CNO Report # 241
Release Date 03 MAR 2017
Draft Report Compiled by
In this Issue:
1. The power of tea
2. Alpha-lipoic acid prevents kidney stones in mouse model of rare genetic disease
3. Exposure of the half-century old misconception removes limits on life extension
4. Dietary protein associated with musculoskeletal health regardless of food source
5. Brazilian peppertree packs power to knock out antibiotic-resistant bacteria
6. Dietary supplement could improve heart health
7. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
8. Increased levels of active vitamin D can help to optimize muscle strength
9. Vitamin D protects against colds and flu, finds major global study
10. Unsaturated fatty acid may reverse aging effect of obesity
11. Food additive found in candy, gum could alter digestive cell structure and function
12. B vitamins reduce schizophrenia symptoms, study finds
13. Vitamin B3 prevents glaucoma in laboratory mice
14. Study finds link between high EPA and DHA omega-3 blood levels and decreased risk of death
15. Nicotinamide riboside (vitamin B3) prevents nerve pain caused by cancer drugs
16. Fasting-mimicking diet may reverse diabetes
17. Modified Atkins diet helps children with rare form of epilepsy
18. Dietary prebiotics improve sleep, buffer impacts of stress, says study
19. Allergies? Probiotic combination may curb your symptoms, new study finds
Public Release: 6-Feb-2017
The power of tea
Engineering team finds compound may halt molecular cause of often-fatal condition
A compound found in green tea could have lifesaving potential for patients with multiple myeloma and amyloidosis, who face often-fatal medical complications associated with bone-marrow disorders, according to a team of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis and their German collaborators.
Jan Bieschke, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science, studies how proteins fold and shape themselves, and how these processes can contribute to a variety of diseases. He says the compound epigallocatechine-3-gallate (EGCG), a polyphenol found in green tea leaves, may be of particular benefit to patients struggling with multiple myeloma and amyloidosis. These patients are susceptible to a frequently fatal condition called light chain amyloidosis, in which parts of the body’s own antibodies become misshapen and can accumulate in various organs, including the heart and kidneys.
“The idea here is twofold: We wanted to better understand how light chain amyloidosis works, and how the green tea compound affects this specific protein,” Bieschke said.
Bieschke’s team first isolated individual light chains from nine patients with bone marrow disorders that caused multiple myeloma or amyloidosis, then ran lab experiments to determine how the green tea compound affected the light chain protein.
Bieschke previously examined EGCG’s effect in both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and found it prevented dangerous buildups of protein present in both diseases. His team had a similar conclusion in this study: In bone marrow patients, the EGCG transformed light chain amyloid, preventing the misshapen form from replicating and accumulating dangerously.
“In the presence of green tea, the chains have a different internal structure,” Bieschke said. “The ECGC pulled the light chain into a different type of aggregate that wasn’t toxic and didn’t form fibril structures,” as happens to organs affected by amyloidosis.
While Bieschke is gaining a greater understanding at the intracellular processes involved, his partners at the University of Heidelberg are working in tandem with him, running clinical trials.
“My group is looking at the mechanism of the protein in a test tube; we are studying how it works on a foundational level. At the same time, clinical trials at the Amyloidosis Center in Heidelberg, with Alzheimer’s in Berlin and with Parkinson’s in China examine the process in people. We all want this compound to work in a patient.”
The research was recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Public Release: 6-Feb-2017
Alpha-lipoic acid prevents kidney stones in mouse model of rare genetic disease
Research at Buck Institute for Research on Aging leads to clinical trial for cystinuria at UCSF
Buck Institute for Research on Aging
Alpha-lipoic acid, a dietary supplement widely available to consumers, prevented stone formation in a mouse model of cystinuria, a rare inherited disease that causes recurrent formation of painful and damaging kidney stones. The research, a collaboration between the Buck Institute and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has led to the initiation of a clinical trial in patients suffering from the condition.
Publishing in Nature Medicine, researchers show that alpha-lipoic acid increased the solubility of the cystine crystals that collected in the urinary tracts of the mice. Alpha-lipoic acid is an anti-oxidant which naturally occurs in the body and in many foods. The supplement is approved in Germany to treat nerve-related symptoms of diabetes; it is thought to help prevent certain types of cell damage and is also used by consumers to treat degenerative eye and cardiovascular diseases.
“The effects were dramatic and unprecedented in this field,” said Pankaj Kapahi, PhD, a professor at the Buck Institute and a senior co-author of the study, who noted that affected mice usually start developing cystine-laden kidney stones by three months of age. “We were able to prevent stones from developing in young animals, and we significantly slowed the development of stones in animals that were already exhibiting the condition. We are excited that these results are moving to a clinical trial.”
Senior co-author Marshall Stoller, MD, heads the urinary stone division at UCSF’s Department of Urology and has had to perform repeat surgeries on patients with the disease. “These patients are in desperate need of new options,” he said, adding that most currently available medications for cystinuria are decades old, not efficacious and associated with side effects. Stoller said cystine stones don’t respond well to extracorporeal shock wave therapy aimed at breaking the stones into small pieces to allow for spontaneous stone passage, and that dietary modifications have minimal impact on the disease. “The pain from passing kidney stones is intense and is comparable to vaginal childbirth, and many of these patients have to go through such an unanticipated episode every couple of months.”
In addition to providing hope for patients suffering from cystinuria, the research also uncovered a new role for alpha-lipoic acid. “Because it’s an antioxidant, we thought the supplement would promote cystine metabolism in the mice,” said Tiffany Zee, PhD, a postdoc in both the Kapahi lab and the Department of Urology at UCSF who led the research. “Surprisingly, that was not the case. Instead, we found that the supplement increased the solubility of the cystine stones, providing a new function for alpha-lipoic acid, one that should be of interest to other researchers.” Zee is now working on pinpointing the specific metabolites and mechanisms by which alpha-lipoic acid solubilizes cystine. That work could be daunting. “We estimate that there could be up to 100 metabolites that interact with cystine in human urine and there are differences in the metabolic systems between mice and humans,” said Neelanjan Bose, PhD, a joint postdoc at the Buck Institute and the Department of Urology at UCSF and a co-author of the paper. “Our goal is to find the best way to exploit the benefits of alpha-lipoic acid, which means we need to drill down into the mechanisms involved in its activity,” Bose said.
