Scientists are making strides in reversing age-related memory loss with umbilical cord blood

Umbilical cord blood from babies could help reverse effects of ageing, like memory loss, according to scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine in the US. In a study on mouse model, scientists showed that injecting blood from the umbilical cords of human babies restored the rodents’ brain function.

Researchers say they have pinpointed which specific chemicals have these memory-sharpening effects. They believe that one day, these proteins may be able to help people with neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

Several years ago, scientists surgically attached pairs of rats to each other and noticed that old rats tended to live longer if they shared a bloodstream with their younger counterparts.

The findings set off an eccentric, but ambitious scientific venture to understand how certain components from young bodies, when transplanted into older ones, can sometimes enhance or revitalise them.

From the start, the findings were exciting, complex and, sometimes, conflicting. For instance, scientists have shown that young blood can restore cell activity in the livers and muscles of ageing mice. They’ve also discovered that linking old mice to young ones helped reverse thickening of heart muscle.

In this new study, the researchers investigated the effects of the liquid part of human blood, called plasma, on mouse brains. After getting parental consent, the team injected blood plasma from three different sources – people aged 61-82, 19-24, and newborn infants’ umbilical cords – to older mice every four days for two weeks.

The mice were placed in a maze, which consisted of a table filled with holes that would either lead them to a cuddly den or a jarring fall.

Before being injected with umbilical cord blood, the mice’s performance wasn’t very impressive. It took them a long time to learn and remember the location of the holes, and some of them failed to locate them.

umbilical cord

Mice that received cord plasma performed better than those who received young adult plasma. Mice who received old plasma fared the worst – about the same as mice who had no intervention. This suggests that the youngest plasma somehow improves memory, even after it’s declined with age.

“But after cord plasma treatment, both the time [it took to] find it, the rate at which they’d find it and the fact that they do find it was improved and changing,” says Joe Castellano, a neuroscientist at Stanford University School of Medicine.

When the researchers dissected the mouse brains and inspected the hippocampi, they discovered that certain genes associated with making new memories had been turned on in some of the mice.

“So, we had a hint early on that one of these donor groups, specifically the [umbilical] cord plasma, might be having an effect on the brain itself,” says Castellano.

The team wanted to identify which parts of the plasma were actually useful, so they analysed the different chemicals found in blood plasma at different ages. Specifically, they looked at the proteins that influence how cells communicate with each other; old plasma has fewer of these proteins than young plasma. Specifically, they found higher amounts of a protein called TIMP2 in younger people.

When the old mice were injected with TIMP2 alone, they started behaving like young mice again, getting similar memory benefits to those mice that received the umbilical cord blood injections, suggesting this was the protein at play.

“Human blood, especially young human blood—the youngest we can obtain – has factors in there that can be beneficial in the brain,” says Wyss-Coray.

Although this was a study on mouse model, Wyss-Coray is confident these results could render in humans.

In January, Wyss-Coray and his team finished a clinical trial in which Alzheimer’s patients were injected with plasma from young adults every week for four months. They wanted to determine if it was safe for patients. The analysis are still in the process.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

April 21, 2017 / by / in
High-fat and high-carb diet raises osteoarthritis risk

Scientists have found a link between consumption of animal fats and an increased risk of osteoarthritis. In the first study of its kind, researchers in Australia, found that unsaturated fat changes the composition of cartilage, particularly in the weight-bearing joints of the hip and knee.

The collaborative study was conducted by Professor Yin Xiao, from Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and his team, and Professor Lindsay Brown and his team at the University of Southern Queensland.

The disease can affect any joint in the body but most often it affects the knees, hips, hands, and spine.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions across the globe.

The condition can affect any joint in the body but it is commonly found in the knees, hips, hands, and spine.

In osteoarthritis, the cartilage – which acts as a buffer between joints – slowly breaks down. With the degeneration of the cartilage, joints become stiff, swollen, and painful. The condition tends to worsen over time.

Osteoarthritis commonly affects women and older adults. Bone deformities and joint injuries suffered in the past also increase the chances of developing the condition.

