Thursday, June 21, 2007

How turmeric helps keep us healthy

Turmeric has been used in India since ages not only as a common household spice but also as a curative herb. Well documented by ancient ayurvedic texts and supported by a large number of scientific studies, the last few years have seen an increased interest in its medicinal properties. Turmeric (commonly called haridra or haldi) is the rhizome of the plant curuma longa which is used for medicinal and culinary purposes.

The major chemical constituent of turmeric is known as curcumin which is responsible for many of its pharmacological activities. Turmeric possesses antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anti-hepatotoxic (liver protective) and anti-allergic properties. Ayurvedic texts have additionally described it to be good for skin ailments and also as a blood purifier, wound cleanser and healer, remover of body toxins, killer of abdominal worms and a wind-repellent agent.

Data obtained from several studies suggest that turmeric definitely has an anti-cancer role, may it be the countering of initiation, promotion and progression of the disease or of increasing the immunity by enhancing natural anti-oxidant functions of the body. Curcumin has shown good results while being used to treat squamous cell carcinoma of the skin and the ulcerating oral cancer. Evidence from laboratory and animal studies suggests that curcumin has potential in various other forms of malignancies like those of prostate, breast, cervix and colon.

Turmeric induces the flow of bile, which helps break the fats in our food. In its anti-allergic role, it is a drug of choice to be used for naso-bronchial afflictions, sinusitis and common coughs and colds. Added with any other herbal cough formula, turmeric enhances its efficacy. Because of its ability to reduce inflammation, turmeric is an effective adjunct to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Old ayurvedic texts additionally indicate it to be beneficial in many other health disorders like anaemia, jaundice, obesity and diseases of the urino-genital tract.

Turmeric is also known as a household beauty aid. As a constituent of “ubtans”, it enhances glow on the face and is a trusted medicine to treat blemishes, pimples and non-specific skin allergies and inflammations. Mixed and crushed with the same amount of dried amla and sugar, half a teaspoonful of this combination, if taken with water two times a day, boosts body immunity and can be given along with any other therapy to treat stubborn skin ailments. As a ready first aid, turmeric powder is applied on minor cuts, wounds and abrasions after mixing it in a little of desi ghee.

Since many of the herbs also have their contra-indications, an over-dose of turmeric, instead of protecting the digestive tract, can enhance acidity. Though turmeric gives all its routine benefits when used as a kitchen spice, its per day medicinal dose is one to three gm in two or three divided doses. Turmeric should not be taken singularly by those who are suffering from gall stones or the obstruction of the bile passage. Similarly, it should also be used carefully where the patient is taking any other medicine which acts as a blood thinner agent or delays its coagulation.

By: Dr R. Vatsyayan - The writer is a Ludhiana-based senior ayurvedic consultant.
Date: Wednesday, July 5, 2006, Chandigarh, India

Saturday, June 16, 2007

MIT biologists link calorie restriction, endocrine function in worm longevity

The link between calorie restriction and a longer, healthier life may lie in the head, not in the gut, MIT biologists report.

