Dr Mercola Interviews Dr Villeponteau the Formulator of Stem Cell 100

Dr Bryant Villeponteau the formulator of Stem Cell 100 and other Life Code nutraceuticals was recently interviewed by Dr Mercola who owns the largest health web site on the internet. Dr. Villeponteau is also the author of Decoding Longevity a new book which will be released during December. He is a leading researcher in novel anti-aging therapies involving stem cells an area in which he has been a pioneer for over three decades.

Stem cell technology could have a dramatic influence on our ability to live longer and replace some of our failing parts, which is the inevitable result of the aging process. With an interest in aging and longevity, Dr. Villeponteau started out by studying developmental biology. If we could understand development, we could understand aging, he says. Later, his interest turned more toward the gene regulation aspects. While working as a professor at the University of Michigan at the Institute of Gerontology, he received, and accepted, a job offer from Geron Corporation a Bay Area startup, in the early 90s.

They were working on telomerase, which I was pretty excited about at the time. I joined them when they first started, he says. We had an all-out engagement there to clone human telomerase. It had been cloned in other animals but not in humans or mammals.

If you were to unravel the tip of the chromosome, a telomere is about 15,000 bases long at the moment of conception in the womb. Immediately after conception, your cells begin to divide, and your telomeres begin to shorten each time the cell divides. Once your telomeres have been reduced to about 5,000 bases, you essentially die of old age.

What you have to know about telomerase is that it’s only on in embryonic cells. In adult cells, it’s totally, for the most part, turned off, with the exception of adult stem cells, Dr. Villeponteau explains. Adult stem cells have some telomerase not full and not like the embryonic stem cells, but they do have some telomerase activity.

Most of the research currently being done, both in academia and industrial labs, revolves around either embryonic stem cells, or a second type called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). Dr. Villeponteau, on the other hand, believes adult stem cells are the easiest and most efficient way to achieve results.

That said, adult stem cells do have their drawbacks. While they’re your own cells, which eliminates the problem of immune-related issues, there’s just not enough of them. Especially as you get older, there are fewer and fewer adult stem cells, and they tend to become increasingly dysfunctional too. Yet another hurdle is that they don’t form the tissues that they need to form…

To solve such issues, Dr. Villeponteau has created a company with the technology and expertise to amplify your adult stem cells a million-fold or more, while still maintaining their ability to differentiate all the different cell types, and without causing the cells to age. Again, it is the adult stem cells ability to potentially cure, or at least ameliorate, many of our age-related diseases by regenerating tissue that makes this field so exciting.

Dr Villeponteau believes you can add many years, likely decades, to your life simply by eating right, exercising (which promotes the production of muscle stem cells, by the way) and living an otherwise clean and healthy lifestyle. Extreme life extension, on the other hand, is a different matter.

His book, Decoding Longevity, covers preventive strategies to prolong your life, mainly diet, exercise, and supplements. A portion of the book also covers future developments in the area of more radical life extension, such as stem cell technology.

If you would like to read the entire interview here is a link to the text version:

Click here for more information about Stem Cell 100

Transcript of Interview With Dr. Bryant Villeponteau by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Aging Reversed / ABC News

Now researchers have found a way not just to stop, but, reverse the aging process. The key is something called a telomere. We all have them. They are the tips or caps of your chromosomes. They are long and stable in young adults, but, as we age they become shorter, damaged and frayed. When they stop working we start aging and experience things like hearing and memory loss.

In a recent study published in the peer reviewed journal Nature scientists took mice that were prematurely aged to the equivalent of 80-year-old humans, added an enzyme and essentially turned their telomeres back on. After the treatment they were the physiological equivalent of young adults. You can see the before and after pictures in the videos above. Brain function improved, their fertility was restored it was a remarkable reversal of the aging process. In the top video the untreated mouse shows bad skin, gray hair and it is balding. The mouse with it’s telomeres switched back on has a dark coat color, the hair is restored and the coat has a nice healthy sheen to it. Even more dramatic is the change in brain size. Before treatment the aged mice had 75% of a normal size brain like a patient with severe Alzheimers. After the telomeres were reactivated the brain returned to normal size. As for humans while it is just one factor scientists say the longer the telomeres the better the chances for a more graceful aging.