Stoller is currently recruiting cystinuria patients for a clinical trial which will run for three years at UCSF. “While we have been able to improve surgical techniques for these patients over the last three decades, it’s time that we solve the problem of these stones forming in the first place, and thus eliminate the need for surgery,” he said.
Even though researchers plan to test alpha-lipoic acid on other genetic models of kidney stone disease, Stoller said it’s not time for patients who have had “garden variety” kidney stones to rely on alpha-lipoic acid to prevent stone recurrence. Those stones are primarily composed of calcium; the supplement has not been tested in such animal models and may not work against them.
Public Release: 7-Feb-2017
Exposure of the half-century old misconception removes limits on life extension
A research paper titled “Strehler-Mildvan correlation is a degenerate manifold of Gompertz fit” by the scientific team of a biotech company Gero has been published in the new issue of Journal of Theoretical Biology. It states that Strehler-Mildvan correlation has no real biological reasoning behind it and, therefore, there are no limitations to anti-aging interventions.
Strehler-Mildvan (SM) correlation was reported in 1960 in a now-famous and very well cited Science paper. It relates to the Mortality Rate Doubling Time (MRDT) and Initial Mortality Rate (IMR), two parameters of Gompertz mortality law. The original paper does not only introduce the empirical correlation, but also provides a sophisticated theory of aging behind it that is widely accepted among researchers. It says that if the mortality rate is reduced by any interventions at an earlier age, the MRDT goes down, i.e aging accelerates. This hypothesis leads to obstructions to anti-aging therapies development and makes optimal aging treatments impossible. Over years, quite a few researchers expressed doubts whether there was any biological meaning behind this correlation or not.
Gero team prefers to use evidence based science approach over machine learning techniques for anti-aging therapies design, focused on physical reasoning behind mortality dependence on biologically available signals, ranging from gene expression to locomotor activity. Trying to determine physical processes behind Strehler-Mildvan correlation, Dr. Peter Fedichev and his team noticed the fundamental disagreement between analytical considerations and possibility of SM correlation for Gompertz mortality law. In the paper, they showed that SM correlation arises naturally as a degenerate manifold of Gompertz fit.
Explaining these findings, Dr. Fedichev said: “We worked through the entire life histories of thousands of C.elegans that were genetically identical, and the results showed that this correlation was indeed a pure fitting artifact.” The problem is not as complicated for worm experiments, though it gets pretty tough if humans are involved (the product of MRDT and IMR is sufficiently small). Thus it seems like SM correlation is an artifactual property of the fit, applied in a limit where the fit does not work, rather than a biological fact. Peter said, “Elimination of SM correlation from theories of aging is good news, because if it was not just negative correlation between Gompertz parameters, but the real dependence, it would have banned optimal anti-aging interventions and limited human possibilities to life extension.”
Public Release: 8-Feb-2017
Dietary protein associated with musculoskeletal health regardless of food source
Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research
BOSTON — Researchers from Hebrew Senior Life’s Institute for Aging Research and University of Massachusetts Lowell have discovered that adults with higher intakes of dietary protein from both animals and vegetables see greater benefits in muscle mass and strength. Results from this study were published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Using data from the Framingham Osteoporosis study, researchers found that greater dietary protein intakes are related to better muscle health in both men and women. Moreover, the observed higher muscle strength and muscle mass occurred regardless of the major food sources which provided protein — suggesting that higher protein intake from any protein dense food source (animal or vegetable) can improve muscle health. These findings are particularly important as age-related musculoskeletal losses are a major health burden which can lead to physical disability and increased mortality.
Lead author Dr. Kelsey M. Mangano said of the study, “We know that dietary protein can improve muscle mass and strength. However, until now, we did not know if one protein food source was better than another in accomplishing optimal results. This study is significant as it suggest that higher protein intake form any food source will benefit muscle mass and strength in adults.”
Mangano is an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at UMass Lowell and an adjunct faculty member at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research, a Harvard Medical School affiliate.
Public Release: 10-Feb-2017
Brazilian peppertree packs power to knock out antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Amazon traditional healers have used the plant for centuries to treat infections
The red berries of the Brazilian peppertree — a weedy, invasive species common in Florida — contain an extract with the power to disarm dangerous antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria, scientists at Emory University have discovered.
The journal Scientific Reports is publishing the finding, made in the lab of Cassandra Quave, an assistant professor in Emory’s Center for the Study of Human Health and in the School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology.
“Traditional healers in the Amazon have used the Brazilian peppertree for hundreds of years to treat infections of the skin and soft tissues,” Quave says. “We pulled apart the chemical ingredients of the berries and systematically tested them against disease-causing bacteria to uncover a medicinal mechanism of this plant.”
The researchers showed that a refined, flavone-rich composition extracted from the berries inhibits formation of skin lesions in mice infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus auereus (MRSA). The compound works not by killing the MRSA bacteria, but by repressing a gene that allows the bacteria cells to communicate with one another. Blocking that communication prevents the cells from taking collective action, a mechanism known as quorum quenching.
“It essentially disarms the MRSA bacteria, preventing it from excreting the toxins it uses as weapons to damage tissues,” Quave says. “The body’s normal immune system then stands a better chance of healing a wound.”
The discovery may hold potential for new ways to treat and prevent antibiotic-resistant infections, a growing international problem. Antibiotic-resistant infections annually cause at least two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The United Nations last year called antibiotic-resistant infections a “fundamental threat” to global health and safety, citing estimates that they cause at least 700,000 deaths each year worldwide, with the potential to grow to 10 million deaths annually by 2050.
Blasting deadly bacteria with drugs designed to kill them is helping to fuel the problem of antibiotic resistance. Some of the stronger bacteria may survive these drug onslaughts and proliferate, passing on their genes to offspring and leading to the evolution of deadly “super bugs.”
In contrast, the Brazilian peppertree extract works by simply disrupting the signaling of MRSA bacteria without killing it. The researchers also found that the extract does not harm the skin tissues of mice, or the normal, healthy bacteria found on skin.
“In some cases, you need to go in heavily with antibiotics to treat a patient,” Quave says. “But instead of always setting a bomb off to kill an infection, there are situations where using an anti-virulence method may be just as effective, while also helping to restore balance to the health of a patient. More research is needed to better understand how we can best leverage anti-virulence therapeutics to improve patient outcomes.”
