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.”

https://www.pnas.org/content/118/37/e2022857118 “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:

The Illusion of Knowledge: The paradigm shift in aging research that shows the way to human rejuvenation

Dr. Harold Katcher increased interviews to coincide with release of his book this month. Here’s one in four parts that provides highlights of his rejuvenation research progress:


Previously curated papers of his work include:

Epigenetic clocks so far in 2021

2021’s busiest researcher took time out this month to update progress on epigenetic clocks:

Hallmarks of aging aren’t all associated with epigenetic aging.

epigenetic aging vs. hallmarks of aging

Interventions that increase cellular lifespan aren’t all associated with epigenetic aging.

epigenetic aging vs. cellular lifespan

Many of his authored or coauthored 2021 papers developed human / mammalian species relative-age epigenetic clocks.

epigenetic clock mammalian maximum lifespan

Relative-age epigenetic clocks better predict human results from animal testing.

pan-mammalian epigenetic clock


Previously curated papers that were mentioned or relevant 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.

1-s2.0-S0944711321002075-ga1_lrg

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.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0944711321002075 “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

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All about vasopressin

This 2021 review subject was vasopressin:

“Vasopressin is a ubiquitous molecule playing an important role in a wide range of physiological processes, thereby implicated in pathomechanisms of many disorders. The most striking is its central effect in stress-axis regulation, as well as regulating many aspects of our behavior.

Arginine-vasopressin (AVP) is a nonapeptide that is synthesized mainly in the supraoptic, paraventricular (PVN), and suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. AVP cell groups of hypothalamus and midbrain were found to be glutamatergic, whereas those in regions derived from cerebral nuclei were mainly GABAergic.

In the PVN, AVP can be found together with corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), the main hypothalamic regulator of the HPA axis. The AVPergic system participates in regulation of several physiological processes, from stress hormone release through memory formation, thermo- and pain regulation, to social behavior.

vasopressin stress axis

AVP determines behavioral responses to environmental stimuli, and participates in development of social interactions, aggression, reproduction, parental behavior, and belonging. Alterations in AVPergic tone may be implicated in pathology of stress-related disorders (anxiety and depression), Alzheimer’s, posttraumatic stress disorder, as well as schizophrenia.

An increasing body of evidence confirms epigenetic contribution to changes in AVP or AVP receptor mRNA level, not only during the early perinatal period, but also in adulthood:

  • DNA methylation is more targeted on a single gene; and it is better characterized in relation to AVP;
  • Some hint for bidirectional interaction with histone acetylation was also described; and
  • miRNAs are implicated in the hormonal, peripheral role of AVP, and less is known about their interaction regarding behavioral alteration.”

https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/22/17/9415/htm “Epigenetic Modulation of Vasopressin Expression in Health and Disease”


Find your way, regardless of what the herd does.

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Take acetyl-L-carnitine for early-life trauma

This 2021 rodent study traumatized female mice during their last 20% of pregnancy, with effects that included:

  • Prenatally stressed pups raised by stressed mothers had normal cognitive function, but depressive-like behavior and social impairment;
  • Prenatally stressed pups raised by control mothers did not reverse behavioral deficits; and
  • Control pups raised by stressed mothers displayed prenatally stressed pups’ behavioral phenotypes.

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) protected against and reversed depressive-like behavior induced by prenatal trauma:

alcar regime

ALCAR was supplemented in drinking water of s → S mice either from weaning to adulthood (3–8 weeks), or for one week in adulthood (7–8 weeks). ALCAR supplementation from weaning rendered s → S mice resistant to developing depressive-like behavior.

ALCAR supplementation for 1 week during adulthood rescued depressive-like behavior. One week after ALCAR cessation, however, the anti-depressant effect of ALCAR was diminished.

Intergenerational trauma induces social deficits and depressive-like behavior through divergent and convergent mechanisms of both in utero and early-life parenting environments:

  • We establish 2-HG [2-hydroxyglutaric acid, a hypoxia and mitochondrial dysfunction marker, and an epigenetic modifier] as an early predictive biomarker for trauma-induced behavioral deficits; and
  • Demonstrate that early pharmacological correction of mitochondria metabolism dysfunction by ALCAR can permanently reverse behavioral deficits.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-021-02255-2 “Intergenerational trauma transmission is associated with brain metabotranscriptome remodeling and mitochondrial dysfunction”


Previously curated studies cited were:

This study had an effusive endorsement of acetyl-L-carnitine in its Discussion section, ending with:

“This has the potential to change lives of millions of people who suffer from major depression or have risk of developing this disabling disorder, particularly those in which depression arose from prenatal traumatic stress.”

