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Category Archives: Longevity Medicine

More on DAF-16 and Longevity in Nematodes

The DAF-16 gene in nematode worms such as C. elegans is thought to be the fulcrum of a metabolic feedback loop that switches between long-lived stress resistant and short-lived reproduction focused states. "Ageing is a process that all organisms experience, but at very different rates. We know that, even between closely related species, average lifespans can vary enormously. We wanted to find out how normal ageing is being governed by genes and what effect these genes have on other traits, such as immunity. To do that, we looked at a gene that we already knew to be involved in the ageing process, called DAF-16, to see how it may determine the different rates of ageing in different species. ... Researchers compared longevity, stress resistance and immunity in four related species of worm. ... They also looked for differences in the activity of DAF-16 in each of the four species and found that they were all quite distinct in this respect. And, importantly, the differences in DAF-16 corresponded to differences in longevity, stress resistance and immunity between the four species - in general higher levels of DAF-16 activity correlated with longer life, increased stress resistance and better immunity against some infections."

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The Long Road Towards Prosthetic Nerves

One day, it will be possible to replace nerves with entirely artificial conduits. This is a branch of medical technology that will compete with regenerative medicine, and ultimately lead to more effective and resilient body parts. But today, the foundations are still being designed. A long road lies ahead. Here, the New Scientist looks at early work: "Schiefer is describing an experiment in which pulses of electricity are used to control the muscles of an unconscious patient, as if they were a marionette. It represents the beginnings of a new generation of devices that he hopes will allow people with paralysed legs to regain control of their muscles and so be able to stand, or even walk again. His is one of a raft of gadgets being developed that plug into the network of nerves that normally relay commands from the spinal cord to the muscles, but fall silent when a spinal injury breaks the chain. New ways to connect wires to nerves [allow] artificial messages to be injected to selectively control muscles just as if the signal had originated in the brain. Limbs that might otherwise never again be controlled by their owners can be brought back to life. ... Nerves contain tens of thousands of axons, each capable of being controlled by the ultimate puppeteer: the brain. Learning to pull even a few of those strings, though, could restore partial function to a person's limb, restoring some control to an arm or leg that was previously paralysed."

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Magnesium for Memory

Make It Magnesium for Healthy Brain Function

A newly developed magnesium supplement may help boost memory.

Late last year I predicted that 2010 would be magnesium’s year.  And with the latest study on magnesium, my prediction is bearing fruit.

True, magnesium hasn’t dominated the health headlines this year like, say, vitamin D has in terms of frequency.  But in terms of import, magnesium’s time to shine is now, as a recent study suggests that this magnificent mineral helps buoy one’s memory.

Researchers from Israel’s Tel Aviv University recognized magnesium’s magnificence after supplementing two groups of rats with the same food regimen, but tinkered with one of the rat groupings by adding a new-fangled magnesium supplement that purports to better penetrate the brain than contemporary magnesium supplements.

Through brain scans and cognitive tests, researchers found that, indeed, the magnesium-supplemented group outperformed the other group both in cognitive function and brain development.

In a statement, the researchers said they were “pleased” by the findings, but they couldn’t help but be somewhat disconcerted by the findings at the same time.

Apparently when they used over the counter magnesium supplements, there was no measurable difference in cognition between the two groups.

Translation:  According to the researchers, magnesium supplements on the market today don’t help with brain function.

Now, this study should not suggest that magnesium supplements on the market don’t work period, only that they don’t seem to be effective for brain health and development.  Researchers are confident, however, that when the new and improved magnesium supplement becomes commercially available—magnesium-L-theronate, or MgT— it will help make memories magnificent.

In the meantime, increase your magnesium intake by supplementing with – you guessed it – magnesium-rich foods.

Some of the richest magnesium sources come from seeds (like pumpkin seeds), leafy greens (like spinach) and beans (like black beans).  A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds has 184 milligrams of magnesium, a cup of boiled spinach has 156 milligrams and a cup of black beans has 120 milligrams.

Not to be outdone as a solid source for magnesium is salmon.  A four-ounce serving of salmon has 138 milligrams of magnesium.  Other significant sources for magnesium in the seafaring family include halibut (4 oz.=121 mg), scallops (4 oz.=77 mg), tuna (4 oz.=72 mg) and shrimp (4 oz.=38 mg).

Adult men should be getting at least 420 milligrams of magnesium per day, while women should get about 320 milligrams per day.


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Vitamin K Delivers Kick to Cancer Risk

Vitamin K Sources Have Cancer Preventive Properties

German researchers find link between low consumption of vitamin K2 and cancer (lung cancer, specifically).

All the rage these days in the health world is the importance of getting a daily dose of vitamin D in your diet, whether it’s through the foods you fix or the sun you soak.  As a result, other vitamins have been given short shrift.

Well what better way to reacquaint oneself with other vitamins than with a study that says increasing one’s vitamin K intake can lower cancer risk?

Now, before I get into the guts of the study, this is not to suggest that eating cabbage with every meal will somehow prevent cancer.  But what the study does suggest is that certain sources of vitamin K are more cancer preventive than others.

About a year ago, I wrote about the differences between vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. I wrote about vitamin K2 being a more nutritious form of vitamin K than it’s partner in nutrition, vitamin K1, but at that point vitamin K2 was being hailed for its link to bone and cartilage development.  So, runners and people battling arthritis were encouraged to eat sources of vitamin K2.

This time, however, vitamin K2 is being hailed for its cancer-prevention prowess.

Researchers from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany discovered its cancer-fighting effects after analyzing the results of a 10-year study that involved approximately 24,300 adults.  All of the adults – between the ages of 35 and 64 – were cancer free at the outset.

That fact changed 10 years later.  By the end of the study, approximately 1,800 men and women were diagnosed with cancers of various kinds, with just less than one-fourth of them dying from their disease.

But when researchers looked at the decedents’ dieting patterns, as well as those who remained cancer free throughout the study period, they saw some patterns.

For instance, among those who ate vitamin K2 rich foods, they were 28 percent less likely to be among those who died of cancer.  But when researchers looked at people who had the lowest vitamin K2 intake, they were almost 50 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with lung cancer (the most commonly diagnosed cancer there is, by the way).

Comparatively, those who had the highest vitamin K2 intake, they were less than half a percent more likely to have lung cancer.

Findings were similar among other commonly diagnosed cancers (e.g. prostate):  the more vitamin K2 eaten, the less likely they were to develop cancer.

Coincidence?  Perhaps.  The researchers are loath to suggest definitively that it’s the vitamin K2 that did it because most of the participants who ate lots of vitamin K2 got it from cheese primarily.  Thus, it could another aspect of cheese that makes it so cancer friendly.

The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Now, as most of you know, I’m not an extremist when it comes to nutrition.  Virtually everything high in calories can be enjoyed so long as it’s in moderation.

Thus, while cheese is pretty high in saturated fat and cholesterol, there are enough good things in cheese to make it a healthful food when eaten in moderation.

But there are other healthy sources of vitamin K2 that you don’t have to scrimp on.  One of them is natto, which, like cheese, is a fermented food (vitamin K2 primarily comes from fermented foods).  I’ve never eaten natto, but seeing as how the Japanese have eaten it for well over a thousand years—a culture that is known for its long lifespan and healthy dieting habits—it’s clearly a food worth trying.

And who knows?  One bite may make you nutso for natto!


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