Hazelnuts Improve Older Adults’ Micronutrient Levels

Older adults who added hazelnuts to their diet for a few months significantly improved their levels of two key micronutrients, new research at Oregon State University indicates.

In the study, 32 people age 55 and older ate about 57 grams of hazelnuts – 2 ounces or about one-third cup – daily for 16 weeks.

Results showed increased blood concentrations of magnesium and elevated urinary levels of a breakdown product of alpha tocopherol, commonly known as vitamin E.

The findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition, are important because many Americans do not eat adequate amounts of either micronutrient. Older adults are at particular risk – lower concentrations of the micronutrients are associated with increased risk of age-related health problems including Alzheimer’s disease.

“This is one of the first times a study of this type has focused only on older adults,” said co-author Alex Michels, a researcher at OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute. “We wanted to fill in a piece of the puzzle – can hazelnuts improve the nutritional status of older adults specifically?”

Michels also noted few hazelnut studies have involved Oregon hazelnuts, which account for 99 percent of U.S. production of a nut also known as the filbert.

“Not that we think Oregon hazelnuts are much different than other sources,” he said, “but now the booming crop that we have in this state finally has science behind it. Perhaps other benefits of Oregon hazelnuts are awaiting future study.”

Maret Traber, the study’s corresponding author, notes that she and her collaborators used a novel biomarker – an alpha tocopherol metabolite – to determine hazelnuts had improved the research subjects’ vitamin E levels.

“It’s hard to determine changes in α-tocopherol levels in the blood of older adults because they tend toward elevated cholesterol levels which leads to more α-tocopherol being retained in the blood,” said Traber, a professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences and the Ava Helen Pauling Professor at the Linus Pauling Institute. “So what we did instead was look at the urine to see how much of a vitamin E catabolite was in it. The catabolite should only increase if the body is getting enough vitamin E.”

The catabolite is alpha carboxyethyl hydroxychromanol, abbreviated to α-CEHC.

“It’s basically a vitamin E molecule where the tail has been chewed up into nothing, part of the natural breakdown process of vitamin E as the body uses it,” Michels said. “We saw urinary α-CEHC levels go up in almost every participant.”

In addition, blood analysis showed decreases in glucose and low-density lipoproteins, also known as “bad” cholesterol, in addition to increases in magnesium.

“All of which says that hazelnuts are good for you,” Traber said. “The findings demonstrate the power of adding hazelnuts to your diet, of just changing one thing. Vitamin E and magnesium are two of the most underconsumed micronutrients in the U.S. population, and there’s much more to hazelnuts than what we analyzed here. They’re also a great source of healthy fats, copper and B6. People don’t like taking multivitamins, but hazelnuts represent a multivitamin in a natural form.”

Joining Traber and Michels on the study were Scott Leonard, Sandra Uesugi, Gerd Bobe and Balz Frei, all of the Linus Pauling Institute.

The Oregon State University Foundation and the Hazelnut Marketing Board of Oregon funded this research.

Source: Oregon State University


Can Aerobic Exercise Slow Down Ageing?

“Running is better than weight training at reversing signs of ageing,” reports The Independent.

Researchers from Germany assessed the impact of 3 types of exercise – high intensity interval training, endurance walking or running, and weight training – on signs of ageing in human blood cells.

They found that, after 6 months of exercising for 45 minutes 3 times a week, all types of exercise improved fitness, but only interval training and running or walking had an effect on signs of cellular ageing.

The researchers measured the length of telomeres, which are protective caps at the end of chromosomes (coils of DNA found in all human cells).

Telomeres help prevent damage to the chromosomes that encode the cells’ genetic information.

As we age, telomeres shorten, meaning chromosomes are more likely to get damaged. This is one of the ways in which cells show signs of age.

Previous studies have linked longer blood cell telomeres to healthier blood vessels and hearts.

The researchers found telomeres shortened slightly among people who did no exercise or weight training, but lengthened among those who ran or walked, or did interval training.

But these findings were only based on 124 people. All types of exercise have benefits for health, including weight training.

This study suggests weight training may be best seen as a useful addition to aerobic exercise, such as running or fast walking, rather than a replacement for it.

