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.” “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.” “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.” “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.” “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.” “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”

How do you like my sand art?PXL_20221016_154923750

Sulforaphane nose drops

This 2022 rodent study compared capabilities of intranasal nanoparticle sulforaphane and free sulforaphane to mitigate brain damage caused by a common cancer treatment:

“Non-invasive intranasal (IN) trafficking of therapeutic agents with nanocarriers can enhance efficacy of drug delivery, biodistribution, bioavailability, and absorption against enzymatic degradation and extracellular transportation. Direct IN trafficking of nanocarriers is expected to reduce drug wastage, administration frequency, and undesirable adverse effects.

The nasal route for brain-targeted delivery of sulforaphane (SF) loaded within iron oxide nanoparticles (Fe3O4-NPs) was based on improving physicochemical stability of SF, and to enhance its bioavailability by avoiding oral route drawbacks like extensive first-pass metabolism and intestinal drug degradation.

Cisplatin (CIS) significantly induced a significant increase in acetylcholinesterase activities and lipid peroxides, and a significant decrement in glutathione and nitric oxide contents. We aimed to explore the nanotherapeutic potential of intranasally delivered SF loaded within Fe3O4-NPs (N.SF) against CIS-induced neurotoxicity through different biochemical, behavioral, and histological investigations.

hippocampus damage

Treatment with N.SF was more capable of mitigating both CIS-induced striatal and cortical injuries. IN treatment with either SF or N.SF showed equal alleviative potential regarding CIS-induced hippocampal or cerebellar injury.

These encouraging results demonstrated the potential use of iron-oxide NPs as neurotherapeutic agents, and confirmed the possibility of developing a novel promising and non-invasive intranasal delivery system for treatment of CIS-induced neurotoxicity.” “Neuroprotective Potential of Intranasally Delivered Sulforaphane-Loaded Iron Oxide Nanoparticles Against Cisplatin-Induced Neurotoxicity”

I found this study from it citing a paper in Do broccoli sprouts treat migraines?


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.” “The Role of Microbiome in Brain Development and Neurodegenerative Diseases”


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.” “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.” “DNA methylation clock DNAmFitAge shows regular exercise is associated with slower aging and systemic adaptation


Variable aging measurements

Two papers on aging measurements, starting with a 2022 human study:

“We collected longitudinally across the adult age range a comprehensive list of phenotypes within four domains (body composition, energetics, homeostatic mechanisms and neurodegeneration / neuroplasticity) and functional outcomes. We integrated individual deviations from population trajectories into a global longitudinal phenotypic metric of aging.

blsa participant ages

We demonstrate that accelerated longitudinal phenotypic aging is associated with faster physical and cognitive decline, faster accumulation of multimorbidity, and shorter survival.” “Longitudinal phenotypic aging metrics in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging”

I disagree with this study’s methodology.

1. Although it acknowledged individual variability, nothing was done to positively adjust to those facts. What could have been done per A review of biological variability was:

“Obtain a measurement of variability that is independent of the mean to ensure to not confound changes in variability with shifts in mean.”

2. A usual research practice is to take at least three measurements, and use their average as representative. That wasn’t done here, maybe because of time and expense considerations?

3. An important measurement for physical function was the time to finish a 400 meter walk. I walk more than ten times that almost every day. I use the first 400 meters as a warmup period while getting to the beach to walk eastward and enjoy the predawn light and water animal activity. I concentrate on gait speed during the last third while walking westward on a straightaway bike path.

This study would measure my gait speed as a sometimes old person during the first 400 meters, rather than a gait speed that usually approaches a young person’s during the last 400 meters. Even if I tried to walk my fastest right out of the gate, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a decade or two difference by this study’s measurements between a morning walk’s first and last 400 meter gait speeds.

4. An important cognitive function measurement was the Digital Symbol Substitution Test, apparently taken during subjects’ fasted state? Sometimes after exercising, I’m okay cognitively when starting work in a fasted state at 6:30 a.m., and other times I’m tired.

