Jenson Mak | Vitality & Healthy Ageing Blog

Dr. Jenson Mak covers the best of living a vital and healthy life at any age.

Tag: diet (Page 1 of 2)

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Top 5 Healthy Food Substitutions

It’s never too late (or too early) to start adjusting your diet towards becoming healthier for the sake of your body. If you typically don’t spend your time experimenting with foods in the kitchen, then you won’t know about the healthy substitutes that you can use in your cooking. By substituting these simple, everyday foods, for ingredients that typically make your meals unhealthy, you can enjoy all the foods you love while contributing to the overall health of your body, and longevity of life!

 

Black Beans

When thinking about luscious cakes, brownies, and sweet treats, black beans are the last thing that would come to mind, right? However, if you’re looking to cut calories and carbs, while still enjoying your sweet desserts, black beans are the way to go. The legumes are considered one of the healthiest foods for your body, as they are packed with protein and fiber. Substituting black beans for flour in your baking dishes will allow you to maximize your nutrition without noticing a taste difference. Wherever a recipe calls for a cup of flour, use a cup of black beans, well drained and mashed.

 

Olive Oil

The ever so popular mediterranean diet has caused many to switch their diets for optimal health, and olive oil plays a key part. Olives are one of the oldest food sources known to mankind, including one of the healthiest. Olives are filled with OMega-3 fatty acids that your body needs to function properly. Instead of using the typical vegetable oil, opt it for olive oil. It is also great for making dressings or cooking dishes (although its health benefits are optimized when unheated).

 

Greek Yogurt

You’ve heard about the health craze all over. Greek yogurt is not going anywhere thanks to its high nutritional benefits. Greek yogurt is packed with high protein, and less sugar, sodium, and fat compared to regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is also great for substitutes. Instead of using mayo or sour cream in your daily cooking, plain greek yogurt will make your meals much more nutritious without a taste difference. It’s also great for making dressings, desserts, and baking because of its thick and creamy texture.

 

Wine

Wine is also considered part of the mediterranean diet. Known as the Drink of the Gods, the ancient drink comes with more health benefits than any other alcoholic drink out there. For one, many studies have shown that wine can play a role in preventing depression and anti-aging due to the high amount of antioxidants made with the drink (with moderate consumption). It’s also a great drink to sip when out at the bar with friends or relaxing at home, as wine is significantly lower in calories compared to sugary and sweet cocktails.

 

Applesauce, Dates & Cinnamon

There’s nothing evil about sugar, spice, and everything nice in those beautiful iced cupcakes and luscious chocolate cakes, right? Wrong. Many experts have found that sugar can actually become as addictive to humans as some drugs. Sugar is responsible for obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases, as it converts to fat in our bodies. The new guidelines show that men and women should not consume more than 6-9 teaspoons of sugar per day. The key is to stay away from as much added sugar as you can, however, it is still possible to enjoy sweet treats. One old fashioned trick is to substitute applesauce in recipes that call for sugar. This also allows your item to become more moist. Another trick is to add dates to recipes that call for sugar. Dates are naturally sweet, so you won’t notice the taste difference. Cinnamon is also a great spice to substitute sugar for. Recent studies have found that cinnamon has amazing health benefits that could positively impact your health. Try adding cinnamon to your coffee or oatmeal instead of sugar!

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How Nutrition Impacts Age

A new study – Nutritional Considerations for Health Aging and Reduction in Age-Related Chronic Diseases – featured in Advances in Nutrition found that improving nutritional education within the healthcare system may promote healthier aging and reduce the financial burden of the aging population.

 

It is estimated that by the year 2050, almost 400 million people will be 80 years or older. This estimate is almost three times higher than in 2013. According to the published report, a growing number of this population will be susceptible to a concept known as nutritional frailty – a condition in older adults involving the sudden loss of weight and strength that increases the chance of experiencing disability. The growing number of obese older adults is also vulnerable to nutritional frailty and its associated diseases such as sarcopenia, mental decline, and infectious diseases.