Obesity is another risk factor for osteoarthritis. This is partly because the extra weight puts more stress on the joints. But the link between obesity and osteoarthritis may be a little deeper than that.

osteoarthritisFor their study, the researchers investigated the effects on joints of diets rich in an assortment of saturated fatty acids found in butter, animal fat, coconut oil, palm oil, and simple carbohydrates – a high-fat, high carbohydrate diet common to so called “junk food.”

The study shows that osteoarthritis may be less to do with the general usage of our joints and more to do with our regular diet. As Prof. Xiao says:

“Our findings suggest that it’s not wear and tear but diet that has a lot to do with the onset of osteoarthritis.”

The researchers tested a variety of saturated fats and found that long term use of animal fat, butter and palm oil was the most damaging to cartilage. There was less damage caused by lauric acid, a saturated fatty acid found in coconut oil.

According to their results, a diet containing 20 percent saturated fats and simple carbohydrates “produced osteoarthritic-like changes in the knee.”

“Saturated fatty acid deposits in the cartilage change its metabolism and weaken the cartilage, making it more prone to damage. This would, in turn, lead to osteoarthritic pain from the loss of the cushioning effect of cartilage. We also found changes in the bone under the cartilage on a diet rich in saturated fat.”

Long-term use of animal fat, butter, and palm oil all appeared to weaken cartilage. However, when they substituted animal fat with lauric acid – a saturated fat naturally found in coconut oil – the opposite effect was observed. Lauric acid appeared to be beneficial.

“When [the researchers] replaced the meat fat in the diet with lauric acid, [they] found decreased signs of cartilage deterioration and metabolic syndrome, so it seems to have a protective effect,” says Ph.D. student Sunder Sekar, who was also involved in the study.

The researchers conclude:

“Replacement of traditional diets containing coconut-derived lauric acid with palm oil-derived palmitic acid or animal fat-derived stearic acid has the potential to worsen the development of both metabolic syndrome and osteoarthritis.”

This study followed on from Prof. Xiao’s earlier work, which revealed that antioxidants and anti-cholesterol drugs could slow the progression of joint damage caused by fatty acids found in palm oil and butter.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

April 20, 2017 / by / in
Protein interfering with brown fat causes obesity

High levels of a protein known as ld1 may boost obesity, according to a new research.

Many people become alarmed when they hear the word ‘fat.’ But, scientists say not all fat is bad news. There are certain types of fat known as brown fat and beige fat that perform crucial metabolic functions, making energy and helping the body to adjust to cold temperatures.

The new study was conducted by researchers from Georgia Cancer Center and Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University in the U.S. Dr. Satya Ande, a molecular biologist at Georgia Cancer Center is the corresponding author of the study.  Dr. Ande and colleagues found that high levels of a certain type of protein called ld1 increases obesity by diminishing the energy-producing activity of brown and beige fat.

The researchers believe targeting the ld1 protein may help reverse obesity by boosting brown fat levels and lowering white fat, which is normally found on the belly.

Energy in our body are stored as fat. The fat, or adipose, tissue – which helps control the body’s metabolism – is commonly separated into two main types: white and brown. Also, a third type of fat known as “beige fat” can be develop from white fat.

White and brown fat perform different functions. White fat mainly stores energy in the form of triglycerides, a type of fat found in the bloodstream. High levels of triglycerides may trigger conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

On the other hand, specialty of brown fat is to expand that energy by creating heat during exposure to cold temperatures, in a process known as thermogenesis.

There 2 types of fats also have structural differences.

Brown and beige fat have more mitochondria – known as the “powerhouses” of the cell because they turn food into energy. These types of fat are considered healthier than white fat. Past studies have shown that brown and beige fat decrease obesity and metabolic disease in mice. At the same time, human studies have found a link between leanness and these types of fats.

White fat, on the other hand, possess fewer mitochondria and blood vessels.

In previous research, the protein Id1 was found to be linked with prostate cancer.

For the study, Ande and colleagues used genetically modified mice that produce excessive levels of Id1 in their fat cells.

The mice were then fed high-fat diet, as well as a regular diet.

A control group comprising of normal mice were fed the same diets.

