If you were given a lens to see clearly, would you accept it?

Two papers, starting with a 2022 rodent study of maternal behaviors’ effects on offspring physiologies:

Early life adversity (ELA) is a major risk factor for development of pathology. Predictability of parental care may be a distinguishing feature of different forms of ELA.

We tested the hypothesis that changes in maternal behavior in mice would be contingent on the type of ELA experienced, directly comparing predictability of care in the limited bedding and nesting (LBN) and maternal separation (MS) paradigms. We then tested whether predictability of the ELA environment altered expression of corticotropin-releasing hormone (Crh), a sexually-dimorphic neuropeptide that regulates threat-related learning.

MS was associated with increased expression of Crh-related genes in males, but not females. LBN primarily increased expression of these genes in females, but not males.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352289522000595 “Resource scarcity but not maternal separation provokes unpredictable maternal care sequences in mice and both upregulate Crh-associated gene expression in the amygdala”


I came across this first study by it citing a republished version of 2005 epigenetic research from McGill University:

“Early experience permanently alters behavior and physiology. A critical question concerns the mechanism of these environmental programming effects.

We propose that epigenomic changes serve as an intermediate process that imprints dynamic environmental experiences on the fixed genome resulting in stable alterations in phenotype. These findings demonstrate that structural modifications of DNA can be established through environmental programming and that, in spite of the inherent stability of this epigenomic marker, it is dynamic and potentially reversible.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.31887/DCNS.2005.7.2/mmeaney “Environmental programming of stress responses through DNA methylation: life at the interface between a dynamic environment and a fixed genome”


This post commemorates the five-year anniversary of Dr. Arthur Janov’s death. Its title is taken from my reaction to his comment on Beyond Belief: Symptoms of hopelessness. Search his blog for mentions of the second paper’s coauthors, Drs. Meaney and Szyf.

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All about walnuts’ effects

Five 2022 papers focusing on walnuts, starting with a comparison of eight tree nuts:

“The aim of the present study was to examine 8 different popular nuts – pecan, pine, hazelnuts, pistachio, almonds, cashew, walnuts, and macadamia. Total content of phenolic compounds in nuts ranged from 5.9 (pistachio) to 432.9 (walnuts) mg/100 g.

Walnuts had the highest content of polymeric procyanidins, which are of great interest as important compounds in nutrition and biological activity, as they exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, cardio- and neuroprotective action. Walnuts are good sources of fatty acids, especially omega-3 and omega-6.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590157522002164 “Nuts as functional foods: Variation of nutritional and phytochemical profiles and their in vitro bioactive properties”


A second study compared the same eight tree nuts plus Brazil nuts and peanuts:

“The highest total content of all analyzed flavonoids was determined in walnuts (114.861 µg/g) with epicatechin the most abundant, while the lowest was in almonds (1.717 µg/g). Epicatechin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and anti-diabetic properties. Epicatechin has beneficial effects on the nervous system, enhances muscle performance, and improves cardiac function.”

https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/27/14/4326/htm “The Content of Phenolic Compounds and Mineral Elements in Edible Nuts”


Next, two systematic reviews and meta-analyses of human studies:

“We carried out a systematic review of cohort studies and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating walnut consumption, compared with no or lower walnut consumption, including those with subjects from within the general population and those with existing health conditions, published from 2017 to 5 May 2021.

  • Evidence published since 2017 is consistent with previous research suggesting that walnut consumption improves lipid profiles and is associated with reduced CVD risk.
  • Evidence pointing to effects on blood pressure, inflammation, hemostatic markers, and glucose metabolism remains conflicting.
  • Evidence from human studies showing that walnut consumption may benefit cognitive health, which is needed to corroborate findings from animal studies, is now beginning to accumulate.”

https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/advance-article/doi/10.1093/nutrit/nuac040/6651942 “Walnut consumption and health outcomes with public health relevance – a systematic review of cohort studies and randomized controlled trials published from 2017 to present”


“We aimed to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs to thoroughly assess data concerning effects of walnut intake on selected markers of inflammation and metabolic syndrome in mature adults. Our findings showed that:

  • Walnut-enriched diets significantly decreased TG, TC, and LDL-C concentrations, while HDL-C levels were not significantly affected.
  • No significant changes were noticed on anthropometric, cardiometabolic, and glycemic indices after higher walnut consumption.
  • Inflammatory biomarkers did not record statistically significant results.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/11/7/1412/htm “Walnut Intake Interventions Targeting Biomarkers of Metabolic Syndrome and Inflammation in Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials”


Finishing with a rodent study that gave subjects diabetes with a high-fat diet, then mixed two concentrations of walnut extract in with the treatment groups’ chow:

“This study was conducted to evaluate the protective effect of Gimcheon 1ho cultivar walnut (GC) on cerebral disorder by insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and inflammation in HFD-induced diabetic disorder mice. After HFD feed was supplied for 12 weeks, samples were orally ingested for 4 weeks to GC20 and GC50 groups (20 and 50 mg/kg of body weight, respectively).