 

The study determined that a specific model describing the various factors that influence food choices needs to be established to increase the understanding behind older adults and their food intake and meal quality. Recently, a new model was designed to monitor food intake in older adults in addition to the inclusion of randomised clinical studies. This model will help determine the specific nutritional requirements and biomarkers needed to further understand the impact of increasing age on areas such as necessary protein intake and muscle turnover. The study’s finding will also help establish new BMI guidelines tailored to the aging population.

 

According to Gilles Bergeron, the executive director at The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science at the New York Academy of Sciences, “A nutritional assessment model that takes into consideration the effect of aging on muscle mass, weight loss and nutrient absorption is crucial to overall wellness in our elderly population,”. He continues, “However, nutrition recommendations are usually based on that of a typical healthy adult, and fail to consider the effect of aging on muscle mass, weight loss, and nutrient absorption and utilisation..”
Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, agrees with Bergeron’s views on the need for personalised nutrition recommendations stating, “much greater emphasis needs to be placed on prioritising research that will fill the knowledge gaps and provide the kind of data needed by health and nutrition experts if we’re going to address this problem,”. She adds, “There also needs to be more education about on-going nutritional needs for those involved with elder-care — not only in a clinical setting, but also for family members who are responsible for aging adults.”

 

Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, agrees with Bergeron’s views on the need for personalized nutrition recommendations stating, “much greater emphasis needs to be placed on prioritizing research that will fill the knowledge gaps and provide the kind of data needed by health and nutrition experts if we’re going to address this problem,”. She adds, “There also needs to be more education about on-going nutritional needs for those involved with elder-care — not only in a clinical setting, but also for family members who are responsible for aging adults.”

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Weight and Dementia

When it comes to weight, we all know that a physical injury, emotional turmoil, a change in metabolism with age, or a sedentary lifestyle are just some of the ways that a person can go from having a BMI (Body Mass Index) in the normal range to having one in the overweight range before we even realise it. It’s not just those who make poor choices, have issues with impulse control, or are ill-educated about nutrition that can end up packing on the pounds, it can happen to any of us.

But if we stop paying attention -or never paid attention to begin with- once you have gained the weight there are serious consequences to keeping that weight on over time. Obviously there are common side-effects like diabetes and heart disease, but now there has been a study published in the journal Neurology by the American Academy of Neurology that shows gaining and keeping the weight on may actually speed up dementia or other forms of cognitive decline.

Conducted by Dr Maxime Cournot of Toulouse University Hospital in France, more than 2,000 people between the ages of 32 and 62 sat for four different cognitive tests in 1996 and then took the tests again in 2001.

Those with a BMI of 20 (which is considered to be in the healthy range) remembered an average of 9 out of 16 words in a language test, or an average of 56% of the vocabulary. Results from participants with a BMI of 30 (in the range of obese) remembered 7 out of 16 words on average, or only 44% of the vocabulary. The majority of the participants who gained weight between the first and second rounds of tests did not show much change in cognitive function, but those who had a high BMI before the first test and kept the weight on in the years between the first and second test showed higher levels of what Dr Cournot described as “cognitive decline”.

According to the World Health Organisation, BMI is calculated by multiplying your height in meters by itself, and then dividing your weight in kilogrammes by the value calculated by doubling your height. A BMI of 18.5 or less is considered underweight. Normal ranges from 18.5 to 24.9, overweight from 25 to 29.9, and obese is BMI 30.0 and above. While there are some limitations to body mass index calculations, and the method has received some criticism, it is the still the only accessible and consistent tool in use for physicians.
While this research is new and shows correlation rather than causation, and more research needs to be conducted, there are several hypotheses put forward by Dr. Cournot as to the potential cause of these findings. One being that the hormones secreted from fats could have a damaging effect on cerebral cells, resulting in decreased brain function. She also mentioned that insulin resistance could have some connection to lessened cognitive activity. “Another explanation could be that since obesity is a widely known cardiovascular risk factor, due to the thickening and hardening of the blood vessels, that the same happens with the arteries in the brain,” she said.

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Seniors & Exercise, How Long, How Often, How Much?

