Healthier Aging

March 27, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Natural medicine provides real solutions for health issues that literally span a lifetime. In today’s column, I’ve collected several items from the scientific literature that will illustrate this quite clearly. As you probably know, my goal is to have you all share at least one of these news items with someone in your sphere of influence. But some of today’s content involves rather prickly topics such Alzheimer’s Disease, constipation, menopause and Parkinson’s Disease. I realize that it may not be possible to just come right out and offer up advice about these somewhat sensitive conditions. However there’s almost always a creative way to disseminate such information.

A study published this past month in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine presents the hopeful discovery that a combination of an antioxidant known as alpha lipoic acid (LA) and exercise (ET) can help protect against some of the progressive effects of Alzheimer’s Disease – in an animal model. Improvements in spatial learning and memory were present in the treated group of mice while being absent in mice that lead a sedentary lifestyle or who were exposed to only exercise or only alpha lipoic acid. The combination therapy also brought about positive changes in “the level of glucose transporter-1 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor proteins”. A potent antioxidant effect was similarly demonstrated in the LA + exercise group. The authors of the trial concluded that “these results suggest that the combination with ET and LA may contribute to protect the neuron injury induced by Abeta peptides and may be considered an effective strategy for human subjects suffering from AD”. Since AD is considered an incurable disease, presenting such information to the caregivers of AD patients may be a logical way to incorporate this breaking research. (1)

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be dependent on any medication if it’s not absolutely necessary. My perspective is unlikely to change as I (hopefully) make it into my senior years. Speaking of which, new research from the University of Vienna offers a safe and effective alternative to long-term laxative therapy for senior citizens. The basis for this statement comes from the results of a 12 week study in a group of “30 frail patients” with ages ranging between 57-98 years of age. At the beginning of the trial, all the participants were taking laxatives. Half of the group was administered 5.2 grams of oat bran during the experiment. The remainder of the participants acted as a control group. It was determined that those receiving the oat bran decreased laxative use significantly. A side benefit of the fiber therapy was an improvement in Vitamin B12 bioavailability. This is the type of information that I believe should be shared with nurses and physicians in nursing homes. Much like the previous information about Alzheimer’s Disease, it can also be shared with family members who may be supervising the medical care of elder relatives. (2)

One of the more interesting discoveries of late is that the common B vitamin, folic acid, may help to reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women. A group of 46 women with hot flashes were given either 5 mg (5,000 mcg) of folate or a placebo over the course of 4 weeks. Not only was the folic acid tolerated better than the placebo but it also resulted in subjective improvements in hot flash severity. Folate appears to lower the levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which “seems to be involved in the pathophysiology of hot flushes”. Women may feel quite comfortable sharing this information with other women. However, it may be awkward for men to broach this topic. If you’re one of those men, you could always pass the information along to a female friend of your sister or wife who might then give it to them! (3)

Alpha Lipoic Acid May Combat Age and Oxidant-Related Endothelial Dysfunction
Source: Br J Pharmacol. 2008 April; 153(8): 1615–1622. (link)

The standard treatment for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) generally involves the use of the medication levodopa. However this treatment is not without side effects. One of the more troublesome adverse reactions is a loss of bone density. A recent study published in the journal Movement Disorders investigated the effects of high dosage B-vitamin therapy on bone status in patients being treated with levodopa. A group of 42 PD patients were administered B vitamins (5 mg of folate and 1.5 mg of Vitamin B12), 1,200 mg of alpha lipoic acid or a placebo over a 12 month period. Those receiving the B-vitamins showed evidence of greater bone density in the femur shaft (2.8%), the lumbar spine (4.4%) and the total femur (2.8%). The alpha lipoic acid group only exhibited benefits in one test point – the trochanter (thigh bone). At the moment there is no known cure for PD. That’s why it vitality important to preserve the best possible health until a real cure presents itself. This new research could help toward that end. It would probably be of interest to anyone who is living with or treating PD. (4)