I take a gram daily. Don’t know about prenatal trauma, but I’m certain what happened during my early childhood.

I asked both these researchers and those of Reference 70 for their estimates of a human equivalent to “0.3% ALCAR in drinking water.” Will update with their replies.


PXL_20210704_095621886

The brainstem’s parabrachial nucleus

I often reread blog posts that you read. Yesterday, a reader clicked Treat your gut microbiota as one of your organs. On rereading, I saw that I didn’t properly reference the parabrachial nucleus as being part of the brainstem.

A “parabrachial nucleus” search led me to a discussion of two 2020 rodent studies:

“Nociceptive signals entering the brain via the spinothalamic pathway allow us to detect location and intensity of a painful sensation. But, at least as importantly, nociceptive inputs also reach other brain regions that give pain its emotional texture.

Key to that circuitry is the parabrachial nucleus (PBN), a tiny cluster of cells in the brainstem associated with homeostatic regulation of things like temperature and food intake, response to aversive stimuli, and perceptions of many kinds. Two new papers advance understanding of PBN’s role in pain:

  1. The PBN receives inhibitory inputs from GABAergic neurons in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA). Those inputs are diminished in chronic pain conditions, leading to PBN hyperactivity and increased pain perception. Disinhibition of the amygdalo-parabrachial pathway may be crucial to establishing chronic pain.
  2. The dorsal PBN is the first receiver of spinal nociceptive input. It transmits certain inputs to the ventral medial hypothalamus and lateral periaqueductal gray. Certain of its neurons transmit noxious inputs to the external lateral PBN, which then transmits those inputs to the CeA and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. This is quite new, that nociceptive information the CeA receives has already been processed by the PBN. They measured many pain-related behaviors: place aversion, avoidance, and escape. That allowed them to dissect different pain-related behaviors in relation to distinct subnuclei of the PBN.

1Inline2

Chronic pain is manufactured by the brain. It’s not a one-way process driven by something coming up from the periphery. The brain is actively constructing a chronic pain state in part by this recurring circuit.

A role of the PBN is to sound an alarm when an organism is in danger, but its roles go further. It is a key homeostatic center, weighing short-term versus long-term survival. If you’re warm, fed, and comfortable, organisms can address long-term directives like procreation. When you’re unsafe, though, you need to put those things off and deal with the emergency.”

https://www.painresearchforum.org/news/147704-parabrachial-nucleus-takes-pain-limelight “The Parabrachial Nucleus Takes the Pain Limelight”

https://www.jneurosci.org/content/40/17/3424 “An Amygdalo-Parabrachial Pathway Regulates Pain Perception and Chronic Pain”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S089662732030221X “Divergent Neural Pathways Emanating from the Lateral Parabrachial Nucleus Mediate Distinct Components of the Pain Response”


Two dozen papers have since cited these two studies. One that caught my eye was a 2021 rodent study:

“Migraines cause significant disability and contribute heavily to healthcare costs. Irritation of the meninges’ outermost layer (the dura mater), and trigeminal ganglion activation contribute to migraine initiation.

Dura manipulation in humans during neurosurgery is often painful, and dura irritation is considered an initiating factor in migraine. In rodents, dura irritation models migraine-like symptoms.

Maladaptive changes in central pain-processing regions are also important in maintaining pain. The parabrachial complex (PB) receives diverse sensory information, including a direct input from the trigeminal ganglion.