Quave, a leader in the field of medical ethnobotany and a member of the Emory Antibiotic Resistance Center, studies how indigenous people incorporate plants in healing practices to uncover promising candidates for new drugs.
The Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolia) is native to South America but thrives in subtropical climates. It is abundant in much of Florida, and has also crept into southern areas of Alabama, Georgia, Texas and California. Sometimes called the Florida holly or broad leaf peppertree, the woody plant forms dense thickets that crowd out native species.
“The Brazilian peppertree is not some exotic and rare plant found only on a remote mountaintop somewhere,” Quave says. “It’s a weed, and the bane of many a landowner in Florida.”
From an ecological standpoint, it makes sense that weeds would have interesting chemistry, Quave adds. “Persistent, weedy plants tend to have a chemical advantage in their ecosystems, which help may protect them from diseases so they can more easily spread in a new environment.”
The studies co-authors include Amelia Muhs and James Lyles (Emory Center for the Study of Human Health); Kate Nelson (Emory School of Medicine); and Corey Parlet, Jeffery Kavanaugh and Alexander Horswill (University of Iowa). The laboratory experiments were conducted in collaboration between the Quave and Horswill labs with funding from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Health.
The Quave lab is now doing additional research to confirm the safest and most effective means of using the Brazilian peppertree extract. The next step would be pre-clinical trials to test its medicinal benefits. “If the pre-clinical trials are successful, we will apply for an application to pursue clinical trials, under the Food and Drug Administration’s botanical drug pathway,” Quave says.
The Brazilian peppertree finding follows another discovery made by the Quave lab in 2015: The leaves of the European chestnut tree also contain ingredients with the power to disarm staph bacteria without increasing its drug resistance. While both the Brazilian peppertree and chestnut tree extracts disrupted the signaling needed for quorum quenching, the two extracts are made up of different chemical compounds.
Public Release: 13-Feb-2017
Dietary supplement could improve heart health
The Physiological Society
Dietary intervention could benefit heart health in those with muscular dystrophy. That’s according to new research published in Experimental Physiology. If these findings are confirmed in humans, it could mean that off the shelf supplements could improve health and life expectancy.
Scientists from Iowa State University, Auburn University and the University of Montana in the United States found that supplementing the mice’s food with quercetin (a flavonol found in many fruits, vegetables, leaves, and grains) improved biomedical outcomes, providing an inflammatory and antioxidant effect. To the groups’ surprise, they also found that the quercetin-fed mice were more active than the control group
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a severe type of muscular dystrophy that causes a decline in cardiac health resulting in premature death, at an average age of 26 years. Duchenne’s predominantly affects males.
The researchers used several mouse models for muscular dystrophy, carrying out experiments in parallel. By doing this they were able to replicate muscular dystrophy in humans as closely as possible.
Dr John C. Quindry, the corresponding author, said:
‘A currently available dietary intervention could benefit those with muscular dystrophy. We gave the mice a quercetin dose that was proportional to those that could be given to humans. This allows the scientists to make the best possible connections between animal and human research findings’
Public Release: 15-Feb-2017
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Research identifies cellular recycling process linked to beneficial effects of enduring mild stress
Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute
La Jolla, Calif., February 15, 2016 (embargoed until 5:00 A.M. EST) — Biologists have known for decades that enduring a short period of mild stress makes simple organisms and human cells better able to survive additional stress later in life. Now, scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) have found that a cellular process called autophagy is critically involved in providing the benefits of temporary stress. The study, published today in Nature Communications, creates new avenues to pursue treatments for neurological disorders such as Huntington’s disease.
Autophagy is a means of recycling cells’ old, broken, or unneeded parts so that their components can be re-used to make new molecules or be burned for energy. The process had previously been linked to longevity, in no small part because of research led by Malene Hansen, Ph.D., associate professor at SBP and senior author of the study. The new results suggest that long life and stress resistance are connected at the cellular level.
“We used C. elegans–tiny roundworms used to study fundamental biology–to test the importance of autophagy in becoming stress resistant,” says Caroline Kumsta, Ph.D., staff scientist in Hansen’s lab and lead author of the study. “They’re a great model system because they’re transparent, so you can easily observe what goes on inside them, most of their genes and molecular signaling pathways have functional counterparts in humans, and they only live a few weeks, which greatly facilitate measuring their lifespans.”
Kumsta and colleagues incubated worms at 36 °C, significantly above the temperature they are usually kept at in the laboratory, for one hour. After this short heat exposure–a mild form of stress that improves the organism’s survival–autophagy rates increased throughout the worms’ tissues. When they exposed these heat-primed worms to another, longer heat shock a few days later, worms that were deficient in autophagy failed to benefit from the initial mild heat shock, as observed in heat-primed worms with intact autophagy.
The researchers reasoned that a mild heat stress might also improve the worms’ ability to handle another condition that worsens with age–buildup of aggregated proteins, which is stressful for cells. To test this hypothesis, Kumsta used worms that model Huntington’s disease, a fatal inherited disorder caused by neuronal proteins that start to stick together into big clumps as patients age, leading to degeneration throughout the brain. Exposing worms that make similar sticky proteins in different tissues to a mild heat shock reduced the number of protein aggregates, suggesting that a limited amount of heat stress can reduce toxic protein aggregation.
“Our finding that brief heat exposure helps alleviate protein aggregation is exciting because it could lead to new approaches to slow the advance of neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s,” says Hansen. “The results may also be relevant to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which are similarly caused by clumping-prone proteins.”
“This research raises many exciting questions,” adds Hansen. “For example, how does induction of autophagy by a mild heat stress early on make cells better able to survive heat later–what’s the cellular memory? There’s a lot to follow up on.”
“A lot of people ask us if this means they should start going to the sauna or do hot yoga,” jokes Kumsta. “That may not be an entirely bad idea–epidemiological studies do indicate that frequent sauna use is associated with longer life. But we have a lot more research to do to figure out whether that has anything to do with the beneficial induction of autophagy by heat stress that we see in C. elegans.”
Kumsta recently received a promotion from postdoc to staff scientist in recognition of her leadership of this study.