A group of Chilean researchers recently tested the hypothesis that pregnant women eating a Mediterranean diet could reduce the incidence of wheezing in their offspring. A total of 1,409 infants were accounted for in this scientific inquiry. Demographic data on respiratory function and parental food frequency questionnaires formed the basis for the evaluation. A generalized analysis seemed to shine a positive light on the Mediterranean diet and a reduced risk of wheezing in infants during their first year of life. However a more in-depth multivariate analysis determined that it was specifically the olive oil in the mothers’ diets that provoked a 43% lower incidence of wheezing in their babies. I think this is the sort of information that should be shared with pediatricians and women’s groups everywhere. Expectant mothers try to eat healthfully. But what exactly does that mean? Olive oil is likely to be one meaningful piece in the pregnancy-diet puzzle. (5)

There are all sorts of ways to spread health news around. You might print out one or two of these items and post them on a community bulletin broad. Perhaps you could include a few of these tidbits in family group e-mails or newsletters. Or do what I used to do: share the information on any of the hundreds, if not thousands, of health care forums that are currently active online. Whatever works for you is the best way to do it.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Bone and Joint Health, Nutritional Supplements, Women's Health

11 Comments & Updates to “Healthier Aging”

  1. Nina K. Says:

    Good Morning 🙂

    ..wanna share my fav recipe which contains a lot of alpha-lipoic acid, oat bran, b vitamins etc.. If you are on a low carb diet, then eat in moderation:

    one organic apple grated, add 2-3 tablespoons of oatbran, 2-3 tablespoons of wheat germs ( a sort like that ) they dissolve and taste very sweet, 2-3 tablespoons of grated almonds, cinnamon or vanilla and almond milk. Put toghether and enjoy!

    The oatbran apple combination is very good for the gut, and the vitamins of the apple and the wheatgerms are very concentrated and healthy. Don’t panic about phytic acid, its low and have some health properties too 🙂

    JP, i just detected that on their website – sounds interesting so i will try that when it is available here ( )

    Nina K.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you for sharing the recipe, Nina! 🙂

    Gula Java sounds interesting. Please let us know what you think of it when you try it!

    Be well!


  3. Ashley Says:

    Interesting info on Alpha Lipotic Acid

  4. JP Says:

    Thanks, Ashley.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Update: Alpha lipoic acid may assist with weight loss efforts …

    Obesity (Silver Spring).

    Effects of α-lipoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in overweight and obese women during weight loss.

    OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the potential body weight-lowering effects of dietary supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and α-lipoic acid separately or combined in healthy overweight/obese women following a hypocaloric diet.

    METHODS: This is a short-term double-blind placebo-controlled study with parallel design that lasted 10 weeks. Of the randomized participants, 97 women received the allocated treatment [Control, EPA (1.3 g/d), α-lipoic acid (0.3 g/d), and EPA + α-lipoic acid (1.3 g/d + 0.3 g/d)], and 77 volunteers completed the study. All groups followed an energy-restricted diet of 30% less than total energy expenditure. Body weight, anthropometric measurements, body composition, resting energy expenditure, blood pressure, serum glucose, and insulin and lipid profile, as well as leptin and ghrelin levels, were assessed at baseline and after nutritional intervention.

    RESULTS: Body weight loss was significantly higher (P < 0.05) in those groups supplemented with α-lipoic acid. EPA supplementation significantly attenuated (P < 0.001) the decrease in leptin levels that occurs during weight loss. Body weight loss improved lipid and glucose metabolism parameters but without significant differences between groups. CONCLUSIONS: The intervention suggests that α-lipoic acid supplementation alone or in combination with EPA may help to promote body weight loss in healthy overweight/obese women following energy-restricted diets. Be well! JP

  6. JP Says:

    Update 04/20/15:

    Am J Clin Nutr April 2015

    Brain atrophy in cognitively impaired elderly: the importance of long-chain ω-3 fatty acids and B vitamin status in a randomized controlled trial

    Background: Increased brain atrophy rates are common in older people with cognitive impairment, particularly in those who eventually convert to Alzheimer disease. Plasma concentrations of omega-3 (ω-3) fatty acids and homocysteine are associated with the development of brain atrophy and dementia.

