September 2-8, 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.
Positive Attitude Promotes Wellbeing
In that aging successfully has been linked with the “positivity effect,” a biased tendency towards and preference for positive, emotionally gratifying experiences, German neuroscientists reveal the physiological basis for positive, emotionally gratifying experiences to promote wellbeing as we age. Stefanie Brassen, from University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, and colleagues used neuroimaging to evaluate brain engagement in young and old adults while they performed a specialised cognitive task that included supposedly irrelevant pictures of either neutral, happy, sad or fearful faces. During parts of the task when they didn’t have to pay as much attention, the elderly subjects were significantly more distracted by the happy faces. When this occurred, they had increased engagement in the part of the brain that helps control emotions and this stronger signal in the brain was correlated with those who showed the greatest emotional stability. As well, the team found a relationship between rostral anterior cingulate cortex activity and emotional stability, which they submit further strengthens the hypothesis that this increased emotional control in aging enhances emotional wellbeing. Writing that their study elucidates “how the brain might mediate the tendency to preferentially engage in positive information processing in healthy aging,” the researchers submit that: “These findings are of particular relevance regarding implications for the understanding, treatment, and prevention of nonsuccessful aging like highly prevalent late-life depression.”
Dr Klatz observes: German neuroscientists reveal the physiological basis for positive, emotionally gratifying experiences to promote wellbeing as we age. These insights reinforce the notion of maintaining a positive mental outlook.
Exercise Exerts Beneficial Effects on Brain
With extensive studies attesting to the numerous beneficial effects of exercise for the body, researchers have begun to reveal that these positive effects also extend to the brain, influencing cognition. Michelle W. Voss, from the University of Illinois, and colleagues report that both aerobic exercise and strength training play a vital role in maintaining brain and cognitive health throughout life. Using the findings from 111 recent studies, the researchers wrote a brief review showcasing the effects of aerobic exercise and strength training on humans ranging in age from children to elderly adults. The review suggests that aerobic exercise is important for getting a head start during childhood on cognitive abilities that are important throughout life. For example, physical inactivity is associated with poorer academic performance and results on standard neuropsychological tests, while exercise programs appear to improve memory, attention and decision-making. These effects also extend to young and elderly adults, with solid evidence for aerobic training benefiting executive functions, including multitasking, planning and inhibition, and increasing the volume of brain structures important for memory. Although few studies have evaluated the effects of strength training on brain health in children, studies in older adults suggest that high-intensity and high-load training can improve memory. Further, the team relates their findings to those in lab animals, such as rats and mice, which provide a window on the pathways through which exercise may enhance brain function. Animal studies, primarily models that test the influence of aerobic exercise, suggest a variety of mechanisms responsible for these effects. For example, exercise appears to change brain structure, prompting the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels. It also increases the production of neurochemicals, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1), that promote growth, differentiation, survival and repair of brain cells.
Remarks Dr Goldman: Demonstrating that both aerobic exercise and strength training play a vital role in maintaining brain and cognitive health throughout life, these researchers add to the wealth of data affirming the multiplicative benefits of physical activity at all ages.
Grapes Exert Protective Effect Against Alzheimer’s
Previous studies have suggested that increased consumption of antioxidant compounds, such as polyphenols present in grape seeds, may protect against cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s disease. Giulio Maria Pasinetti, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and colleagues report data from a lab animal model that shows a selective decrease in the neurotoxin A[beta]*56, a specific form of [beta]-amyloid (A[beta]) peptide, a substance in the brain long known to cause the neurotoxicity associated with Alzheimer’s disease, following grape-derived polyphenols treatment. The researchers administered grape seed polyphenolic extracts to mice genetically determined to develop memory deficits and A[beta] neurotoxins similar to those found in Alzheimer’s disease, and found that the brain content of A[beta]*56 was substantially reduced after treatment. The team submits that: “These results … strongly suggest that [grape seed polyphenolic extract] should be further tested as a potential prevention and/or therapy for [Alzheimer’s disease].”
Comments Dr Klatz: Reporting that grape seed polyphenols may help prevent the development, or delay the progression, of Alzheimer’s disease, these researchers suggest a potentially significant functional role for this food compound.
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.
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