We all know that fitness is one of the major keys to staying active, healthy, happy, and full of vitality as you age. But seniors also need to take into account that injury from overexertion or exercise too strenuous can lead to serious complications or much longer healing times as you age.

A large health study suggests that the elderly can benefit from as little as 15 minutes per day of moderately heart-pumping exercise. (Though 30 minutes minimum is recommended.) An active fitness routine can help everything from balance and strength, to delaying the onset of heart disease and dementia. It can reduce depression, prevent diabetes, delay or prevent osteoporosis, and reduce occurrences of breast and colon cancer.

So what kind of exercise should you do? For how long? And how often?

There are three main types of exercise, aerobic/endurance-building, weight training, and stretching.

Endurance building exercises are activities like walking, swimming, dancing, or anything else that gets your heart rate up and increases circulation falls into this category. This includes chores like shovelling snow, walking the dog, raking leaves, or mowing the lawn, as long as you do it at a pace that gets your heart pumping! Increased activity that ups your heart-rate is the number one most important element for mood, weight, and cardiac benefits.

Weight training doesn’t need to mean lifting weights like a bodybuilder, although lifting weights is really good for muscle health and can counteract the muscle loss that comes along with old age. It also ups your metabolism, which helps keep your weight and blood sugar in check! Physical labour chores can be part of a weight-building regimen, as can exercise that uses your own body-weight, like push-ups, lunges, arm-circles, and sit-ups. Yoga and pilates are great ways to incorporate muscle-building into your routine.

Stretching exercises help maintain flexibility, increase balance, and help prevent injury. It’s important to include stretching with any exercise you do, because it helps prevent you from over-exerting muscles during exercise. They can also help with old injuries, back pain, headaches, and other recurring symptoms. Stretching will keep you active, reduce tension, and keep your mobility at it’s peak!

The length of time you devote to fitness daily will depend -at first- on your current fitness level. For moderate activity (working hard enough that it’s difficult to talk, but not so hard that it’s impossible), the ideal is a 30 minute workout. But consistency is more important than overworking yourself, so if you haven’t been very active until now, you might want to build up to 30 minutes over time, start with as little as 5 minutes, if you need too. Listen to your body!

A large health study in Taiwan followed about 416,000 people for an average of eight years and discovered that people who exercised just 15 minutes a day reduced their mortality from all causes by 14 per cent and increased their life expectancy by three years.

The frequency of exercise is your key to seeing long-term health benefits, so you should be trying to get some activity into your routine every day, or nearly every day. Consistency is the key to building stamina, muscle, and seeing those great health benefits.

At least twice a week your schedule should include muscle-building, and every other day should include aerobic activity. Stretching is best if it happens as part of your cool-down after working out, or first thing every morning. If 30 minutes every day doesn’t fit into your schedule, you can try dividing your time up differently, such as doing an hour and fourty-five minutes of activity every Saturday and Sunday and none during the week. Also keep in mind that 30 minutes a day can happen in three 10-minute installments, or two 15-minute sessions, if you’re busy or worried about overworking yourself.

However you set your goals, make sure you can accomplish them, and remember to always take a break if you need one! A few days off every week to relax and recuperate is better than doing damage by pushing too hard, and it’s also better than setting yourself goals that you won’t follow through on. Any activity is better than none!

Vigorous exercise carries risks that people should discuss with a doctor. You should always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise programme, especially if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • A symptom you have never told your doctor about
  • Arthritis of the hips or knees
  • Blood clots
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Eye injury or recent eye surgery
  • Family history of a cardiovascular disease
  • Foot or ankle sores that won’t heal
  • Heart disease
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hernia
  • High blood pressure
  • History of smoking
  • Infections
  • Joint swelling
  • Obesity
  • Pain or trouble walking after a fall
  • Shortness of breath
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Global Population Ageing Means Singapore needs 30,000 More Health Workers

First, the good news. As we progress through the 21st century, gains in nutrition, medicine, and health mean that human beings are living far longer than ever before. This means that as we continue to advance into the 21st century, more and more health workers specialising in geriatric care will be needed. Why? Because despite the fact that so many people are now living well into their senior years, not enough are doing so with vitality. Living more years unfortunately does not translate into healthy ageing for everybody. Longer living means living with chronic illnesses, dementia, and disability created by the loss of mobility, vision, and hearing. These issues will in turn lead to increased expenses and strain on existing support services.

