Thursday, April 20, 2017

Do you want a 'younger' brain? Drink beetroot juice before exercising

Combining the drink with exercise strengthens certain regions of the brain, making it appear more youthful and potentially preventing the organ's decline.

This finding could help people who are at risk of brain deterioration to remain functionally independent, such as those with a family history of dementia.

Beetroot juice's power likely lies in its nitric oxide content, which both increases blood flow to the brain and improves exercise performance. 

Study author Professor Jack Rejeski, said: 'Nitric oxide is a really powerful molecule. It goes to the areas of the body which are hypoxic, or needing oxygen, and the brain is a heavy feeder of oxygen in your body.

'Compared to exercise alone, adding a beetroot juice supplement to exercise resulted in brain connectivity that closely resembles what you see in younger adults.'

Scientists from Wake Forest University, North Carolina, studied 26 men and women aged 55 and older who did not exercise and had high blood pressure.

Some participants were given beetroot juice one hour before walking for 50 minutes on a treadmill, while others did the same exercise but without the drink. This was repeated three times a week for six weeks.

Those who drank the juice had healthier brains, including the regions involved in movement, emotion and cognitive function.

The scientists also found higher levels of nitrate and nitrite in those who drank the juice. 

Beetroot contains nitrate, which is first converted to nitrite and then nitric oxide in the body. 

This comes after researchers from Queen Mary University of London found one daily glass of 250ml beetroot juice substantially lowers blood pressure.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Just 4 minutes of intense cycling can stop cells from aging quickly, study reveals

High-intensity interval training for just four minutes at a time can stop the aging process.

Short bursts of super-intense exercise, used in spinning classes, have been found to reverse damage to cells which decline with age.

Many people may think long bike rides are the best exercise, or at least a half-hour session pedaling at the gym. But a US study found just four minutes of all-out cycling, followed by three easier minutes, are needed 12 times a week, along with another 90 minutes walking on a treadmill.

High intensity interval training, as it is known, works better than longer cycling sessions and weightlifting to halt the damage to the cells' 'batteries' which may kickstart the aging process.

Fixing defects in the DNA of these batteries, the mitochondria, is believed to help people live longer before falling ill with diseases of old age like heart failure and cancer.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota found short bursts of exercise improve fitness, cut body fat and can ward off diabetes, as well as tackling cell aging.

They signed up 72 men and women aged 18 to 30 and 65 to 80 for high-intensity training, resistance training using weights, and combined training with longer bouts of cycling and fewer weights sessions.

In good news for time-poor office workers, senior author Dr Sreekumaran Nair, concluded the short bursts were the best.

He 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.'

High intensity interval training works to burn more fat by producing 'excess post-oxygen consumption'. Four minutes cycling at close to maximum effort, before collapsing red-faced on the handlebars, leaves someone's resting metabolic rate elevated for longer after exercise.

The latest study shows it also works particularly well in causing cells to make more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria. This ability is lost as people grow older.

The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, took biopsies from the participants' thigh muscles and compared the molecular makeup of their muscle cells to samples from sedentary volunteers.

The younger volunteers in the interval training group saw a 49 percent increase in their mitochondrial capacity, and the older volunteers saw an even more dramatic 69 percent increase.

Some of these reversed the decline in mitochondria caused by age, and the decline in proteins needed for muscle-building, which makes people increasingly frail as they get older.

These people did four minutes of high-intensity cycling, followed by three minutes of easier pedaling with no load, repeated only four times. The cycling sessions, on three days of the week, were coupled with two 45-minutes walks at a lower intensity on a treadmill.

It was better for aging than resistance training, involving lower and upper body weightlifting repeated eight to 12 times on four occasions twice a week. It also beat five days a week of cycling for half an hour at a lower intensity, plus four days of weightlifting with fewer repetitions.

However, interval training was less effective at improving muscle strength, which typically declines with aging.

Dr Nair, whose participants did not regularly exercise before joining the study, said: 'If people have to pick one exercise, I would recommend high-intensity interval training, but I think it would be more beneficial if they could do three to four days of interval training and then a couple days of strength training.'

The team hope a drug could be developed to mimic the effects of exercise in warding off old age. 

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Every hour you run adds 7 hours to your lifespan

Every hour you run extends your life span by seven hours - no matter how slow you go, a new study has revealed.

Scientists say that running just one hour a week is the most effective exercise to increase life expectancy. This holds true no matter how many miles or how fast you run, the researchers claim.

For those that take this advice to heart and run regularly, they say you can extend your life span by up to three years.

