Category Archives: Aging

Why Fiber is Good For You

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Dieticians have maintained that fiber (typically from fruits and vegetables) is an essential part of our diet, and that a high-fiber diet has many health benefits, including lower risk for developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, as well as lowering blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels (Health benefits of dietary fiber). Now evidence is coming in as to why that is the case: fiber (that resists digestion by the body’s digestive system) is readily eaten by bacteria in the gut — fiber feeds the gut’s microbiome. Keeping the microbiome in good shape is essential for the proper functioning of the gut.

Here are two media article discussing both studies (which were carried out with mice, but will apply to human systems too):
Fiber Is Good for You. Now Scientists May Know Why.

PSA from your gut microbes: Enjoy the holidays, but don’t forget your fiber

And here are the two original studies:
Bifidobacteria or Fiber Protects against Diet-Induced Microbiota-Mediated Colonic Mucus Deterioration

Fiber-Mediated Nourishment of Gut Microbiota Protects against Diet-Induced Obesity by Restoring IL-22-Mediated Colonic Health

All four links have been added to Aging and Health > Diet.

Category: Aging, Diet

It’s About Time!

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The well-known tech startup incubator and venture capital firm Y Combinator has announced a new special program named YC Bio. It is aimed at early-stage life science biotechnology startups which are still in laboratory mode. The first sub-area of biology in which the program will focus is healthspan and age-related disease, where ‘healthspan’ denotes the amount of time person is healthy as opposed to the time they are alive but unhealthy. Startups accepted into the program will be provided with free lab space, and will participate the standard Y Combinator program. Successful ‘graduates’ will be offered (by YC) between $500,000 and $1 million for 10 to 20 percent ownership of the startup (as opposed to $120,000 for 7 percent ownership for non-YC Bio companies in the YC class).

Hopefully this program, and potentially others like it, will help accelerate the development of everything from drugs to devices which will help people ward off the ravages of aging.

Below is a link to the YC announcement, together with a short recap of it:

YC Bio
Y Combinator is launching a biotech track

Both links have been added to Aging

Category: Aging

Age, Sleep & Memory

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While sleep is still a great mystery, researchers continue to chip away at aspects of it. A recent study has revealed a mechanism involved in something important to most of us: why we get more forgetful as we grow older. The study showed that the key appears to be the synchronization between slow (one every second or two) and fast (up to 12 per second) brainwaves during non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When well synchronized, recent, short-term memories are consolidated, while when poorly synchronized (off by as little as 50 milliseconds), memories tend to be lost.

The study utilized 20 young adults and 32 people in their 60s and 70s; none showed any evidence of any form of dementia. They memorized 120 pairs of words, and then slept while monitored by electrodes on their heads. Then the next morning, the subjects were tested to determine how many of the word pairs they recalled. The results were that the young people had much better brain wave synchronization, and recall of the word pairs, than the older people.

The poor coordination of brain waves appears to be due to atrophy of the medial brain cortex, the area of the brain involved in producing deep sleep. Unfortunately, such atrophy occurs normally as one ages. There are plans to explore improving brainwave coordination in older people by applying magnetic or electrical stimuli to the scalp during sleep. But at present there appear to be no remedies available.

Here are three media articles on the study:
Older Adults’ Forgetfulness Tied To Faulty Brain Rhythms In Sleep
Older adults forget more because their brain rhythms don’t sync during sleep, study says
This keeps older adults from ‘saving’ memories during sleep

And here is the original study article:
Old Brains Come Uncoupled in Sleep: Slow Wave-Spindle Synchrony, Brain Atrophy, and Forgetting.

All four links have been added to Aging.

Category: Aging

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

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:

AGE: IT’S ALL IN YOUR BLOOD
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.”

And

“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

Japanese Diet May Help Extend Life

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Many articles and studies have extolled the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet (Search for Mediterranean under Health > Diet). Now the “Japanese diet” has entered the field.

Life expectancy in Japan is among the highest in the world, with Japanese women having the longest life expectancy of anyone in the world, with an average age of 87.

The study enrolled 36,624 men Japanese and 42,920 Japanese women between the ages of 45 and 75, and followed them for 15 years. Those participants who closely followed government recommended dietary guidelines were 15% less likely to die over the 15 years, and were 22% less likely to die of stroke during those 15 years,

“Our findings suggest that balanced consumption of energy, grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, eggs, soy products, dairy products, confectionaries, and alcoholic beverages can contribute to longevity by decreasing the risk of death, predominantly from cardiovascular disease, in the Japanese population,” the authors wrote.

Links to articles about the study, together with the study itself, have be published in Health > Diet:
Following a Japanese diet may help you live longer
Japanese Diet Filled High In Grains, Vegetables, And Fish May Lower Heart Disease Risk

Published Research:
Quality of diet and mortality among Japanese men and women: Japan Public Health Center based prospective study

Category: Aging, Announcements, Health

Bigger Brains (at least not Smaller)

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A study looking at 1,094 participants from the Framingham Heart Study shows that people who are more physically active in middle age tend to have larger brain volumes in later life.

The study participants were an average age of 40, with no signs of dementia or heart disease. They took a treadmill fitness test and underwent MRIs. Twenty years later, they underwent another treadmill test, along with MRI brain scans.

The estimates of brain volume were calculated based on measurements of oxygen used during treadmill tests, together with blood pressure and heart rate tests. Based on these estimates, people who were more active in their 40s tended to have larger brain volumes twenty years later.

Links to articles about the study and the study itself have been posted in Health > Physical Exercise:
People who exercise at middle age might have bigger brains later on
Exercise at middle age may keep brain bigger later in life
Better Fitness In Middle Age May Stop This Organ From Shrinking

Published research:
Midlife exercise blood pressure, heart rate, and fitness relate to brain volume 2 decades later