Two days ago during the last hour of work 1:30-2:30 p.m., I did outstanding work, four hours after eating whole oats for breakfast, and after drinking two coffees and three teas. I took time to put together pieces of puzzles into proper contexts for management’s attention. My bosses weren’t too pleased with the story it told, but it is what it is.

5. Are measurements of how you start what matters? Or is it how you finish, as is common in competitive sports?

This study would measure my cognitive function as a sometimes old person, rather than performance that approaches a young person’s later in the workday. For both physical and cognitive function, my abilities to ramp up and come close to young people’s capabilities are features that I work on, not random, inconvenient measurement variability.

6. Blood measurements were downgraded as having “limited coverage of the four phenotypic domains.” These were taken to fit into specific paradigms and epigenetic clocks. They predictably failed to show causality, as acknowledged with:

“Our analysis showed strong associations between global longitudinal phenotypic score and changes in physical and cognitive function. We did not have sufficient observations to fully separate these two dimensions over time, which would have strengthened the assumption of causality.”

Nowhere in this study was it hinted that all measurements were downstream effects of unmeasured causes. A follow-on study could reanalyze these subjects’ blood samples, MRI, and other measurements for originating upstream factors of signaling pathways and cascades per Signaling pathways and aging and An environmental signaling paradigm of aging.

Reference 35 of this first study was a 2021 human and rodent study that was tossed in as a limitation with:

“We might not have all of the relevant phenotypic measures (for example, more detailed immune profiles) for all participants.”

Its findings included:

“From the blood immunome of 1,001 individuals aged 8–96 years, we developed a deep-learning method based on patterns of systemic age-related inflammation. The resulting inflammatory clock of aging (iAge) tracked with multimorbidity, immunosenescence, frailty and cardiovascular aging, and is also associated with exceptional longevity in centenarians.

Canonical markers of acute infection such as IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α were not major contributors to iAge, indicating that, except for IL-1β, infection-driven inflammatory markers of the acute inflammatory response do not contribute to age-related chronic inflammation.

We conducted a follow-up study in an independent cohort of 97 extremely healthy adults (aged 25–90 years) matched for cardiovascular risk factors (including conserved levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein), selected from a total of 151 recruited participants using strict selection criteria. In this healthy cohort, inflammation markers were measured using a 48-plex cytokine panel. Only 6 circulating immune proteins were significantly correlated with age, with CXCL9 again the largest contributor to age-related inflammation.

CXCL9 is a T-cell chemoattractant induced by IFN-γ and is mostly produced by neutrophils, macrophages and endothelial cells (ECs). We find that CXCL9 is mainly produced by aged endothelium and predicts subclinical levels of cardiovascular aging in nominally healthy individuals.

We did not find any significant correlation between known disease risk factors reported in the study (BMI, smoking, dyslipidemia) and levels of CXCL9 gene or protein expression. We hypothesize that one root cause of CXCL9 overproduction is cellular aging per se, which can trigger metabolic dysfunction.

As ECs but not cardiomyocytes expressed the CXCL9 receptor, CXCR3, we hypothesize that this chemokine acts both in a paracrine fashion (when it is produced by macrophages to attract T cells to the site of injury) and in an autocrine fashion (when it is produced by the endothelium) creating a positive feedback loop. In this model, increasing doses of CXCL9 and expression of its receptor in these cells leads to cumulative deterioration of endothelial function in aging.

IFN-γ did not increase in expression in our cellular aging RNA-seq experiment, suggesting that there are triggers of CXCL9 (other than IFN-γ) that play a role in cellular senescence in the endothelium that are currently unknown. However, in our 1KIP study, IFN-γ was in fact the second-most important negative contributor to iAge, which could be explained by the cell-priming effect of cytokines, where the effect of a first cytokine alters the response to a different one.

iAge derived from immunological cytokines gives us an insight into the salient cytokines that are related to aging and disease. A notable difference compared to other clocks is that iAge is clearly actionable as shown by our experiments in CXCL9 where we can reverse aging phenotypes. More practical approaches range from altering a person’s exposomes (lifestyle) and/or the use of interventions to target CXCL9 and other biomarkers described here.