    Objective: We investigated whether plasma ω-3 fatty acid concentrations (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) modify the treatment effect of homocysteine-lowering B vitamins on brain atrophy rates in a placebo-controlled trial (VITACOG).

    Design: This retrospective analysis included 168 elderly people (≥70 y) with mild cognitive impairment, randomly assigned either to placebo (n = 83) or to daily high-dose B vitamin supplementation (folic acid, 0.8 mg; vitamin B-6, 20 mg; vitamin B-12, 0.5 mg) (n = 85). The subjects underwent cranial magnetic resonance imaging scans at baseline and 2 y later. The effect of the intervention was analyzed according to tertiles of baseline ω-3 fatty acid concentrations.

    Results: There was a significant interaction (P = 0.024) between B vitamin treatment and plasma combined ω-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) on brain atrophy rates. In subjects with high baseline ω-3 fatty acids (>590 μmol/L), B vitamin treatment slowed the mean atrophy rate by 40.0% compared with placebo (P = 0.023). B vitamin treatment had no significant effect on the rate of atrophy among subjects with low baseline ω-3 fatty acids (<390 μmol/L). High baseline ω-3 fatty acids were associated with a slower rate of brain atrophy in the B vitamin group but not in the placebo group.

    Conclusions: The beneficial effect of B vitamin treatment on brain atrophy was observed only in subjects with high plasma ω-3 fatty acids. It is also suggested that the beneficial effect of ω-3 fatty acids on brain atrophy may be confined to subjects with good B vitamin status. The results highlight the importance of identifying subgroups likely to benefit in clinical trials.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update 06/02/15:

    Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 May 12;9:281.

    Neuroprotective effects of yoga practice: age-, experience-, and frequency-dependent plasticity.

    Yoga combines postures, breathing, and meditation. Despite reported health benefits, yoga’s effects on the brain have received little study. We used magnetic resonance imaging to compare age-related gray matter (GM) decline in yogis and controls. We also examined the effect of increasing yoga experience and weekly practice on GM volume and assessed which aspects of weekly practice contributed most to brain size. Controls displayed the well documented age-related global brain GM decline while yogis did not, suggesting that yoga contributes to protect the brain against age-related decline. Years of yoga experience correlated mostly with GM volume differences in the left hemisphere (insula, frontal operculum, and orbitofrontal cortex) suggesting that yoga tunes the brain toward a parasympatically driven mode and positive states. The number of hours of weekly practice correlated with GM volume in the primary somatosensory cortex/superior parietal lobule (S1/SPL), precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), hippocampus, and primary visual cortex (V1). Commonality analyses indicated that the combination of postures and meditation contributed the most to the size of the hippocampus, precuneus/PCC, and S1/SPL while the combination of meditation and breathing exercises contributed the most to V1 volume. Yoga’s potential neuroprotective effects may provide a neural basis for some of its beneficial effects.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 1/26/16:

    Qual Life Res. 2016 Jan 21.

    Relationship of moderate alcohol intake and type of beverage with health behaviors and quality of life in elderly subjects.

    PURPOSE: This work was aimed to study the relationships of moderate alcohol intake and the type of beverages consumed with health behaviors and quality of life in elderly people.

    METHODS: In this observational study, 231 subjects (55-85 years) voluntarily answering to advertisements were enrolled and divided in three study groups: abstainers and occasional consumers (ABS; n = 98), moderate drinkers of beer (BEER; n = 63) and moderate drinkers of all sorts of alcoholic beverages (MIXED; n = 70). Variables assessed included physical activity, activities of daily living, Mediterranean diet-adherence score, tobacco consumption, quality of sleep, body composition, medication and perception of health through the SF-36 questionnaire. Their relationship with alcohol consumption was assessed through general linear models including confounding variables (age, sex, chronic disease prevalence and socioeconomic status). ABS were also compared to moderate drinkers (MOD = BEER + MIXED).

