10 June-16, 2011

By Dr Robert Goldman

Longevity News and Review provides readers with the latest information in breakthroughs pertaining to the extension of the healthy human lifespan. These news summaries are compiled by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M; www.worldhealth.net), a non-profit medical society composed of 24,000 physician and scientist members from 110 nations, united in a mission to advance biomedical technologies to detect, prevent and treat aging related disease and to promote research into methods to retard and optimise the human aging process. Dr Robert Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., D.O., FAASP, A4M Chairman, and Dr Ronald Klatz, M.D., D.O., A4M President, physician co-founders of the anti-aging medical movement, distil these headlines and provide their commentary.

Musical Training Boosts Memory
In that much of our daily communication occurs in the presence of background noise, compromising our ability to hear, the ability to understand speech in noise is a challenge that becomes increasingly difficult as we age. Nina Kraus, from the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Illinois, and colleagues enrolled 18 musicians and 19 non-musicians, ages 45 to 65 years, in a study in which each subject completed a number of tests for speech in noise, memory and processing ability. The team observed that the musicians – who began playing an instrument at age nine or earlier and consistently played an instrument throughout their lives – beat the nonmusician group in all tests, except one where they showed nearly identical ability.  Speculating that the experience of extracting meaningful sounds from a complex soundscape – and of remembering sound sequences – enhances the development of auditory skills, the researchers posit that musical training helps the brain to be more adaptable to aging and make adjustments for declines in the ability to remember, or ability to separate speech from background noise. Writing that: “older musicians demonstrated enhanced speech-in-noise perception relative to nonmusicians along with greater auditory … working memory capacity,” the team concludes that: “Our results imply that musical training may reduce the impact of age-related auditory decline.”

Dr Klatz observes: Finding that musicians are more likely to keep their memories active, as well as their hearing intact, this team suggests an intriguing anti-aging role for musical training.

Dark Chocolate Aids Post-Exercise
In that humans naturally produce reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are necessary for a range of functions, including cell signaling, overproduction of ROS – which can occur as a result of high intensity exercise – may overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defenses and can lead to oxidative stress, a condition that is linked to an increased risk of various diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. Glen Davison, from Aberystwyth University in Wales, and colleagues have found that dark chocolate containing 70 percent cocoa was associated with a blunting in oxidative stress after exercise. The researchers recruited 14 healthy men to participate in a study in which subjects consumed 100 grams of dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa), a control bar or nothing. Two hours later, each subject bicycled for 2.5 hours at 60 percent of the maximal oxygen uptake level. The team found that the intake of the dark chocolate resulted in an increase in antioxidant status before the cycling, and reduced levels of F2-isoprostane, a marker of oxidative stress, one hour after the cycling had finished, compared with the control bar. In addition, insulin levels were also increased before the trial and after cycling for men who consumed the dark chocolate, suggesting a better maintenance of plasma glucose concentration. There were no changes in markers of immune response, which is known to be affected by rigorous exercise.

Remarks Dr Goldman: Consuming flavonoid-rich dark chocolate prior to exercise may decrease the potential muscle damaging effects of oxidative stress, a finding that adds to the growing body of evidence supporting a functional health role for this food.

Quality Sleep Essential for Wellbeing
New research suggests that changes in sleep that occur during late middle-age appear to have a significant effect on cognitive function later in life.  Jane Ferrie, a senior research fellow at University College London Medical School in the UK, and colleagues studied data from 5,431 people taking part in the on-going Whitehall II study of more than 10,000 office staff aged 35-55, which began in 1985. Normal sleep duration was measured during Phase 5 (1997-1999) and Phase 7 (2003-2004) of the study.  Results showed that 7.4 percent of women and 8.6 percent of men reported sleeping for longer than the seven to eight hours reported at Phase 5. In comparison with participants whose sleep duration had not changed, this increase in sleep duration was associated with lower scores at follow-up on five out of six cognitive function tests.  On the other hand, 25 percent of women and 18 percent of men reported sleeping for less than the “six, seven or eight hours” reported at Phase 5. This shift was also associated with a decline in cognitive function, with participants scoring lower at follow-up on three out of six cognitive function tests. Results also showed that, for women, seven hours of sleep per night was the most beneficial in terms of cognitive function, closely followed by six hours of sleep per night. For men six to eight hours was optimal. The researchers concluded that their findings suggest that women and men who begin sleeping more or less than six to eight hours per night are subject to an accelerated cognitive decline that is equivalent to four to seven years of aging. “The main result to come out of our study was that adverse changes in sleep duration appear to be associated with poorer cognitive function in later-middle age,” said Ferrie. “Given that our 24/7 society increasingly impinges on the lives of many people, it is important to consider what effects changes in sleep duration may have on health and wellbeing in the long term.”

Comments D Klatz: Reporting that people who begin sleeping more or less than six to eight hours a night during late middle age appear to undergo an accelerated cognitive decline that is equivalent to aging four to seven years, these researchers reaffirm the vital role of quality sleep to restore and rejuvenate key biological processes.

Anti-aging medicine is the fastest-growing medical specialty throughout the world and is founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment, and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders, and diseases.  It is a healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy lifespan in humans.  As such, anti-aging medicine is based on solid scientific principles of responsible medical care that are consistent with those applied in other preventive health specialties.  The goal of anti-aging medicine is not to merely prolong the total years of an individual’s life, but to ensure that those years are enjoyed in a productive and vital fashion.
Visit the A4M’s World Health Network website, at www.worldhealth.net, to learn more about the A4M and its educational endeavors and to sign-up for your free subscription to Longevity Magazine™ e-Journal.

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