This reflects NHS advice to do both types of exercise.

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Read more at NHS . . . . .

Foods that Helps Preserve Aging Memory

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

When your mom told you to eat your veggies and drink your orange juice, she was on to something: They may help preserve your brain health, new research suggests.

A 20-year study of men who were health professionals tied a diet rich in leafy greens, orange and red vegetables, berries and orange juice to reduced risk of memory loss (or “cognitive function”).

“This study adds to existing research that higher intake of vegetables and fruits in the long term may play an important role in maintaining cognitive function,” said lead author Changzheng Yuan. She is a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Yuan cautioned that this study cannot prove these nutrient-laden dietary choices reduce memory loss, only that they’re related. Also, the results may not apply to women or men outside the health professions.

For the study, which was partly funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the researchers collected data on nearly 28,000 male health professionals, average age 51.

Participants completed questionnaires about how many servings of fruits, vegetables and other foods they ate daily at the study’s start and every four years thereafter for 20 years.

Fruits and vegetables contain high levels of antioxidant nutrients, the researchers noted.

A fruit serving is defined as one cup of fruit or one-half cup of fruit juice. A serving of vegetables is one cup of raw vegetables or two cups of leafy greens.

The participants were asked about their thinking and memory skills at least four years before the end of the study, at age 73 on average.

Questions included, “Do you have more trouble than usual remembering a short list of items, such as a shopping list?” and “Do you have more trouble than usual following a TV program due to your memory?”

Changes in memory were considered early signs of mild cognitive impairment.

Overall, 55 percent said that they still had good thinking and memory skills, 38 percent had moderate skills, and 7 percent had poor thinking and memory skills, the findings showed.

How great was the protective effect? Men who ate the most vegetables — about six servings a day — were 34 percent less likely to develop poor thinking skills than those who ate the least — just two servings.

Moreover, daily orange juice drinkers were 47 percent less likely to develop poor thinking skills, compared with men who drank less than one serving a month, the researchers found. This association was seen mostly among the oldest men.

The study showed that less than 7 percent of frequent veggie eaters developed poor memory function, compared with 8 percent of men who avoided their fruits and greens. The results were similar among frequent and infrequent orange juice drinkers.

Since fruit juice is usually high in calories, it’s generally best to drink a small glass, 4 to 6 ounces, a day, Yuan said. “Even better is choosing the whole piece of fruit instead, which contains the added benefit of fiber,” she suggested.

Although men who ate the most fruit were also less likely to develop memory problems over time, that association weakened when the researchers accounted for consumption of vegetables, fruit juice, refined grains, legumes and dairy products.

Long-term habits also appeared to play a role. Those who ate lots of fruits and veggies 20 years before the memory test were less likely to develop thinking and memory problems, whether or not they did so in the six years before the memory test.

Rebecca Edelmayer is director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association. She noted that, because this study relies on participants’ recall, it is not as rigorous as other studies.

Still, it makes a valid point that preserving mental health is, to some degree, a matter of lifestyle, just like preventing heart disease, she added.

“This is a hot topic of research right now,” Edelmayer said.

A healthy diet plus exercise and mental stimulation might reduce your risk for mental decline, she said. “We see a future where Alzheimer’s disease will be treated with a medication, but also life intervention — like we do with heart disease,” Edelmayer said.

The report was published online in Neurology.

Source: HealthDay

Cataract Surgery, Hearing Aid May Boost the Aging Brain

You won’t jump for joy when you’re told you need hearing aids or cataract surgery. But get this: Both appear to slow mental decline in older adults.

That’s what researchers concluded after studying more than 2,000 people in England who had cataract surgery and more than 2,000 Americans given hearing aids.

“These studies underline just how important it is to overcome the barriers which deny people from accessing hearing and visual aids,” researcher Piers Dawes, of the University of Manchester in England, said in a university news release.

“It’s not really certain why hearing and visual problems have an impact on cognitive [memory and thinking skill] decline, but I’d guess that isolation, stigma and the resultant lack of physical activity that are linked to hearing and vision problems might have something to do with it,” said Dawes, a lecturer in audiology and deafness.

For comparison, the researchers looked at thousands of people who had not had cataract surgery or obtained hearing aids.

