In the news – health and nutrition research

In this week’s article, we provide a roundup of some of the most recent health and nutrition related articles in the news, five items comprising:

  • Lutein, found in leafy greens, may counter cognitive aging
  • Magnesium pills may improve blood pressure in at-risk populations
  • Molecular mechanisms: Could omega-3 metabolite offer hope in the battle against age-related diseases?
  • Parents take note: even minor sleep problems can lead to cognitive difficulties in children
  • Low vitamin D associated with faster decline in cognitive function


Lutein, found in leafy greens, may counter cognitive aging

Spinach and kale are favourites of those looking to stay physically fit, but they also could keep consumers cognitively fit, according to a new study.

The study, which included 60 adults aged 25 to 45, found that middle-aged participants with higher levels of lutein — a nutrient found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, as well as avocados and eggs — had neural responses that were more on par with younger individuals than with their peers.

Most other studies have focused on older adults, after there has already been a period of decline. The Illinois researchers chose to focus on young to middle-aged adults to see whether there was a notable difference between those with higher and lower lutein levels.

Researchers measured lutein in the study participants’ eyes by having participants look into a scope and respond to a flickering light. Then, using electrodes on the scalp, the researchers measured neural activity in the brain while the participants performed a task that tested attention.

“As people get older, they experience typical decline. However, research has shown that this process can start earlier than expected. You can even start to see some differences in the 30s,” said Anne Walk, a postdoctoral scholar and first author of the paper.

“We want to understand how diet impacts cognition throughout the lifespan. If lutein can protect against decline, we should encourage people to consume lutein-rich foods at a point in their lives when it has maximum benefit.”

Read the full article via this link.

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Magnesium pills may improve blood pressure in at-risk populations

People with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or other non-communicable chronic diseases are at an increased risk of hypertension, but magnesium supplements may help lower their blood pressure, says a new meta-analysis.

Data from 11 gold-standard randomized controlled trials (RCTs) indicated that magnesium supplementation may significantly decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or other non-communicable chronic diseases.

The results add to an ever-growing body of science supporting the potential health benefits of the mineral.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) lists magnesium as being necessary for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, from helping maintain normal muscle and nerve function, to keeping heart rhythm steady, supporting a healthy immune system, and keeping bones strong. The mineral is also needed for blood sugar management and healthy blood pressure.

Commenting on the potential mechanism of action, the authors note that magnesium may exert its benefits via effects on vascular tone and improving the function of the endothelium (the layer of cells lining blood vessels), which would directly lower blood pressure. It has also been reported that magnesium may have synergetic effects with antihypertensive medications.

“Because of the heterogeneity in the included trials on [diastolic blood pressure] and no study, to our knowledge, in individuals with renal disease or cancer, future large-scale, well-designed, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials are warranted to provide more solid evidence of the benefit of magnesium supplementation on [blood pressure] and possibly on disease outcomes in patients with [insulin resistance], prediabetes, or non-communicable chronic diseases,” they concluded.

Read the full article via this link.

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Molecular mechanisms: Could omega-3 metabolite offer hope in the battle against age-related diseases?

A signalling molecule produced by the omega-3 fatty acid DHA could be used to target age-related conditions and diseases including stroke and Alzheimer’s, new research suggests.

The team from LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine reported that DHA has been found to produce signalling molecules (docosanoids) when the body’s state of equilibrium is altered due to disease or injury.

“It is our hope that this knowledge will contribute to managing early stages of such devastating diseases as Alzheimer’s, stroke, traumatic brain injury, age-related macular degeneration, Parkinson’s and others”, said lead researcher Professor Nicolas Bazan.

Omega-3, found in foods such as salmon, tuna, algae and walnuts, is well-researched and has many suggested and established health benefits, including established EFSA claims relating to the maintenance of normal vision, brain function, function of the heart, maintenance of normal blood triglycerides level normal blood pressure.

The new review sheds light on the role of DHA and its NDP1 metabolite on homeostasis changes in the body. According to the team behind the study, the molecule provokes neuroprotection in cases of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and in experimental stroke.

Read the full article via this link.

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Parents take note: even minor sleep problems can lead to cognitive difficulties in children

A lack of sleep impacts a child’s ability to learn, and is related to poorer mental and motor development.

Sleep has many roles, from supporting the development of the brain and strengthening neural pathways, to helping the immune system. Disrupted sleep leads to multiple physical and psychological problems.

Even in infancy and very early childhood, sleep problems are related to poorer mental and motor development. Therefore, by the time children start school, those with sleep problems are already falling behind their classmates.

Children who have obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSA) usually wake up a lot during the night because they are struggling to breathe. They might also have severe dips in their blood oxygen levels caused by the pauses in breathing. This reduces oxygen delivery to tissues and cells in the body – including the brain.

Having this type of sleep problem has been shown to cause cognitive difficulties, which can impact children’s ability to think, pay attention, process information and remember things. Research has also shown that children with sleep-disordered breathing have lower IQs, and tend to do less well at school.

Read the full article via this link.

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Low vitamin D associated with faster decline in cognitive function

Vitamin D insufficiency was associated with faster decline in cognitive functions among a group of ethnically diverse older adults, according to an article published online by JAMA Neurology.

In addition to promoting calcium absorption and bone health, vitamin D may influence all organ systems.

Both the vitamin D receptor and the enzyme that converts 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) to the active form of the vitamin are expressed in all human organs, including the brain.

Thus, research has increasingly examined the association between vitamin D status and a variety of health outcomes, including dementia and age-associated cognitive decline.

Serum (blood) 25-OHD was measured and vitamin D status was defined as follows: deficient was less than 12 ng/mL; insufficient was 12 to less than 20 ng/mL; adequate was 20 to less than 50 ng/mL; and high was 50 ng/mL or higher.

Study participants were an average age of 75.5 years and nearly 62 percent were female, while 41.4 percent of the group was white, 29.6 percent were African American and 25.1 percent were Hispanic.

At study enrolment, 17.5 percent of the participants had dementia, 32.7 percent had mild cognitive impairment and 49.5 percent were cognitively normal.

Read the full article via this link.

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Vitamin D back in the news – could ‘The Sunshine Vitamin’ prevent colds and flu?

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If you have any questions regarding the topics that have been raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Clare) by phone or email at any time.

clare@cytoplan.co.uk, 01684 310099

Clare Daley and the Cytoplan Editorial Team


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