PB-projecting trigeminal ganglion neurons project also to the dura. These neurons represent a direct pathway between the dura, a structure implicated in migraine, and PB, a key node in chronic pain and aversion.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2452073X21000015 “Parabrachial complex processes dura inputs through a direct trigeminal ganglion-to-parabrachial connection”


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Eat oats and regain cognitive normalcy

This 2020 rodent study investigated effects of different diets:

“The present study aimed to evaluate effects of β-glucan on the microbiota gut-brain axis and cognitive function in an obese mouse model induced by a high-fat and fiber-deficient diet (HFFD). After long-term supplementation for 15 weeks, β-glucan prevented HFFD-induced cognitive impairment, assessed behaviorally by object location, novel object recognition, and nesting building tests:

  • Long-term β-glucan supplementation suppressed microglia activation and inflammation in hippocampus of HFFD-fed mice;
  • β-glucan attenuated deleterious engulfment of synapses by activation of microglia seen in HFFD mice;
  • β-glucan significantly prevented upregulation of TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-6 mRNA expression in hippocampus; and
  • A broad-spectrum antibiotic intervention abrogated β-glucan-induced improvement in cognitive function, highlighting the essential role of gut microbiota to mediate cognitive function and behavior.

We found that short-term β-glucan supplementation did not change cognitive behavior in HFFD fed mice. HFFD feeding for 7 days dramatically changed gut microbial profile, with β-glucan-fed mice clustered apart from HFFD-fed mice sample, suggesting:

  • Quick changes in gut microbiota are induced by short-term β-glucan consumption and
  • Possible causality of gut microbiota profile on cognition.

7% β-glucan 7% nondigestible fiber

β-glucan supplementation increased place discrimination ratio in object location test compared with HFFD mice; however, there was no significant difference in total exploration time with objects during test phases between the two groups. Higher place discrimination index in β-glucan supplementation group was not due to better general performance, but increased recognition memory.

Results provide consistent evidence linking increased β-glucan intake to improved:

  • Gut microbiota profile;
  • Intestinal barrier function;
  • Reduced endotoxemia; and
  • Enhanced cognitive function via more optimized synaptic and signaling pathways in critical brain areas.

It is speculative that β-glucan improvement of gut microbiota composition, but not necessarily diversity per se, may be most critical for improved cognition. Enhanced consumption of β-glucan-rich foods is an easily implementable nutritional strategy to attenuate diet-induced cognitive decline.

https://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-020-00920-y “β-glucan attenuates cognitive impairment via the gut-brain axis in diet-induced obese mice”


This study did well by elaborating It’s the fiber, not the fat and Eat oats to prevent diabetes related findings. How many humans eat themselves into essentially the same situation as this HFFD group with no gut-microbiota-friendly dietary fiber?

Experiments were with β-glucan 1,3/1,4 found in oats. β-glucan 1,3/1,6 has separate effects, especially on innate immunity.

It’s a coin toss on whether observed cognitive improvement was due to 7% β-glucan soluble fiber, 7% indigestible fiber, or both. I do both, beginning with Avena nuda oats for breakfast.

Every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser

Another great blog post Know When To Fold ‘Em by Dr. Paul Clayton:

“Newly formed proteins entering the endoplasmic reticulum must be correctly folded to achieve their final form and function. This is a complex procedure with a failure rate of over 80%.

When metabolism is sufficiently skewed, accuracy of protein folding in the endoplasmic reticulum falls below an already low baseline of 20%. Accumulation of misfolded or unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum then triggers stress.

Integrated Stress Response (ISR) is something that cells do when they are affected by major stressors:

  • ISR turns down global protein synthesis, which is designed to kill virally infected or cancerous cells. If it kills the cancer cell or virally infected cell, that is the end of it.
  • If the stressor is in the heat / hypoxia / nutrient group, however, ISR effectively puts a cell into dark mode until hard times are over. Once the stressor has passed, a cell can then start to recover and return to homeostatic health.
  • But if the stressor is sustained, a low-grade ISR continues to smolder away, causing long-term impairment locally and ultimately systemically. Accumulation of misfolded or unfolded proteins activates ISR, leading to a down-regulation of protein synthesis, and increasing protein folding and degradation of unfolded proteins.

This is analogous to inflammation. Acute inflammatory responses to a pathogen or to tissue damage are entirely adaptive, and essential. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, causes local and eventually systemic damage if left unchecked for long enough.”


A 2020 rodent study was cited for “reversing age-related cognitive decline”:

“This suggests that the aged brain has not permanently lost cognitive capacities. Rather, cognitive resources are still there, but have been somehow blocked, trapped by a vicious cycle of cellular stress.