The formal study Telomere dysfunction induces metabolic and mitochondrial compromise was published in Nature.

Additional information published by Harvard can be found in the following articles.

Scientists Find Root Molecular Cause of Declining Health in the Old

Decoding Immortality – Smithsonian Channel Video about the Discovery of Telomerase

While scientists are not yet able to accomplish the same results in humans we believe we have developed a nutraceutical to help prolong youth and possibly extend life until age reversal therapy for humans becomes available.

Stem Cells Secret’s of 115 Year Old Woman

New evidence that adult stem cells are critical to human aging has recently been published on a study done on a super-centenarian woman that lived to be 115 years. At death, her circulating stem cell pool had declined to just two active stem cells from stem cell counts that are typically more than a thousand in younger adults. Super-centenarians have survived all the normal diseases that kill 99.9% of us before 100 years of age, so it has been a mystery as to what actually kills these hardy individuals. This recent data suggest that stem cell decline may be the main contributor to aging. If so, stabilizing stem cells may be the best thing one can do to slow your rate of aging.

There are many theories of aging that have been proposed. For example, damage to cells and tissues from oxidative stress has been one of the most popular fundamental theories of aging for more than half a century. Yet antioxidant substances or genes that code antioxidant enzymes have proven largely ineffective in slowing aging when tested in model animals. Thus, interest by scientists has shifted to other hypotheses that might provide a better explanation for the slow declines in function with age.

Stem cells provide one such promising mechanism of aging. Of course, we all know that babies are young and vigorous, independent of the age of their parents. This is because adults have embryonic stem cells that can generate young new cells needed to form a complete young baby. Indeed, these embryonic stem cells are the product of continuously evolving stem cell populations that go back to the beginning of life on earth over 3.5 billion years ago!

In adults, the mostly immortal embryonic stem cells give rise to mortal adult stem cells in all the tissues of the body. These adult stem cells can regenerate your cells and tissues as they wear out and need replacement. Unfortunate, adult stem cells also age, which leads to fewer cells and/or loss of function in cell replacement. As functional stem cells decline, skin and organs decline with age.

Blood from world’s oldest woman suggests life limit

Time Magazine: Long-Life Secrets From The 115-Year-Old Woman

Somatic mutations found in the healthy blood compartment of a 115-yr-old woman demonstrate oligoclonal hematopoiesis

Abstract
The somatic mutation burden in healthy white blood cells (WBCs) is not well known. Based on deep whole-genome sequencing, we estimate that approximately 450 somatic mutations accumulated in the nonrepetitive genome within the healthy blood compartment of a 115-yr-old woman. The detected mutations appear to have been harmless passenger mutations: They were enriched in noncoding, AT-rich regions that are not evolutionarily conserved, and they were depleted for genomic elements where mutations might have favorable or adverse effects on cellular fitness, such as regions with actively transcribed genes. The distribution of variant allele frequencies of these mutations suggests that the majority of the peripheral white blood cells were offspring of two related hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) clones. Moreover, telomere lengths of the WBCs were significantly shorter than telomere lengths from other tissues. Together, this suggests that the finite lifespan of HSCs, rather than somatic mutation effects, may lead to hematopoietic clonal evolution at extreme ages.

Physical Activity Helps Prevent Early Death

Researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh have shown that at least 3.9 million early deaths are being averted throughout the world every year by people being physically active. The study shows that too often we focus on the negative health results of poor levels of being physically active when we should be celebrating the positive benefits of being active.

All research into lifestyle factors such as poor diet, smoking, drinking alcohol and physical activity tends to focus on the harms these factors play in poor health. This helps create a narrative to try and prevent and reduce these behaviors.

The team believe there is value in trying to understand that behaviors that are healthy confer in order to argue for increasing and maintaining them. They decided to look instead at population activity levels and then estimate the health benefits of physical activity to society.

In the study, the team used a number of known as the Prevented Fraction for the Population. In this case, the proportion of deaths that were prevented due to people being more physically active.