Dietary restriction extends lifespan and retards age-related disease in many species, although the phenomenon's underlying mechanisms remain a mystery. Underfeeding an organism such as the ordinary roundworm alters its endocrine function, which regulates hormones instrumental in metabolism. But no connection between the longevity induced by calorie restriction and the endocrine system has been found-until now.
In a recent issue of Nature, Leonard P. Guarente, Novartis Professor of Biology, and postdoctoral associate Nicholas A. Bishop show that a particular pair of neurons in the heads of underfed worms may play an essential role in their lengthy lives. When these two individual neurons were killed by a laser beam, the worms could not enjoy the longevity normally associated with calorie restriction.
"This study directs our attention to the brain as a center for mediating the beneficial effects of calorie restriction in higher organisms, potentially including us," Guarente said. "A complete molecular understanding of calorie restriction may lead to new drugs for the major diseases of aging.
"Restricting calories activates a gene in two neurons, Guarente and Bishop report. The gene, called skn-1, is found in a particular pair of sensory neurons in the head of the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. These neurons are critical in translating information about food availability into endocrine signals. The neurons lead peripheral tissues to increase their metabolic activity, and this enhanced metabolism makes the worms live longer than normally fed counterparts.In the study, the researchers also confirmed the results with a genetic test: They showed that skn-1 genes expressed only in these two cells support dietary-restriction longevity; without the genes, the longevity increase on dietary restriction disappeared. At the same time, the lack of skn-1 genes had little or no effect on the lifespan of worms whose calorie intake was not restricted, Guarente said. "We suspect that the two neurons sense dietary restriction and secrete a hormone that increases metabolism-and life span-in the animal," he said.
Guarente, who published "Ageless Quest: One Scientist's Search for Genes that Prolong Youth" in 2003, discovered in 2000 that calorie restriction activates the silenced information regulator (SIR2) gene, which has the apparent ability to slow aging. This gene makes a protein called Sir2, which Guarente has shown is integrally tied to extending life span in yeast and in the roundworm. Humans carry a similar gene. How Sir2 relates to the two neurons identified in the findings is not yet clear, Guarente said.
Guarente suggests that the first commercial products based on manipulating Sir2 to slow aging will appear in the next 10 to 20 years. It is only a matter of time, he said, before aging itself is declared a disease.This work is supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Glenn Foundation.

Date: 14.06.2007
By: Deborah Halber - MIT News Office

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Super Fruit Fly may Harbor Hope for Human Longevity

Researchers at USC and Caltech have spectacularly slowed aging in fruit flies with a new technique that shows general promise in pharmaceutical development.

In a triumph for pests, scientists have found out how to make the fruit fly live longer. But the development may still have something for humans. As reported online in Nature Chemical Biology, the discovery that a single protein can slow down aging holds implications for humans’ prolonged existence and for treatment of some of the world’s most dreaded diseases. “This work is important for two reasons,” said study author Richard Roberts, associate professor of chemistry, chemical engineering and biology at the University of Southern California. “First, it demonstrates that a single inhibitor can dramatically alter lifespan, a very complex trait. It is remarkable that you can alter it with a single genetic change. We don’t really need to make fruit flies live longer, but if we understand how to do this, our approach may have direct application to higher organisms, such as ourselves,” he added. Secondly, Roberts said, the method used by his research team to make the inhibiting proteins “opens the prospect of developing a lot of new therapeutics.” The study describes a new method for blocking receptors involved in aging and disease across many species, including humans. Receptors are proteins that send out signals across a cell membrane. In the fruit fly, Roberts and his team manufactured short proteins that blocked a receptor involved in fruit fly aging, as earlier demonstrated by co-author Seymour Benzer of Caltech.

The results were spectacular. Flies with a blocked receptor saw their lives extended by a third, with no noticeable side effects.

The same blocking strategy should work in all such receptors, known as class B GPCRs (for G protein-coupled receptors). Many GPCRs figure prominently in disease as well as in normal development, Roberts said. “It is the most targeted family of receptors” by drug manufacturers, Roberts said, estimating that a quarter of all pharmaceuticals focus on GPCRs. “This approach should be generally applicable,” he added. And generally powerful, given that GPCRs are extremely unstable and difficult to work with. The Roberts group went around the problem by disconnecting the unstable part of the receptor and running experiments only on the part of the receptor that sticks out of the cell. Though there were no guarantees that inhibiting one part of the receptor would harm the whole, the strategy succeeded. Roberts’ method builds on his co-discovery, in 1997, of a simple method for building libraries of trillions of short proteins, or peptides. In the new study, Roberts and his group literally threw trillions of peptides at the receptor and saved the ones that stuck. “We let the molecules themselves decide if they bind, rather than trying to design them rationally,” he said. After multiple cycles, the researchers had a group of peptides that fixed to the receptor and not to any other protein. Fruit flies genetically transformed to produce such peptides lived longer, suggesting that the peptides were interfering with the receptor’s normal function. However the questions that have been left unanswered are why these particular peptides work, and why the receptor they target plays such an important role in fruit fly aging.


