May 4-10, 2012
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.
Brain-Building Effects of Meditation
A number of previous studies have suggested that meditating for years strengthens the connections between brain cells. Eileen Luders, from the University of California/Los Angeles, and colleagues have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (“folding” of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes. The team took MRI scans of 50 meditators, 28 men and 22 women, and compared them to 50 control subjects matched for age, handedness and sex. The scans for the controls were obtained from an existing MRI database, while the meditators were recruited from various meditation venues. The meditators had practiced their craft on average for 20 years using a variety of meditation types — Samatha, Vipassana, Zen and more. The researchers applied a well-established and automated whole-brain approach to measure cortical gyrification at thousands of points across the surface of the brain. Richards found pronounced group differences (heightened levels of gyrification in active meditation practitioners) across a wide swatch of the cortex, including the left precentral gyrus, the left and right anterior dorsal insula, the right fusiform gyrus and the right cuneus. Interestingly, a positive correlation between the number of meditation years and the amount of insular gyrification was observed, from which the study authors posit that: “increased insular gyrification may reflect an integration of autonomic, affective, and cognitive processes.”
Dr Klatz observes: Finding that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification – “folding” of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster, this team elucidates key evidence further advancing the data supporting the beneficial effects of meditation.
A Standing Longevity Secret
Prolonged sitting is considered detrimental to health, and new evidence from Australia sheds light on the role of daily time spent sitting on mortality risk. Hidde P. van der Ploeg, from the University of Sydney School of Public Health, and colleagues studied 222,497 Australian adults enrolled in the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study. The team found that adults who sat 11 or more hours per day were at 40% increased risk of dying in next three years, as compared to those who sat fewer than four hours a day, accounting for confounding factors. Further, the data reiterated the benefits of physical activity, with inactive people who sat the most at double the risk of dying, and the most physically inactive at one-third higher chance of dying. Observing that: “Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity,” the study authors conclude that: “Public health programs should focus on reducing sitting time in addition to increasing physical activity levels.”
Remarks Dr Goldman: As simple yet effective way to reduce your odds of death, opt to stand whenever possible, and reduce the time you sit for extended periods.
Hot Pepper Compounds for Heart Health
Previously, a number of studies have identified a role for capsaicin, a compound found in hot chili peppers, in lowering blood pressure. Zhen-Yu Chen, from Chinese University of Hong Kong, and colleagues further explored capsaicin and a related compound, capsaicinoids, observing that these compounds substances lower cholesterol levels by reducing accumulation of cholesterol in the body and increasing its breakdown and excretion. In addition to reducing total cholesterol levels in the blood, capsaicinoids reduced levels of the so-called “bad” cholesterol (which deposits into blood vessels), but did not affect levels of so-called “good” cholesterol. The team found indications that capsaicinoids may reduce the size of deposits that already have formed in blood vessels, narrowing arteries in ways that can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Additionally, the researchers observed that capsaicin and capsaicinoids blocked the action of a gene that makes arteries contract, thereby allowing more blood to flow through blood vessels. Further, capsaicinoids were found to inhibit the activity of a gene that produces cyclooxygenase-2, a substance that makes the muscles around blood vessels constrict. By blocking it, muscles can relax and widen, allowing more blood to flow.
Comments Dr Klatz: Reporting that capsaicin and capsaicinoids beneficially affect cholesterol levels and aortic function, these researchers add to the growing body of evidence suggesting a functional health role for compounds found abundantly in hot peppers.
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 endeavours and to sign-up for your free subscription to Longevity Magazine™ e-Journal.
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