The researchers found that the mice that produced excessive levels of ld1 gained significantly more weight than the control mice. While on a regular diet, they also gained more weight than their normal counterparts.

The study showed that high levels of ld1 suppresses the fat-burning activity of brown fat by binding to it.

High amounts of ld1 also impedes the activity of the key transcription factor, PGC1 alpha. PGC1 alpha controls thermogenesis by regulating the unique protein Ucp1, which, in turn, enables brown fat cells burn energy for heat more efficiently.

In addition, Ande and colleagues found that another transcription factor, Ebf2, is also inhibited by ld1. This transcription factor helps white fat turn into beige. The researchers showed that eliminating Id1 boosts the expression of the beige gene and Ucp1 in the response of white fat to cold exposure.

Moreover, removing the Id1 protein did not seem to suggest that it is needed for normal functioning – at least not in mice.

The researchers say their findings suggest that the Id1 protein is a risk factor for obesity and diabetes, and these two conditions could be reversed by targeting this protein.

“If we can target Id1, we may able to prevent […] and ultimately reduce the risk of obesity and related disease,” says Dr. Ande.

For most of us, as we age, the body finds it increasingly difficult to produce brown fat. This explains why we tend to gain weight more easily when we get older. Targeting Id1 at a molecular level, however, may help to increase brown fat, Dr. Ande adds.

The study was published in the journal Diabetes.

April 18, 2017 / by / in
Air pollution may lower “good” cholesterol levels, study finds

People living in areas with high air pollution have less ‘good cholesterol’ which is vital for heart health, suggests a new study.

Numerous studies in the past have found a link between exposure to air pollution and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. However, this new study points to a certain type of cholesterol that may be affected by air pollution.

“Our study helps strengthen the biological plausibility of the link between traffic-related air pollution and cardiovascular disease,” says lead author Dr Griffith Bell, from the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle, in the U.S.

“We’re slowly beginning to understand some of the biology of how that link works.”

The British Heart Foundation described air pollution as a “silent killer” responsible for a “myriad of changes in the body”, such as high blood pressure.

Air pollution kills around 40,000 people in the UK each year. Of these deaths, 8 in 10 are caused by stroke or a heart attack, according to Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director of the British Heart Foundation.

“Good cholesterol,” or high density lipoprotein (HDL) is beneficial for the heart because it removes low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, from the arteries.

Accumulation of LDL can cause atherosclerosis, a hardening or narrowing of the arteries that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

For their study, Dr. Bell and colleagues analysed the data of 6,654 people in the U.S. aged 45 to 84 taking part in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.

The researchers estimated air pollution of each individual by using information from cohort-focused monitoring campaigns, which revealed the city in which each of the participants lived, when they lived there, and the air pollution levels in each city at that time.

Overall levels of HDL cholesterol in each individual, as well as the number of HDL particles were also assessed. According to recent studies, the HDL particle number may more accurately indicate how HDL helps the heart, compared with the cholesterol content of HDL particles.

The researchers found that people with higher exposure to particulate matter, known as PM 2.5, which are produced by burning fossil fuels, were linked to less HDL.

Over a 1-year period, participants with higher exposure to black carbon – a component of PM that is primarily emitted from automobiles – had significantly lower levels of HDL cholesterol, than those who had lower black carbon exposure.

Although reductions in HDL cholesterol as a result of higher exposure to air pollution was seen in both sexes, the effect was stronger for women, the authors note.

Dr Bell says, the lower HDL levels linked with greater air pollution exposure may increase the later risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers say their study has provided some insight into how air pollution affects heart health, but more research is needed to gain a clearer understanding.

The study was published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology,

April 15, 2017 / by / in
High magnesium levels may lower risk of bone fractures, study suggests

Magnesium supplementation could hold the key to stopping one of the most preventable causes of disability in middle-aged to elderly people – bone fractures. A new research led by scientists at the Universities of Bristol and Eastern Finland found that low levels of magnesium in the blood may elevate the risk of bone fractures and that, in contrast, high levels may stave off this cause of disability by 44 percent in middle-aged and elderly people.