The study, conducted at Iowa State University, reanalyzed data from The Cooper Institute, in Texas, and also examined results from a number of other recent studies that looked at the link between exercise and mortality.

Scientists found that the new review reinforced the findings of earlier research.

At whatever pace or mileage, a person's risk of premature death dropped by 40 percent when he or she took up running.

This applied even when researchers controlled for smoking, drinking or a history of health problems such as obesity.

Three years ago, the same team conducted a study that analyzed more than 55,000 adults, and determined that running for just seven minutes a day could help slash the risk of dying from heart disease.

They followed participants over a period of 15 years, and found that of the more than 3,000 who died, only one-third of deaths were from heart disease.

Co-author Dr Duck-chul Lee, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, told The New York Times that after this study was released, the team was hounded with questions wondering if other activities, such as walking, were as beneficial.

High-mileage runners also questioned if they were overperforming and if, at some point, running would actually contribute to premature mortality.

After analyzing the data in the new study, scientists determined that hour for hour, running statistically returns more time to people's lives than it consumes.

In The Cooper Institute study, participants reported an average of two hours running per week. 

The amount ran over the course of 40 years would add up to fewer than six months, but it could increase life expectancy by more than three years.

The researchers also determined that if every non-runner who had been part of the reviewed studies took up the sport, there would have been 16 percent fewer deaths over all, and 25 percent fewer fatal heart attacks. 

Other types of exercise were also found to be beneficial. Walking and cycling dropped the risk of premature death by about 12 percent. 

Dr Lee says scientists remain uncertain as to why running helps with longevity. But he says it's likely because the sport combats many common risk factors for early death, including high blood pressure and extra body fat, especially around the middle. It also raises aerobic fitness, one of the best-known indicators for long-term health.

Running, however, does not make you immortal and the life expectancy rates don't increase beyond three years.

Improvements in life expectancy generally plateaued at about four hours of running per week, Dr Lee said. But they did not decline.  

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Monday, April 10, 2017

The super trio: How olive oil, nuts and avocado can help you live forever

The magic potion for a long and healthy life could be in your cupboard - in the form of olive oil. A form of fat found in the staple kitchen ingredient may help people to reach 100 years old, scientists claim.

Animals given the healthy compound, which is also found in avocado and nuts, were found to live longer. Experts believe the findings may also be relevant to humans as we apparently share similar qualities with the animals.

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers believe the fat helps to protect cells from the signs of aging. They also said it allows the body to quickly access energy from foods in the study published in the journal Nature.

Lead author Professor Anne Brunet said: 'We have known for some time metabolic changes can affect lifespan, but we expected the long-lived animals in our study would be thinner.

'Instead, they turned out to be fatter. This was quite a surprise.'

It may also explain why southern Europeans, who frequently eat olive oil in their Mediterranean diet, live longer and have lower rates of heart disease, despite consuming more fat.

In the study, roundworms were fed mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are already known to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Not only did the roundworms become obese, but they also lived two days longer on average than their svelte counterparts. Their average lifespan is a fortnight.

Research has previously shown roundworms that lack a complex of proteins called COMPASS live for 30 per cent longer than their peers. 

Tests later found blocking COMPASS helped convert unhealthy polyunsaturated fats in the animals' guts into mono-unsaturated fats. This came as a surprise as severe calorie restriction has also been shown to extend the lifespan of worms and many other animals.

The researchers are now working to understand how the mono-unsaturated fatty acid accumulation might work to extend lifespan.

Humans with diets rich in mono-unsaturated fats have been shown to have a reduced risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Some studies have even shown that centenarians store more mono-unsaturated fat than non-centenarians. 

Commenting on the study, London-based nutritionist Rob Hobson said 'it has many health benefits' mainly supporting the heart.

Healthspan's head of nutrition added: 'It contains unique anti oxidants that reduce inflammation such as oleocanthal.

'Like all healthy foods it’s energy dense so by that although good for you you still need to eat in moderation.' 

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Harvard scientist claims NMN drug has knocked 20 years off his age, and given his 77 year old father the energy of a 30 year old

A professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School has spent two decades investigating how to ‘cure’ aging and believes NMN is by far the best prospect of providing the answer.

His fountain of youth is actually a specialised variant of vitamin B3 that is found in many foods, including broccoli, cucumber and avocado, that helps our cells repair damaged DNA. The latter is believed to be a major cause of natural aging.

