mediterranean/MIND Diet Seriously Fights Alzheimer’s/Dementia showed that the MD diet can provide protections against dementia. It would seem likely that the finds of the present study would also apply to dementia. Hopefully, the Moli-sani Project will have data available to explore this question too.

Several media articles about the study are given below. Unfortunately, they have taken a sensationalistic approach to their headlines, which imply that the MD won’t/cannot benefit someone who isn’t upper class. Clearly someone who is not upper class, but who devotes the same level of attention to diet (and a greater proportion of income) will statistically see similar benefits.

Here are two of the media article links together with a link to the study:

The Mediterranean diet doesn’t benefit everyone, study says

Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are confirmed, but just for the upper class

Published research:
High adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with cardiovascular protection in higher but not in lower socioeconomic groups…

All the links have been added to Health > Diet.

Category: Diet

Mediterranean/MIND Diet Seriously Fights Alzheimer’s/Dementia

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Striking findings from two large-scale studies and two smaller studies show that following the Mediterranean diet or the related MIND diet can reduce the risk of dementia by one-third! The studies were reported at the recent 2017 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London.

The first study (Neuroprotective Diets …. abstract, full text) looked at the eating habits of almost 6,000 older adults (average age of 68) enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute on Aging. The study is representative of the total US population, and as such, the results are widely applicable to the general public. Specifically, following the Mediterranean or MIND diet in general leads to 30%–35% lower risk of cognitive impairment during aging. Especially notable is the fact that the benefits appear to be a ‘sliding scale:’ “The more people stayed on those diets, the better they functioned cognitively,” said lead researcher Claire McEvoy.

The second study (The Mind Diet and Incident Dementia, Findings from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study; sponsored by National Institutes on Aging) examined the MIND diet’s effectiveness for more than 7,000 women. Similar to the first study, women closely following the MIND guidelines were 34% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, while those moderately following the guidelines were 21%–24% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

An important observation is that these diets were originally developed to help improve cardiovascular health. Thus, following these diets will provide potential protection for both brain and heart health.

The third study (from Sweden: Which Dietary Index May Predict Preserved Cognitive Function in Nordic Older Adults?) enrolled more than 2,000 people and found that those eating a healthy diet called the Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern (a diet related to the Mediterranean and MIND diets) for more than six years experienced better brain health.

The fourth study looked at the problem in the opposite direction. It looked at 330 people (average age 80) who followed a dietary pattern encouraging inflammation (so a diet “opposite” to the Mediterranean/MIND diets). These people performed poorly on brain games, and MRI scans showed that they also had a smaller total volume of brain gray matter. So this study negatively corroborates the outcomes of the first 3 studies.

Here is the Alzheimer’s Association Press Release about the four studies:
Healthy Eating Habits May Preserve Cognitive Function And Reduce The Risk Of Dementia

And here are several media stories about the presentations:
Mediterranean style diet may prevent dementia
Mediterranean-style diet linked to lower risk of dementia
Fight Dementia With Food: Following A Mediterranean Diet May Improve Brain Health, Studies Suggest
A Healthy Diet May Help Ward Off Dementia
Could the Mediterranean Diet Help Fight Dementia? Here’s What We Know

All the links have been added to Health > Diet

3 Good Things To Do For Your Brain: Exercise, Manage Blood Pressure, Brain Training

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The National Institute on Aging (NIA) commissioned the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to create an expert panel to review the evidence for interventions to prevent age-related cognitive decline and dementia. The panel found promising evidence that cognitive training, managing your blood pressure if you have hypertension, and increasing your physical activity can do much to reduce the risk of decline or dementia, even though they could not call for a widespread public campaign yet — more evidence will need to be accumulated. The panel’s report was published June 22, 2017.