Our work with ISR inhibition demonstrates a way to break that cycle, and restore cognitive abilities that had become walled off over time.

stress response inhibitor effects

If these findings in mice translate into human physiology, they offer hope and a tangible strategy to sustain cognitive ability as we age.”

https://elifesciences.org/articles/62048 “Small molecule cognitive enhancer reverses age-related memory decline in mice”


I’m curious as to why sulforaphane hasn’t been mentioned even once in Dr. Paul Clayton’s blog, which started three years ago. Do hundreds of sulforaphane studies performed in this century not contribute to his perspective? Polyphenols are mentioned a dozen times, yet they are 1% bioavailable compared with 80% “small molecule” sulforaphane.

Advice from the song depends on your definition of money:

“Know when to walk away
Know when to run
Never count your money
When you’re sitting at the table”

Gut microbiota topics

Here are thirty 2019 and 2020 papers related to Switch on your Nrf2 signaling pathway topics. Started gathering research on this particular theme three months ago.

There are more researchers alive today than in the sum of all history, and they’re publishing. I can’t keep up with the torrent of interesting papers.

on

2020 A prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharide promotes tight junction assembly in intestinal epithelial cells via an AMPK-dependent pathway

2019 Polyphenols and Intestinal Permeability: Rationale and Future Perspectives

2020 Prebiotic effect of dietary polyphenols: A systematic review

2019 Protease‐activated receptor signaling in intestinal permeability regulation

2020 Intestinal vitamin D receptor signaling ameliorates dextran sulfate sodium‐induced colitis by suppressing necroptosis of intestinal epithelial cells

2019 Intestinal epithelial cells: at the interface of the microbiota and mucosal immunity

2020 The Immature Gut Barrier and Its Importance in Establishing Immunity in Newborn Mammals

2019 Prebiotics and the Modulation on the Microbiota-GALT-Brain Axis

2019 Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Bacterial Infections

2020 Vitamin D Modulates Intestinal Microbiota in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

2020 Microbial tryptophan metabolites regulate gut barrier function via the aryl hydrocarbon receptor

2019 Involvement of Astrocytes in the Process of Metabolic Syndrome

2020 Intestinal Bacteria Maintain Adult Enteric Nervous System and Nitrergic Neurons via Toll-like Receptor 2-induced Neurogenesis in Mice (not freely available)

2019 Akkermansia muciniphila ameliorates the age-related decline in colonic mucus thickness and attenuates immune activation in accelerated aging Ercc1−/Δ7 mice

2020 Plasticity of Paneth cells and their ability to regulate intestinal stem cells

2020 Coagulopathy associated with COVID-19 – Perspectives & Preventive strategies using a biological response modifier Glucan

2020 Synergy between Cell Surface Glycosidases and Glycan-Binding Proteins Dictates the Utilization of Specific Beta(1,3)-Glucans by Human Gut Bacteroides

2020 Shaping the Innate Immune Response by Dietary Glucans: Any Role in the Control of Cancer?

2020 Systemic microbial TLR2 agonists induce neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease mice

2019 Prebiotic supplementation in frail older people affects specific gut microbiota taxa but not global diversity

2020 Effectiveness of probiotics, prebiotics, and prebiotic‐like components in common functional foods

2020 Postbiotics-A Step Beyond Pre- and Probiotics

2019 Pain regulation by gut microbiota: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential

2020 Postbiotics: Metabolites and mechanisms involved in microbiota-host interactions

2020 Postbiotics against Pathogens Commonly Involved in Pediatric Infectious Diseases

2019 Glutamatergic Signaling Along The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis

2019 Lipoteichoic acid from the cell wall of a heat killed Lactobacillus paracasei D3-5 ameliorates aging-related leaky gut, inflammation and improves physical and cognitive functions: from C. elegans to mice

2020 Live and heat-killed cells of Lactobacillus plantarum Zhang-LL ease symptoms of chronic ulcerative colitis induced by dextran sulfate sodium in rats

2019 Health Benefits of Heat-Killed (Tyndallized) Probiotics: An Overview

2020 New Horizons in Microbiota and Metabolic Health Research (not freely available)

Our first 1000 days

This 2021 review subject was a measurable aspect of our early lives:

“The first 1000 days from conception are a sensitive period for human development programming. During this period, environmental exposures may result in long-lasting epigenetic imprints that contribute to future developmental trajectories.