  • Administration of GC improved mitochondrial membrane potential function, and suppressed oxidative stress in the brain.
  • GC inhibited hepatic and cerebral lipid peroxidation and the formation of serum AGEs, and increased serum antioxidant activity to improve HFD-induced oxidative stress.
  • The HFD group showed significant memory impairment in behavioral tests. On the other hand, administration of GC showed improvement in spatial learning and memory function.

walnut brain effects

Based on these physiological activities, GC showed protective effects against HFD-induced diabetic dysfunctions through complex and diverse pathways.”

https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/27/16/5316/htm “Walnut Prevents Cognitive Impairment by Regulating the Synaptic and Mitochondrial Dysfunction via JNK Signaling and Apoptosis Pathway in High-Fat Diet-Induced C57BL/6 Mice”


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Non-patentable boron benefits

To follow up Is boron important to health? I’ll highlight a 2022 review of boron intake:

“Boron is essential for activity of several metabolic enzymes, hormones, and micronutrients. It is important for growth and maintenance of bone, reduction in inflammatory biomarkers, and increasing levels of antioxidant enzymes.

The average person’s daily diet contains 1.5 to 3 milligrams of boron. Boron intakes of 1–3 mg/day have been shown to improve bone and brain health in adults when compared to intakes of 0.25–0.50 mg/day.

One week of 10 mg/d boron supplementation resulted in a 20% reduction in inflammatory biomarkers TNF-α, as well as significant reductions (nearly 50%) in plasma concentrations of hs-CRP and IL-6. Calcium fructoborate, a naturally occurring, plant-based boron-carbohydrate complex, had beneficial effects on osteoarthritis (OA) symptoms. A double-blind study in middle-aged patients with primary OA found that all groups except the placebo group saw a reduction in inflammatory biomarkers after 15 days of food supplementation with calcium fructoborate.

Dietary boron intake significantly improves brain function and cognitive functioning in humans. Electroencephalograms showed that boron pharmacological intervention after boron deficiency improved functioning in older men and women, such as less drowsiness and mental alertness, better psychomotor skills (for example, motor speed and dexterity), and better cognitive processing (e.g., attention and short-term memory). Boron compounds can help with both impaired recognition and spatial memory problems.

We discussed the role of boron-based diet in memory, boron and microbiome relation, boron as anti-inflammatory agents, and boron in neurodegenerative diseases. Boron reagents will play a significant role to improve dysbiosis.”

https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/27/11/3402/htm “The Role of Microbiome in Brain Development and Neurodegenerative Diseases”


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Broccoli sprouts and your brain

A 2022 review of Nrf2 signaling hilariously avoided mentioning sulforaphane, although of ~4,000 sulforaphane published articles, two were cited. I’ll curate it anyway to highlight referenced brain effects.

“A good stability of NRF2 activity is crucial to maintain redox balance and therefore brain homeostasis. In this review, we have gathered recent data about the contribution of the NRF2 pathway in the healthy brain as well as during metabolic diseases, ageing, and ageing-related neurodegenerative diseases.

A functional NRF2 system is important to regulate both neuroinflammation, i.e., activation of microglia and astrocytes, and oxidative stress in the brain. NRF2 and NF-κB transcription factors regulate cellular responses to inflammation and oxidative stress in order to maintain brain homeostasis. Both pathways have been described to inhibit each other.

Nrf2 brain aging

Future challenges will be to establish novel therapies to:

  • Increase NRF2 activation in specific cell types and/or brain regions; and
  • Modulate NRF2 pathway in senescent cells.

Modulation of NRF2 signalling pathway by using specific food products [like unmentioned broccoli sprouts] and phytochemicals [like unmentioned sulforaphane], dietary supplements [like unmentioned Vitamin D3], drugs, and epigenetic modifiers, alone or in combination, will help to limit inflammatory diseases, ageing process, and subsequently ageing-related diseases.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/11/8/1426/htm “Normal and Pathological NRF2 Signalling in the Central Nervous System”


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The goddess of rainbows

Two 2022 papers, starting with a review of irisin:

“This article is an overview of irisin generation, secretion, and tissue distribution. Its targeting of tissues or organs for prevention and treatment of chronic diseases is systematically summarized, with discussion of underlying molecular mechanisms.

Irisin is an exercise-induced myokine expressed as a bioactive peptide in multiple tissues and organs. Exercise and cold exposure are major inducers for its secretion.

Mechanistic studies confirm that irisin is closely correlated with lipid metabolism, insulin resistance, inflammation, ROS, endocrine, neurotrophic factors, cell regeneration and repairing, and central nervous system regulation. Irisin decreases with age, and is closely associated with a wide range of aging-related diseases.