Public Release: 15-Feb-2017
Increased levels of active vitamin D can help to optimize muscle strength
University of Birmingham
Researchers at the University of Birmingham have shown that increasing the levels of active vitamin D can help to optimise muscle strength in humans.
The team hope that the findings will inform the design of future supplementation studies, and begin to answer questions as to the optimal levels of vitamin D required for healthy muscles.
The study, published in PLOS ONE, builds on previous knowledge showing levels of inactive vitamin D to be associated with a lack of muscle mass.
The research is the result of a cutting edge technique that allowed both active and inactive forms of vitamin D to be assessed alongside their impact on various muscle functions.
Dr Zaki Hassan-Smith, from the University of Birmingham, explained, “We have a good understanding of how vitamin D helps bone strength, but we still need to learn more about how it works for muscles. When you look at significant challenges facing healthcare providers across the world, such as obesity and an ageing population, you can see how optimising muscle function is of great interest.”
“Previous studies have tested for the inactive forms of vitamin D in the bloodstream, to measure vitamin D deficiency. Here, we were able to develop a new method of assessing multiple forms of vitamin D, alongside extensive testing of body composition, muscle function and muscle gene expression.”
116 healthy volunteers, aged between 20-74, were recruited to the trial. Participants had both active and inactive levels of vitamin D measured alongside physical characteristics including body fat and ‘lean mass’, a measure of muscle bulk.
Women with a healthy body composition, and lower body fat, were less likely to have high levels of inactive vitamin D, a marker of vitamin D deficiency. This was echoed by the finding that levels of inactive vitamin D were lower in women with increased body fat. This would suggest a relationship between vitamin D and body composition.
However, the active form of vitamin D was not associated with body fat, but was associated with lean mass.
Individuals with an increased lean mass, and muscle bulk, had a higher level of active vitamin D in the bloodstream.
Dr Hassan Smith added, “By looking at multiple forms in the same study, we can say that it is a more complex relationship that previously thought. It may be that body fat is linked to increased levels of inactive vitamin D, but lean mass is the key for elevated levels of active vitamin D. It is vital to understand the complete picture, and the causal mechanisms at work, so we can learn how to supplement vitamin D intake to enhance muscle strength.”
In this study some of the positive associations between active vitamin D and muscle bulk were not seen in men.
Future studies with larger cohorts will help to identify if this is due to biological differences. The team will now work alongside international collaborators to further investigate the mechanisms at work through lab-based studies and clinical trials.
Public Release: 15-Feb-2017
Vitamin D protects against colds and flu, finds major global study
Vitamin D supplements protect against acute respiratory infections including colds and flu, according to a study led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)
Queen Mary University of London
Vitamin D supplements protect against acute respiratory infections including colds and flu, according to a study led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).
The study provides the most robust evidence yet that vitamin D has benefits beyond bone and muscle health, and could have major implications for public health policy, including the fortification of foods with vitamin D to tackle high levels of deficiency in the UK.
The results, published in the BMJ, are based on a new analysis of raw data from around 11,000 participants in 25 clinical trials conducted in 14 countries including the UK, USA, Japan, India, Afghanistan, Belgium, Italy, Australia and Canada. Individually, these trials yielded conflicting results, with some reporting that vitamin D protected against respiratory infections, and others showing no effect.
Lead researcher Professor Adrian Martineau from QMUL said: “This major collaborative research effort has yielded the first definitive evidence that vitamin D really does protect against respiratory infections. Our analysis of pooled raw data from each of the 10,933 trial participants allowed us to address the thorny question of why vitamin D ‘worked’ in some trials, but not in others.
“The bottom line is that the protective effects of vitamin D supplementation are strongest in those who have the lowest vitamin D levels, and when supplementation is given daily or weekly rather than in more widely spaced doses.
“Vitamin D fortification of foods provides a steady, low-level intake of vitamin D that has virtually eliminated profound vitamin D deficiency in several countries. By demonstrating this new benefit of vitamin D, our study strengthens the case for introducing food fortification to improve vitamin D levels in countries such as the UK where profound vitamin D deficiency is common.”
Vitamin D – the ‘sunshine vitamin’ – is thought to protect against respiratory infections by boosting levels of antimicrobial peptides – natural antibiotic-like substances – in the lungs. Results of the study fit with the observation that colds and ‘flu are commonest in winter and spring, when levels of vitamin D are at their lowest. They may also explain why vitamin D protects against asthma attacks, which are commonly triggered by respiratory viruses.
Daily or weekly supplementation halved the risk of acute respiratory infection in people with the lowest baseline vitamin D levels, below 25 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L). However, people with higher baseline vitamin D levels also benefited, although the effect was more modest (10 per cent risk reduction). Overall, the reduction in risk of acute respiratory infection induced by vitamin D was on a par with the protective effect of injectable ‘flu vaccine against ‘flu-like illnesses.
Acute respiratory infections are a major cause of global morbidity and mortality. Upper respiratory infections such as colds and ‘flu are the commonest reason for GP consultations and days off work. Acute lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia are less common, but caused an estimated 2.65 million deaths worldwide in 2013. Vitamin D supplementation is safe and inexpensive, so reductions in acute respiratory infections brought about by vitamin D supplementation could be highly cost-effective.
Public Release: 15-Feb-2017
Unsaturated fatty acid may reverse aging effect of obesity
The Physiological Society
Obesity, or a high fat diet, can lead to changes in the immune system similar to those observed with aging. That’s what research published this week in Experimental Physiology suggests.
The research was carried out by scientists at Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom and the Institute of Food Science, Technology and Nutrition of the Spanish National Research Council (ICTAN-CSIC), the University Complutense of Madrid and the Research Institute of the Hospital 12 de Octubre, in Spain.
These findings are useful as they help scientists understand the impact of obesity on our body’s ability to fight infection. They also found that it was possible to reverse some of these effects by supplementing the diet with unsaturated fatty acids found in vegetable oils, such as olive or fish oils.
Obesity affects one in four adults in the UK and can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, some types of cancer, and stroke1. The researchers fed mice a high-fat diet, causing them to become obese. Signs of oxidative stress and certain properties of immune cells indicated aging of the immune system. These obese mice were then split into groups and received food supplemented either with 2-hydroxyoleic acid or omega-3 fatty acids for eight weeks.