Low Testosterone Levels May Influence Longevity

Model of the Testosterone structure

Doctors have noted for some time that low levels of testosterone in older men are associated with a number of signs and symptoms of aging. These include fatigue, an inability to concentrate, lowered libido and, for men with central adiposity or excess fat around their waists, an increased risk for diabetes.
One long-term study of older men is being done through the University of California at San Diego. It has followed men from the town of Rancho Bernardo since the early 70s. Twenty years ago, these men had a thorough medical exam that included taking blood samples to measure testosterone levels.
"We had 800 men that we measured the testosterone on, and they were followed yearly by mailers," says Dr. Gail Laughlin, one of the researchers with the study. "Every four years these men came back to the clinic and their health was assessed in various ways. "
The researchers obtain death certificates on a regular basis for men in the study who have died.
Laughlin says a 20-year analysis showed that men with lower levels of testosterone over time had a 23 percent greater chance of death than their contemporaries with normal levels of the reproductive hormone.
"We looked first to see if it could be explained completely by differences in either body size or central adiposity or lifestyle characteristics including physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption," she says. "None of these factors explain the association."
Laughlin says at the same time, men who had higher than normal levels of testosterone did not live any longer than men with normal levels.
She stresses that the lesson from this study should not be that men go out and start taking testosterone as they age. "This is an observational study, and all we have found is an association," Laughlin says. "Until we can do the randomized placebo controlled trials, we don't even know that testosterone is safe for men."
Laughlin says her group is applying for funding to perform just such a trial. She recently presented her research to The Endocrine Society and an article based on the findings will be published later this year.

By: Rose Hoban
Published: 08 June 2007

Friday, June 8, 2007

Retiring while still young, Bob Barker says key to TV longevity is listening

Legendary game show host Bob Barker, 83, blows a kiss goodby to fans, as he tapes his final episode of "The Price Is Right" in Los Angeles on Wednesday, June 6th, 2007.

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

(CP) - Bob Barker remembers the exact moment he became a TV star. It was Dec. 21, 1956, at five minutes past noon.
The Washington state native was working an audience participation show at an L.A. radio station when Ralph Edwards, then best known as host of the popular series "This Is Your Life," happened to catch Barker's act. Impressed by what he heard, he tracked Barker down and offered him a job hosting a new TV game show called "Truth or Consequences."
"It changed my life," Barker told TV critics in Los Angeles earlier this year at a CBS press conference.
Barker hosted "Truth or Consequences" for 18 years, until 1975. Every Dec. 21, until Edwards died in 2005, the two would drink a toast at exactly 12:05 p.m.
Even that "Truth or Consequences" run, however, pales compared to Barker's best-known gig. On Wednesday, at 83, he taped his final episode of "The Price Is Right," a job he's held for 35 consecutive years - making it the longest-running game show of all time in North America. Only "The Tonight Show," at over 50 years, surpasses it in terms of five-days-a-week American entertainment programming. (Barker's final "Price Is Right" episode will air June 15 on CBS.)
Which makes Barker, who has outlived two of the show's three announcers, the Eveready Bunny of TV hosts. Still spry and full of pep, he played the room full of critics like they were "Price Is Right" contestants.
"In December I became 83 years old and I want to retire while I'm still young," he explained. He wanted to do "Happy Gilmore 2," he added, but "Adam Sandler's doctors told him he can't take another beating like I gave him" - a reference to Barker's pugilistic cameo on Sandler's 1996 comedy.
That movie appearance, Barker figures, helped make "The Price Is Right" a favourite with college-age audiences. Despite (or maybe because of) the show's old-fashioned, '70s-era set, students dressed in school colours often crammed into CBS's Television City studios for "Price Is Right" tapings. Barker says they've featured choirs from Harvard, Yale, Duke and West Point on the show. "It's a cult thing now," he says.
The key to longevity in television, says Barker, is being a good listener. "When a young host asks me my advice, I tell them, 'Listen, because those people are giving you little gems with which you can create laughter and have a great time.' "
Despite a few recent heart and stroke scares, Barker says he's generally been blessed with good health and genes. He has had one knee scoped, has a torn rotator cuff, there's that tilted disc in his back, but he has still got game. He credits being a vegetarian - a move he made out of respect for animals - with extending his career at least five years.
Twenty years ago, in 1987, he startled his audience by seeming to go grey overnight. He actually had been dyeing his hair for years and simply decided to let his grey hair show during a two-week taping break. The move appeared more sudden when Barker's switch to grey came in a mid-week telecast.
Despite hosting for 35 years, Barker insists he'd make a lousy contestant. I know nothing about prices," he claims. Whenever a reporter tries to test him at his own game, "I make a damn fool of myself every time," he says.
Barker acknowledged his tabloid dustups, including sexual harassment and wrongful dismissal suits brought against him by former "Barker's Beauties" Dian Parkinson and Holly Hallstrom. He said he wanted to fight them all in court but it was cheaper to settle.
"These were frivolous lawsuits based on distortions, exaggerations or outright falsehoods," he said. Still, six women have sued Barker since 1996, with all but one coming to an out-of-court settlement.
Barker swore he had no idea who might "come on down" to take his place when the show resumes taping next September. Likely candidates have ranged from well-tanned contemporary George Hamilton to former "Dancing With the Stars" contestant John O'Hurley to talk show terminator "Rosie O'Donnell."
Or maybe no one will take his place. "You haven't been told?" Barker told critics. "When I leave, not only is 'The Price is Right' ending, all television is ending."
BILL BRIOUX is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.
Published: Thursday June 7th, 2007