These concerns about an upcoming epidemic of senior health problems aren’t only going to be affecting certain parts of the world. Singapore will also be experiencing this senior health crunch, and residents of all ages may be exposed to it in less than a decade. At the National Seminar on Productivity in Healthcare earlier this month, keynote speaker Health Minister Gan Kim Yong warned that in order to insure healthy aging for its elder population, Singapore needs to see an influx of 30,000 healthcare workers over the next three years. Specialists in geriatric medicine and nurses with experience in supervising clinics will especially be in demand.

Singapore has built six new health care clinics to accommodate this need for increased medical care, and in addition to creating bed space in public hospitals for thousands of new patients, it’s estimated that almost 10,000 more patients will be seeking treatment at smaller community hospitals and nursing homes. Almost another 8,000 Singapore residents will be seeking care within their homes and day-use facilities. And in addition to a need for specialists to facilitate healthy ageing, the demand for specialists in palliative (end of life) care is expected to be on the rise as well.

While this would seem like a wonderful opportunity out there for students and health care workers in other positions, Singapore’s labour market is already experiencing a shortage of qualified workers to insure the continuing vitality of Singapore’s ageing population. And as elsewhere in the developed world, household sizes are shrinking, meaning that there will be fewer family members to assist with elder care. To combat this, Gan indicated that the government would be taking a “community” approach to geriatric care. For example, “assisted living programmes ” currently popular in the United States and Europe will be expanded in Singapore. With assisted living, seniors are able to remain in their own homes and live independently, with help from relatives and caregivers. Research shows that seniors in such an arrangement are mentally sharper and have fewer physical health problems than those in more geriatric care settings. Gan also said current nurses nearing retirement age will be encouraged to extend working both to train new caregivers and to help seniors adjust to community living programmes .

And in addition to increased emphasis on these new initiatives, Gan said the government would place new emphasis on geriatric nursing training with new programming to accommodate these new waves of Singapore residents.

Not Just Living Longer, But Better, with Diabetes Management

diabetes-blood-sugar-diabetic-medicine-46173Intensive management of type II diabetes may make a huge difference on how long, as well as how well, you will live, according to this study. Even if you failed to manage your diabetes until beyond middle age, beginning management now could have a dramatic impact on your longevity and quality of life with the disease, the research reports.

People who were at risk of complications associated with type II diabetes were selected randomly. They either pursued their usual treatment or were put in a group treated with multi-pronged and aggressive treatment programme. Two decades after the start of the research, the scientists have discovered that people involved in an aggressive treatment team lived nearly 8 years longer. Additionally, they lived much better and their risk of kidney disease, heart disease, and blindness dropped significantly. The only complication which does not improve is nerve damage triggered by diabetes, which is permanent.

Early and intensified intervention of patients diagnosed with type II diabetes, treated with microalbuminuria, together with a target driven pharmacological medicine regime and some behavioural actions are the course of treatments that showed the results of a lengthened life span. Not only that, but the additional lifespan will be relatively free from serious or feared complications. It was confirmed by Dr. Oluf Pedersen, who specialises in endocrinology and internal medicine at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen, which is situated in Denmark.

Microalbuminuria is the term pertaining to an amount of protein in your urine. Protein in the urine is a sign which means the kidneys are not working properly, and it is also the initial symptom of diabetic kidney injury according to ADA or American Diabetes Association.

Somebody with this condition is likely to develop some other complications associated with diabetes since it’s the marker for general blood vessel damage, as explained by Pedersen. Their average age was around 55 at the beginning of the research, which started in 1993. Everyone was overweight, bordering on obesity, according to the data that was collected at the outset of the study. Pedersen mentioned that the objective of intensive treatment is to resolve all changeable risk factors for early death and complications. Such factors involve blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides as well as the danger of blood clots.