Our immune metric for human health can identify within healthy older adults with no clinical or laboratory evidence of cardiovascular disease, those at risk for early cardiovascular aging. We demonstrate that CXCL9 is a master regulator of vascular function and cellular senescence, which indicates that therapies targeting CXCL9 could be used to prevent age-related deterioration of the vascular system and other physiological systems as well.” “An inflammatory aging clock (iAge) based on deep learning tracks multimorbidity, immunosenescence, frailty and cardiovascular aging”


Blanching broccoli sprouts

Three 2022 papers of interest cited Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease. Let’s start with a fairly straightforward analysis of blanching broccoli sprouts to produce sulforaphane:

“We investigated the effect of blanching conditions to determine the optimal treatment that maximizes sulforaphane (SFN) content in broccoli sprouts. Broccoli seeds grown under controlled conditions were harvested after 11 days from germination and subjected to different blanching conditions based on a central composite design with temperature and time as experimental factors.

Optimum conditions were blanching at 61 °C for 4.8 min, resulting in 54.3 ± 0.20 µmol SFN/g dry weight, representing a 3.3-fold increase with respect to untreated sprouts. This is the highest SFN content reported for sprouts subjected to any treatment so far.

sfn heat response curve

Broccoli sprouts (20 g) were put in plastic bags, which were vacuum-sealed, and then subjected to time (3.4–11 min)–temperature (32–88 °C) combinations.

  • Blanching at 60 °C for less than 8 min resulted in the highest SFN content.
  • Above this temperature, SFN content decreases.
  • The exceptionally high values obtained in this work may be related to treatment, but also to broccoli cultivar and culture conditions.

Different broccoli tissues and developmental stages express different myrosinase isoforms, and catalytic properties of the enzyme may vary among different tissues. Myrosinase found in broccoli florets has an optimal temperature of around 40 °C, and considering myrosinases from other sources, this temperature may vary between 30 and 70 °C.” “Maximization of Sulforaphane Content in Broccoli Sprouts by Blanching”

This first study used heat-only techniques similar to the uncited Enhancing sulforaphane content. It similarly found a 60°C (140°F) myrosinase cliff as have many other uncited studies.

A second paper was a rodent study:

“We investigated the role of sulforaphane, a well-known NRF2 activator, on age-related mitochondrial and kidney dysfunction. Young (2–4 month) and aged (20–24 month) male Fischer 344 rats were treated with sulforaphane (15 mg/kg body wt/day) in drinking water for four weeks.

Sulforaphane significantly improved mitochondrial function and ameliorated kidney injury by increasing cortical NRF2 expression and activity and decreasing protein expression of KEAP1, a NRF2 repressor. Sulforaphane treatment did not affect renal NRF2 expression or activity and mitochondrial function in young rats.” “Age-Related Mitochondrial Impairment and Renal Injury Is Ameliorated by Sulforaphane via Activation of Transcription Factor NRF2”

A human equivalent to this second study’s daily dose was intolerable at (.162 x 15 mg) x 70 kg = 170 mg. I curated this study anyway just to show an example of negligible treatment effects in young animals even when a dose is too high for humans.

A third paper was a review that focused on sulforaphane and its analogs’ chemistry:

“Analysis of the Web of Science database shows that, since 1992, about 3,890 articles have been published on SFN, and over 5,600 on isothiocyanates. Its natural analogs include iberin, alyssin, iberverin, erucin, berteroin, cheirolin, and erysolin.

SFN is a biologically active, natural isothiocyanate found in cruciferous vegetables, and is non-toxic. It has been selected for phase I and II clinical trials, where it is administered in the form of an extract or broccoli sprouts. There are no differences in biological activity between SFN and its natural analogs, such as erucin or alyssin.