Here are links to three articles about the report:
Expert Panel: Three Things May Save Your Brain

These few things may help stave off dementia, scientists say

Cognitive decline may be prevented using interventions but may be inadequate says report

And here are links to the abstract of the report together with the full report:
Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward (Report At A Glance)

Published research (the complete report as pdf — upper right corner of page):
Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward

All five links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Amelioration/Prevention

Alzheimer’s Mice Recovering

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A new drug, originally developed as a treatment for schizophrenia, appears to restore memories and neural connections in mice with models of Alzheimer’s disease, erasing evidence of Alzheimer’s synapse damage and memory loss. Of course, it’s a long way from repairing mouse models of Alzheimer’s to successfully handling human Alzheimer’s patients. But it’s a hopeful beginning.

Below is a link to an article about the study, as well as a link to the study itself:

Drug Restores Cells and Memories in Alzheimer’s: Mouse Study

Published research:
Silent Allosteric Modulation of mGluR5 Maintains Glutamate Signaling while Rescuing Alzheimer’s Mouse Phenotypes

Both links have been added to Alzheimers > Drugs

Category: Announcements, Drugs

Active Sex Life Strengthens Brain Power For Older Adults

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Now that is welcome news! A pair of studies has shown that certain cognitive functions are strengthened by a more frequent sex life for both men and women. Both studies found significant relationships, after adjusting for age, education, wealth, physical activity, depression, cohabiting, self-rated health, loneliness and quality of life.

The earlier (2016) study (Sex on the brain! Associations between sexual activity and cognitive function in older age) utilized 6,833 participants aged 50–89 (3,060 men and 3,773 women) from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. This research studied the relationship between certain cognitive functions and whether or not the participants had been sexually active at all in the previous 12 months, where sexual activity was defined as including intercourse, masturbation, petting or fondling. There were two cognitive tests: recall and number sequencing. For the recall task, respondents heard a list of 10 everyday words and were asked to recall them immediately and after a short delay. The number sequencing task required completion of a number sequence such as 1, 2, __, 4, where the correct answer would be ‘3’.

This study found that there were significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing and recall in men, but that in women there was a significant association between sexual activity and recall, but not with number sequencing.

The later (2017) study (Frequent Sexual Activity Predicts Specific Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults) built on the earlier study. The goals of this research were to extend the earlier findings to a range of cognitive domains, and to determine whether increasing frequency of sexual activity is associated with increasing scores on a variety of cognitive tasks. As with the first study, sexual activity was defined as including intercourse, masturbation, petting or fondling. The study utilized 73 participants (28 males, 45 females) aged 50–83 years old, and demonstrated that overall cognitive scores were consistently higher in those who are sexually active compared to those than those who are not. Moreover, it shows increasing scores on two specific cognitive domains (fluency and visuospatial ability with increasing frequency of sexual activity (from never to monthly to weekly).

Here are two articles about the latest study, together with the study itself:

An active sex life improves brain power in older adults

Frequent Sexual Activity Can Boost Brain Power in Older Adults

Published research:
Frequent Sexual Activity Predicts Specific Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults

And here are two articles about the first (earliest) study, together with the study itself:

Sex on the brain! Associations between sexual activity and cognitive function in older age.

Sex linked to better brain power in older age

Published research:
Sex on the brain! Associations between sexual activity and cognitive function in older age

All the links have been added to Aging.

New Chemo Brain Links Added

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We’ve added two new links on Chemo Brain:

Cancer and Careers | Working with Chemo Brain

Chemo Brain – CancerConnect News

Update: Aging vs Exercise Protecting Telomeres

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Previously, Physical Activity Staves Off Aging: Get Out There! described work relating physical activity to aging as measured by the lengths of telomeres in white blood cells. A new study has extended this to telomere length in heart muscle, a significant measure of heart health. So this provides even more reason to hit the gym or hit the road running or biking.