In the body, NMN is converted into a related chemical called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which is found in every cell of living organisms and is essential for life. NAD is crucial in fuelling the seven different genes in our body that govern aging. However, our NAD levels decline by about 50 per cent as we age, turning off the body’s defenses against aging and age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Experiments on mice by Professor Sinclair and his team showed that after just a week of being fed NMN dissolved in their drinking water, the cells of aging mice were indistinguishable from those of young mice. Their muscles looked and behaved like those of a young mouse, too.

In human terms, it was the equivalent of a 60-year-old’s cells and muscles transforming into those of a 20-year-old. According to the team’s paper in the international journal Science, the mice suffered no negative side-effects.

Often what works brilliantly in lab mice doesn’t translate to the more complex systems of humans. However, Professor Sinclair says no one has ever tried to replace our dwindling NAD before.

‘NAD is a naturally occurring molecule in the body, so we’re really just replenishing what’s been lost over time,’ he says. ‘That’s different to other strategies that have introduced a foreign molecule from a bacterium or a plant, which could have all sorts of side-effects.

‘This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that’s perhaps only three to five years from being on the market if the trials go well.’

The first tests on humans will soon begin in Boston in the U.S., focusing first on safety and then on whether the treatment can actually reverse aging in people, too. They will be monitored closely by the U.S. space agency NASA, which is interested in using the drug during future missions to Mars to stop the accelerated aging process that affects astronauts exposed to radiation in space.

Professor Sinclair is so convinced of his pill’s safety that not only has he been taking it himself, so has his 77-year-old father.

The results certainly sound encouraging. Before he started taking a 500mg NMN pill every morning, 47-year-old Professor Sinclair had his blood tested and was told his body had a biological age of 58.

After consuming NMN for three months, he was tested again and his biological age was 32.

As for his father, he’s recently been out-pacing the professor’s younger brother on mountaineering expeditions in their native Australia.

‘He’s as vigorous as he was in his 20s and 30s, and he seems to be getting more energetic,’ says Professor Sinclair.

The manufacturing process of the NMN pill is complicated and expensive, and it currently costs Professor Sinclair more than $1,000 (£797) a month to buy it just for himself. Large-scale manufacturing would bring the cost down, but he says that ultimately it won’t be cheap. Of course it won’t — if it lives up to the hype, then it really is the long-sought-after elixir of youth.

We each have our own image of what it might entail, and taking a pill with my Bran Flakes is certainly not what I had in mind.

I mention Ursula Andress bathing in mystical cold flames that kept her forever young and gorgeous in the 1960s film version of the H. Rider Haggard story She.

Professor Sinclair remembers it, too. Nothing like that is quite on the cards, he admits… at least not yet.

For a start, what his NMN pill cannot do is rejuvenate our exterior appearance — especially if we’re already old.

The fact that Professor Sinclair, a father of three young children, still has no grey hairs and very few wrinkles seems a miracle in itself, but he suggests it isn’t because of his pills.

Hair loss, grey hair and wrinkled skin are not yet reversible, he says, although if you start taking NMN young, it may delay visible aging, as it’s much easier to prevent hair loss and grey hair than reverse it.

‘I don’t think people will go from 80 to looking like they are 20, although a person who started taking it in their 40s could stay looking in their 40s for longer.

‘What I am expecting is that their body’s internal workings will function better and people will be better protected against diseases as they get older,’ he explains.

And yet all is not lost for Ursula Andress wannabes. Stem cell replacement — the field that could rejuvenate skin and hair — is still in its infancy, but is looking hopeful, he says.

Professor Sinclair mentions Samumed, a California research company whose backers include the venture capitalist arm of IKEA and which claims considerable success in reversing the cosmetic aspects of aging.

By reprogramming genes to be younger, it is developing molecules that could restore hair and hair colour and remove skin wrinkles.

Another drug could even regenerate cartilage in the knees of arthritis patients.

Professor Sinclair, a molecular biologist by training who sold his first research company to British drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million and who was in Time magazine’s 2014 list of the world’s 100 most influential people, is certainly not a lone voice.

There’s a growing scientific consensus that ageing is not inevitable.

There’s considerable disagreement, however, over to what extent the inevitable can be put off. A minority, so-called ‘immortalists’ — who are big on imagination but short on serious scientific credentials — believe we can avoid death indefinitely.

They include Aubrey de Grey, a British technology expert and thinker who reckons we can live for 1,000 years.

Then there’s the American futurist, Ray Kurzweil, who believes that humans will eventually physically merge with artificial intelligence and transcend our biological limitations.

Finally, there’s Martine Rothblatt, a transgender woman and one of America’s highest-paid chief executives, who intends to grow new organs from people’s DNA.

She has already commissioned a ‘back-up version’ of her own wife — a robot which has been uploaded with the real woman’s thoughts, memories and even feelings.