The study team was led by Dr. Setor Kunutsor, a Research Fellow at the University of Bristol’s Musculoskeletal Research Unit.

“The findings do suggest that avoiding low serum concentrations of magnesium may be a promising though unproven strategy for risk prevention of fractures,” says Dr. Kunutsor.

It is well-known that calcium and vitamin D play an important part in bone health. Magnesium, on the other hand, is an essential nutrient and is also an important component of the bone.

Abnormally low magnesium levels can impede vitamin D and calcium homeostasis in bones.

Although studies have shown that magnesium may be beneficial for bone health, no study has shown its effect on bone fractures.

The new study examines the effect of magnesium on bone fractures, specifically.

Researchers followed 2,245 middle-aged men over a 20-year period.

During this time, the researchers found that men with lower levels of magnesium in the blood had an increased risk of fractures, particularly fractures of the hip. This association was stronger for hip fractures.

The risk of fracture was reduced by 44 percent in men with higher levels of magnesium.

None of the 22 men who had very high levels of magnesium levels in the study experienced a fracture during the 20-year follow-up period.

At the same time, dietary magnesium intake was not found to be associated with bone fracture. A finding that has been consistently demonstrated in several previous studies.

High magnesium levels were defined as more than 2.3 milligrams per deciliter (> 2.3 mg/dl).

Although magnesium levels in the blood depend on magnesium intake from food and water, this may not be the case for the elderly, people with certain gastrointestinal disorders, and those on certain medications. For such people, boosting the consumption of foods rich in magnesium may not necessarily increase blood magnesium levels and prevent bone fractures. Instead, the researchers suggest treating these conditions first and taking magnesium supplements may be an effective way of increasing blood levels of magnesium.

The new findings may have public health implications as low blood magnesium levels are very common among people. This is especially true among middle-aged to elderly people who are also prone to fractures.

Majority of these adults do not experience any symptoms. Since blood magnesium is not measured routinely in the hospital, it is very difficult to identify people with low magnesium levels.

These findings could help prompt strategies to include blood magnesium screening in routine blood tests, especially for the elderly.

“The overall evidence suggests that increasing serum magnesium concentrations may protect against the future risk of fractures; however, well-designed magnesium supplementation trials are needed to investigate these potential therapeutic implications,” concludes principal investigator Prof. Jari Laukkanen, from the University of Eastern Finland.

The findings were published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

April 14, 2017 / by / in
Obesity or being underweight may increase migraine risk

Many of us have experienced a painful migraine at some point in our lives. Now, a new research suggests your weight might influence your risk of migraine headaches.

Researchers from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine found that weighing either too little or too much may increase a person’s risk of migraines.

“As obesity and being underweight are potentially modifiable risk factors for migraine, awareness of these risk factors is vital for both people with migraine and doctors,” says study co-author Dr. B. Lee Peterlin, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

Migraine is a common headache disorder, with a painful, recurring headache of moderate to severe intensity.  It affects millions of people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least half of the world’s adult population aged between 18 and 65 has experienced a headache in the past year. Of these adults, at least 30% have had a migraine.

The causes of migraines are not fully understood. While a wide range of medicines are available for relieving the symptoms, the absolute cure for the disorder remains elusive.

Lifestyle changes are recommended to prevent or ease symptoms of migraines. For example, having good sleep hygiene, eating meals at regular times, exercising, and employing stress management and relaxation techniques have been suggested to reduce symptoms.

In the case of obese individuals, doctors recommend patients to enroll in a weight loss program.

This new study looked at the link between migraine risk and being overweight, obese, or underweight. The study comprises of a new meta-analysis of existing research.

A total of 12 studies with nearly 290,000 participants were included in the meta-analysis.

Obesity was defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, and being underweight as having a BMI less than 18.5.

After compiling all of the results and adjusting for age and sex, the researchers found that obese people were 27 percent more likely to have migraines compared to people of normal weight. People who were underweight were 13% more likely to have migraine than their normal-weight counterparts.

However, Dr. Peterlin notes that age and sex were key variables in the correlation between migraine risk and BMI.