They looked at previously published data for 168 countries on the proportion of the population meeting the World Health Organizations global recommendation of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity throughout a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of the two. The proportion of populations meeting the recommended level of physical activity varied quite substantially between countries. Kuwait showed a low of 33%, 64% for the United Kingdom, and a high of 94% for Mozambique.

Through combining the data with estimates of the relative risk of dying early for people who were active compared to inactive people, the team were able to estimate the proportion of premature deaths that were prevented due to people being physically active.

They discovered that globally, due to physical activity the number of premature deaths was an average of 15% lower than it would have been – 16% for men and 14% for women. This equates to approximately 3.9 millions lives saved each year.

Despite the considerable variation in physical activity levels between the countries, the positive contribution of physical activity was remarkably consistent across the world. There was a broad trend towards a greater proportion of premature deaths averted for middle and low income countries. In the low income countries, an average of 18% of premature deaths were averted compared to 14% for the higher income countries.

In the United States, 140,200 premature deaths were prevented annually and in the United Kingdom 26,600.

Health experts will often times frame the debate in terms of the number of early deaths due to the lack of physical activity which estimates that 3.2 million die prematurely every year. The researchers however, say that through showing how many deaths are averted, it may also be possible to frame the debate in a positive manner which could have benefits to policy, advocacy and population messaging.

By focusing on the number of lives saved rather than looking at the downsides of not getting enough physical activity, we can tell a good news story of what is already being achieved. This tells us how much good is being accomplished and helps us become more aware of how much benefit physical activity is already providing. This leads to finding ways to be even better by increasing physical activity levels further.

While there is a risk of complacency, people wondering why we need to invest more when it’s already providing benefit, gives the team hope that their hope findings will encourage local authorities and governments to protect and maintain services even in challenging economic climates.

To view the original scientific study click below

Use of the prevented fraction for the population to determine deaths averted by existing prevalence of physical activity: a descriptive study.

Super Antibodies may Provide Powerful Protection Against Covid-19

Researchers have discovered antibodies in the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients that may provide powerful protection against SARS-CoV-2, which is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, when tested in human cell and animal cultures. The research offers a paradigm of swift reaction of the emergent and deadly pandemic and sets the stage for clinical trials and additional tests of the antibodies.

These antibodies are now being produced as potential preventatives and treatments for the virus. This discovery represents an extremely rapid response to this totally new pathogen.

Injections of such antibodies, in principle, could be given to people in the early states of COVID-19 to help reduce the level of the virus and also protect against severe disease. These antibodies may also be used to provide temporary, vaccine-like protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection of elderly people, healthcare workers, and others who respond poorly to traditional vaccines or may have had recent exposure to the virus.

The research project was led by groups at Scripps Research; IAVI which is a nonprofit scientific research organization dedicated to addressing urgent and unmet global health challenges; and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

The research has been a tremendous collaborative effort, and the team is now focused on making large quantities of these promising antibodies for clinical trials. Currently the treatment or a vaccine for the virus is the world’s top public health priority. The daily toll of new infections is still rising which makes the efforts even more pressing.

One approach to new viral threats is to identify antibodies in the blood of recovering patients that neutralize the virus’s ability to infect cells. These antibodies can then be mass produced through biotech methods and potentially used as a treatment that would block severe disease and also as a vaccine-like preventative that circulates in the blood for several weeks to protect against infection. This particular approach has been successfully demonstrated against the Ebola virus and RSV which is the pneumonia causing respiratory syncytial virus.

For the project, part of the team took blood samples from patients who were recovered from mild to severe COVID-19. Another team developed test cells that express ACE2 which is the receptor that SARS-CoV-2 uses to get into human cells. In a set of the initial experiments, the team tested whether the antibody containing blood from the recovered patients could bind to the virus and then strongly block it from infecting the test cells.

The team was able to isolate more than 1,000 distinct antibody producing immune cells which are known as B cells, each of which produced a distinct anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody. They obtained the antibody gene sequences from these cells so they could produce the antibodies in the lab. Through screening these antibodies individually, they identified several that even in tiny quantities, could block the virus in test cells and additionally one that could also protect hamsters against heavy viral exposure.