The present review reports on effects of adverse and protective environmental conditions occurring on glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) regulation in humans. Thirty-four studies were included.

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is key in regulating mobilization of energy. It is involved in stress reactivity and regulation, and it supports development of behavioral, cognitive, and socio-emotional domains.

The NR3C1 gene encodes for specific glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) in the mammalian brain, and it is epigenetically regulated by environmental exposures.

When mixed stressful conditions were not differentiated for their effects on NR3C1 methylation, no significant results were obtained, which speaks in favor of specificity of epigenetic vestiges of different adverse conditions. Specific maternal behaviors and caregiving actions – such as breastfeeding, sensitive and contingent interactive behavior, and gentle touch – consistently correlated with decreased NR3C1 methylation.

If the neuroendocrine system of a developing fetus and infant is particularly sensitive to environmental stimulations, this model may provide the epigenetic basis to inform promotion of family-centered prevention, treatment, and supportive interventions for at-risk conditions. A more ambiguous picture emerged for later effects of NR3C1 methylation on developmental outcomes during infancy and childhood, suggesting that future research should favor epigenome-wide approaches to long-term epigenetic programming in humans.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0149763421001081 “Glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) methylation during the first thousand days: Environmental exposures and developmental outcomes” (not freely available). Thanks to Dr. Livio Provenci for providing a copy.


I respectfully disagree with recommendations for an EWAS approach during infancy and childhood. What happened to each of us wasn’t necessarily applicable to a group. Group statistics may make interesting research topics, but they won’t change anything for each individual.

Regarding treatment, our individual experiences and needs during our first 1000 days should be repeatedly sensed and felt in order to be therapeutic. Those memories are embedded in our needs because cognitive aspects of our brains weren’t developed then.

To become curative, we first sense and feel early needs and experiences. Later, we understand their contributions and continuations in our emotions, behavior, and thinking.

And then we can start to change who we were made into.

Eat broccoli sprouts for depression

This 2021 rodent study investigated sulforaphane effects on depression:

“Activation of Nrf2 by sulforaphane (SFN) showed fast-acting antidepressant-like effects in mice by:

  • Activating BDNF;
  • Inhibiting expression of its transcriptional repressors (HDAC2 [histone deacetylase 2, a negative regulator of neuroplasticity], mSin3A, and MeCP2); and
  • Revising abnormal synaptic transmission.

In a mouse model of chronic social defeat stress (CSDS), protein levels of Nrf2 and BDNF in the medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus were lower than those of control and CSDS-resilient mice. In contrast, protein levels of BDNF transcriptional repressors in CSDS-susceptible mice were higher than those of control and CSDS-resilient mice.

These data suggest that Nrf2 activation increases expression of Bdnf and decreases expression of its transcriptional repressors, which result in fast-acting antidepressant-like actions. Furthermore, abnormalities in crosstalk between Nrf2 and BDNF may contribute to the resilience versus susceptibility of mice against CSDS.

Nrf2-induced BDNF transcription in a model of depression.

  • Stress inhibits Nrf2 expression, which inhibits BDNF transcriptional and leads to abnormal synaptic transmission, causing depression-like behaviors in mice.
  • SFN induces BDNF transcription by activating Nrf2 and correcting abnormal synaptic transmission, resulting in antidepressant-like effects.

In conclusion:

  1. Nrf2 regulates transcription of Bdnf by binding to its exon I promoter.
  2. Inhibition of Nrf2-induced Bdnf transcription may play a role in the pathophysiology of depression.
  3. Activation of Nrf2-induced Bdnf transcription promoted antidepressant-like effects.
  4. Alterations in crosstalk between Nrf2 and BDNF may contribute to resilience versus susceptibility after stress.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-021-01261-6 “Activation of BDNF by transcription factor Nrf2 contributes to antidepressant-like actions in rodents”


Treat your gut microbiota as one of your organs

Two 2021 reviews covered gut microbiota. The first was gut microbial origins of metabolites produced from our diets, and mutual effects:

“Gut microbiota has emerged as a virtual endocrine organ, producing multiple compounds that maintain homeostasis and influence function of the human body. Host diets regulate composition of gut microbiota and microbiota-derived metabolites, which causes a crosstalk between host and microbiome.

There are bacteria with different functions in the intestinal tract, and they perform their own duties. Some of them provide specialized support for other functional bacteria or intestinal cells.