Monday, June 4, 2007

Alpha-Lipoic Acid - Anti-aging with a Big Asterisk

At the recent “Diet and Optimum Health” conference sponsored by the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) at Oregon State University, scientists presented research discussing some of the underlying mechanisms behind lipoic acid’s many beneficial effects.
“The evidence suggests that lipoic acid is actually a low-level stressor that turns on the basic cellular defenses of the body, including some of those that naturally decline with age,” said Tory Hagen, an LPI researcher and associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics at OSU. “In particular, it tends to restore levels of glutathione, a protective antioxidant and detoxification compound, to those of a young animal. It also acts as a strong anti-inflammatory agent, which is relevant to many degenerative diseases.” …
… “Our studies have shown that mice supplemented with lipoic acid have a cognitive ability, behavior, and genetic expression of almost 100 detoxification and antioxidant genes that are comparable to that of young animals,” Hagen said. “They aren’t just living longer, they are living better — and that’s the goal we’re after.”
Sound promising? Sure.
But there are a few things you should know about lipoic acid before running out and buying it. In fact, without a proper dosing protocol, some people may want to avoid supplementing with it entirely.
What is Lipoic Acid
Lipoic acid is a compound that contains two sulfur, or thiol, groups. The oxidized form is referred to as lipoic acid (LA), while the reduced form is called dihydrolipoic acid (DHPLA).