If appropriate, medicines like cholesterol-lowering statin or drugs for hypertension were prescribed. Behaviour modification was a crucial aspect of intensive treatment. The study volunteers are instructed on making exercise and healthy diet changes. They were given help in order to stop smoking. The patients were cured at Steno Diabetes Centre located in Copenhagen for nearly 8 years. They were consistently motivated and educated, according to the staff. All of this motivation, clearly, has been paid off.

The blood pressure of the patients dropped. Their good cholesterol level went up, while the bad ones -as well as the triglycerides- also dropped. After more than twenty years, 38 of the people who participated in the group that underwent intensive treatment died, versus the 55 people who were in the traditional treatment group. Aside from longer survival, this intensive group got an average 8-year delay with the onset of heart disease and stroke.

The benefits were so clear following the ending of the intensive treatment that both of the two groups,  the intensive and traditional treatment alike, got the chance to continue the intensive treatment if they wanted to!

Dr. Joel Zonszein is director of the Clinical Diabetes Centre at Montefiore Medical Centre in New York City. “These results are impressive, and the message is important. Physicians are not being aggressive enough, and aren’t treating to targets at the beginning,” he said. “If you look at all the factors they (the Danish researchers) treated, about 80 per cent of the U.S. population isn’t treated correctly, according to national surveys,” said Zonszein, who wasn’t involved with the study.

Keeping Your Brain Agile with Music

pexels-photo-144026You may not be considered one of the professional performers out there. But that doesn’t mean you don’t benefit from learning the way to play musical instruments. Music will always be an exciting and enthralling experience, and later on, you will realise that playing it is a great mental workout.

Even more specifically, learning a musical instrument can improve mental function in the elderly, and prevent cognitive decline.

A great example here is Keith Richards, who is still often seen performing despite his advancing age. He is among those who have survived a rock n roll lifestyle, drugs and alcohol, and is still vital, passionate, and performing at the age of seventy-three. The impressive thing is that he still prances around onstage and holds his own with other artists who are much younger.

It is no mystery why artists like Keith Richards are heading to the road of healthy aging. And he’s not the only one: Bo Diddly played the blues until he was seventy-eight. It’s associated with the fact that they give their brains a fantastic workout by way of playing a musical instrument. Learning and playing a musical instrument is considered by neuroscientists as something that is incredibly beneficial at any age. It causes a symphony of neural fireworks, and is one of the best things you can do for your brain: “People with more musical training responded faster than those with little or no training, with no loss in accuracy. “This result suggests that higher levels of musical training might result in more efficient information processing in general,” the researchers write. In addition, “higher levels of musical practise were also associated with a better engagement of cognitive control processes, as indicated by more efficient error and conflict detection,” the researchers report. Participants who had spent more quality time with their instruments had “a better ability to detect errors and conflicts, and a reduced reactiveness to these detected problems.”

According to research, the midline structure called corpus callosum connects both sides of the brain and integrates the sensory, cognitive information, and motor skills between the cerebral hemispheres. This area has been found to be bigger in most musicians.

Neuroscientists also suggest learning musical instruments in bolstering and exercising the brain, which provides limitless pro-age health benefits. Some may have felt the urge to play the guitar or piano as they grew older. This might not just be wishful thinking, it may actually be due to the neural networks in the brain, begging them to find a way to activate it again. Through learning a new instrument, one can activate neurons that are hard to activate elsewhere in life, helping to keep the pathways in the brain healthy and connected.

Healthy ageing research suggests that wellness is linked to the brain, and a healthy brain can add years to life, even without other changes. It is through experience and education that people develop a refined neural network in the brain, and by activating the networks with lessons, and keeping them maintained or even developing them further via practise, the brain can keep performing well.

The old adage still remains true today, “use it or lose it”. This is just as much true of the brain as anywhere else. Neural pathways that go unused begin to decline, leading to degeneration, cognitive impairment, or dementia.

Even if it’s after your retirement, it’s not too late! You can still make significant progress, and derive intense satisfaction and pleasure from it. More effort will be involved, as learning new things doesn’t happen quickly or easily, just like in the early years in life. That is exactly what makes it more meaningful and more challenging. For vitality and brain agility, turn your attention to musical instruments!