    RESULTS: The mean daily alcohol consumption in each group was (mean ± SD): ABS: 0.7 ± 1.1; BEER: 12.7 ± 8.1; MIXED: 13.9 ± 10.2 g/day. MOD and MIXED showed significantly higher physical activity (metabolic standard units; METs) than ABS (p = 0.023 and p = 0.004, respectively). MOD spent significantly less time doing housework activities than ABS (p = 0.032). Daily grams of alcohol consumption were significantly associated with METs (B = 21.727, p = 0.023). Specifically, wine consumption (g/day) was associated with METs (B = 46.196, p = <0.001) and showed borderline significant relationships with mental health (B = 0.245, p = 0.062) and vitality perception (B = 0.266, p = 0.054).

    CONCLUSION: Moderate alcohol consumption, and in particular wine consumption, is associated with a more active lifestyle and better perception of own health in the Spanish elderly subjects studied.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 2/6/16:

    Front Aging Neurosci. 2016 Jan 14;7:254.

    Effects of Long-Term Mindfulness Meditation on Brain’s White Matter Microstructure and its Aging.

    Although research on the effects of mindfulness meditation (MM) is increasing, still very little has been done to address its influence on the white matter (WM) of the brain. We hypothesized that the practice of MM might affect the WM microstructure adjacent to five brain regions of interest associated with mindfulness. Diffusion tensor imaging was employed on samples of meditators and non-meditators (n = 64) in order to investigate the effects of MM on group difference and aging. Tract-Based Spatial Statistics was used to estimate the fractional anisotrophy of the WM connected to the thalamus, insula, amygdala, hippocampus, and anterior cingulate cortex. The subsequent generalized linear model analysis revealed group differences and a group-by-age interaction in all five selected regions. These data provide preliminary indications that the practice of MM might result in WM connectivity change and might provide evidence on its ability to help diminish age-related WM degeneration in key regions which participate in processes of mindfulness.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 03/10/17:

    Women Health. 2017 Feb 16.

    The Effect of Valerian on Severity and Frequency of Hot Flashes: A Triple- Blind Randomized Clinical Trial.

    Valerian is one of the most widely used herbal supplements and a phytoestrogenic herb. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of Valerian on severity and frequency of hot flashes. This triple-blind, randomized, controlled clinical trial was conducted during a three-month period in Hamadan, Iran in 60 postmenopausal women aged 45-55 years. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups, either placebo or valerian. An oral Valerian 530 mg capsule was given twice per day for two months. An oral placebo 530 mg capsule (starch) was similarly administered. The severity and frequency of hot flashes were determined by the Kupperman index, before the intervention, one month after and two months after initiation of the intervention. The severity of hot flashes in the Valerian group was significantly lower than that in the placebo group at one (p = .048) and two months (p = .020) after initiation of the intervention. Compared with the placebo group, the mean frequency of hot flashes was significantly reduced two months after initiating use of Valerian (p = .033). Health care providers should consider Valerian to be effective for menopausal women with hot flashes.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Updated 04/09/17:

    J Women Aging. 2017 Apr 3:1-15.

    Yoga stretching for improving salivary immune function and mental stress in middle-aged and older adults.

    Protection against age-related immune suppression is important in elderly individuals. This study determined the effect of yoga on mucosal immune function and mental stress. Saliva samples were collected from 23 adult women (age: 60.4 ± 10.4 years) before and after 90 minutes of yoga stretching or rest to measure secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA), cortisol, and testosterone. The SIgA concentration and secretion rate were significantly higher after yoga than before (p < .05). The cortisol concentration and secretion rate were lower and testosterone secretion rate higher after yoga (p < .05). Yoga stretching can reduce stress and enhance mucosal immune function in elderly women. Be well! JP

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