The investigators compared the rates of mental decline before and after the patients had their vision and hearing improved. The rate of mental decline was halved after cataract surgery and was 75 percent lower after starting to use a hearing aid.

Dawes noted that people might not want to wear hearing aids due to stigma, because the amplification is not good enough, or because they’re uncomfortable.

“Perhaps a way forward is adult screening to better identify hearing and vision problems and in the case of hearing loss, demedicalizing the whole process so treatment is done outside the clinical setting. That could reduce stigma,” Dawes suggested.

“Wearable hearing devices are coming on stream nowadays which might also be helpful. They not only assist your hearing, but give you access to the internet and other services,” he added.

According to Dawes’ colleague, Asri Maharani, “Age is one of the most important factors implicated in cognitive decline. We find that hearing and vision interventions may slow it down and perhaps prevent some cases of dementia, which is exciting — though we can’t say yet that this is a causal relationship.”

The cataract surgery study was published in the journal PLoS One. The hearing aid study was published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Source: HealthDay

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Cataract Surgery for Senior Drivers Tied to Reduced Car Crash Risk, Costs

Cheryl Platzman Weinstock wrote . . . . . . . . .

Cataract surgery can significantly reduce car crashes involving senior drivers and the cost of those accidents to the community, researchers say.

Their study involved 2,849 drivers age 60 and older in Western Australia, all of whom had cataract surgery on both eyes and were involved in vehicular crashes as the driver.

Altogether, 1,312 participants were involved in 1,347 crashes in the year before their first eye cataract surgery, 775 participants were involved in 850 crashes in the period between first and second surgery, and 895 participants were involved in 916 crashes as the driver in the year after the second surgery.

After accounting for other risk factors, the researchers found a 61 percent reduction in crash risk after these drivers’ first cataract was removed and a 23 percent reduction in accidents after their second cataract operation.

Altogether, the total cost of the accidents, in Australian dollars, was $80.5 million (US$57.30 million) in the year before the first eye surgery and AUS $60.4 million in the year after the second eye surgery. The study team calculated the total cost of the surgeries was AUS $5.1 million, so the reduction in crashes credited to the procedures netted a community savings of AUS $14.9 million.

“These results provide encouragement for the timely provision of first- and second-eye cataract surgery for drivers,” Lynn Meuleners and colleagues at the Curtin-Monash Accident Research Center in Perth write in the journal Age and Ageing.

Cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye, are a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and about half of all Americans will either have cataracts, or have had cataract surgery, by the time they reach 80, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“I think that the findings that the likelihood of a motor vehicle accident is less after the first-eye surgery and also after the second-eye cataract surgery may influence individuals who are on the fence about having cataract surgery, especially on the second eye,” said Anne Coleman, a professor of ophthalmology and epidemiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles, who wasn’t involved in the study.

As individuals age, they may delay cataract surgery because they start to adapt to the reduced vision they have, Coleman said by email. Individuals who are driving, have a motor vehicle accident, and still have cataracts should consider being evaluated for cataract surgery since it may lessen the likelihood of additional motor vehicle accidents, she added.

“I don’t think we need proof that cataract surgery works. The number of cataract surgeries in the U.S. is already very high. Most people who need cataract surgery get it done,” said Dr. Alan Sugar, vice chair of ophthalmology at the University of Michigan’s W. K. Kellogg Eye Center in Ann Arbor.

The study has “confirmatory value that cataract surgery and cataract surgery in both eyes, works,” added Sugar, who also wasn’t involved in the research. “This is good,” he said in a phone interview, because insurers historically have not wanted to reimburse patients for second-eye cataract surgery.

Past research has found that cataract surgery reduces mortality, falls and the odds of hip fractures as well as car crashes. Cataract surgery has also been found to increase quality of life, the study authors write.

The majority of the study subjects were men, 70 years and older, married, and nearly 95 percent had at least one other health problem.

The authors, who did not respond to a request for comments, point out that the risk of crashes after second-eye surgeries was higher than after first-eye surgeries, but still significantly lower than before the first-eye procedures. This may have been because of overall aging of the study group, they write.

The study may influence a new trend to do both eyes the same day, Sugar said.

Source: Reuters

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