Consortium Uses Tiny Worms To Screen For Anti-Aging Chemicals

Caenorhabditis_elegans_hermaphrodite_adult-en.svgThere is currently a large need for pharmaceuticals that can combat age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and Huntington’s disease. Doctors at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging are trying to fill this niche. The team is working to identify chemicals that can improve lifespan in a number of organisms. These chemicals may one day become incorporated in an anti-aging drug in the future.

The Buck Institute’s researchers are working with teams led by Monica Driscoll, Ph.D. at Rutgers University, and Patrick Phillip, Ph.D., at the University of Oregon. The team is working together in the Caenorhabditis Intervention Testing Programme (CITP), a consortium funded by the National Institute on Aging. Researchers in the consortium are using a number of strains and species of the roundworm Caenorhabditis to find chemical agents that can delay aging effects across a number of organisms with varied genetic backgrounds.

The processes associated with aging are very complex and are most likely informed by an individual’s genes. CITP hopes that if scientists can detect agents that show effects in a variety of organisms with different genetic backgrounds, those agents may have a high likelihood of being effective in humans, too. Roundworms are ideal for screening chemicals affecting lifespan in a short amount of time because they only live about three weeks.

Researchers at the Buck Institute used three stains each of the roundworms C. briggsae and C. elegans in order to test a series of ten compounds that have shown increased longevity in other organisms such as C. elegans. Most of the chemicals that had been previously studied were shown to extend lifespan in the laboratory-adapted N2 strain of C. elegans. The researchers did not yet know how these chemicals would behave in wild strains of C. elegans or C. briggsae.

The research showed that a number of the compounds did increase longevity in the C. elegans strains, while others only showed these effects in the N2 C. elegans strain. However, the compound Thioflavin T lengthened lifespan in every organism tested. It was also extremely potent, with at least one of the strains consistently showing a doubling of lifespan.

Thioflavin T is a dye that is commonly used in laboratories. It binds to toxic protein aggregates called amyloid plaques. These plaques are found in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s disease. Buck Institute researchers had previously published results stating that the lifespan of one strain of C. elegans could be extended by Thioflavin T. The study also stated that Thioflavin T is likely to work by allowing the organisms to maintain proper transport, folding, expression, and clearance of proteins.

The CITP has created a stronger scientific process by bringing together multiple institutions and allowing these researchers to validate each other’s work. The Buck Institute team recently analysed the results as a whole and found the the three CITP study sites did a good job of reproducing each other’s data. However, analysis of the individual experiments at any given site shows that there is high variation from experiment to experiment. The experiments still need to be replicated in a large variety of organisms to ensure the anti-aging effects of these chemicals.

According to lead author Mark Lucanic, Ph.D., the researchers hope that the chemicals that have promising effects can be tested in vertebrates in the future. If the chemicals are effective in vertebrates, they may be the basis of drugs that can combat age-related illnesses in humans. This could be a huge step for anti-aging and the prevention of diseases associated with aging.

Smell Test May Be Able To Predict Alzheimer’s

24445365953_a0299f6fce_bCan a smell test predict Alzheimer’s? According to research conducted at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), New York State Psychiatric Institute, and NewYork-Presbyterian, it just might. When aging people take an odour identification test, their inability to detect odours may correlate to a cognitive decline and early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

The two studies that point to this idea were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference in Toronto, Canada. These studies show that the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test, also known as UPSIT, may work as a practical and affordable alternative to other Alzheimer’s early-detection tests.

In one of the studies, UPSIT was administered to 397 older adults who had an average age of 80 years. The 397 people were from a multiethnic population in northern Manhattan, and none of them had dementia at the time of the experiment. Each participant was given an MRI scan and the thickness of the entorhinal cortex was measured. This is the area of the brain that is first affected when a person gets Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers checked in with the participants four years later, at which time 50 participants had developed dementia. This made up 12.6 per cent of the participants. Almost 20 per cent of the participants showed signs of cognitive decline.