No synthetic analogs of SFN described in this review qualified for clinical trials. This is likely due to the toxicity of these compounds in higher doses.” “Sulforaphane and Its Bifunctional Analogs: Synthesis and Biological Activity”


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.


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.” “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.


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.” “Tauroursodeoxycholic acid: a potential therapeutic tool in neurodegenerative diseases”

Eat broccoli sprouts for depression, Part 2

Here are three papers that cited last year’s Part 1. First is a 2021 rodent study investigating a microRNA’s pro-depressive effects:

“Depressive rat models were established via chronic unpredicted mild stress (CUMS) treatment. Cognitive function of rats was assessed by a series of behavioral tests.


Nrf2 was weakly expressed in CUMS-treated rats, whereas Nrf2 upregulation alleviated cognitive dysfunction and brain inflammatory injury.

Nrf2 inhibited miR-17-5p expression via binding to the miR-17-5p promoter. miR-17-5p was also found to limit wolfram syndrome 1 (Wfs1) transcription.

We found that Nrf2 inhibited miR-17-5p expression and promoted Wfs1 transcription, thereby alleviating cognitive dysfunction and inflammatory injury in rats with depression-like behaviors. We didn’t investigate the role of Nrf2 in other depression models (chronic social stress model and chronic restraint stress model) and important brain regions other than hippocampus, such as prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens. Accordingly, other depression models and brain regions need to be designed and explored to further validate the role of Nrf2 in depression in future studies.” “Nrf2 Alleviates Cognitive Dysfunction and Brain Inflammatory Injury via Mediating Wfs1 in Rats with Depression‑Like Behaviors” (not freely available)

This study demonstrated that activating the Nrf2 pathway inhibited brain inflammation, cognitive dysfunction, and depression. Would modulating one microRNA and one gene in vivo without Nrf2 activation achieve similar results?

A 2021 review focused on the immune system’s role in depression:

“Major depressive disorder is one of the most common psychiatric illnesses. The mean age of patients with this disorder is 30.4 years, and the prevalence is twice higher in women than in men.

Activation of inflammatory pathways in the brain is considered to be an important producer of excitotoxicity and oxidative stress inducer that contributes to neuronal damage seen in the disorder. This activation is mainly due to pro-inflammatory cytokines activating the tryptophan-kynurenine (KP) pathway in microglial cells and astrocytes.

Elevated levels of cortisol exert an inhibitory feedback mechanism on its receptors in the hippocampus and hypothalamus, stopping stimulation of these structures to restore balance. When this balance is disrupted, hypercortisolemia directly stimulates extrahepatic enzyme 2,3-indolimine dioxygenase (IDO) located in various tissues (intestine, placenta, liver, and brain) and immune system macrophages and dendritic cells.

Elevation of IDO activities causes metabolism of 99% of available tryptophan in the KP pathway, substantially reducing serotonin synthesis, and producing reactive oxygen species and nitrogen radicals. The excitotoxicity generated produces tissue lesions, and activates the inflammatory response.” “Inflammatory Process and Immune System in Major Depressive Disorder”

This review highlighted that stress via cortisol and IDO may affect the brain and other parts of the body.

A 2022 review elaborated on Part 1’s findings of MeCP2 as a BDNF inhibitor:

“Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) is a transcriptional regulator that is highly abundant in the brain. It binds to methylated genomic DNA to regulate a range of physiological functions implicated in neuronal development and adult synaptic plasticity.

Ability to cope with stressors relies upon activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. MeCP2 has been shown to contribute to early life stress-dependent epigenetic programming of genes that enhance HPA-axis activity.