Author Dr. Fatima Perez de Heredia from Liverpool John Moores University said:
‘This is the first study, at least to our knowledge, to suggest the efficacy of 2-hydroxyoleic acid for reversing obesity-associated immune alterations and improving oxidative stress.’
Public Release: 16-Feb-2017
Food additive found in candy, gum could alter digestive cell structure and function
Small intestinal cells hindered by chronic exposure to common food additive
BINGHAMTON, NY – The ability of small intestine cells to absorb nutrients and act as a barrier to pathogens is “significantly decreased” after chronic exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, a common food additive found in everything from chewing gum to bread, according to research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
Researchers exposed a small intestinal cell culture model to the physiological equivalent of a meal’s worth of titanium oxide nanoparticles–30 nanometers across–over four hours (acute exposure), or three meal’s worth over five days (chronic exposure).
Acute exposures did not have much effect, but chronic exposure diminished the absorptive projections on the surface of intestinal cells called microvilli. With fewer microvilli, the intestinal barrier was weakened, metabolism slowed and some nutrients–iron, zinc, and fatty acids, specifically–were more difficult to absorb. Enzyme functions were negatively affected, while inflammation signals increased.
“Titanium oxide is a common food additive and people have been eating a lot of it for a long time–don’t worry, it won’t kill you!–but we were interested in some of the subtle effects, and we think people should know about them,” said Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Gretchen Mahler, one of the authors of the paper.
“There has been previous work on how titanium oxide nanoparticles affects microvilli, but we are looking at much lower concentrations,” Mahler said. “We also extended previous work to show that these nanoparticles alter intestinal function.”
Titanium dioxide is generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and ingestion is nearly unavoidable. The compound is an inert and insoluble material that is commonly used for white pigmentation in paints, paper and plastics. It is also an active ingredient in mineral-based sunscreens for pigmentation to block ultraviolet light.
However, it can enter the digestive system through toothpastes, as titanium dioxide is used to create abrasion needed for cleaning. The oxide is also used in some chocolate to give it a smooth texture; in donuts to provide color; and in skimmed milks for a brighter, more opaque appearance which makes the milk more palatable.
A 2012 Arizona State University study tested 89 common food products including gum, Twinkies, and mayonnaise and found that they all contained titanium dioxide. About five percent of products in that study contained titanium dioxide as nanoparticles. Dunkin Donuts stopped using powdered sugar with titanium dioxide nanoparticles in 2015 in response to pressure from the advocacy group As You Sow.
“To avoid foods rich in titanium oxide nanoparticles you should avoid processed foods, and especially candy. That is where you see a lot of nanoparticles,” Mahler said.
The paper, “Titanium dioxide nanoparticle ingestion alters nutrient absorption in an in vitro model of the small intestine,” was published in NanoImpact. Biomedical Engineering Teaching Assistant and current graduate student Zhongyuan Guo was the lead author of the study, while Nicole J. Martucci ’16, current Binghamton graduate student Fabiola Moreno-Olivas, and Elad Tako from the Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory for Agricultural Research Services within the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Ithaca, N.Y. were all co-authors.
The research was supported by grants from the Binghamton University Research Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the CONACYT Fellowship.
Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of
Public Release: 16-Feb-2017
B vitamins reduce schizophrenia symptoms, study finds
University of Manchester
A review of worldwide studies has found that add-on treatment with high-dose b-vitamins – including B6, B8 and B12 – can significantly reduce symptoms of schizophrenia more than standard treatments alone.
The research – on the effect of vitamin and mineral supplements on symptoms of schizophrenia – is funded by The Medical Research Council and University of Manchester, and is published in Psychological Medicine, one of the world’s leading psychology journals
Lead author Joseph Firth, based at the University’s Division of Psychology and Mental Health, said: “Looking at all of the data from clinical trials of vitamin and mineral supplements for schizophrenia to date, we can see that B vitamins effectively improve outcomes for some patients.
“This could be an important advance, given that new treatments for this condition are so desperately needed.”
Schizophrenia affects around 1% of the population and is among the most disabling and costly long term conditions worldwide.
Currently, treatment is based around the administration of antipsychotic drugs.
Although patients typically experience remission of symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions within the first few months of treatment, long-term outcomes are poor; 80% of patients relapse within five years.
The researchers reviewed all randomized clinical trials reporting effects of vitamin or mineral supplements on psychiatric symptoms in people with schizophrenia.
In what is the first meta-analysis carried out on this topic, they identified 18 clinical trials with a combined total of 832 patients receiving antipsychotic treatment for schizophrenia.
B-vitamin interventions which used higher dosages or combined several vitamins were consistently effective for reducing psychiatric symptoms, whereas those which used lower doses were ineffective.
Also, the available evidence also suggests that B-vitamin supplements may be most beneficial when implemented early on, as b-vitamins were most likely to reduce symptoms when used in studies of patients with shorter illness durations.
Firth added: “High-dose B-vitamins may be useful for reducing residual symptoms in people with schizophrenia, although there were significant differences among the findings of the studies we looked at.”
“There is also some indication that these overall effects may be driven by larger benefits among subgroups of patients who have relevant genetic or dietary nutritional deficiencies.”
Co-author Jerome Sarris, Professor of Integrative Mental Health at Western Sydney University, added: “This builds on existing evidence of other food-derived supplements, such as certain amino-acids, been beneficial for people with schizophrenia.
“These new findings also fit with our latest research examining how multi-nutrient treatments can reduce depression and other disorders.”
The research team say more studies are now needed to discover how nutrients act on the brain to improve mental health, and to measure effects of nutrient-based treatments on other outcomes such as brain functioning and metabolic health.
Public Release: 16-Feb-2017
Vitamin B3 prevents glaucoma in laboratory mice
In mice genetically predisposed to glaucoma, vitamin B3 added to drinking water is effective at preventing the disease, a research team led by Jackson Laboratory Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Simon W.M. John reports in the journal Science.
The vitamin administration was surprisingly effective, eliminating the vast majority of age-related molecular changes and providing a remarkably robust protection against glaucoma. It offers promise for developing inexpensive and safe treatments for glaucoma patients.
