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Study links omega-3s to improved brain structure, cognition at midlife
University of Texas Health Science Center, October 5, 2022
Eating cold-water fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids may preserve brain health and enhance cognition in middle age, new evidence indicates.
Having at least some omega-3s in red blood cells was associated with better brain structure and cognitive function among healthy study volunteers in their 40s and 50s, according to research published in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Studies have looked at this association in older populations. The new contribution here is that, even at younger ages, if you have a diet that includes some omega-3 fatty acids, you are already protecting your brain for most of the indicators of brain aging that we see at middle age,” said Claudia Satizabal, PhD the lead author of the study.
Volunteers’ average age was 46. The team looked at the relation of red blood cell omega-3 fatty acid concentrations with MRI and cognitive markers of brain aging. Researchers also studied the effect of omega-3 red blood cell concentrations in volunteers who carried APOE4, a genetic variation linked to higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study of 2,183 dementia- and stroke-free participants found that:
Higher omega-3 index was associated with larger hippocampal volumes. The hippocampus, a structure in the brain, plays a major role in learning and memory.
Consuming more omega-3s was associated with better abstract reasoning, or the ability to understand complex concepts using logical thinking.
APOE4 carriers with a higher omega-3 index had less small-vessel disease. The APOE4 gene is associated with cardiovascular disease and vascular dementia.
“Omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are key micronutrients that enhance and protect the brain,” said study coauthor Debora Melo van Lent, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow at the Biggs Institute. “Our study is one of the first to observe this effect in a younger population. More studies in this age group are needed.”
Multiple health benefits of b-type procyanidin-rich foods like chocolate and apples consumed in right amounts
Shibaura Institute of Technology (Japan), October 5, 2022
B-type procyanidins, made of catechin oligomers, are a class of polyphenols found abundantly in foods like cocoa, apples, grape seeds, and red wine. Several studies have established the benefits of these micronutrients in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and strokes. B-type procyanidins are also successful in controlling hypertension, dyslipidemia, and glucose intolerance. Studies attest to the physiological benefits of their intake on the central nervous system (CNS), namely an improvement in cognitive functions. These physiological changes follow a pattern of hormesis—a phenomenon in which peak benefits of a substance are achieved at mid-range doses, becoming progressively lesser at lower and higher doses.
Researchers from Shibaura Institute of Technology (SIT), Japan, led by Professor Naomi Osakabe, reviewed the data from intervention trials supporting hormetic responses of B-type procyanidin ingestion. The team conducted in vivo experiments to understand possible connections between B-type procyanidin hormetic responses and CNS neurotransmitter receptor activation. Their article has been published in Frontiers of Nutrition .
The researchers noted that a single oral administration of an optimal dose of cocoa flavanol temporarily increased the blood pressure and heart rate in rats. But the hemodynamics did not change when the dose was increased or decreased. Administration of B-type procyanidin monomer and various oligomers produced similar results. According to Professor Osakabe, “These results are consistent with those of intervention studies following a single intake of food rich in B-type procyanidin, and support the U-shaped dose-response theory, or hormesis, of polyphenols.”
To observe whether the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is involved in the hemodynamic changes induced by B-type procyanidins, the team administered adrenaline blockers in test rats. This successfully decreased the temporary increase in heart rate induced by the optimal dose of cocoa flavanol. A different kind of blocker—a1 blocker—inhibited the transient rise in blood pressure. This suggested that the SNS, which controls the action of adrenaline blockers, is responsible for the hemodynamic and metabolic changes induced by a single oral dose of B-type procyanidin.
The researchers next ascertained why optimal doses, and not high doses, are responsible for the thermogenic and metabolic responses. They co-administered a high dose of cocoa flavanol and yohimbine (an α2 blocker) and noted a temporary but distinct increase in blood pressure in test animals. Similar observations were made with the use of B-type procyanidin oligomer and yohimbine. Professor Osakabe surmises, “Since α2 blockers are associated with the down-regulation of the SNS, the reduced metabolic and thermogenic outputs at a high dose of B-type procyanidins seen in our study may have induced α2 auto-receptor activation. Thus, SNS deactivation may be induced by a high dose of B-type procyanidins.”
Meditation keeps emotional brain in check
Michigan State University, September 29, 2022
Meditation can help tame your emotions even if you’re not a mindful person, suggests a new study from Michigan State University.
Reporting in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, psychology researchers recorded the brain activity of people looking at disturbing pictures immediately after meditating for the first time. These participants were able to tame their negative emotions just as well as participants who were naturally mindful.
“Our findings not only demonstrate that meditation improves emotional health, but that people can acquire these benefits regardless of their ‘natural’ ability to be mindful,” said Yanli Lin, an MSU graduate student and lead investigator of the study. “It just takes some practice.”
Researchers assessed 68 participants for mindfulness using a scientifically validated survey. The participants were then randomly assigned to engage in an 18-minute audio guided meditation or listen to a control presentation of how to learn a new language, before viewing negative pictures (such as a bloody corpse) while their brain activity was recorded.