We describe known functions of MeCP2 as an epigenetic regulator, and provide evidence for its role in modulating synaptic plasticity via transcriptional regulation of BDNF or other proteins involved in synaptogenesis and synaptic strength like reelin. We conclude that MeCP2 is a promising target for development of novel, more efficacious therapeutics for treatment of stress-related disorders such as depression.” “The Role of MeCP2 in Regulating Synaptic Plasticity in the Context of Stress and Depression”

Osprey lunch


Gut microbiota’s positive epigenetic effects

Three papers with the first a 2021 review:

“Gut microbiota along with their metabolites are involved in health and disease through multiple epigenetic mechanisms including:

  • Affecting transporter activities, e.g. DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs), histone methyltransferases (HMTs), histone acetyltransferases (HATs), and histone deacetylases (HDACs);
  • Providing methyl donors to participate in DNA methylation and histone modifications; and
  • miRNAs that can lead to gene transcriptional modifications.


These mechanisms can participate in a variety of biological processes such as:

  • Maturation of intestinal epithelial cells (IECs);
  • Maintenance of intestinal homeostasis;
  • Inflammatory response;
  • Development of metabolic disorders; and
  • Prevention of colon cancer.” “Dissecting the Interplay Mechanism between Epigenetics and Gut Microbiota: Health Maintenance and Disease Prevention”

A second 2022 review added subjects such as crotonate (aka unsaturated butyrate):

“Studies are carving out potential roles for additional histone modifications, such as crotonylation and ethylation, in facilitating crosstalk between microbiota and host. Lysine crotonylation is a relatively less studied histone modification that is often enriched at active promoters and enhancers in mammalian cells.

While addition or removal of crotonyl motifs can be catalyzed by specialized histone crotonyltransferases and decrotonylases, HATs and HDACs have also been reported to exhibit histone crotonyl-modifying activity. Microbiota stimulate multiple types of histone modifications and regulate activity of histone-modifying enzymes to calibrate local and extra-intestinal chromatin landscapes.” “Epigenetic regulation by gut microbiota”

A third 2021 review added subjects such as broccoli sprout compounds’ epigenetic effects:

“Glucosinolates are converted into isothiocyanates (ITCs) by bacteria that regulate host epigenetics. Levels of ITCs produced following broccoli consumption are highly dependent on the functional capacity of individual microbiomes, as much interindividual variability exists in gut microbiota composition and function in humans.

Sulforaphane inhibits HDAC activity both in vitro and in vivo, and protects against tumor development. Microbial-mediated production of ITCs represents a strong diet-microbe interaction that has a direct impact on host epigenome and health.” “The interplay between diet, gut microbes, and host epigenetics in health and disease”

Clearing the channel


Defend yourself with taurine

This densely packed 2021 review subject was taurine:

“Taurine (Tau), a sulphur-containing non-proteinogenic β-amino acid, has a special place as an important natural modulator of antioxidant defence networks:

  • Direct antioxidant effect of Tau due to scavenging free radicals is limited, and could be expected only in a few tissues (heart and eye) with comparatively high concentrations.
  • Maintaining optimal Tau status of mitochondria controls free radical production.
  • Indirect antioxidant activities of Tau due to modulating transcription factors leading to upregulation of the antioxidant defence network are likely to be major molecular mechanisms of Tau’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.
  • A range of toxicological models clearly show protective antioxidant-related effects of Tau.”

antioxidants-10-01876-g001-550 “Taurine as a Natural Antioxidant: From Direct Antioxidant Effects to Protective Action in Various Toxicological Models”


Dementia blood factors

This 2021 human study performed blood metabolite analyses:

“Dementia is a collective term to describe various symptoms of cognitive impairment in a condition in which intelligence is irreversibly diminished due to acquired organic disorders of the brain, characterized by deterioration of memory, thinking, behavior, and the ability to perform daily activities.

In this study, we conducted nontargeted, comprehensive analysis of blood metabolites in dementia patients. Effort expended in this ‘no assumptions’ approach is often recompensed by identification of diagnostic compounds overlooked by targeted analysis.