“This makes sense, as the risk entailed by obesity and the risk of migraine is different in women and men and in younger and older people,” Dr. Peterlin says.

“Both obesity disease risk and the occurrence of migraines is more common in women and in younger people.”

He also adds that the risk correlation found between migraines and BMI was moderate.

This observational study cannot draw any conclusions as to the causal relationship between BMI and migraines. However, Dr. Peterlin tries to give a possible explanation:

“It is not clear how body composition could affect migraine. Adipose tissue, or fatty tissue, secretes a wide range of molecules that could play a role in developing or triggering migraine. It is also possible that other factors such as changes in physical activity, medications, or other conditions such as depression play a role in the relationship between migraine and body composition.”

“More research is needed to determine whether efforts to help people lose or gain weight could lower their risk for migraine.”

Furthermore, another drawback of the study may be that in almost half of the studies, participants self-reported their migraines and BMI, suggesting some of the data were inaccurate.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

April 13, 2017 / by / in
Avocados can help to treat metabolic syndrome, says review

Avocados, well-known for their powerful beneficial effects on health, can help treat metabolic syndrome, according to a new study. The review of studies examining the health effects of these nutritious fruits have found that there is “satisfactory clinical evidence” that avocados can help treat metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that can increase the risk of other health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good cholesterol;” high blood pressure; high levels of triglyceride; and high fasting blood sugar are some of the risk factors.

If there are at least three of these risk factors present in the body, it affirms a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome.

One of the best ways to treat or prevent metabolic syndrome is by adopting a healthy diet.

Avocados, a fruit native to Mexico and Central and South America, have been shown to be beneficial to health in a number of studies.

Scientists attribute the benefits to bioactive components of avocados, including fatty acids, carotenoids, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamins A, B, C, and E.

Hossein Hosseinzadeh, of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran, is a co-author of the review.

Hosseinzadeh and colleagues aimed to ascertain how these components might help fight the risk factors of metabolic syndrome.

To reach their conclusion, the team analysed the results of different in vivo, in vitro, and clinical studies that probed avocado’s effect on metabolic health.

The researchers found that avocados have the most potent effect on lipid levels – levels of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol.


Hosseinzadeh and colleagues point to a study of 67 adults. Of these individuals, 30 had a healthy lipid profile and 37 had mild hypercholesterolemia. After sticking to a diet rich in avocado for 1 week, both groups of adults displayed significant decrease in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

“The reported mechanism of this effect was regulating of the hydrolysis of certain lipoproteins and their selective uptake and metabolism by different tissues such as liver and pancreas,” explain the authors.

“Another possible mechanism could be related to the marked proliferation of the liver smooth endoplasmic reticulum which is known to be associated with induction of enzymes involved in lipid biosynthesis.”

The review also revealed that avocado helps in weight loss. The team pointed to one study that found overweight or obese adults who ate an avocado a day for 6 weeks experienced significant reductions in their body weight, BMI, and the percentage of body fat.

The team also identified several studies linking avocado consumption with decreases in blood pressure among patients with high blood pressure. At the same time, avocados might help to lower atherosclerosis – the narrowing or hardening of arteries due to a plaque buildup.

Especially, the researchers discovered that it is not just the flesh of the avocados that can help metabolic health, but the peel, seed, and leaves of the fruit may also be beneficial.

While researchers believe further research is needed to be conclusive, they say the study so far suggests avocados may be effective in treating metabolic syndrome risk factors. They write:

“In this review article, satisfactory clinical evidence suggested that avocado can be used as herbal dietary supplements for treatment of different components of [metabolic syndrome].

Although, avocado like other herbal products is safe and generally better tolerated than synthetic medications, there is limited scientific evidence to evaluate different side effects because of contaminants, or interactions with drugs. Besides, further studies need to be accomplished on the metabolic effects of different parts of avocado for other possible mechanisms.”

The review was published in the journal Phytotherapy Research.

April 12, 2017 / by / in
Omega-3 supplements may treat and reverse autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes

Omega-3 supplements may treat and even reverse autoimmune responses in type 1 diabetes, suggests a new study.

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, and the origin of this autoimmune disorder is not known.

