November 3, 2008
by S. L. Baker, features writer
(NaturalNews) Researchers are zeroing in on specific nutrients and natural therapies that not only can prevent and heal disease but promote longevity. For example, as NaturalNews previously reported, a research team from Nu Skin Enterprises, Inc., and LifeGen Technologies found that Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4), a traditional Chinese mushroom, is a powerful anti-aging food that could lengthen lifespan (http://www.naturalnews.com/030008_c...). And University at Buffalo endocrinologists recently documented for the first time that resveratrol, a phytochemical found in red grapes, grape juice and red wine, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in humans and may promote human longevity, too (http://www.naturalnews.com/029449_r...).
Now comes word from Italian scientists that they've discovered a mix of amino acids is a life extender in animals -- and may well be a longevity aid for humans, too. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this study, which was just published in the October issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, is a statement made by lead researcher Enzo Nisoli of Milan University in Italy which suggests nutritional therapies are being taken very seriously in the world of scientific research. The new study showing the life extending power of amino acids, Nisoli stated, supports a "general philosophy of a nutritional approach to disease, aging, and problems of energy status."
The Italian research team gave middle-aged, male mice drinking water laced with an extra mix of amino acids -- leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), found in protein, are considered essential amino acids because human beings cannot survive unless these amino acids are present in the diet. Animals that were given the extra amino acids over a period of months had their normal life span increased by 12 percent -- from about 774 to 869 days.
What's more, the mice who received the extra amino acids were found to have an increase in mitochondria (cellular components known as the "power factories" inside cells) in cardiac and skeletal muscles. There was also increased activity of SIRT1, a well-known longevity gene, in the rodents who drank the leucine, isoleucine, and valine-laced water. The animals were better able to fend off free radicals, too, and so showed fewer signs of oxidative damage.
And the benefits didn't stop there. The amino acid supplemented mice also had better motor coordination and exercise endurance. Overall, the benefits of the amino acids were similar to those found in previous experiments using calorie restriction.
In a statement to the media, Nisoli pointed out that consuming amino acid supplements is different from consuming proteins containing those amino acids because the amino acids don't have to be digested; they enter the bloodstream immediately. So, he added, BCAA nutritional supplements may turn out to be especially helpful for people with heart failure, the muscle-wasting condition known as sarcopenia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or other conditions marked by energy defects.
Although there are already a few small studies in human that support that idea that BCAA supplements could help people with various chronic health problems, Nisoli stated that convincing doctors that amino acid supplements might benefit patients is a challenge. The reason? A large clinical trial involving humans is needed to provide more hard data -- but there's little incentive for companies to spend money on research for inexpensive dietary supplements as opposed to drugs, Nisoli said.
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