The great variability of data in Figure 1 reflects genuine individual variation in metabolites, which were accurately detected by our metabolomic analysis. These data demonstrate that compounds having small to large individual variability are implicated in dementia.

dementia blood factors

7 group A compounds – plasma-enriched dementia factors – increased in dementia patients and might have a negative toxic impact on central nervous system (CNS) functions by themselves or their degradation products.

26 group B to E metabolites may be beneficial for the CNS, as their quantity all declined in dementia patients:

  • Red blood cell (RBC)-enriched group B metabolites all containing the trimethyl-ammonium ion may protect the CNS through their antioxidative and other activity.
  • Group C compounds, also RBC-enriched, have cellular functions implicated in energy, redox, and so forth, and may be important for maintaining CNS brain functions.
  • Group D’s 12 plasma compounds (amino acids, nucleosides, choline, and carnitine) – half of which had been reported as Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-related markers – may underpin actions of other metabolites for supply and degradation. Consistency of group D plasma metabolites as dementia markers but not group B and C RBC metabolites validated the method of searching dementia markers that we employed in the present study.
  • Group E compounds, caffeine and and its derivative dimethyl-xanthine, declined greatly in dementia subjects. Caffeine is an antagonist of adenosine, consistent with the present finding that adenosine belongs to group A compounds.

Twelve [groups B + C] of these 33 compounds are RBC-enriched, which has been scarcely reported. The majority of metabolites enriched in RBCs were not identified in previous studies.

Nine compounds possessing trimethylated ammonium ions are amphipathic compounds (with both hydrophilic and lipophilic properties) and form the basis of lipid polymorphism. All of them showed a sharp decline in abundance in dementia subjects.

amphipathic compounds

These amphipathic compounds may have similar roles, forming a higher-ordered, assembled structure. They might act as major neuroprotectants or antioxidants in the brain, and their levels are sensitive to both antioxidants and ROS.

We speculate the 7 group A compounds pathologically enhance or lead to severe dementia such as AD. This presumed dementia deterioration by group A factors is opposed if group B to E metabolites are sufficiently supplied.

However, group A markers were not found in frail subjects. If the change in group A is causal for dementia, then a cognitive cause in frailty may be distinct from that of dementia.” “Whole-blood metabolomics of dementia patients reveal classes of disease-linked metabolites”

Dementia subjects (ages 75-88) lived in an Okinawa hospital. Healthy elderly (ages 67-80) and young (ages 28-34) subjects lived in a neighboring village. Of the 24 subjects, 3 dementia and 1 healthy elderly were below a 18.5 to <25 BMI range, and none were above.

Get neuroprotectants working for you. Previous relevant curations included:

Natural products vs. neurodegenerative diseases

I was recently asked about taking rapamycin for its effects on mTOR. I replied that diet could do the same thing. Here’s a 2021 review outlining such effects:

“As common, progressive, and chronic causes of disability and death, neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs) significantly threaten human health, while no effective treatment is available. Recent studies have revealed the role of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt (Protein kinase B)/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in some diseases and natural products with therapeutic potentials.

Growing evidence highlights the dysregulated PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway and interconnected mediators in pathogenesis of NDDs. Side effects and drug-resistance of conventional neuroprotective agents urge the need for providing alternative therapies.


Polyphenols, alkaloids, carotenoids, and terpenoids have shown to be capable of a great modulation of PI3K/Akt/mTOR in NDDs. Natural products potentially target various important oxidative/inflammatory/apoptotic/autophagic molecules/mediators, such as Bax, Bcl-2, p53, caspase-3, caspase-9, NF-κB, TNF-α, GSH, SOD, MAPK, GSK-3β, Nrf2/HO-1, JAK/STAT, CREB/BDNF, ERK1/2, and LC3 towards neuroprotection.