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are metabolites of dietary fibers metabolized by intestinal microorganisms. Acetate, propionate, and butyrate are the most abundant (≥95%) SCFAs. They are present in an approximate molar ratio of 3 : 1 : 1 in the colon.

95% of produced SCFAs are rapidly absorbed by colonocytes. SCFAs are not distributed evenly; they are decreased from proximal to distal colon.

Changing the distribution of intestinal flora and thus distribution of metabolites may have a great effect in treatment of diseases because there is a concentration threshold for acetate’s different impacts on the host. Butyrate has a particularly important role as the preferred energy source for the colonic epithelium, and a proposed role in providing protection against colon cancer and colitis.

There is a connection between acetate and butyrate distinctly, which suggests significance of this metabolite transformation for microbiota survival. The significance may even play an important role in disease development.

  • SCFAs can modulate progression of inflammatory diseases by inhibiting HDAC activity.
  • They decrease cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-α.
  • Their inhibition of HDAC may work through modulating NF-κB activity via controlling DNA transcription.”

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cjidmm/2021/6658674/ “Gut Microbiota-Derived Metabolites in the Development of Diseases”


A second paper provided more details about SCFAs:

“SCFAs not only have an essential role in intestinal health, but also enter systemic circulation as signaling molecules affecting host metabolism. We summarize effects of SCFAs on glucose and energy homeostasis, and mechanisms through which SCFAs regulate function of metabolically active organs.

Butyrate is the primary energy source for colonocytes, and propionate is a gluconeogenic substrate. After being absorbed by colonocytes, SCFAs are used as substrates in mitochondrial β-oxidation and the citric acid cycle to generate energy. SCFAs that are not metabolized in colonocytes are transported to the liver.

  • Uptake of propionate and butyrate in the liver is significant, whereas acetate uptake in the liver is negligible.
  • Only 40%, 10%, and 5% of microbial acetate, propionate, and butyrate, respectively, reach systemic circulation.
  • In the brain, acetate is used as an important energy source for astrocytes.

Butyrate-mediated inhibition of HDAC increases Nrf2 expression, which has been shown to lead to an increase of its downstream targets to protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Deacetylase inhibition induced by butyrate also enhances mitochondrial activity.

SCFAs affect the gut-brain axis by regulating secretion of metabolic hormones, induction of intestinal gluconeogenesis (IGN), stimulation of vagal afferent neurons, and regulation of the central nervous system. The hunger-curbing effect of the portal glucose signal induced by IGN involves activation of afferents from the spinal cord and specific neurons in the parabrachial nucleus, rather than afferents from vagal nerves.

Clinical studies have indicated a causal role for SCFAs in metabolic health. A novel targeting method for colonic delivery of SCFAs should be developed to achieve more consistent and reliable dosing.

The gut-host signal axis may be more resistant to such intervention by microbial SCFAs, so this method should be tested for ≥3 months. In addition, due to inter-individual variability in microbiota and metabolism, factors that may directly affect host substrate and energy metabolism, such as diet and physical activity, should be standardized or at least assessed.”

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cjidmm/2021/6632266/ “Modulation of Short-Chain Fatty Acids as Potential Therapy Method for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus”


Mid-life gut microbiota crisis

This 2019 rodent study investigated diet, stress, and behavioral relationships:

“Gut microbiome has emerged as being essential for brain health in ageing. We show that prebiotic supplementation with FOS-Inulin [a complex short- and long-chain prebiotic, oligofructose-enriched inulin] is capable of:

  • Dampening age-associated systemic inflammation; and
  • A profound yet differential alteration of gut microbiota composition in both young adult and middle-aged mice.

Middle-aged mice exhibited an increased influx of inflammatory monocytes into the brain. However, neuroinflammation at this stage was not significant enough to manifest in major cognitive impairments.

A much longer exposure to prebiotics might be needed to achieve significant effects, suggesting that supplementation may have to start earlier to be effectively preventative before alterations in the brain occur. This is particularly evident for behaviour.

Targeting gut microbiota, as we have done with a prebiotic, can affect the brain and subsequent behaviour through a variety of potential pathways including SCFAs [short-chain fatty acids], amino acids and immune pathways. All of these are interconnected. Future studies are needed to better deconvolve [figure out] such pathways in eliciting beneficial effects of inulin.