All of the work including the development of the cell and animal infection models and studies to discover where the antibodies they were interested in bind to the virus, was completed in less than seven weeks. The team’s leveraged their institution’s decades of expertise in antibody isolation and then quickly pivoted their focus to SARS-CoV-2 to identify these highly potent antibodies.

If additional safe tests in clinical trials and animals go well, then the antibodies could conceivably be used in clinical settings as early as January 2021. The team intends to make them available to those who need them the most including low and middle income countries.

During the course of the researcher’s attempts to isolate anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies from the COVID-19 recovered patients, they found one that can also neutralize SARS-CoV which is the related coronavirus that led to the 2002 to 2004 outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in Asia. This discovery gave the team hope that they will eventually find broadly neutralizing antibodies that will provide at least partial protection against all or most SARS coronaviruses which should be helpful if another virus jumps to humans.

To view the original scientific study click below

Isolation of potent SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies and protection from disease in a small animal model.

Primitive Stem Cells Potential Use in Complicated Bone Fractures

Researchers at Texas A&M University have recently created superior bone grafts using primitive stem cells. These grafts could be used for complicated fractures that do not heal with a firm cast and may promote precise and swift bone healing so that patients with these type fractures maximally benefit from the surgical intervention.

The team found that these cells help create the fertile scaffolds that are needed for the bone to regenerate at the repair site. There are a variety of problems that can occur with orthopedic implants such as pain and inflammation. They can also loosen which requires surgical revisions that are many times more complicated than the original surgery. By speeding up the healing process of the bone, the bone graft materials can potentially reduce the number of these surgical revisions.

Every year about 600,000 people living in the United States experience incomplete or delayed bone healing. For some of these situations physicians will turn to surgical procedures that will involve transplanting bone tissue at the repair site. These bone grafts have typically come from two sources – either the patient’s own bone from another location on their body called autografts, or from highly processed human cadaver bones.

Unfortunately, both of these types of bone grafts have their share of drawbacks. Autografts for example require additional surgery for extraction of bone tissue which increases the recovery time for patients and sometimes chronic pain. However, grafts derived from cadaver bone preclude the need for two surgeries but these type implants tend to be devoid of many of the biomolecules which will promote bone repair.

Grafts obtained from cadaver bone have some of the physical properties of bone and even a bit of the biological essence, however they are very depleted in terms of their functionality. What the team wanted to accomplish was to engineer a bone graft where they could experimentally crank up the gears and make it more biologically active.

Earlier studies have shown that stem cells and particularly a type called mesenchymal stem cells, can be used to produce bone grafts that are biologically active. These stem cells convert to bone cells that will produce the materials needed to make a scaffolding or the extracellular matrix which bones need for growth and survival.

These cells are typically extracted from the marrow of an adult bone and are therefore older. The age of these cells affects their ability to divide and produce more of the precious extracellular matrix. In order to circumvent this problem, the team turned to the cellular ancestors of the mesenchymal stem cells which are known as pluripotent stem cells.

Unlike adult mesenchymal cells which have short lifetimes, these primitive cells can keep proliferating. This creates an unlimited supply of mesenchymal stem cells that are needed to make the extracellular matrix for the bone grafts. The pluripotent cells can be made by genetically reprogramming donated adult cells.

When the team induced the pluripotent stem cells to make brand new mesenchymal stem cells, they were able to generate an extracellular matrix that was far more biologically active compared to that generated by mesenchymal cells that had been obtained from adult bone.

To test the efficacy of the scaffolding materials as a bone graft, the team then carefully extracted and purified the enriched extracellular matrix. They then implanted it at a site of bone defects. When they examined the status of the bone repair in just a few weeks, they discovered that their pluripotent stem cell derived matrix was five to six times more effective than the best FDA approved graft stimulator.

Bone repairs that use the gold standard of grafts like those administered with the powerful bone growth stimulator known as bone morphogenic protein-2 can take approximately 8 weeks, but the team was getting complete healing in four weeks. Under these conditions their material surpassed the efficacy of bone morphogenic protein-2 by a long shot. This indicated that it is a huge improvement of current bone repair technologies.