A number of studies in elderly humans and animal models have shown that exercise can promote the body’s circulation and increase irisin levels in some tissues and organs. Resistance, aerobic, or combined exercise seem to play a positive role. However, exercise could not change serum irisin in some reported studies.

irisin human studies

There are large individual differences in exercise training in the elderly population. Since the half-life of irisin in the body is less than 1 h, it is necessary to pay attention to the time of blood sampling after a single exercise intervention. Some factors that impede detection of irisin levels in vivo include the half-life of irisin protein, sampling time, different tissues, and different health statuses before and after intervention.

It is worth noting that high-intensity exercise shows higher irisin levels even with the same energy expenditure during exercise. Precision studies of irisin in elderly subjects following exercise intervention need to be further clarified.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568163722001222 “Irisin, An Exercise-induced Bioactive Peptide Beneficial for Health Promotion During Aging Process” (not freely available) Thanks to Dr. Ning Chen for providing a copy.


A second paper was a human study too recent to be cited by the first paper. I’ll highlight its irisin findings:

“We investigated the complex relationship among DNAm based biomarkers of aging, including DNAmFitAge, a variety of physiological functioning variables, blood serum measures including cholesterol, irisin level, and redox balance, and the microbiome on 303 healthy individuals aged between 33 and 88 years with a diverse level of physical fitness. Regular exercise was associated with younger biological age, better memory, and more protective blood serum levels.

Our research intends to show that regular physical exercise is related to microbiota and methylation differences which are both beneficial to aging and measurable. Our research provides the first investigation between microbiome derived metabolic pathways and DNAm based aging biomarkers.

Irisin levels decrease with age (0.23 average decrease for every 1 year older). We found age-related decreases in irisin levels were attenuated by exercise training. The link between irisin to GrimAge Acceleration and FitAge Acceleration is a novel observation.

HDL is positively associated with irisin. HDL and irisin have complex roles in physiology, and the positive relationship we observe between physical exercise and HDL and irisin align with protective effects seen between HDL and irisin with glucose homeostasis.

This work further supports the biological importance of irisin to the aging process. It is possible our research motivates interventions to boost irisin, like through physical exercise, as possible anti-aging therapies.”

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.07.22.22277842v1 “DNA methylation clock DNAmFitAge shows regular exercise is associated with slower aging and systemic adaptation


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Non-CpG methylation

Three 2022 papers on methylation epigenetic modifiers, starting with a human study focused on mitochondrial DNA non-CpG methylation involving nucleobases other than guanine (arginine, cytosine, or thymine):

“We collected brain tissue in the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex from deceased individuals without (n = 39) and with (n = 14) drug use, and used whole-genome bisulfite sequencing to cover cytosine sites in the mitochondrial genome. Epigenetic clocks in illicit drug users, especially in ketamine users, were accelerated in both brain regions by comparison with nonusers.

Unlike the predominance of CpG over non-CpG methylation in the nuclear genome, the average CpG and non-CpG methylation levels in the mitochondrial genome were almost equal. The utility of non-CpG methylation was further illustrated by the three indices constructed in this study with non-CpG sites having better distinction between brain areas, age groups, and the presence or absence of drug use than indices consisting of CpG sites only. Results of previous studies on the mitochondrial genome that were solely based on CpG sites should be interpreted cautiously.

The epigenetic clock made up of age-related cytosine sites in mtDNA of the control group was consistently replicated in these two brain regions. One possibility for the correlation is the cycle theory that involves mitochondrial activity, mitochondrial DNA methylation, and alpha-ketoglutarate.

As mitochondrial activity fades with aging, mitochondria gradually lose the ability to eliminate methylation on cytosines through alpha-ketoglutarate. Further investigation of the underlying mechanisms is warranted.

To our knowledge, this is the first report that ketamine might change the mitochondrial epigenetic clock in human brain tissues. We believe this is the first report to elucidate comprehensively the importance of mitochondrial DNA methylation in human brain.”

https://clinicalepigeneticsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13148-022-01300-z “Mitochondrial DNA methylation profiling of the human prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens: correlations with aging and drug use”


A second rodent study focused on RNA methylation:

“We investigated the role of RNA N6-methyladenosine (m6A) in improved resilience against chronic restraint stress. A combination of molecular, behavioral, and in vivo recording data demonstrates exercise-mediated restoration of m6A in the mouse medial prefrontal cortex, whose activity is potentiated to exert anxiolytic effects. To provide molecular explanations, it is worth noting that epigenetic regulation, such as histone modification, microRNA, and DNA methylation all participate in mental and cognitive rehabilitation following exercise.

To generalize these rodent data to humans, we recruited a small group of patients with major depressive disorder with prominent anxiety disorders. Compared to age- and sex-matched healthy individuals, patients displayed decreased circulating methyl donor S-adenosyl methionine (SAM) levels. Serum SAM levels were found to be inversely correlated with the Hamilton Anxiety Scale, suggesting the potential value of SAM as a biomarker for depression or anxiety disorders.

Hepatic biosynthesis of methyl donors is necessary for exercise to improve brain RNA m6A to counteract environmental stress. The dependence on hepatic-brain axis suggests the ineffectiveness of exercise training on people with hepatic dysfunctions.

