Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cocktail of cheap drugs 'can prevent Alzheimer's' and keep the brain healthy into old age -- if you are a mouse

Journal article here. The experiments were in vitro and in vivo only. People not involved

A cheap diabetes drug taken with a red wine ‘miracle pill’ could prevent millions from suffering the agony of Alzheimer’s. Costing only pennies a day, the two-in-one cocktail could keep the brain healthy into old age, stopping dementia developing in some cases and halting it in others, British doctors believe.

With the pills already credited with a host of health-boosting qualities, including potentially extending life, the Dundee University breakthrough brings hope of a brighter future for millions.

The latest breakthrough centres on drugs called metformin and resveratrol. Metformin has been safely used for more than 50 years to control blood sugar levels in age and obesity-related diabetes. Recent research suggests it has other benefits, including the ability to extend life.

Resveratrol, the ‘miracle ingredient’ behind many of red wine’s health-boosting qualities, has also been hailed as an elixir of life, with experiments crediting it with warding off a host of ills, from old age to cancer.

The Dundee researchers showed that metformin interferes with the formation of toxic ‘tangles’ of a protein called tau that clog the brain in Alzheimer’s, leading to the destruction of memory cells, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports. Resveratrol has a similar protective effect and taken together, the two could have the power to hold Alzheimer’s at bay, researchers believe. Professor Susann Schweiger said: ‘The best hope is that it would stop it.’


Gardening really is good for your health

Keeping an allotment [a small plot of land devoted to gardening] really is good for your health, the first study to examine the issue directly has found. Dutch researchers have found that allotment keepers in their 60s tend to be significantly healthier than their more sedentary neighbours.

While plenty of anecdotal evidence exists to suggest growing one's own fruit and vegetables protects against ill-health, no one had carried out such a direct comparison before.

Agnes van den Berg, from Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands, said: "Taken together, our findings provide the first direct empirical evidence for health benefits of allotment gardens. Having an allotment garden may promote an active life-style and contribute to healthy ageing."

She and her fellow researchers polled 121 gardeners in the Netherlands, plus 63 neighbours who did not keep allotments as the control group. They were asked a range of questions such as how many times they had contacted their GP in the last two months, how stressed they felt, and how they rated their health and well being.

Van der Berg concluded: "Around the world, allotment gardens are increasingly under pressure from building and infrastructure developments. "Considering that allotments may play a vital role in developing active and healthy lifestyles, governments and local authorities might do well to protect and enhance them."

However, she and her colleagues, writing in the journal Environmental Health, cautioned that those who keep allotments may simply be more active individuals.

Previous research has found that spending half an hour in an allotment leads to twice the drop in the stress hormone cortisol as does reading a book (22 per cent drop compared to 11 per cent).

Other studies have found that the health benefits of exercising in green spaces are greater than exercising in the gym.


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