Here are two articles describing the work:

Endurance training may have a protective effect on the heart [2017]

Maryland Study Shows that Exercise Protects the Heart’s DNA Structure

Here is a link to the published research:

Acute exercise activates p38 MAPK and increases the expression of telomere-protective genes in cardiac muscle. [2017]

All the links have been posted in both Physical Exercise and Aging

Category: Aging, Announcements

Your Circadian Clock vs Aging Stress

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Surprise! Your circadian clock has alarms set to turn on a group of rhythmic stress-related genes as you grow older. A new study from Oregon State University (conducted with fruit flies, but applicable to human bodies) discovered a collection of genes that are part of a previously unknown stress-response mechanism. This set of genes is a subset of the genes involved in the regulation of daily circadian rhythms, or the “biological clock.” The genes in this newly identified subset appear to “become active and respond to some of the stresses most common in aging, such as cellular and molecular damage, oxidative stress, or even some disease states,”

“These genes may help to combat serious stresses associated with age, disease or environmental challenges, and help explain why aging is often accelerated when the biological clock is disrupted.”

Routine disruptions of circadian rhythms and sleep patterns have been found to lead to shorter lifespans and increased susceptibility to cancer.

Here is an excellent extended article on the research:

Do aging circadian clocks have tricks up their sleeves?[2017]

Here is another good article:

‘Late-life’ genes activated by biological clock to help protect against stress, aging[2017]

The published study is available here:

Circadian deep sequencing reveals stress-response genes that adopt robust rhythmic expression during aging[2017]

All these links have been added in Aging.

Category: Aging, Announcements

There is Something in the Blood

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A massive study has revealed molecular changes that occur in human bodies as they age.

From the Research Abstract:
Disease incidences increase with age, but the molecular characteristics of ageing that lead to increased disease susceptibility remain inadequately understood. Here we perform a whole-blood gene expression meta-analysis in 14,983 individuals…and identify 1,497 genes that are differentially expressed with chronological age. … We further used the gene expression profiles to calculate the ‘transcriptomic age’ of an individual, and show that differences between transcriptomic age and chronological age are associated with biological features linked to aging, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, fasting glucose, and body mass index. …

Additionally, the work revealed a connection between these genes and factors such as diet, smoking and exercise.

Links to articles about the study as well as the study itself have been placed in Aging:

Signs of faster aging process identified through gene research

Published Research:
The transcriptional landscape of age in human peripheral blood

Category: Aging, Announcements

Exercise vs Aging: Yet Again

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You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: Physical exercise is very important in combatting aging, both the physical aging of your body, as well as the mental aging of your mind.

In this post, we draw together links to four articles on a recent new study about the way that exercise combats physical aging, together with a link to the study abstract. The study was carried out at the Mayo clinic in Rochester, MN, and demonstrated that exercise — particularly high-intensity interval training (HIT) — has profound effects at the cellular level. It may even reverse some of the aging effects in muscle cells, as well as possibly other cells in the body.

The Mayo researchers utilized 36 men and 36 women, broken into two age groups: 18-30 years old and 65-80 years old. Each age group was split into three exercise groups: HIT biking together with treadmill walking, weight training, and mixed biking and weight training. Each group worked out 5 days a week for 12 weeks. Muscle change assessments were based on biopsies taken from the volunteers’ thigh muscles, compared with biopsies taken from a sedentary control group.

All of the exercise groups showed muscle improvement, particularly increases in muscle cell mitochondrial capacity, which is the energy source for all cells. Strikingly, the younger HIT group showed a 49% increase, while the older HIT group showed a dazzling 69% increase. The study also showed that exercise leads to improvement in protein-building ribosomes.

Senior study author, Sreekumbaran Nair said

“Based on everything we know, there’s no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the aging process. These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine. . . . exercise is critically important to prevent or delay aging. There’s no substitute for that.”


“If exercise restores or prevents deterioration of mitochondria and ribosomes in muscle cells, there’s a good chance it does so in other tissues, too. Understanding the pathways that exercise uses to work its magic may make aging more targetable.”

The four articles on the study are:

This Workout Might Help Reverse the Aging Process, According to a New Study [2017]

Interval training exercise could be a fountain of youth [2017]

How exercise — interval training in particular — helps your mitochondria stave off old age [2017]

Mayo Clinic Study Identifies How Exercise Staves Off Old Age [2017]

The published study abstract is here:

Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans [2017]

All the links have been added to Aging.

Category: Aging, Announcements