This novel liver-brain axis provides an explanation for brain network changes upon exercise training, and provides new insights into diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. Exercise-induced anxiolysis might be potentiated by further replenishment of RNA methylation donors, providing a strategy of exercise plus diet supplement in preventing anxiety disorders.”

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/advs.202105731 “Physical Exercise Prevented Stress-Induced Anxiety via Improving Brain RNA Methylation”


A third paper was a review of mitochondrial-to-nuclear epigenetic regulation. I’ll highlight one mitochondrial metabolite, alpha-ketoglutarate (α-KG):

“Apart from established roles in bioenergetics and biosynthesis, mitochondria are signaling organelles that communicate their fitness to the nucleus, triggering transcriptional programs to adapt homeostasis stress that is essential for organismal health and aging. Emerging studies revealed that mitochondrial-to-nuclear communication via altered levels of mitochondrial metabolites or stress signals causes various epigenetic changes, facilitating efforts to maintain homeostasis and affect aging.

Metabolites generated by the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, the electron transport chain (ETC), or one-carbon cycle within mitochondria can act as substrates or cofactors to control epigenetic modification, especially histone acetylation and methylation and DNA methylation. α-KG produced in the TCA cycle serves as an essential cofactor for the chromatin-modifying Jumonji C (JmjC) domain-containing lysine demethylases (JMJDs) and ten-eleven translocation (TETs) DNA demethylases. Changes in α-KG levels are capable of driving nuclear gene expression by affecting DNA and histone methylation profiles.

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α-KG deficiency in progenitor stem cells increases with age. For example, the level of α-KG is reduced in follicle fluids of aged humans, and supplementation with α-KG preserves ovarian function in mice.

α-KG extends lifespan in Drosophila by activating AMPK signaling and inhibiting the mTOR pathway. Supplementing α-KG in the form of a calcium salt promoted a longer and healthier life associated with decreased levels of inflammatory cytokines in old mice.

A human study showed a nearly 8-year reversal in DNA methylation clock biological ages of 42 individuals taking an α-KG based formulation for 4–10 months. α-KG supplementation leads to both demethylation and hypermethylation of some CpG sites in the genome, suggesting that α-KG may have a broader effect on methylation-based aging, such as metabolic functions.

Outstanding questions:

  1. How is production of mitochondrial metabolites regulated both spatially and temporally to elicit epigenetic changes in response to mitochondrial dysfunction?
  2. What are specific epigenetic factors involved in mitochondrial-to-nuclear communications, and how do they cooperate with transcription factors in response to various external and internal stimuli?
  3. Do various mitochondrial metabolites act alone or in concert on the epigenome to regulate the aging process?
  4. Are some organs or tissues more at risk than others in maintaining mitochondrial-to-nuclear communication during aging?
  5. Can intervention of mitochondrial-to-nuclear communications mimic beneficial epigenetic changes to delay aging or alleviate age-onset diseases?”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0968000422000676 “Mitochondrial-to-nuclear communication in aging: an epigenetic perspective”


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Gut microbiota therapy

This June 2022 review cited twenty 2022 papers for relationships between Parkinson’s disease and gut microbiota:

“Clinical diagnosis of PD is based on typical motor symptoms, and novel diagnostic biomarkers have been developed such as imaging markers, and α-synuclein fluid and tissue markers. Multimorbidity of non-motor disorders heighten the risk of adverse outcomes for patients with PD, which usually appear 20 years before onset of motor symptoms.

The gut microbiota is intimately connected to occurrence, development, and progression of PD, especially in early stages. A better understanding of the microbiota–gut–brain axis in PD can provide an opportunity to monitor an individual’s health by manipulating gut microbiota composition.

Several approaches like administration of probiotics, psychobiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, postbiotics, FMT, and dietary modifications have been tried to mitigate dysbiosis-induced ill effects and alleviate PD progression.

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Epidemiological studies have reported that diet affects (positively or negatively) onset of neurodegenerative disorders. Evidence suggests that diet composition’s effects on brain health is not due to diet-induced inflammatory response, but because of its effects on the gut microbiome.

Dysbiotic gut microbiota (including altered microbial metabolites) may play crucial roles in PD via various mechanisms, such as:

  • Increased intestinal permeability;
  • Aggravated intestinal inflammation and neuroinflammation;
  • Abnormal aggregation of α-synuclein fibrils;
  • Imbalanced oxidative stress; and
  • Decreased neurotransmitters production.

Future studies are essential to further elucidate cause-effect relationships between gut microbiota and PD, improved PD therapeutic and diagnostic options, disease progression tracking, and patient stratification capabilities to deliver personalized treatment and optimize clinical trial designs.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2022.937555/full “Gut Microbiota: A Novel Therapeutic Target for Parkinson’s Disease”


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Taurine week #7: Brain

Finishing a week’s worth of 2022 taurine research with two reviews of taurine’s brain effects:

“We provide a overview of brain taurine homeostasis, and review mechanisms by which taurine can afford neuroprotection in individuals with obesity and diabetes. Alterations to taurine homeostasis can impact a number of biological processes such as osmolarity control, calcium homeostasis, and inhibitory neurotransmission, and have been reported in both metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders.