This is the first systematic and comprehensive review with a simultaneous focus on the critical role of PI3K/Akt/mTOR in NDDs and associated targeting by natural products.” “Natural products attenuate PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway: A promising strategy in regulating neurodegeneration” (not freely available) Thanks to Dr. Sajad Fakhri for providing a copy.

Natural products mentioned in this review that I eat in everyday foods are listed below. The most effective ones are broccoli and red cabbage sprouts, and oats and oat sprouts:

  • Artichokes – luteolin;
  • Blackberries – anthocyanins;
  • Blueberries – anthocyanins, gallic acid, pterostilbene;
  • Broccoli and red cabbage sprouts – anthocyanins, kaempferol, luteolin, quercetin, sulforaphane;
  • Carrots – carotenoids;
  • Celery – apigenin, luteolin;
  • Green tea – epigallocatechin gallate;
  • Oats and oat sprouts – avenanthramides;
  • Strawberries – anthocyanins, fisetin;
  • Tomatoes – fisetin.

Four humpback whales



Blood pressure and pain

A trio of papers, with the second and third citing a 2013 review:

“The relationship between pain and hypertension is potentially of great pathophysiological and clinical interest, but is poorly understood. Perception of acute pain initially plays an adaptive role, which results in prevention of tissue damage.

The consequence of ascending nociception is recruitment of segmental spinal reflexes through physiological neuronal connections:

  • In proportion to magnitude and duration of the stimulus, these spinal reflexes cause sympathetic nervous system activation, which increases peripheral resistances, heart rate, and stroke volume; and
  • The response also involves the neuroendocrine system, in particular, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, in addition to further activation of the sympathetic system by adrenal glands.

Persistent pain tends to become chronic and to increase BP values. After a long time, dysfunction of release of endogenous opioids results in a reduction of their analgesic effect. A vicious circle is established, where further pain leads to a reduction in pain tolerance, associated with decreased analgesia mediated by baroreceptors, in a kind of process of exhaustion.” “The Relationship Between Blood Pressure and Pain”

A second paper was a 2021 human experimental pain study:

“We investigated the effectiveness of physiological signals for automatic pain intensity estimation that can either substitute for, or complement patients’ self-reported information. Results indicate that for both subject-independent and subject-dependent scenarios, electrodermal activity (EDA) – which is also referred to as skin conductance (SC) or galvanic skin response – was the best signal for pain intensity estimation.

EDA gave mean absolute error (MAE) = 0.93 using only 3 time-series features:

  1. Time intervals between successive extreme events above the mean;
  2. Time intervals between successive extreme events below the mean; and
  3. Exponential fit to successive distances in 2-dimensional embedding space.

Although we obtained good results using 22 EDA features, we further explored to see if we could reach similar or better results with fewer EDA features. This plot highlights that by considering only the top 3 features, we obtained the same level of performance given by all 22 features together.


This is the first study that achieved less than 1-unit error for continuous pain intensity estimation using only one physiological sensor’s 3 time-series feature, and a Support Vector Regression machine learning model. Considering that this is an encouraging result, we can estimate objective pain using only the EDA sensor, which needs neither a complex setup nor a complex computationally intense machine learning algorithm.

This study paves the way for developing a smart pain measurement wearable device that can change the quality of pain management significantly.” “Exploration of physiological sensors, features, and machine learning models for pain intensity estimation”

A third paper was a 2020 human rotator cuff surgery study:

“Results of our study demonstrated that:

  • Pain during the early postoperative period;
  • Time until occurrence of a retear; and
  • Existence of hypertension

were correlated with severity of pain in patients with a retorn rotator cuff.

Pain was selected as the sole outcome parameter of this study because:

  • Pain is an important factor that compels patients to seek treatment for rotator cuff tears, along with functional disability;
  • Pain and subjective functional deficits are important factors that influence a surgeon’s decision to continue with treatment in cases of retearing; and
  • Analyzing pain severity can be a good way to determine patients’ overall satisfaction after rotator cuff repair.