Aging science is a world full of quacks and charlatans, but that hasn’t stopped Silicon Valley billionaires and celebrities terrified by the thought of death from plunging vast sums into scientifically dubious projects.

A recent Los Angeles meeting to discuss the latest theories brought together the actress Goldie Hawn, pop star Moby and Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who has talked of ‘curing death’.

More serious scientists, including Professor Sinclair, are relatively modest in their ambitions: they speak of adding at most a few extra decades to our lifespans. But what’s possibly more important, they say, is improving our ‘health-spans’.

For what’s the use of having another 50 years to live, if you have to spend it in a wheelchair, crippled by arthritis?

Professor Sinclair has strong personal reasons for devoting his career to unlocking the secrets of aging.

He was in the middle of studying for his PhD when his mother contracted lung cancer. And he vividly recalls his sense of outrage watching his once vibrant grandmother grow old, enfeebled and pass away. It’s a tragic story being played out in everybody’s family, so why aren’t we up in arms about aging, he asks.

The answer, he knows, is because we regard aging as inevitable. In fact, everyone believed that until scientists identified genes that control DNA repair, and therefore the ageing process, in the Nineties.

It was known that strenuous exercise and a low-calorie diet put stress on our cells, prompting them to produce more NAD and so build up their defences against the sort of damage that will age us.

But we learned that over-exercising and starving ourselves is damaging, too, especially for older people — and so scientists intensified their search for a drug that could mimic their effect.

It was Professor Sinclair who initially identified a possible candidate in resveratrol, an antioxidant found in tiny amounts in red wine and in cocoa which reversed aging in mice.

Complicated to manufacture, difficult to administer and of limited effectiveness, resveratrol was not the miracle it had appeared. And so his search for a far more powerful substance led him to NMN.

As to what exactly it may do for us, he mentions strengthened endurance and fitness, enhanced energy, and muscles and organs such as the liver that will function more like they did when we were much younger. (If DNA damage is repaired or minimised, our organs don’t have a shelf life as such.) An increased metabolism might lead to weight loss, too.

Serious aging researchers are wary of being too specific on how many extra years their discoveries may give us, but given what it’s done for mice, Professor Sinclair’s estimate that NMN could buy us an extra five or ten years of healthy life sounds a little disappointing.

But it’s only a start, he insists. Combined with other research that scientists are doing around the world, our age span could be extended by half again.

‘I’ve stated before that the first person to live to 150 has already been born, and that’s me projecting where we’ll be [scientifically] 50 years from now,’ he says.

‘I don’t think we’re going to be immortal, but there’s no law of biology that says we can’t live for 200 years.’

What are these other areas of research? Professor Sinclair mentions two more promising drugs. One is metformin, a drug used to treat diabetes, which has been found to help some diabetics live longer than non-diabetics.

The other is rapamycin, derived from a fungus found on Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean and used to prevent organ transplant rejection. Tests have shown it suppresses the onset of cancer in mice. Both of these drugs, like NMN, trick our body into upping its defences against diseases and negative effects of aging.

The market for an effective anti-aging drug has been estimated at $26 billion a year.

However, Professor Sinclair and his team must first convince regulators to accept that aging is a treatable condition — essential if they want NMN officially approved as a drug — before the floodgates can open to the millions who may want to buy it.

In the meantime, many may ask whether we want to live until we’re 150 and — just as important — whether the world can cope if we do.

Critics of extending human lifespans warn that it will impose a crippling burden on healthcare and the global economy. But Professor Sinclair believes the opposite, arguing that it’s economically essential that we find a way of keeping the elderly healthy and productive.

‘We’re talking about people in their 90s playing tennis and educating their great-grandkids,’ he says.

‘It’ll be a totally different world where your 80s and 90s will be the equivalent of your 60s and 70s now.’

And from work with laboratory mice and observations of the very elderly, it seems death when it comes will be much more rapid, possibly after a short illness such as pneumonia. Scientists call this phenomenon the ‘compression of morbidity’.

Professor Sinclair says he thinks about the ethics of his work every day. What bothers him most is the idea that he could be sentencing people in unpleasant, unrewarding jobs to decades more misery as they struggle towards a far later retirement.

In the developed world, we’re well past the Bible’s approximation of the human lot of threescore years and ten — even without molecular tinkering.

Advances in medical and pharmaceutical technology, and improving lifestyles, mean that lifespans will continue to extend for much of the world’s population.

The prospect of a pill to boost longevity further still is a very good reason for our children, at least, to start looking forward to that 120th birthday party.