A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, lead by Patricia Opresko, Ph.D have discovered crucial new information about telomeres, the end caps of DNA. Telomeres (repeated sequences of DNA) are shortened each time a cell divides, thus becoming smaller with age. When telomeres become too short, they send a signal to the cell to cease dividing permanently – this impairs the ability of tissues to regenerate, contributing to various age-related diseases.
In cancer cells, on the other hand, levels of the enzyme telomerase (which lengthens telomeres) are elevated. This enables them to divide indefinitely. “The new information will be useful in designing new therapies to preserve telomeres in healthy cells and ultimately help combat the effects of inflammation and aging. On the flip side, we hope to develop mechanisms to selectively deplete telomeres in cancer cells to stop them from dividing,” said Dr. Opresko.
Previous studies have shown that oxidative stress accelerates telomere shortening. Oxidative stress is a condition where free radicals build up inside the cell, causing damage. Free radicals can damage the DNA that makes up the telomeres, as well as the DNA building blocks used to extend them. Oxidative stress also plays a role in various other health conditions, including cancer and inflammation. Free radical damage, which is often caused by inflammation in the body, as well as environmental factors, is believed to build up throughout the aging process.
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Results of a study conducted at the University of Southern California (USC) has shown that adolescent rats that freely consumed large quantities of liquid solutions containing sugar or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in concentrations comparable to popular sugar-sweetened beverages experienced memory problems and brain inflammation, and became pre-diabetic.
Scott Kanoski, an assistant professor at USC’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and colleagues investigated the effects of sugar and HFCS on 76 rats. Adolescent or adult male rats were given 30-day access to chow, water, and either (1) 11% sucrose solution, (2) 11% HFCS solution, or (3) an extra bottle of water (control). Approximately 35-40% of the rats’ daily calories were obtained from sugar or HFCS. The rats then underwent a series of tests.
Results showed that in adolescent rats, HFCS intake impaired hippocampal-dependent spatial learning and memory in a Barne’s maze, whilst moderate learning impairment was also observed in the rats in the sucrose group. Further investigation revealed that protein expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin 6 and interleukin 1β was increased in the hippocampus of the adolescent rats fed HFCS, while liver interleukin 1β and plasma insulin levels were elevated in both adolescent-exposed sugar groups. On the other hand, intake of HFCS or sucrose in adults did not impact spatial learning, glucose tolerance, or neuroinflammatory markers. “The brain is especially vulnerable to dietary influences during critical periods of development, like adolescence,” said Kanoski, “Consuming a diet high in added sugars not only can lead to weight gain and metabolic disturbances, but can also negatively impact our neural functioning and cognitive ability.”
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New research further illuminates the heart-healthy benefits of the Mediterranean diet, tying the eating plan to lower levels of platelets and white blood cells, two markers of inflammation. Inflammation has an association with greater risk of heart attack and stroke.
The Mediterranean diet, characterized by generous servings of foods such as greens, whole grains, fish, and olive oil, has long been hailed as a heart-healthy eating plan. While the link between the diet and a reduction in inflammation has been established, the connection between the eating plan and levels of platelets and white blood cells, two specific inflammatory markers in the body, has remained unclear. Specifically, high platelet counts are associated with both vascular disease and non-vascular conditions such as cancer, and a high white blood cell count is a predictor of ischemic vascular disease.
“An important finding of this study is that it indicates that the Mediterranean diet as a whole, and not just a few specific ingredients, is likely responsible for the beneficial health outcomes among the healthy population and should be encouraged as part of healthy eating habits,” said lead study author Marialaura Bonaccio.
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Source: Medical News Today.