Glaucoma is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases, affecting an estimated 80 million people worldwide. In most glaucoma patients, harmfully high pressure inside the eye or intraocular pressure leads to the progressive dysfunction and loss of retinal ganglion cells. Retinal ganglion cells are the neuronal cells that connect the eye to the brain via the optic nerve. Increasing age is a key risk factor for glaucoma, contributing to both harmful elevation of intraocular pressure and increased neuronal vulnerability to pressure-induced damage.
“We wanted to identify key age-related susceptibility factors that change with age in the eye,” John says, “and that therefore increase vulnerability to disease and in particular neuronal disease.” By understanding general age-related mechanism, there is the potential to develop new interventions to generally protect from common age-related disease processes in many people. Conducting a variety of genomic, metabolic, neurobiological and other tests in mice susceptible to inherited glaucoma, compared to control mice, the researchers discovered that NAD, a molecule vital to energy metabolism in neurons and other cells, declines with age.
“There’s an analogy with an old motorbike,” John says. “It runs just fine, but little things get less reliable with age. One day you stress it: you drive it up a steep hill or you go on really long journey and you get in trouble. It’s less reliable than a new bike and it’s going to fail with a higher frequency than that new bike.”
The decrease in NAD levels reduces the reliability of neurons’ energy metabolism, especially under stress such as increased intraocular pressure. “Like taking that big hill on your old bike, some things are going to fail more often,” John says. “The amount of failure will increase over time, resulting in more damage and disease progression.”
In essence, the treatments of vitamin B3 (nicotinamide, an amide form of vitamin B3, also called niacinamide) boosted the metabolic reliability of aging retinal ganglion cells, keeping them healthier for longer. “Because these cells are still healthy, and still metabolically robust,” says JAX Postdoctoral Associate Pete Williams, first author of the study, “even when high intraocular pressure turns on, they better resist damaging processes.”
The researchers also found that a single gene-therapy application of Nmnat1 (the gene for an enzyme that makes NAD from nicotinamide) prevented glaucoma from developing in this mouse model. “It can be a problem for patients, especially the elderly, to take their drugs every day and in the correct dose,” Williams says. “So gene therapy could be a one-shot, protective treatment.” He notes that gene therapies, through injections into the eye, have been approved for a handful of very rare, human genetic eye disorders, and their demonstration of an important age-dependent factor may enable gene therapy for more common eye disease.
John says that the team is pursuing clinical partnerships to begin the process of testing the effectiveness of vitamin B3 treatment in glaucoma patients. They are also exploring potential applications for the treatment in other diseases involving neurodegeneration.
Public Release: 21-Feb-2017
Study finds link between high EPA and DHA omega-3 blood levels and decreased risk of death
Research found that women ages 65 to 80 with omega-3 blood levels in the highest quartile were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause than those in the lowest quartile
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology found that higher levels of EPA and DHA omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in red blood cells were associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality in postmenopausal women. The study specifically examined associations with the omega-3 index, a measure of EPA and DHA levels in red blood cells. Over a 15-year period, the research found that women ages 65 to 80 with omega-3 blood levels in the highest quartile were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause than those in the lowest quartile.
The study analyzed data from more than 6,500 women aged 65-80 who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, which began in 1996. The women’s PUFA levels were measured in 1996 and then the health outcomes were tracked through August 2014, with the primary outcome being all-cause mortality. After a median of 14.9 years of follow-up, 28.5 percent of the women had passed away. The analysis was adjusted for a wide variety of lifestyle and other factors such as smoking, physical activity and history of cardiovascular disease. This was a prospective cohort study, or a study that follows a group of similar people (a cohort) over time to observe correlations between various factors and health outcomes.
“This is the largest -but far from the only – study to confirm that blood levels of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, in this case the omega-3 index, are independent predictors of risk for death,” said Dr. William Harris, lead author of the study and founder of OmegaQuant Analytics (where the samples were analyzed). “These findings support the view that higher EPA and DHA omega-3 levels are associated with better overall health.”
Although this study was observational and did not analyze the effect of a specific intervention, the authors estimated that intakes of approximately 1g of EPA and DHA per day were required to increase omega-3 status from the lowest quartile observed in this study (3.6 percent) to the highest quartile (7.1percent). This approximately equals two and a half to three salmon fillets per week according to the USDA Nutrient Database, or the amount that could be obtained from 1-3 softgels or one teaspoon of a liquid omega-3 supplement daily.
“This study adds to a larger body of evidence demonstrating the positive correlation between higher omega-3 index levels and general wellness,” said Adam Ismail, Executive Director of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED). “The results gathered over a 15-year period support the notion that adequate omega-3 intake is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, just like exercise and following a well-balanced diet.”
To put the results of this study in context, a recent paper by Murphy et al found that the omega-3 status of more than 80 percent of Americans was below the omega-3 index observed in the highest quartile in this study. Another paper by Stark et al found that very low omega-3 levels “were observed in North America, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa.” Thirteen prior studies have also been conducted in this area, twelve of which have found statistically significant reductions in mortality risk associated with the highest levels of omega-3s. These studies can be found in the supplementary data of the Harris paper, with the addition of two studies by Miura et al published last month.
To increase omega-3 intake, it’s important to consume specific fish species that contain high levels of EPA and DHA, like salmon, tuna and sardines. Depending on which other foods someone incorporates into his or her diet, a typical person might spend up to $40 per month on these fish to reach this level of omega-3 status. It’s also possible to obtain this level of EPA and DHA for about $16 per month with supplement use.
The FDA considers dosages of EPA and DHA up to 3g per day Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), a higher level than the 1g per day estimated as a requirement to move from the lowest to highest quartile of omega-3 status in this study. However, consumers should always consult a healthcare provider if they have any concerns or questions before making significant changes to their diet or supplementation habits, and can ask to have their omega-3 levels tested.
Nicotinamide riboside (vitamin B3) prevents nerve pain caused by cancer drugs
Findings in female rats may lead to improved outcomes for patients receiving chemotherapy to treat breast and ovarian cancer
University of Iowa Health Care
A new study in rats suggests that nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B3, may be useful for treating or preventing nerve pain (neuropathy) caused by chemotherapy drugs. The findings by researchers at the University of Iowa were published recently in the Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain (PAIN) and lay the groundwork for testing whether this nutritional supplement can reduce nerve pain in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
Although chemotherapies have improved cancer survival rates, many of these drugs also cause debilitating side effects that decrease the quality of life of patients and survivors. In particular, many anti-cancer drugs cause chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) — nerve damage and pain.
“Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy can both hinder continuation of treatment and persist long after treatment has ended, severely affecting the quality of life of cancer patients,” says Marta Hamity, PhD, UI assistant research scientist and first author on the study. “Our findings support the idea that NR could potentially be used to prevent or mitigate CIPN in cancer patients, resulting in a meaningful improvement in their quality of life and the ability to sustain better and longer treatment.”
A recent report from the American Society for Clinical Oncology states that there is an unmet need for treatments that can alleviate CIPN.
The new study led by Hamity and Donna Hammond, PhD, UI professor of anesthesia and pharmacology at the UI Carver College of Medicine, tested the effect of NR in female rats that were treated with paclitaxel, a chemotherapy commonly used to treat breast and ovarian cancer.
The researchers found that paclitaxel, given at doses that mimicked the amount a human patient would receive, caused peripheral neuropathy in the rats, which lasted at least five weeks beyond the end of the chemotherapy.
The team used a standard test to assess the pain caused by CIPN. They measured the rats’ increased sensitivity to a light foot poke. Untreated rats did not withdraw their foot when light pressure was applied. However, treatment with paclitaxel made the rats hypersensitive to this light touch and caused them to withdraw their foot.
NR boosts levels of an important cell metabolite called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). Previous animal studies, including work from the UI lab of study co-author Charles Brenner, PhD, have shown that increasing NAD+ levels with NR can protect against many types of nerve damage. The new study found that the NR supplement increased levels of NAD+ in the rats’ blood by about 50 percent.
Prophylactic treatment with daily doses of NR (200 mg/kg) for seven days before chemotherapy was started and continued for 24 days after the chemotherapy ended prevented the hypersensitivity to touch in the rats. This protective effect lasted for at least two weeks after the NR supplementation stopped.
Furthermore, the UI researchers also devised a new method to measure how unpleasant the rats with CIPN found the light touch. Rats were given a choice between a dark environment, where their feet were repeatedly poked, and a brightly lit environment. By nature, rats prefer the dark. The team found that untreated rats tolerated many pokes before they were prompted to leave a darkened area. In contrast, rats with CIPN would leave the dark chamber after a fewer number of pokes and remain in the light. Rats getting both chemotherapy and the NR supplement behaved more like untreated rats and tolerated more poking before leaving the dark.
“The touch sensitivity test measures the threshold where a light touch that normally is not painful is now perceived as painful because of the neuropathy. For example, people with CIPN can find the light touch of clothes or typing on a keyboard painful,” Hamity explains. “In the case of the ‘escape’ test, we were trying to mimic how unpleasant a normal stimulus can be because of the neuropathy, and if that would cause you to avoid it even if it means choosing an activity that you don’t enjoy. For example, typing can become so painful that you avoid doing it even if it means not being able to work.”
When NR treatment was started 14 days after the chemotherapy treatment, it reversed touch hypersensitivity in some, but not all, of the animals. However, it was still able to reduce the “escape” behavior in all the rats.
The study is the first to measure this behavioral impact of CIPN as well as the hypersensitivity to touch. Measuring the effect of potential therapies on both dimensions of pain perception may provide better preclinical information that can lead to more successful clinical trials. The study also is among the first to use female rats to investigate CIPN.
Hammond is encouraged by the study findings but cautious about what they may mean for human therapies.
“The preclinical literature is rife with drugs that alleviate chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy but that fail to do so under rigorous clinical testing,” she says. “We believe we are using a model that is more clinically relevant – but the true test of that will not be made until the clinical trial is done.”
Public Release: 23-Feb-2017
Fasting-mimicking diet may reverse diabetes
Periodic cycles of fasting reprogram pancreatic cells and restore insulin production
University of Southern California
A diet designed to imitate the effects of fasting appears to reverse diabetes by reprogramming cells, a new USC-led study shows.
The fasting-like diet promotes the growth of new insulin-producing pancreatic cells that reduce symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in mice, according to the study on mice and human cells led by Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.
“Cycles of a fasting-mimicking diet and a normal diet essentially reprogrammed non-insulin-producing cells into insulin-producing cells,” said Longo, who is also a professor of biological sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “By activating the regeneration of pancreatic cells, we were able to rescue mice from late-stage type 1 and type 2 diabetes. We also reactivated insulin production in human pancreatic cells from type 1 diabetes patients.”
The reprogrammed adult cells and organs prompted a regeneration in which damaged cells were replaced with new functional ones, he said.
The study published on Feb. 23 in the journal Cell, is the latest in a series of studies to demonstrate promising health benefits of a brief, periodic diet that mimics the effects of a water-only fast.
Reversing insulin resistance and depletion
In type 1 and late-stage type 2 diabetes, the pancreas loses insulin-producing beta cells, increasing instability in blood sugar levels. The study showed a remarkable reversal of diabetes in mice placed on the fasting-mimicking diet for four days each week. They regained healthy insulin production, reduced insulin resistance and demonstrated more stable levels of blood glucose. This was the case even for mice in the later stages of the disease.
The diet cycles switched on genes in the adult mice that are normally active only in the developing pancreases of fetal mice. The genes set off production of a protein, neurogenin-3 (Ngn3); thus, generating new, healthy insulin-producing beta cells.
Next steps: clinical study
Longo and his team also examined pancreatic cell cultures from human donors and found that, in cells from type 1 diabetes patients, fasting also increased expression of the Ngn3 protein and accelerated insulin production. The results suggest that a fasting-mimicking diet could alleviate diabetes in humans.
Longo and his research team have amassed evidence indicating several health benefits of the fasting-mimicking diet. Their study published last week in Science Translational Medicine demonstrated that the fasting-mimicking diet reduced risks for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other age-related diseases in human study participants who followed the special diet for five days each month in a three-month span.
Prior studies on the diet have shown potential for alleviating symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease multiple sclerosis, increasing the efficacy of chemotherapy for cancer treatments, and decreasing visceral fat.
“These findings warrant a larger FDA trial on the use of the fasting-mimicking diet to treat human diabetes patients to help them produce normal levels of insulin while improving insulin function,” Longo said. “Hopefully, people with diabetes could one day be treated with an FDA-approved fasting-mimicking diet for a few days each month and gain control over their insulin production and blood sugar.”
