Nutritional  Hormones
Cardiovascular Genetics 

In This Issue….                                                              

  • Can changes in telomere length predict cancer diagnosis?
  • Vitamin A regulates immunity in gut
  • B12 deficiency common even when serum levels are “high”
  • Is vitamin E the answer to fatty liver disease?
  • Magnesium supplementation in mom may reduce newborn’s risk of hospitalization
  • Lack of vitamin D makes white blood cells less effective at fighting infection

CLINICAL UPDATE – Can changes in telomere length predict cancer diagnosis?
The length of telomeres – strands of DNA that protect the end of our chromosomes from “fraying” – has been strongly linked to cancer, chronic disease and general aging in recent years: The “shorter” the telomere, the “older” the cell. It was generally accepted that the faster the rate at which a telomere shortens (telomere attrition rate) the faster the cell ages, and the more strongly it is linked to cancer. However, previous results on blood telomere length and cancer risk have been conflicting – showing that in some cases high telomere attrition is linked to cancer and in other cases low telomere attrition is also linked to cancer.

This new study sheds light on these past conflicting results. Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago confirmed that telomere attrition is faster in people who end up getting cancer. But they also found that telomere attrition actually begins to decelerate before cancer manifests clinically, specifically within 3-4 years before diagnosis. For people who ultimately get cancer and people who do not get cancer, the telomere attrition rate is basically similar. Then, around 7 years pre-diagnosis, the telomere attrition rates begin to diverge until 3-4 years pre-diagnosis when telomeres in people who eventually get cancer are actually longer than in those who remain cancer free.

The reasons for this dynamic rate of telomere shortening is complex, according to the authors, but they suggest that cancer cells actually hijack the telomere regulation process in an effort to make cancerous tumor cells immortal. This study really demonstrates the importance of tracking changes in telomere length over time, particularly when it comes to using telomeres as a predictive tool for determining cancer risk.
(EBioMedicine, May 2015)

Blood Telomere Length Attrition and Cancer Development in the Normative Aging Study Cohort.

CLINICAL UPDATE – Vitamin A regulates immunity in gut
It is known that vitamin A deficiency increases susceptibility to infections. New research sheds light on the mechanism behind this clinical reality. Researchers at Purdue University demonstrated that vitamin A regulates the expression and migration of proteins that line the gastrointestinal tract that are needed for proper immune function. In other words, vitamin A regulates not only how lymphocytes behave in the gut, but also how the lymphocytes get there from other areas of the body such as lymph nodes. This phenomenon may explain why a low concentration of immune cells that line the mucosa of the gut is common when vitamin A is deficient.
(Immunity, June 2015)

LINK to ABSTRACT Retinoic Acid Differentially Regulates the Migration of Innate Lymphoid Cell Subsets to the Gut.

CLINICAL UPDATE – B12 deficiency common even when serum levels are “high”
170 adults with vitamin B12 blood levels commonly considered sufficient (>400pg/mL) were evaluated for functional B12 deficiency. Levels of methylmalonic acid and homocysteine – two metabolites of vitamin B12 function – were compared against the level of oxidative stress markers in each person. Two relationships emerged: (1) functional B12 deficiency was quantitatively higher in people who had higher levels of oxidative stress and (2) functional B12 deficiency occurred even when B12 levels were high (over 800pg/mL). This study demonstrates how serum levels can be misleading because even when serum levels are sufficient or even in the high range, functional vitamin deficiencies, which are more clinically relevant, are in fact quite common
(European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2015)

LINK to ABSTRACT Functional cobalamin (vitamin B12) deficiency: role of advanced age and disorders associated with increased oxidative stress

CLINICAL UPDATE – Is vitamin E the answer to fatty liver disease?
In a meta-analysis of vitamin E for the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), five randomized controlled trials were reviewed. The trial results strongly suggest vitamin E significantly reduces liver inflammation and dysfunction in NAFLD. Specifically, AST (aspartate transaminase), ALT (alanine aminotransferase), ALP (alkaline phosphatase) – all markers of liver dysfunction – were reduced with vitamin E treatment, leading authors to conclude that “vitamin E significantly improved liver function and histologic changes in patients with NAFLD.”
(Nutrition, July 2015)

LINK to ABSTRACT Vitamin E has a beneficial effect on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

CLINICAL UPDATE – Magnesium supplementation in diabetic mom may reduce newborn’s risk of hospitalization
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 70 pregnant women with gestational diabetes were given either placebo (n=25) or 250 mg magnesium oxide (n=35) for six weeks. Fasting blood samples were taken initially and after the six week intervention. The women supplemented with magnesium had significantly better values for blood sugar control, including glucose, insulin and β-cell function, than the women given placebo. Measures of inflammation (hs-CRP and malondialdehyde) were also lower in the magnesium group. In addition, newborn liver function (incidence of hyperbilirubinemia) was much better in those whose mothers received magnesium. Finally, 6% of the magnesium supplemented mom’s newborns were hospitalized compared to 26% of newborns born to moms that received placebo.
(American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2015)

LINK to ABSTRACT Magnesium supplementation affects metabolic status and pregnancy outcomes in gestational diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.  

CLINICAL UPDATE – Lack of vitamin D makes white blood cells less effective at fighting infection
Although it is widely recognized that vitamin D deficiency negatively impact a person’s immunity, the exact mechanism by which this occurs is still being elucidated. In this animal study, the absence of vitamin D caused certain white blood cells (CD8 T lymphocytes) to reduce their “memory” in responding to a dangerous virus (choriomeningitis). Vitamin D deficiency also impaired the ability of these white blood cells to travel to various parts of the body. In other words, they tended to stay nearer to the site of where they were manufactured (lymph nodes) versus traveling to areas that needed them.
(Journal of Nutrition, December 2014)

LINK to ABSTRACT Vitamin D receptor signals regulate effector and memory CD8 T cell responses to infections in mice.