Modulatory effects of prebiotic supplementation on monocyte infiltration into the brain and accompanied regulation of age-related microglia activation highlight a potential pathway by which prebiotics can modulate peripheral immune response and alter neuroinflammation in ageing. Our data suggest a novel strategy for the amelioration of age-related neuroinflammatory pathologies and brain function.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-019-0425-1 “Mid-life microbiota crises: middle age is associated with pervasive neuroimmune alterations that are reversed by targeting the gut microbiome” (not freely available)


This study’s experiments subjected young and middle-aged mice to eight stress tests. I appreciated efforts to trace causes to behavioral effects, since behavior provided stronger evidence.

I’m in neither life stage investigated by this study. Still, per Reducing insoluble fiber, I’ll start taking inulin next week. See Increasing soluble fiber intake with inulin.

I came across this study through its citation in How will you feel?

Inauguration day

Gut microbiota and aging

This 2020 review explored the title subject:

“The human body contains 1013 human cells and 1014 commensal microbiota. Gut microbiota play vital roles in human development, physiology, immunity, and nutrition.

Human lifespan was thought to be determined by the combined influence of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors including lifestyle-associated factors such as exercise or diet. The role of symbiotic microorganisms has been ignored.

Age-associated alterations in composition, diversity, and functional features of gut microbiota are closely correlated with an age-related decline in immune system functioning (immunosenescence) and low-grade chronic inflammation (inflammaging). Immunosenescence and inflammaging do not have a unidirectional relationship. They exist in a mutually maintained state where immunosenescence is induced by inflammaging and vice versa.

Immunosenescence changes result in both quantitative and qualitative modifications of specific cellular subpopulations such as T cells, macrophages and natural killer cells as opposed to a global deterioration of the immune system. Neutrophils and macrophages from aged hosts are less active with diminished phagocytosing capability.

Gut microbiota transform environmental signals and dietary molecules into signaling metabolites to communicate with different organs and tissues in the host, mediating inflammation. Gut microbiota modulations via dietary or probiotics are useful anti-inflammaging and immunosenescence interventions.

The presence of microbiomic clocks in the human body makes noninvasive, accurate lifespan prediction possible. Prior to occurrence of aging-related diseases [shown above], bidirectional interactions between the gut and extraenteric tissue will change.

Correction of accelerated aging-associated gut dysbiosis is beneficial, suggesting a link between aging and gut microbiota that provides a rationale for microbiota-targeted interventions against age-related diseases. However, it is still unclear whether gut microbiota alterations are the cause or consequence of aging, and when and how to modulate gut microbiota to have anti-aging effects remain to be determined.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2020.1867054 “Gut microbiota and aging” (not freely available; thanks to Dr. Zongxin Ling for providing a copy)


1. The “Stable phase” predecessor to this review’s subject deserved its own paper:

“After initial exposure and critical transitional windows within 3 years after birth, it is generally agreed that human gut microbiota develops into the typical adult structure and composition that is relatively stable in adults.

gut microbiota by age phenotype

However, the Human Microbiome Project revealed that various factors such as food modernization, vaccines, antibiotics, and taking extreme hygiene measures will reduce human exposure to microbial symbionts and led to shrinkage of the core microbiome, while the reduction in microbiome biodiversity can compromise the human immune system and predispose individuals to several modern diseases.”

2. I looked for the ten germ-free references in the “How germ-free animals help elucidate the mechanisms” section of The gut microbiome: its role in brain health in this review, but didn’t find them cited. Likewise, the five germ-free references in this review weren’t cited in that paper. Good to see a variety of relevant research.

There were a few overlapping research groups with this review’s “Gut-brain axis aging” section, although it covered only AD and PD research.

3. Inflammaging is well-documented, but is chronic inflammation a condition of chronological age?

A twenty-something today who ate highly-processed food all their life could have gut microbiota roughly equivalent to their great-great grandparents’ at advanced ages. Except their ancestors’ conditions may have been byproducts of “an unintended consequence of both developmental programmes and maintenance programmes.

Would gut microbiota be a measure of such a twenty-something’s biological age? Do we wait until they’re 60, and explain their conditions by demographics? What could they do to reset themself back to a chronological-age-appropriate phenotype?