Sources of Lipoic Acid
Lipoic acid (LA) is generated in small amounts inside the body, specifically in mitochondria, the energy production factories inside cells. It can also be obtained from plant and animal food sources. For example, spinach, broccoli, kidney, heart, and liver are all relatively high in LA. Supplements, however, provide LA in amounts much greater (as much as 1000 times or more) than those that can be obtained via food.
Functions of Lipoic Acid
LA appears to have many important biological functions in the body, including:
Serving as an enzyme cofactor in many important chemical reactions in the body. For example, LA is one of the cofactors in the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, which converts pyruvate into acetyl-CoA to be used in the body’s primary energy production pathway, the Krebs (citric acid) cycle.
Acting as an antioxidant. Both LA and DHLA appear to neutralize oxygen and nitrogen free-radicals (unstable molecules that can cause damage to cells and tissues). Importantly and unlike most other antioxidants, LA is both fat- and water-soluble, which means it can help to reduce free-radical damage in fatty structures (e.g., cell membranes, mitochondria) and in aqueous areas (e.g., cell cytosols, extracellular spaces).
Regenerating other antioxidants. DHLA can restore important antioxidants, including vitamin C and glutathione, to their reduced forms. It also helps restore vitamin E in the body, possibly directly, and definitely indirectly by restoring vitamin C, which can in turn restore vitamin E.
Boosting glutathione levels. Glutathione, made from the three amino acids cysteine, glycine, and glutamic acid, is the body’s primary internally generated antioxidant and a key detoxification compound.
Metal chelation. Because of its di-thiol (two sulfhydryl group) structure, LA has a very high affinity for certain metals in the body, especially toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic, and possibly lead. LA chelates (binds to) these metals, and if a proper chelation protocol is used, can help to reduce the overall level of them in the body.
Regulating a variety of insulin and cell signaling processes that help to control insulin sensitivity, metabolism, and stress response. Also regulates expression of genes related to physiologic processes, such as inflammation and cell cycle control, which may, in turn, affect the risk for many conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Conditions Treated with Lipoic Acid
As the research discussed at the LPI conference suggests, there are many conditions that may benefit from lipoic acid (LA), including:
Diabetes - may help to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood glucose levels
Heart disease - may improve blood vessel condition and function
Neuropathy - may reduce diabetic peripheral neuropathy symptoms and complications
Cognitive decline & dementia - may help to prevent and/or slow the development of these conditions
There’s a good overview of the LA research linked to these different conditions in this LPI Micronutrient Center LA review article.
Caveats, Including A Big One
Some research suggests that lipoic acid (LA) may compete with biotin for transport across cell membranes and reduce the activity of biotin-dependent enzymes. Thus, biotin supplementation may be a good idea if supplementing with LA.
But by far the biggest potential caution with LA usage relates to its potential for interacting with heavy metals in the body. As mentioned above, LA contains two sulfur groups that help LA to chelate (bind to) toxic metals, such as mercury. Although LA is naturally present in all cells of the body, if you added it all up, the total amount in your body would actually be quite small (a few milligrams).
The risk with taking large supplement doses of LA infrequently (e.g., 50 to 200 mg, or more, 2 or 3 times a day) is that such a dosing protocol doesn’t take into account the metabolism of LA in the body. Specifically, LA has an average half-life in the body of 3 hours, which means half of it is still present 3 hours after taking a dose. That means that in order to keep LA levels relatively constant in the bloodstream, you need to take it every 3 hours.
Why would you want to keep LA blood levels constant?
Because if you have had any significant exposure to toxic metals (e.g., mercury via amalgams*, vaccines, or high fish consumption), by taking LA in doses spaced farther apart than 3 hours, the toxic metals will be repeatedly picked up and dropped as the LA blood levels rise and fall. In turn, the metals will be redistributed in the body and continue to cause damage to cells and tissues in new locations. Not good. Instead of getting the beneficial effects of LA mentioned earlier in this post, you may cause much more damage.
And since LA can cross the blood-brain barrier, if you use it in large doses with an infrequent dosing schedule, you run the risk of carrying toxic metals into the brain.
*You certainly would never want to take LA supplements if you currently have mercury fillings, as that would accelerate the movement of mercury from the fillings into the body.
Bottom Line
If you haven’t been exposed to significant amounts of toxic metals and your overall body levels are low, then using LA will likely cause no problems and may have considerable benefits.
However, if you have had significant toxic metal exposure (e.g., amalgam fillings in place for many years, multiple mercury-containing vaccines, high fish consumption), you want to avoid high/infrequent LA doses and only use LA as part of a careful low/frequent-dose chelation protocol.
LA can be an effective chelator if used in the latter way. Unlike other chelators DMSA and DMPS, LA can go both inside cells and into the brain to chelate and remove toxic metals.
The concept of low/frequent-dose chelation using DMSA, DMPS, and LA was pioneered by Andrew Cutler, PhD, and is described in detail in his book, Amalgam Illness: Diagnosis & Treatment.
In my nutritional consulting practice, I help people to implement this safe and effective chelation approach (and successfully used it myself to recover from mercury poisoning). If you’d like help, you can find out more here.
Related Posts
Advisory Panel Rejects FDA Safety Report on Mercury Fillings
3/4 of Public Unaware that Flu Shots Contain Mercury
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease Affecting More People at Younger Ages
Date: June 4, 2007
By: Marc Joseph