The participants who meditated – they had varying levels of natural mindfulness – showed similar levels of “emotion regulatory” brain activity as people with high levels of natural mindfulness. In other words their emotional brains recovered quickly after viewing the troubling photos, essentially keeping their negative emotions in check.
In addition, some of the participants were instructed to look at the gruesome photos “mindfully” (be in a mindful state of mind) while others received no such instruction. Interestingly, the people who viewed the photos “mindfully” showed no better ability to keep their negative emotions in check.
This suggests that for non-meditators, the emotional benefits of mindfulness might be better achieved through meditation, rather than “forcing it” as a state of mind, said Moser, MSU associate professor of clinical psychology and co-author of the study.
A mother’s ultra-processed food intake may be linked to obesity risk in her children
Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, October 5, 2022
A mother’s consumption of ultra-processed foods appears to be linked to an increased risk of overweight or obesity in her offspring, irrespective of other lifestyle risk factors, suggests a U.S. study published by The BMJ today.
The researchers that mothers might benefit from limiting their intake of ultra-processed foods, that dietary guidelines should be refined, and financial and social barriers removed to improve nutrition for women of childbearing age and reduce childhood obesity.
Researchers drew on data for 19,958 children born to 14,553 mothers (45% boys, aged 7-17 years at study enrollment) from the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS II) and the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS I and II) in the United States.
The results show that a mother’s ultra-processed food consumption was associated with an increased risk of overweight or obesity in her offspring. For example, a 26% higher risk was seen in the group with the highest maternal ultra-processed food consumption (12.1 servings/day) versus the lowest consumption group (3.4 servings/day).
Reishi Mushrooms Proven For Fibromyalgia Pain Relief In Human Study
University of Extremadura (Spain), September 29, 2022
A promising double-blind, randomized human clinical study of ganoderma lucidum, also known as reishi mushroom, has been shown to be effective in treating fibromyalgia chronic pain.
To begin, science knows that the reishi mushroom is the most studied nutraceutical and that it has been used safely and effectively for thousands of years. It is often called the mushroom of longevity and immortality.
Reishi has several biologically-active compounds in it, including triterpenes, which have been shown to increase the production of Nerve Growth Factor. NGF is a protein that helps to create new neurons and repair damaged neurons. This also enhances the communication between cells and reduces inflammation.
In the fibromyalgia chronic pain study, one group consumed 6 grams of reishi mushroom powder per day and another group consumed 6 grams of carob powder per day. Each group participated for 6 weeks and continued to self-report their experiences for 72 days after the treatment. The reishi mushroom group experienced pain reduction by up to 30%, which is significant.
They also reported getting better sleep, were happier and gained aerobic endurance and body flexibility.
Time-restricted eating improves health of firefighters
Salk Institute, October 3, 2022
In collaboration with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, scientists from the Salk Institute and UC San Diego Health conducted a clinical trial and found that time-restricted eating improved measures of health and well-being in firefighters. The lifestyle intervention only required the firefighters to eat during a 10-hour window and did not involve skipping meals.
The new findings, published in Cell Metabolism may also have implications for shift workers, such as military personnel; health care, food service, and transportation professionals; telecommunications staff; and new parents, whose schedules often mimic shift work when caring for a new baby.
“Doctors and researchers are always thinking about the magic pill that can cure or reduce disease. Our study showed that shift workers with high blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol can benefit from a simple lifestyle intervention called time-restricted eating,” says Salk Professor Satchidananda Panda, co-corresponding author of the study and holder of the Rita and Richard Atkinson Chair.
Almost every cell in the body has a 24-hour biological clock that produces circadian (daily) rhythms. These rhythms regulate behavior (e.g., when to be active and when to rest) and physiology (e.g., blood pressure, blood sugar, muscle function). Circadian rhythms coordinate with the environment in part by regular, timed cycles of light and dark and eating and fasting. Disruptions to these cycles, which can occur with shift work, can impact health, leading to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
In this clinical trial, 150 firefighters from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department used the myCircadianClock app on their phones to track their eating for three months. Half the group ate within a 10-hour window, while the other half (the control group) changed nothing and ate within a 14-hour window. Both groups were encouraged to follow a Mediterranean diet, which is known to have health benefits. The study included both individuals who were healthy and those who were overweight or who had health conditions such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and/or blood glucose.
The researchers found that time-restricted eating within a 10-hour eating window was feasible without adverse effects and helped the firefighters significantly decrease their VLDL (“bad”) cholesterol size by 1.34 nanometers (small VLDL is less likely to block arteries), improve their mental health, and reduce their alcohol intake by roughly three drinks per week. Time-restricted eating also significantly improved blood sugar and blood pressure in firefighters who had elevated levels at the start of the study. The researchers concluded that time-restricted eating may provide even greater benefit for those at risk for cardiometabolic disease and other chronic diseases.