Models of neurodegenerative disorders show reduced brain taurine concentrations. On the other hand, models of insulin-dependent diabetes, insulin resistance, and diet-induced obesity display taurine accumulation in the hippocampus. Given cytoprotective actions of taurine, such accumulation of taurine might constitute a compensatory mechanism that attempts to prevent neurodegeneration.

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Taurine release is mainly mediated by volume-regulated anion channels (VRAC) that are activated by hypo-osmotic conditions and electrical activity. They can be stimulated via glutamate metabotropic (mGluR) and ionotropic receptors (mainly NMDA and AMPA), adenosine A1 receptors (A1R), and metabotropic ATP receptors (P2Y).

Taurine mediates its neuromodulatory effects by binding to GABAA, GABAB, and glycine receptors. While taurine binding to GABAA and GABAB is weaker than to GABA, taurine is a rather potent ligand of the glycine receptor. Reuptake of taurine occurs via taurine transporter TauT.

Cytoprotective actions of taurine contribute to brain health improvements in subjects with obesity and diabetes through various mechanisms that improve neuronal function, such as:

  • Modulating inhibitory neurotransmission, which promotes an excitatory–inhibitory balance;
  • Stimulating antioxidant systems; and
  • Stabilizing mitochondria energy production and Ca2+ homeostasis.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/6/1292/htm “Taurine Supplementation as a Neuroprotective Strategy upon Brain Dysfunction in Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes”


A second review focused on taurine’s secondary bile acids produced by gut microbiota:

“Most neurodegenerative disorders are diseases of protein homeostasis, with misfolded aggregates accumulating. The neurodegenerative process is mediated by numerous metabolic pathways, most of which lead to apoptosis. Hydrophilic bile acids, particularly tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA), have shown important anti-apoptotic and neuroprotective activities, with numerous experimental and clinical evidence suggesting their possible therapeutic use as disease-modifiers in neurodegenerative diseases.

Biliary acids may influence each of the following three mechanisms through which interactions within the brain-gut-microbiota axis take place: neurological, immunological, and neuroendocrine. These microbial metabolites can act as direct neurotransmitters or neuromodulators, serving as key modulators of the brain-gut interactions.

The gut microbial community, through their capacity to produce bile acid metabolites distinct from the liver, can be thought of as an endocrine organ with potential to alter host physiology, perhaps to their own favour. Hydrophilic bile acids, currently regarded as important hormones, exert modulatory effects on gut microbiota composition to produce secondary bile acids which seem to bind a number of receptors with a higher affinity than primary biliary acids, expressed on many different cells.

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TUDCA regulates expression of genes involved in cell cycle regulation and apoptotic pathways, promoting neuronal survival. TUDCA:

  • Improves protein folding capacity through its chaperoning activity, in turn reducing protein aggregation and deposition;
  • Reduces reactive oxygen species production, leading to protection against mitochondrial dysfunction;
  • Ameliorates endoplasmic reticulum stress; and
  • Inhibits expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, exerting an anti-neuroinflammatory effect.

Although Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and cerebral ischemia have different disease progressions, they share similar pathways which can be targeted by TUDCA. This makes this bile acid a potentially strong therapeutic option to be tested in human diseases. Clinical evidence collected so far has reported comprehensive data on ALS only.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9166453/ “Tauroursodeoxycholic acid: a potential therapeutic tool in neurodegenerative diseases”

Taurine week #2: Bile acids

Two papers investigated taurine’s integration into bile acids, starting with a review:

“Bile acids (BAs) are produced from cholesterol in the liver and are termed primary BAs. Primary BAs are conjugated with glycine and taurine in the liver, and stored in the gallbladder. BAs are released from the gallbladder into the small intestine via food intake to facilitate digestion and absorption of lipids and lipophilic vitamins by forming micelles in the small intestine.

After deconjugation by the gut microbiome, primary BAs are converted into secondary BAs. Most BAs in the intestine are reabsorbed and transported to the liver, where both primary and secondary BAs are conjugated with glycine or taurine and rereleased into the intestine.

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Some BAs reabsorbed from the intestine spill into systemic circulation, where they bind to a variety of nuclear and cell-surface receptors in tissues. Some BAs are not reabsorbed and bind to receptors in the terminal ileum.

BAs can affect cell-surface and intracellular membranes, including those of mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum. BAs are also hormones or signaling molecules, and can regulate BA, glucose, and lipid metabolism in various tissues, including the liver, pancreas, and both brown and white adipose tissue. BAs also affect the immune system.