The study found that low UPSIT scores, an indication of a decreased ability to identify odours correctly, had a significant association with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Entorhinal cortical thickness, however, was not associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Cognitive decline was also predicted by low UPSIT scores, but not entorhinal cortical thickness. Entorhinal cortical thickness was, however, significantly associated with UPSIT score of participants who transitioned to dementia.

The study ultimately showed that impairment in odour identification, and to a lesser degree, entorhinal cortical thickness, can help predict the transition to dementia. The findings suggest that perhaps odour identification impairment precedes thinning of the entorhinal cortex in those who are in the early clinical stage of Alzheimer’s.

In the second study, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) assessed how useful UPSIT and tests that measure the level of amyloid in the brain are in predicting memory decline. The reason a test for amyloid was used is because large amounts of this protein can form plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The participants in this study were 84 older adults with a median age of 71 years. The researchers administered UPSIT to the participants, and also either preformed beta amyloid PET scanning or analysed the cerebrospinal fluid. It was found that 58 of these participants had mild cognitive impairment. The researchers then kept track of these participants for at least six months.

Upon following up with the participants, the researchers found that 67 per cent of the participants had signs of a declining memory. Testing positive for amyloid through either of the two methods predicted cognitive decline. UPSIT scores did not, but participants who had a score of less than 35 were over three times as likely to have declines in memory as those who have higher UPSIT scores. The research ultimately suggests that both UPSIT scores and amyloid states could predict a decline in memory, but further research is needed.

The current methods for finding Alzheimer’s are only able to clinically detect the disease in its later stages of development, at which point significant brain damage has already occurred. If the UPSIT test or analysis of amyloid plaques could be used to predict Alzheimer’s, this would be a huge breakthrough in Alzheimer’s detection.

Pomegranates Anti-Ageing Capabilities

pexels-photo-100801Pomegranates have long been touted as an elixir of anti-aging, but there has been very little research that proves those claims, outside of the rich amounts of antioxidants contain. Until now, that is.

 

Research shows that there is a compound within pomegranates that is activated by gut bacteria. The effect of our intestinal microbes breaking down this compound results in a by-product called Urolithin A, which has been shown in research to aid muscles in protecting themselves against aging. When Urolithin A was given to Caenorhabiditis elegans worms, they lived an average lifespan that was 45% longer than the lifespan of the regular worms. When fed to elderly mice, the mice could run up to 42% further, without building any additional muscle. This change suggests that the chemical improves muscle-cell quality, not quantity.

 

The human trials have begun, but the findings from the worms and mice were so measurable and impressive the preliminary results have been published in Nature Medicine.

 

Mitochondria in our cells work kind of like batteries, powering the cells. Eventually, mitochondria degredate and fail over time, which leads to complications like muscle weakness and Parkinson’s disease. Essentially, Urolithin A (UA for short) is responsible for re-charging failing mitochondria, salvaging cells which might otherwise fail completely. “It’s the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process, otherwise known as mitophagy,” said Patrick Aebischer, co-author on the study.

 

But before you run out to stock up on pomegranates, remember that the fruit don’t carry the compound, rather your gut bacteria processing it. There are those out there that do not have the right intestinal microbes for this process, or some that produce far less of the compound than others do.

 

The co-authors of this study founded a company to help combat this problem with a goal of creating and administering precise doses of UA to bodies directly, without the variable conversion process in the digestive system. They have already begun testing with humans in clinical trials in hospitals throughout Europe.

 

And for those of you that are reluctant to believe that worms and rats are good test subjects for humans, fear not: “Species that are evolutionarily quite distant, such as C elegans and the rat, react to the same substance in the same way. That’s a good indication that we’re touching here on an essential mechanism in living organisms.” So says Johan Auwerx.
The idea is to see if UA can provide the same mitochondrial-saving benefits to humans that it did in the trials. If it does, we could see UA being given to the elderly to help with muscular degeneration, amongst other ailments related to age. We may not see 45% longer lives, as we did with the rats, but we may see an extension of quality of life, and a longer period of healthy lifespans.

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