The team also found that from a clinical standpoint, the grafts could be incorporated into numerous engineered implants such as metal screws or 3-D printed implants so that these parts integrate much better with the surrounding bone. The bone grafts would also be easier to produce which makes them more advantageous from a manufacturing standpoint.

The material is very promising in that these pluripotent stem cells can ideally generate many batches of the extracellular matrix from just a single donor. This will greatly simplify the large scale manufacturing of the bone grafts.

To view the original scientific study click below

Characterization of a pluripotent stem cell-derived matrix with powerful osteoregenerative capabilities.

Brain Health and Role of Body Composition & Cardiorespiratory Fitness

A recent study by a research team at the Beckman Institute for Advance Science and Technology examined how body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness are related to neuronal health. The team studied 290 healthy young adults.

This study adds to a growing body of research that suggests fitness has beneficial effects for the health of the brain. The study applied magnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure and detect brain metabolites. They focused specifically on N-acetyl aspartic acid (NAA).

NAA is produced in the neurons and is an important biochemical marker of neuronal health and energy production. Prior work has demonstrated that neuronal health as measured by NAA, has positive associations with cognitive performance. The team was interested in exploring whether modifiable life style factors such as aerobic fitness and physical activity are also linked to NAA.

The team showed that a lower percentage of body fat is linked with higher NAA in the white matter and that this relationship largely accounts for the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and NAA.

The findings suggest that adults who are more fit benefit from improved structural brain connectivity. This led to the question raised by the work as to whether a person can modify NAA through fitness interventions and physical activity which could provide an effective method for enhancing cognitive performance and brain health across a person’s lifespan.

To view the original scientific study click below

Body mass and cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with altered brain metabolism.

High Saturated Fat Meal and Loss of Focus

New research has suggested that eating just one meal that is high in saturated fat can limit our ability to concentrate. At a time when people are working at home due to troubled times, that is not great news for those whose diets have taken a turn south during the COVID-19 pandemic!

The study which was led at The Ohio State University, compared how 50 females performed on an attention test following a meal high in saturated fat or the same meal made with sunflower oil which is high in unsaturated fat.

The women’s performance was worse following the high fat meal as opposed to the meal which contained a healthier fat. This signaled to the research team a link between the brain and fatty food.

The team additionally looked at whether a condition known as leaky gut which will allow intestinal bacteria to enter the bloodstream, had any effect on concentration. Participants who had leakier guts performed worse on the attention test assessment no matter which of the meals they had consumed.

The loss of concentration and focus after just one meal was eye opening to the team. Earlier work looked at the causative effect of the diet over a period of time. The current research on consuming just one high saturated fat meal showed a remarkable difference on focus.

The team also noted that the meal that used sunflower oil which is low in saturated fat, still contained quite a bit of dietary fat. Because both of the meals were high fat and possibly problematic, the high saturated fat meal’s cognitive effect may be even greater if compared to a lower fat meal.

The women who participated in the study completed a baseline assessment of their attention while at a morning visit to the research lab. The tool used which is called a continuous performance test, measures sustained concentration, attention and reactive time based on 10 minutes of computer based activities.

The meal included biscuits, eggs, gravy and turkey sausage and contained 60 grams of fat – either a palmitic acid (a type of saturated fat) based oil high in saturated fat or the lower saturated fat sunflower oil. Both meals contained 930 calories and were designed to copy the contents of a variety of fast food meals.

Five hours after the participants consumed the meal, they retook the continuous performance test. Between one to four weeks later, they repeated the steps, however eating the opposite meal of what they consumed the first time.

The research team also analyzed the participant’s fasting baseline blood samples to see whether they contained an inflammatory molecule which will signal the presence of endotoxemia – the toxin that escapes from the intestines and then enters the bloodstream when the gut barrier is compromised.

Following the meal high in saturated fat, all the women were on average 11% less able to detect target stimuli in the attention assessment test. Lapses in concentration and focus were also apparent in the participants who had signs of leaky gut. Their response times were more erratic and these participants were less able to sustain their attention during the 10 minute test.