BAs can affect the nervous system. More than 20 BAs have been detected in the brain of humans and rodents. The brain communicates with the gut and gut microbiome through BAs.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2607/10/1/68/htm “Physiological Role of Bile Acids Modified by the Gut Microbiome”


Reference 56 was a human study:

“Centenarians (individuals aged 100 years and older) have a decreased susceptibility to ageing-associated illnesses, chronic inflammation, and infectious diseases. Centenarians have a distinct gut microbiome enriched in microorganisms that are capable of generating unique secondary bile acids.

We identified centenarian-specific gut microbiota signatures and defined bacterial species as well as genes and/or pathways that promote generation of isoLCA, 3-oxoLCA, 3-oxoalloLCA, and isoalloLCA. To our knowledge, isoalloLCA is one of the most potent antimicrobial agents that is selective against Gram-positive microorganisms, including multidrug-resistant pathogens, suggesting that it may contribute to maintenance of intestinal homeostasis by enhancing colonization-resistance mechanisms.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03832-5 “Novel bile acid biosynthetic pathways are enriched in the microbiome of centenarians” (not freely available)


A few more papers will be coming on taurine and bile acids. I haven’t seen one investigate both taurine and glycine treatments to aid bile acid in achieving therapeutic results.

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Betaine and diabetes

Two 2022 papers on betaine’s effects, starting with a review:

“Rodent studies provide evidence that betaine effectively limits many diabetes-related disturbances.

  • Betaine therapy improves glucose tolerance and insulin action, which is strongly associated with changes in insulin-sensitive tissues, such as skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, and liver.
  • Betaine supplementation positively affects multiple genes, which expression is dysregulated in diabetes.
  • AMP-activated protein kinase is thought to play a central role in the mechanism underlying anti-diabetic betaine action.
  • Studies with animal models of type 2 diabetes have shown that betaine exerts anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, and also alleviates endoplasmic reticulum stress.

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These changes contribute to improved insulin sensitivity and better blood glucose clearance. Results of animal studies encourage exploration of therapeutic betaine efficacy in humans with type 2 diabetes.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753332222003353 “The anti-diabetic potential of betaine. Mechanisms of action in rodent models of type 2 diabetes”


Reference 31 was a human study:

“Few studies on humans have comprehensively evaluated intake composition of methyl-donor nutrients  choline, betaine, and folate in relation to visceral obesity (VOB)-related hepatic steatosis (HS), the hallmark of non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases.

  • Total choline intake was the most significant dietary determinant of HS in patients with VOB.
  • Combined high intake of choline and betaine, but not folate, was associated with an 81% reduction in VOB-related HS.
  • High betaine supplementation could substitute for choline and folate to normalize homocysteine levels under methyl donor methionine-restriction conditions.
  • Preformed betaine intake from whole-grain foods and vegetables can lower obesity-increased choline and folate requirements by sparing choline oxidation for betaine synthesis and folate for methyl donor conversion in one-carbon metabolism.

Our data suggest that combined dietary intake of choline and betaine reduces the VOB-related HS risk in a threshold-dependent manner.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/2/261/htm “Optimal Dietary Intake Composition of Choline and Betaine Is Associated with Minimized Visceral Obesity-Related Hepatic Steatosis in a Case-Control Study”

Increasing betaine intake to lower choline and folate requirements was similar to an idea in Treating psychopathological symptoms will somehow resolve causes? that:

“Such positive effects of taurine on glutathione levels may be explained by the fact that cysteine is the essential precursor to both metabolites, whereby taurine supplementation may drive metabolism of cysteine towards GSH synthesis.”


I came across this first paper by it citing All about the betaine, Part 2:

“This review focuses on biological and beneficial effects of dietary betaine (trimethylglycine), a naturally occurring and crucial methyl donor that restores methionine homeostasis in cells. Betaine is endogenously synthesized through metabolism of choline, or exogenously consumed through dietary intake.

Human intervention studies showed no adverse effects with 4 g/day supplemental administration of betaine in healthy subjects. However, overweight subjects with metabolic syndrome showed a significant increase in total and LDL-cholesterol concentrations. These effects were not observed with 3 g/day of betaine administration.

Betaine exerts significant therapeutic and biological effects that are potentially beneficial for alleviating a diverse number of human diseases and conditions.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2079-7737/10/6/456/htm “Beneficial Effects of Betaine: A Comprehensive Review”


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The oligosaccharide stachyose

Two 2022 stachyose papers to follow on to Don’t take Beano if you’re stressed, which studied raffinose. Stachyose is in the raffinose oligosaccharide group with similar characteristics, and its content is usually larger in legumes. First is a rodent study:

“Stress can activate the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and elevate glucocorticoids in the body (cortisol in humans and corticosterone in rodents). Glucocorticoid receptors are abundant in the hippocampus, and play an important role in stress-induced cognition alteration.

Corticosterone is often used to model cognitive impairment induced by stress. Long-term potentiation (LTP) deficit and cognitive impairment always coexist in stress models, and LTP impairment is often considered as one mechanism for stress-induced cognitive deficits.