Among the study’s lead authors were Chia-Wei Cheng and Roberta Buono of USC Davis and Valentina Villani of the Saban Research Institute. Other co-authors were Min Wei and Dean Pinchas Cohen of the USC Davis School; Sanjeeve Kumar of the Keck School of Medicine of USC; Omer Yilmaz of the Koch Institute at MIT, Julie Sneddon of the University of California, San Francisco, and Laura Perin of the Saban Research Institute. The study was funded by National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging grants AG20642, AG025135 and P01 AG034906 to Longo.
Longo is the founder of and has an ownership interest in L-Nutra whose food products are used in the human studies of the fasting-mimicking diet. Longo’s interest in L-Nutra was disclosed and managed per USC’s conflicts of interest policies. USC has an ownership interest in L-Nutra, and the potential to receive royalty payments from L-Nutra. USC’s financial interest in the company has
Public Release: 23-Feb-2017
Modified Atkins diet helps children with rare form of epilepsy
Doose syndrome or myoclonic-astatic epilepsy is a rare syndrome accounting for one to two percent of childhood epilepsies. A ketogenic diet, which is low in carbohydrates and high in fat, is an effective treatment, but it is very restrictive and difficult to follow. In a recent study, 25 of 30 children (83 percent) with Doose syndrome who followed a modified Atkins Diet experienced a seizure reduction of at least 50 percent and 14 of 30 children (47 percent) were seizure-free.
“Toddlers are always very choosy for their food, so the modified Atkins Diet is a good choice for families with a child suffering from a Doose syndrome, as shown by our study: less restrictive than the classical ketogenic diet, easier to calculate, to cook, and having an optimal responder rate regarding seizure reduction as well,” said Dr. Adelheid Wiemer-Kruel, lead author of the Epilepsia study.
Public Release: 24-Feb-2017
Dietary prebiotics improve sleep, buffer impacts of stress, says study
University of Colorado at Boulder
In recent years, reams of research papers have shed light on the health benefits of probiotics, the “good bacteria” found in fermented foods and dietary supplements. Now a first-of-its kind study by University of Colorado Boulder scientists suggests that lesser-known gut-health promoters called prebiotics – which serve as food for good bacteria inside the gut — can also have an impact, improving sleep and buffering the physiological impacts of stress.
“We found that dietary prebiotics can improve non-REM sleep, as well as REM sleep after a stressful event,” said Robert Thompson, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology and first author of the new study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
Prebiotics are dietary fibers found naturally in foods like chicory, artichokes, raw garlic, leeks and onions. When beneficial bacteria digest prebiotic fiber, they not only multiply, improving overall gut health, but they also release metabolic byproducts. Some research suggests these byproducts can influence brain function, explains lead author Monika Fleshner, a professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology.
For the study, the researchers fed 3-week-old male rats a diet of either standard chow or chow that included prebiotics. They then monitored the rats’ body temperature, gut bacteria and sleep-wake cycles – using EEG, or brain activity testing — over time.
They found that the rats on the prebiotic diet spent more time in non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep, which is restful and restorative, than those on the non-prebiotic diet.
“Given that sufficient NREM sleep and proper nutrition can impact brain development and function and that sleep problems are common in early life, it is possible that a diet rich in prebiotics started in early life could help improve sleep, support the gut microbiota and promote optimal brain/psychological health,” the authors wrote.
After being exposed to a stressor, the rats on the prebiotic diet also spent more time in rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is believed to be critical for promoting recovery from stress, with research showing that those who get more REM sleep post-trauma are less likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Stress has previously been shown to reduce healthy diversity of gut bacteria and to lead to a temporary flattening of natural fluctuations in body temperature.
But rats on the prebiotic diet were buffered from these impacts, maintaining a healthy and diverse gut microbiota and normal temperature fluctuations even after stress exposure.
Fleshner said it’s far too early to recommend prebiotic supplements as a sleep aid. More studies are in the works to examine what role prebiotics can play in promoting sleep, or buffering stress in people.
But she does recommend loading up on healthy prebiotic fiber from food. “It can’t hurt and it might help,” she said.
Public Release: 1-Mar-2017
Allergies? Probiotic combination may curb your symptoms, new study finds
University of Florida
As we head into allergy season, you may feel less likely to grab a hanky and sneeze. That’s because new University of Florida research shows a probiotic combination might help reduce hay fever symptoms, if it’s taken during allergy season.
Many published studies have shown a probiotic’s ability to regulate the body’s immune response to allergies, but not all of the probiotics show a benefit, UF researchers say.
“Not all probiotics work for allergies. This one did,” said Jennifer Dennis, a doctoral student in the UF food science and human nutrition department in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and first author on the latest study.
Scientists already know that the probiotic combination of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, sold as Kyo-Dophilus in stores, helps maintain digestive health and parts of the immune system. They suspect that probiotics might work by increasing the human body’s percentage of regulatory T-cells, which in turn might increase tolerance to hay fever symptoms.
UF researchers wanted to know if the components in this combination probiotic would help alleviate allergy symptoms.
To do that, they enrolled 173 healthy adults who said they suffered seasonal allergies and randomly split them into two groups: Some took the combination probiotic; others took a placebo. Each week during the eight-week experiment, participants responded to an online survey to convey their discomfort level.
Scientists also analyzed DNA from participants’ stool samples to determine how their bacteria changed, because probiotics aim to deliver good bacteria to the human’s intestinal system. The DNA test also confirmed who was taking the probiotic, said Bobbi Langkamp-Henken, a professor of food science and human nutrition and a senior author of the study.
The researchers conducted the experiment at the height of spring allergy season.
Participants who took the probiotic reported improvements in quality of life, compared to those taking the placebo, the study showed. For example, participants suffered fewer allergy-related nose symptoms, which meant that they were less troubled during daily activities.
Researchers note that this study did not include severe allergy sufferers. But the combination of probiotics showed clinical benefit for those with more mild seasonal allergies, Langkamp-Henken said.
According to other published research in the field, seasonal allergies can reduce sleep and productivity at work or school and can cause stress and embarrassment. Further, current allergy medications have unwanted potential side effects, including dry mouth and drowsiness; thus the need for alternatives, the researchers say.
The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.