"When the telomeres become short, then you start cutting into actual chromosomes where there are genes essential for our body. To prevent the fraying DNA in all those aging cells from seeding maliganant tumors, the body turns them dormant. Your body shuts down more and more cells every day and you become old."
-Emmuanel Skorkalakes, of the Wistar Institue in Philadelphia-"if too much telomere DNA is lost--for instance, due to excessive cell division--the chromosomes can become unstable, which can increase the risk of cancer. Where we have been able to look...telomere shortening appears to be a very early and common event in the development of cancer."
-Dr. Alan Meeker, Johns Hopkins researcher who studies telomere shortening-
Four new published studies caught my attention this week when they passed my desk. Together they add one more piece to the puzzle of how lifestyle & diet so strongly affects our health--and there is no escaping the effect of health on happiness.
- Waist Size, Omega-6 Oil Consumption, & Fiber Intake Affect Telomere Length. This study was based on measurements of the telomere length in 2284 female participants from the Nurses' Health Study. The women who had the highest intake of cereal fiber had the longest telomeres. As intake of polyunsaturated fats (omega-6s) increased, and the waist circumference expanded (>32 inches)--telomere length shortened. The authors say the associations were modest, but "support the hypothesis that body composition and dietary factors are related to leukocyte telomere length, which is a potential biomarker of chronic disease risk."--American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2010) 91:1273-80, May. "Association between diet, lifestyle factors, and telomere length in women" Previous studies have shown that increases in exercise & omega-3 consumption also increase telomere length. Click here and here
- Multivitamin Use Is Associated with a 19% Increase in Breast Cancer Risk in a Swedish Study. This study followed 35,329 cancer-free Swedish women for 9 1/2 years to determine if there was any relationship between multivitamin use and breast cancer. Although the study found a 19% increase risk of breast cancer associated with multivitamin use--the authors can only speculate as to the reasons. Because the multis contain so many different vitamins & minerals it's difficult to know what might be responsible for the breast cancer association. The authors speculate that folic acid might be a "suspect".
"Folic acids in supplements could possibly increase the risk of breast cancer. High doses of folic acid from supplements or fortified foods are of concern because synthetic folic acid is more bioavailable than folate from natural food sources and, hence, potentially more potent in promoting cancer growth." (note: The U.S. fortifies processed foods & cereal products with folic acid. Sweden does not.)
"Findings from animal studies showed that folic-acid deficiency reduced chemically induced mammary cancer."
Additional studies have shown increased breast cancer with folic-acid supplementation (synthetic), but decreased breast cancer when folate from food sources was increased.
Other adverse components of the multivitamin that the authors consider are: iron and zinc. Multivitamin use has also been associated with a significant 5.3% increase in mean breast density--which is a risk factor for breast cancer.
It's difficult to draw conclusions here--and as researchers ALWAYS SAY, "Further study is warranted." Especially since more than 40% of women take multivitamins. Article cited: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2010) 91:1268-72, "Multivitamin use and breast cancer incidence in a prospective cohort of Swedish women"Bottom Line: Eat food--not supplements. As Dr. Joel Fuhrman says, "Only by eating an assortment of natural foods that are micronutrient-rich can you get enough of these compounds to protect yourself from the common diseases that afflict Americans."
- Declines in Estrogen Really Can Affect Your Thinking--If You Have a Normal Weight. Postmenopausal women with normal body mass indexes (BMI) of 18.5-25 experience more rapid declines in memory, verbal fluency, and visual-spatial processing than women with BMIs above 25. It's the estrogen, baby! Women with higher BMIs don't necessarily experience the "estrogen brain drain" because they have more circulating estrogen being produced by their fat tissue.
I discovered this provocative study through a Medscape blog authored by Dr. Alan Jacobs, a specialist in clinical neuroendocrinology--a combo of neurology, psychiatry, ob/gyn, and medical endocrinology.
Here's a Dr. Jacob's brain tip: Because of his extensive research he personally takes 600-800 mg/day of DHA (Omega 3's contain both DHA & EPA) for brain health. For his patients with mild cognitive impairment he prescribes 2000 mg/day of DHA to protect against Alzheimers.
He also notes: "Current neuroscience views a likely window of benefit lasting approximately 7 years post-menopause where estrogen replacement therapy may protect a woman from AD/unhealthy brain aging for decades down the road, and that this protection, however strong or slight, cannot be attained by starting estrogen at 65 or 70--and that estrogen need not be taken all the way up to the age of risk for AD (ie>65) For Dr. Jacobs blog (look under physician blogs--Diabetes & Endocrinology. Click here You will have to register for Medscape if you want to access his blog--but it's free & easy to do. If the link doesn't work--google: Heads and Tales: The Neuroendocrine Blog of Alan R. Jacobs, MD Article cited: Psychoneuroendocrinology (2010) 35:516-524, "Accelerated postmenopausal cognitive decline is restricted to women with normal BMI: Longitudinal evidence from the Betula project. For more on the brain & estrogen connection click here.
- Extra-virgin Olive Oil That is High in Phenols (anti-oxidants) Can Turn-off Pro-inflammatory Genes--Offering a Possible Explanation for Olive Oil's Health Benefits. This was a small study, run on 20 people-all with metabolic syndrome--comparing the effects of eating high-phenol extra-virgin olive oil to that of low-phenol extra-virgin olive oil. Note: It's likely that the extra-virgin olive oil commonly available in grocery stores does not have a high-phenol content. As mentioned in a previous post on wine & olive oil--high-phenolic olive oil is the green first-harvest-press variety. Click here for that post. But don't forget that olive oil is still 120 calories a tablespoon & 14 grams of fat.There are many other fruits & vegetables that exceed olive oil in anti-oxidant/phenol content! Tipster for this article: Medical Librarian Mary C.
If you're looking for a green first-press olive oil, M.G. recommends Bariani It's a cold extracted first-press green olive oil produced in California, and available in the U.S. Article cited: BMC Genomics (2010) 11:253 "Gene expression changes in mononuclear cells from patients with metabolic syndrome after acute intake of phenol-rich virgin olive oil"
"We identified 98 differentially expressed genes when comparing the intake of phenol-rich olive oil with low-phenol olive oil. Several of the repressed genes are known to be involved in pro-inflammatory processes, suggesting that the diet can switch the activity of immune system cells to a less deleterious inflammatory profile, as seen in metabolic syndrome."
"These findings strengthen the relationship between inflammation, obesity and diet and provide evidence at the most basic level of healthy effects derived from virgin olive oil consumption in humans," study leader Francisco Perez-Jimenez of the University of Cordoba, Spain.