N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors play critical roles both in normal synaptic functions and excitotoxicity in the central nervous system. D-serine, a coactivator of NMDA receptors, plays an important role in brain function.

In this study, we focused on effects of stachyose, on LTP impairment by corticosterone, gut flora, and the D-serine pathway.

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Data in this study showed that 7-consecutive-day intragastric (i.g.) administration of stachyose had protective effect. There was little effect via intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) and intraperitoneal (i.p.) administration.

To disturb gut flora, a combination of non-absorbable antibiotics (ATB) were applied. Results showed that ATB canceled the protective effect of stachyose without affecting LTP in control and corticosterone-treated mice, suggesting that stachyose may display its protective effects against LTP impairment by corticosterone via gut flora.

Further study is needed to uncover the relation between gut flora and the D-serine metabolic pathway.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2022.799244/full “Stachyose Alleviates Corticosterone-Induced Long-Term Potentiation Impairment via the Gut–Brain Axis”

One of this study’s references was Eat oats and regain cognitive normalcy.


A stachyose clinical trial is expected to complete this month:

“In the stachyose intervention group, each person took 5 g of stachyose daily before breakfast. Administration method was 100 ml of drinking water dissolved and taken orally for two months. Each person in the placebo control group took the same amount of maltodextrin daily. Stool samples of the 36 subjects were collected weekly.

Primary outcome measures:

  1. Expression of microRNA; and
  2. Structure of gut microbiota.”

https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05392348 “Regulatory Effect of Stachyose on Gut Microbiota and microRNA Expression in Human”


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Young gut, young eyes

I’ll highlight this 2022 rodent study findings of effects on eye health:

“We tested the hypothesis that manipulating intestinal microbiota influences development of major comorbidities associated with aging and, in particular, inflammation affecting the brain and retina. Using fecal microbiota transplantation, we exchanged intestinal microbiota of young (3 months), old (18 months), and aged (24 months) mice.

Transfer of aged donor microbiota into young mice accelerates age-associated central nervous system inflammation, retinal inflammation, and cytokine signaling. It promotes loss of key functional protein in the eye, effects which are coincident with increased intestinal barrier permeability.

These detrimental effects can be reversed by transfer of young donor microbiota.

young and aged fmt

We provide the first direct evidence that aged intestinal microbiota drives retinal inflammation, and regulates expression of the functional visual protein RPE65. RPE65 is vital for maintaining normal photoceptor function via trans-retinol conversion. Mutations or loss of function are associated with retinitis pigmentosa, and are implicated in age-related macular degeneration.

Our finding that age-associated decline in host retinal RPE65 expression is induced by an aged donor microbiota, and conversely is rescued by young donor microbiota transfer, suggests age-associated gut microbiota functions or products regulate visual function.”

https://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-022-01243-w “Fecal microbiota transfer between young and aged mice reverses hallmarks of the aging gut, eye, and brain”


PXL_20220517_190954606

Thyroid function

This 2022 review subject was thyroid function changes:

“Circulating concentrations of thyrotropin (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) are tightly regulated. Each individual has setpoints for TSH and free T4 which are genetically determined, and subject to environmental and epigenetic influence.

What is normal for one individual may not be normal for another, even within conventional definitions of euthyroidism. Notably, circulating TSH exists in several different isoforms with varying degrees of glycosylation, sialylation, and sulfonation which affect tissue availability and bioactivity. This is not reflected in immunoreactive TSH concentrations determined by routine laboratory assays.

enm-2022-1463f2

TSH and free T4 relationship analyzed by age in 120,403 patients who were not taking thyroxine treatment. Median TSH for each free T4 integer value (in pmol/ L) was calculated, then plotted as 20-year age bands in adults. Dotted horizontal and vertical lines mark the TSH reference range (0.4 to 4.0 mU/L) and free T4 reference range (10 to 20 pmol/L), respectively.

Mild TSH elevation in older people does not predict adverse health outcomes. In fact, higher TSH is associated with greater life expectancy, including extreme longevity.

In older people, TSH increases with aging without an accompanying fall in free T4. Clinical guidelines now recommend against routine levothyroxine treatment in older people with mild subclinical hypothyroidism.”

https://e-enm.org/journal/view.php?doi=10.3803/EnM.2022.1463 “Thyroid Function across the Lifespan: Do Age-Related Changes Matter?”


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Gut microbiota knowledge through 2021

I’ll curate this 2022 review of what’s known and unknown about our trillions of gut microbiota through its topic headings:

“Most microbial taxa and species of the human microbiome are still unknown. Without revealing the identity of these microbes as a first step, we cannot appreciate their role in human health and diseases.