However, pain is not always correlated with disease severity or tear size and vice versa. A lack of pain does not necessarily depend on integrity of the repaired tendon or constitute a good prognosis. In fact, patients with partial-thickness rotator cuff tears showed more pain than did those with full-thickness tears.

Existence of hypertension had a proportional relationship with pain at 12 months postoperatively in patients with retears. This can be interpreted as a suggestion that pain in patients with retears is not acute, but rather chronic, and may be connected to pain in the early postoperative period at 3 months. However, results of this study cannot explain benefits of controlling hypertension in alleviating pain in patients with retears.” “Factors Related to Pain in Patients With Retorn Rotator Cuffs: Early Postoperative Pain Predicts Pain at 12 Months Postoperatively”


Ride the waves of gene expression with betaine

This 2021 cell study investigated a dietary supplement’s role in preventing nerve disease:

“A loss of epigenetic control has been implicated in development of neurodegenerative diseases. Previous studies have implicated aberrant DNA and histone methylation in multiple sclerosis (MS) disease pathogenesis.

We have previously reported that methyl donor betaine is depleted in MS and is linked to changes in histone H3 trimethylation (H3K4me3) in neurons. We have also shown that betaine increases histone methyltransferase activity by activating chromatin bound betaine homocysteine S-methyltransferase (BHMT).

A hallmark of MS is the death of oligodendrocytes, the cells responsible for wrapping axons in myelin in the central nervous system and maintaining a healthy sheath. In demyelinating diseases like MS, oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) fail to differentiate and make more myelin, resulting in sclerotic lesions.

Promoting differentiation of OPCs and generation of myelin is of great interest as a novel MS therapy. Waves of gene regulation (repression and activation) need to occur to promote myelination.

This BHMT-betaine methylation pathway ensures availability of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) for a variety of DNA and histone methylation processes. OPC survival and differentiation are dependent upon DNA and histone methylation, and both processes require SAM.


BHMT uses betaine to remethylate homocysteine to methionine. Betaine can be taken in through the diet or synthesized through the oxidation of choline in mitochondria.

We demonstrated that oligodendrocyte gene expression can be modulated by betaine supplementation through the BHMT-betaine methylation pathway. Our study suggests that dietary betaine supplementation may prove to be a therapeutic agent for MS and other demyelinating disorders.” “The BHMT-betaine methylation pathway epigenetically modulates oligodendrocyte maturation”

I started taking betaine 16 years ago. Didn’t know of these effects until reading this study.

Treating psychopathological symptoms will somehow resolve causes? had more on betaine (aka trimethyl glycine). Current dose is 1.5 grams twice daily.

The future of your brain is in your gut right now

A 2020 paper by the author of Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease:

“The gut and brain communicate bidirectionally via several pathways which include:

  1. Neural via the vagus nerve;
  2. Endocrine via the HPA axis;
  3. Neurotransmitters, some of which are synthesized by microbes;
  4. Immune via cytokines; and
  5. Metabolic via microbially generated short-chain fatty acids.

How does nature maintain the gut-microbiome-brain axis? Mechanisms to maintain homeostasis of intestinal epithelial cells and their underlying cells are a key consideration.

The symbiotic relationship that exists between microbiota and the human host is evident when considering nutrient requirements of each. The host provides food for microbes, which consume that food to produce metabolites necessary for health of the host.

Consider function of the human nervous system, not in isolation but in integration with the gastrointestinal ecosystem of the host, in expectation of a favorable impact on human health and behavior.” “Chapter 14 – The gut microbiome: its role in brain health” (not freely available)

Always more questions:

  1. What did you put into your gut today?
  2. What type of internal environment did it support?
  3. What “favorable impact on human health and behavior” do you expect from today’s intake?
  4. How will you feel?
  5. Will you let evidence guide feeding your gut environment?

See Harnessing endogenous defenses with broccoli sprouts for further elaboration. See Switch on your Nrf2 signaling pathway for an interview with these papers’ author.