Maybe you have an 85-year-old grandfather who still whips through the newspaper crossword puzzle every morning or a 94-year-old aunt who never forgets a name or a face. They don't seem to suffer the ravages of memory that beset most people as they age. Researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine wondered if the brains of the elderly with still laser sharp memory -- called "super aged" -- were somehow different than everyone else's.
So instead of the usual approach in which scientists explore what goes wrong in a brain when older people lose their memory they investigated what goes right in an aging brain that stays nimble.
Here's the preliminary answer:
Beta-alanine (BA), a dietary supplement widely used by athletes and body builders, has been proven to increase the fitness levels of a group of elderly men and women. The research, published in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, suggests that BA supplementation improves muscle endurance in the elderly.
The research was carried out by Jeffrey Stout, PhD from the University of Oklahoma, USA, and a team of colleagues. According to Dr. Stout, “This could have importance in the prevention of falls, and the maintenance of health and independent living in elderly men and women.”
Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System report that a daily single oral dose of an investigational drug, MK-677, increased muscle mass in the arms and legs of healthy older adults without serious side effects, suggesting that it may prove safe and effective in reducing age-related frailty.
Published in the November 4, 2008 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, the study showed that levels of growth hormone (GH) and of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF- I) in seniors who took MK-677 increased to those found in healthy young adults. The drug restored 20 percent of muscle mass loss associated with normal aging.
For many women, including the growing number who choose later-in-life pregnancy, predicting their biological clock's relation to the timing of their menopause and infertility is critically important. Investigators from the University of Michigan say they have new information about hormonal biomarkers that can address the beginning of the menopause transition.
"In the end, this information can change the way we do business," said MaryFran Sowers, professor in the U-M School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology. "The information provides a roadmap as to how fast women are progressing through the different elements of their reproductive life."
Why do some older people appear to be thriving and others not? Genetics and bad luck are certainly a factor but elderly people who have a positive outlook, lower stress levels, moderate alcohol consumption, abstention from tobacco, moderate to higher income and no chronic health conditions are more likely to thrive in their old age, according to a study in the October issue of The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.
Chronic health conditions is the tough one to avoid.
Some animals live longer when raised on low-calorie diets but now researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis say that they can extend the life spans of roundworms even when the worms are well fed — it just takes a chemical that blocks their sense of smell.
Three years ago, the researchers, led by Kerry Kornfeld, M.D., Ph.D., reported they found that a class of anticonvulsant medications made the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans live longer. But until now, they didn't quite know what the drugs did to give the worms their longevity.
Many people believe that as soon as you start using a skin cream, you have to continue with it; if you stop lubricating, your skin becomes drier than when you started. And now there is research to confirm for the first time that normal skin can become drier from creams. Izabela Buraczewska presents these findings in the dissertation she is publicly defending at Uppsala University in Sweden on October 24.
Researchers in Germany are describing a potential alternative to Botox and cosmetic surgery for easing facial wrinkles. Their study, scheduled for the November 5 issue of ACS' Crystal Growth&Design, reports that high intensity visible light from light emitting diodes (LEDs) applied daily for several weeks resulted in "rejuvenated skin, reduced wrinkle levels, juvenile complexion and lasting resilience."LEDs
, if you're not a regular reader here (though you should be) are the miniature lights used in an array of products, from TV remote controls to traffic lights.
Over the past 30 years, the U.S. population has reduced its fat intake and increased its consumption of carbohydrates. During the same time period, obesity has been rising along with the prevalence of metabolic liver disease in which fatty deposits in the liver can lead to inflammation, fibrosis and cirrhosis. Some studies have suggested that a high carbohydrate diet leads to fat formation in the liver, although confirming the association has been difficult.
When carbohydrates are restricted, the liver relies more on substances like lactate and amino acids to form glucose, instead of glycerol. These findings are in the November issue of Hepatology.
In middle age we begin to lose myelin, the fatty sheath of "insulation" that coats our nerve axons and allows for fast signaling bursts in our brains. So if you want to be the best at anything requiring speedy brain reaction times, you'd better get it in by age 39.
Writing in Neurobiology of Aging
, Dr. George Bartzokis, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and colleagues compared how quickly a group of males ranging in age from 23 to 80 could perform a motor task and then correlated their performances to their brains' myelin integrity.
The researchers found a striking correlation between the speed of the task and the integrity of myelination over the range of ages. Put another way, after middle age, we start to lose the battle to repair the myelin in our brain, and our motor and cognitive functions begin a long, slow downhill slide.