A. Understanding the Microbiome Composition and Factors That Shape Its Diversity
Effect of Diet Composition on the Microbiome Diversity

  • Macronutrients and Microbiome Diversity
  • Nutrient and Mineral Supplements and Microbiome Diversity

Stress

Drugs

Race and Host Genetics

Aging

Lifestyle

  • Exercise
  • Smoking
  • Urbanization

B. Understanding the Microbiome Function and Its Association With Onset and Progression of Many Diseases

Microbiome Association With Inflammatory and Metabolic Disorders

  • Chronic Inflammation in GIT and Beyond
  • Development of Malignant Tumors
  • Obesity
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Respiratory Diseases

Microbiome Role in Psychiatric, Behavioral, and Emotional Disorders

C. Understanding the Microbiome Function as Mediated by Secreted Molecules

D. Conclusion and Future Directions – A pioneering study aimed to computationally predict functions of microbes on earth estimates the presence of 35.5 million functions in bacteria of which only 0.02% are known. Our knowledge of its functions and how they mediate health and diseases is preliminary.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2022.825338 “Recent Advances in Understanding the Structure and Function of the Human Microbiome”


I took another test last month at the 14-month point of treating my gut microbiota better. Compared with the 7-month top level measurements, what stood out was an increase in relative abundance from 1% to 7% in the Verrucomicrophia phylum that pretty much exclusively comprises species Akkermansia muciniphilia in humans:

top 5 phylum 2-2022

This review termed Akkermansia muciniphilia relative increases as beneficial. Go with the Alzheimer’s Disease evidence didn’t.

Preventing human infections with dietary fibers inferred that insufficient dietary fiber may disproportionately increase abundance of this species. But I already eat much more fiber than our human ancestors’ estimated 100 grams of fiber every day, so lack of fiber definitely didn’t cause this relative increase.

Resistant starch therapy observed:

“Relative abundances of smaller keystone communities (e.g. primary degraders) may increase, but appear to decrease simply because cross-feeders increase in relative abundance to a greater extent.”

I’ll wait for further evidence while taking responsibility for my own one precious life.

Didn’t agree with this review’s statements regarding microbial associations with fear. These reviewers framed such associations as if gut microbiota in the present had stronger influences on an individual’s fear responses than did any of the individual’s earlier experiences. No way.

I came across this review by it citing The microbiome: An emerging key player in aging and longevity, which was Reference 25 of Dr. Paul Clayton’s blog post What are You Thinking?

Also didn’t agree with some of the doctor’s post:

  • Heterochronic parabiosis of young and old animals is wildly different from fecal transfer. Can’t really compare them to any level of detail.
  • Using a rodent young-to-old fecal microbiota transplant study to imply the same effects would happen in humans? Humans don’t live in controlled environments, so why would a young human individual’s gut microbiota necessarily have healthier effects than an old individual’s?
  • Another example was the penultimate paragraph: “By adding a mix of prebiotic fibers to your diet and maintaining a more youthful and less inflammatory microbiome you will have less inflammation, less endotoxaemia and less inflammageing. You will therefore live healthier and longer.” I’m okay with the first sentence. Equivalating the first sentence to both healthspan and lifespan increases in the second sentence wasn’t supported by any of the 45 cited references.

Reversing hair greying

I’ll highlight this 2021 human study’s findings regarding stress:

“We profiled hair pigmentation patterns (HPPs) along individual human hair shafts, producing quantifiable physical timescales of rapid greying transitions. White/grey hairs that naturally regain pigmentation across sex, ethnicities, ages, and body regions, quantitatively define reversibility of greying in humans.

A systematic survey of two-colored hairs on the scalp of a 35-year-old Caucasian male with auburn hair color over a 2-day period yielded five two-colored hair shafts (HSs) from the frontal and temporal scalp regions. Unexpectedly, all HSs exhibited reversal. HPP analysis further showed that all HSs underwent reversal of greying around the same time period.

A retrospective assessment of psychosocial stress levels using a time-anchored visual analog scale (participants rate and link specific life events with start and end dates) was then compared to HPPs. Reversal of greying for all hairs coincided closely with decline in stress and a 1-month period of lowest stress over the past year (0 on a scale of 0–10) following a 2-week vacation.

vacay

We were also able to examine a two-colored hair characterized by an unusual pattern of complete HS greying followed by rapid and complete reversal plucked from the scalp of a 30-year-old Asian female participant with black hair. HPP analysis of this HS showed a white segment representing approximately 2 cm.

Quantitative life stress assessment revealed a specific 2-month period associated with an objective life stressor (marital conflict and separation, concluded with relocation) where the participant rated her perceived stress as highest (9–10 out of 10) over the past year. The increase in stress corresponded in time with complete but reversible hair greying.

separation

We document a complete switch-on/off phenomena during a single anagen cycle. Proteomic features of hair greying directly implicate multiple metabolic pathways that are both reversible in nature and sensitive to stress-related neuroendocrine factors.

This new method to quantitatively map recent life history in HPPs provides an opportunity to longitudinally examine the influence of recent life exposures on human biology. Additional prospective studies with larger sample sizes are needed to confirm robust reproducibility and generalizability of our findings.”

https://elifesciences.org/articles/67437 “Quantitative mapping of human hair greying and reversal in relation to life stress”