In the UK, the death rate of young people from type 1 diabetes is almost double that of the European average: 0.45 per 100,000 of the population compared to 0.25. If the type 1 diabetes mortality rate in the UK were the same as in Europe, there would be 17 fewer deaths from this disease among young people every year.

The immune system of a type 1 diabetes patient does not recognize its own beta cells, therefore it attacks and destroys them, mistaking them as intruders. Beta cells are responsible for creating insulin.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It allows the body to use glucose (sugar) from food that we eat for energy. Insulin helps keep our blood sugar level from getting too high. Without the insulin-producing beta cells, the sugar builds up in the blood stream, and the body is unable to use it for energy.

While there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, there are treatment options available to control the condition, and the most common treatment option is injecting insulin into the body. However, the ultimate goal of the scientists is to prevent the body’s immune system from attacking its own beta cells, or reversing the process.

This new study – conducted on mouse model – examines the advantages of adding omega-3 fatty acids to the diet of mice with type 1 diabetes.

Typically found in seafood, fish, and some vegetable oils and dietary supplements – Omega 3s are a variety of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

These PUFAs are vital for the good functioning of various organs in our body, as they improve muscle activity, help digestion, stop blood clotting, and help in the division and growth of cells.

Numerous studies have revealed the health benefits of omega-3s. Some studies suggested omega-3s shield against cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis, while other studies contest these positive effects.

omega-3What is known, however, is that these PUFAs halt inflammatory processes in the body. This has led the researchers of the new study to hypothesise that omega-3s might be able to either stop or enhance the negative outcomes of autoimmune diseases.

This new study was led by Allan Zhao at Guangdong University of Technology in Guangdong, China.

For their study, the team used non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice. They fed the mice a regular diet and a diet enriched with PUFAs. The levels of omega-3s in these mice were also increased through genetic modification.

The mice were tested every 3 months for glucose and insulin tolerance.

The team also examined the pancreas of mice to see whether they developed insulitis – an infiltration of lymphocytes in the pancreatic islets, which is an incidence typical of type 1 diabetes.

The researchers, at the same time, collected blood from the mice in order to measure serum insulin levels.

The team found that omega-3 supplementation to the diet of NOD mice markedly improved the metabolism of glucose and reduced the incidence of type 1 diabetes.

The team observed a reduction in pro-inflammatory cell-signaling proteins, and a considerable decrease in insulitis. Specifically, they noticed that omega-3s decreased the levels of interferon gamma, interleukin 6, interleukin 17, and tumour necrosis factor alpha, or TNF-α.

Furthermore, the mice treated with omega-3 showed signs of beta cell regeneration.

These findings suggest that omega-3 PUFAs may be used as a new treatment for type 1 diabetes. The team concludes:

“Our observations may also offer clinical guidance, in that those patients who are either at the early-onset stage of [type 1 diabetes] or have consistently had good management of their blood glucose levels may benefit the most from these interventions. These treatment modalities, if cleared in safety evaluations, may potentially be helpful in the treatment of other types of autoimmune diseases as well.”

The research was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

April 11, 2017 / by / in
Going grey early may be a sign of heart disease

If you’re going grey early, it could mean you are at an increased risk of having a heart attack.

A new observational study by the scientists from University of Cairo in Egypt, found that hair whitening may indicate an increased risk of damage to arteries supplying blood to the heart.

It is well-known that ageing is a risk factor for heart disease. Moreover, some of the biological mechanisms behind coronary artery disease are also to blame for greying hair, researchers believe.

These include impaired DNA repair, inflammation, oxidative stress, hormonal changes and the stopping of cell growth.

The findings could lay the first stone for the way to identifying patients most at risk of heart disease just by eaxamining their hair colour.

Study co-author Dr Irini Samuel, a cardiologist at the Cairo University, says:

“Atherosclerosis (artery disease) and hair greying occur through similar biological pathways and the incidence of both increases with age.

“Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair greying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk.”

The researchers studied 545 adult men who underwent computed tomography (CT) scans for suspected coronary artery disease, which affects the blood vessels supplying the heart with oxygen and nutrients.