Longevity Books for June 2007

Here is the list of new books on aging and longevity, which have become available this month.The books are listed in reversed chronological order (the most recent books are listed first). To get more information about these books, just click on the titles below:

1. Smile for Life: Rejuvenation Dentistry and the Art of Wellness by Gerald P. Curatola (Paperback - May 31, 2007)

2. Emergency Care, An Issue of Geriatric Medicine Clinics (The Clinics: Internal Medicine) by Amal Mattu (Hardcover - May 28, 2007)

3. The Body in Action: You Can Keep Your Joints Young by Sarah Key (Paperback - May 28, 2007)

4. Longevity and Optimal Health: Integrating Eastern and Western Perspectives by William Bushell (Paperback - May 27, 2007)

5. Aging Matters: Loves, Laughs & Losses by Daniel J. Monahan, LMSW (Paperback - May 25, 2007)

6. The Management of Pain in Older People by Patricia, PhD, RGN Schofield (Paperback - May 25, 2007)

7. Emergency Care, An Issue of Geriatric Medicine Clinics (The Clinics: Internal Medicine) by Amal Mattu (Hardcover - May 25, 2007)

8. Geriatric Nutrition (Nutrition and Disease Prevention) by John E. Morley and David R. Thomas (Hardcover - May 21, 2007)

9. Critical Perspectives on Ageing Societies (Ageing and the Lifecourse) by Thomas Scharf and Miriam Bernard (Paperback - May 16, 2007)

10. Geriatric Diabetes by Medha N. Munshi and Lewis A. Lipsitz (Hardcover - May 16, 2007)

11. Ideal Aging (TM): 7 Steps to Keep Your Brain Fit by Joyce Shaffer; PhD (Perfect Paperback - May 15, 2007)

12. Sensible Self-Help for Parkinson's Problems by Edgar M. Nash (Paperback - May 15, 2007)

13. Old Age in a New Age: The Promise of Transformative Nursing Homes by Beth Baker (Paperback - May 10, 2007)

14. Geriatric Rehabilitation Manual by Timothy L. Kauffman, John O. Barr, and Michael L. Moran (Hardcover - May 10, 2007)

15. Aging And Time: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (Society and Aging) by Jan Baars and Henk Visser (Hardcover - May 5, 2007)

16. Lessons on Aging from Three Nations (Society and Aging Series) by Sara Carmel (Hardcover - May 5, 2007)

17. Geriatric Rehabilitation: A Clinical Approach (3rd Edition) by Carole Lewis and Jennifer Bottomley (Hardcover - May 4, 2007)

18. Principles of Regenerative Biology by Bruce M. Carlson (Hardcover - May 4, 2007)

19. Rejuvenation: Spa Secrets for Menopause by Mary Beth Janssen, Toni Bark, and Amy Saidens (Paperback - May 3, 2007)

20. Oxidative Stress and Neurodegenerative Disorders by G. Ali Qureshi and S. Hasan Parvez (Hardcover - May 3, 2007)

21. Microbiology and Aging: Clinical Manifestations by Steven Percival (Hardcover - May 1, 2007)

22. Understanding Communication and Aging: Developing Knowledge and Awareness by Jake Harwood (Paperback - May 1, 2007)

23. The 50-Plus Market: Why the Future Is Age Neutral When It Comes to Marketing & Branding Strategies by Dick Stroud (Paperback - May 1, 2007) - Illustrated

24. Aging and Chronic Disorders by Stephen J. Morewitz and Mark Goldstein (Hardcover - May 2007)

25. Interactions Between Neurons and Glia in Aging and Disease by Joao Malva, Ana Cristina Rego, Catarina Oliveira, and Rodrigo Cunha (Hardcover - May 2007)

26. The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones & Women's Depression by Karen J., Ph.D. Miller and Steven A., Ph.D. Rogers (Paperback - May 2007)

POSTED: June 2, 2007
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