The men were then divided into several subgroups based on whether they had coronary artery disease, and according to how much grey hair they had.

Their level of grey hair was graded by the following scale:

1 for pure black hair, 2 for more black hair compared to white hair, 3 for the same amount of black and white hair, 4 for more white hair than black hair, and 5 for pure white hair.

Each participant’s level of grey hair was determined by two independent observers. They also received a hair whitening score.

The team also collected clinical data on the men’s risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia (high blood cholesterol levels), and history of cardiovascular disease in the family.

Using multivariate regression analyses, the researchers found that hair whitening grade, age, hypertension, and dyslipidemia all predicted atherosclerotic coronary artery disease independently.

The team found that a hair-whitening score of three or more was indicative of a statistically significant increased risk of coronary artery disease.

Patients with coronary artery disease had higher greying scores compared to those with healthy arteries. These patients were also more likely to have calcium deposits in their arteries.

More specifically, a high hair whitening grade of 3 or higher correlated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease. This association was independent of age or cardiovascular disease risk factors.

“More research is needed on cutaneous signs of risk that would enable us to intervene earlier in the cardiovascular disease process,” says Dr. Samuel.

“If our findings are confirmed, standardisation of the scoring system for evaluation of hair greying could be used as a predictor for coronary artery disease.”

The study was presented at the EuroPrevent 2017 conference of the European Society of Cardiology, in Malaga, Spain.

April 9, 2017 / by / in
Potassium found in fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure

Fruits and vegetables rich in potassium may help lower blood pressure, according to a recent review. Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California have found that potassium-rich vegetables such as avocados, sweet potatoes, beans, spinach, and bananas could help lower blood pressure.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is more prevalent in Western populations such as the UK, who eat high levels of sodium – salt found in processed food compared to populations which consume more potassium-rich natural foods.

“Decreasing sodium intake is a well-established way to lower blood pressure, but evidence suggests that increasing dietary potassium may have an equally important effect on hypertension,” says review author Alicia McDonough, Ph.D., professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine.

Hypertension is a silent killer, affecting an estimated 1 billion people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hypertension is behind 51% of stroke-related deaths and 45% of heart disease deaths globally.

Recent studies have clearly showed that consuming a diet high in salt (sodium), such as the standard Western diet, can lead to high blood pressure.

This recent review reveals that high sodium intake is not the only important dietary factor; potassium also plays a vital role.

Our body needs potassium to help nerves transport messages and for muscles to contract. It keeps our heart beating and helps to transport nutrients into cells and remove cellular waste. The mineral also aids in maintaining healthy bones and lowers the risk of kidney stones.

To reach her conclusions, Prof. McDonough reviewed studies that investigated the link between potassium and sodium, which is known to cause hypertension.

She found that people who consumed more potassium tended to have lower blood pressure regardless of sodium consumption. Her research found the body uses sodium to control potassium levels in the blood.

“When dietary potassium is high, kidneys excrete more salt and water, which increases potassium excretion,” says Prof. McDonough.

“Eating a high potassium diet is like taking a diuretic.”

potassiumThe report said: “Basically, the results reinforce the conclusion that consuming a high-K+ diet is similar to taking a NCC-inhibiting thiazide diuretic, without the side effects.”

Thiazide diuretics are a common treatment for high blood pressure.

The report also suggests that government should adopt public policy to encourage people to increase intake of potassium.

She said as humans evolved, they ate a diet high in potassium, but low in sodium, leading us to crave sodium, not potassium.

Prof. McDonough says when people consume a typical Western diet, their sodium intake is high and potassium intake is low, and this markedly increases their chances of developing hypertension.

According to NHS choices:

“Adults (19-64 years) need 3,500mg of potassium a day. You should be able to get all the potassium you need from your daily diet.

“Taking too much potassium can cause stomach pain, feeling sick and diarrhoea.”

These foods are high in potassium:

  • Salmon and tuna
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Fat-free milk
  • Yogurt
  • Macadamia nuts and almonds
  • Bran
  • Mushrooms

The review was published in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism.

April 8, 2017 / by / in