If any of the participants had high levels of endotoxemia, that also wiped out the between meal differences. These women were performing poorly no matter which type of fat they consumed.

Although the study did not determine what was happening in the brain, earlier research has suggested that food which is high in saturated fat can increase inflammation throughout the body and possibly even the brain. Fatty acids can also cross the blood brain barrier. It may be that fatty acids are interacting directly with the brain. What it does indicate is the power of gut related deregulation.

The team’s statistical analysis did account for other possibly influences on cognition including symptoms of depression and the participant’s average dietary saturated fat consumption. The women in the recent study consumed three standardized meals and fasted for 12 hours prior to each lab visit in an effort to reduce diet variations that might have affected their physiological response to high fat meals.

The team’s findings do suggest concentration and focus could be even more impaired in people who are feeling stressed due to the current pandemic and are turning to fatty type foods for comfort. What is known is that when people are more anxious, a good subset will turn to high saturated fat foods more enticing that say broccoli. It is known from other research that anxiety and depression can interfere with attention and concentration. When that is added on top of a high fat meal, the real world effects can be even larger.

To view the original scientific study click below

Afternoon distraction: a high-saturated-fat meal and endotoxemia impact postmeal attention in a randomized crossover trial

8-Week Diet of Fruits & Vegetables Linked to Better Heart Health

A new observation study and analysis has looked at the links between markers of a healthy heart and three types of diets – the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet, a different fruit and vegetable rich diet, and a typical Western Diet. The conclusion is that diets which include lots of vegetables and fruits are associated with a healthy heart.

The team’s analysis drew on data from the DASH trial which was a trial that assessed the effects of a specially designed diet on blood pressure, and other types of diets in comparison. The DASH Diet was developed by nutrition specialists who were affiliated with NIH (National Institute of Health).

The DASH Diet mainly focuses on the intake of vegetables, fruits, low fat diary products, whole grains, fish, nuts, poultry and beans over a diet consisting mostly of red meats, sugar, fatty and salty foods.

The current study focused on the comparison of the effects of the three different diets on markers of heart health. The typical Western or American Diet reflected levels of nutrient consumption as reported by an average U. S. adult, while the diet rich in vegetables and fruits was in many ways similar however, it contained more natural fiber and contained fewer sweets and snacks.

The team looked at data from three randomly assigned groups of study participants from the DASH trial. The total number of participants in the current analysis was 326 and each followed one of the three diets noted above for 8 weeks.

The team then assessed the levels of three biomarkers which are related to heart health in serum samples, a component of blood that was collected from the participants. The samples had been collected initially after a 12 hour fast before the participants had begun their respective diets, and then at the end of the 8 week study period.

The serum biomarkers the team assessed were high sensitivity cardiac troponin I, N-terminal pro-B type natriuretic peptide, and high sensitivity C-reactive protein. Troponin helps regulate contractions of the heart muscle and overly high levels of this particular protein can indicate damage to the heart. High levels of C-reactive protein in the bloodstream can indicate inflammation, and very high levels of pro-B natriuretic peptide are a marker of heart failure.

After assessing all serum samples which were take before and after the 8 week diet period, the researchers found that people who had followed either the fruit and vegetable rich diet or the DASH diet had consistently and significantly lower concentrations of two of the biomarkers – pro-B type natriuretic peptide and troponin, over their peers who had followed the typical American diet.

The team suggests that these results indicate better heart health in those two groups of participants. Levels of the two biomarkers did not differ with the people who had followed either of the plant rich diets. C-reactive protein levels which can indicate inflammation, were not affected by any of the diets.

Although it isn’t quite clear which aspects of the DASH and fruit and vegetable rich diets may have benefited the health of the heart, the team do hypothesize that dietary features which are common to both of these diets including but not limited to higher magnesium, potassium, and fiber content, may be possible causative factors.

The team does caution that more research is needed to confirm whether similar diets might improve cardiac function in adults who have established heart failure.

To view the original scientific study click below

Associations Between Dietary Patterns and Subclinical Cardiac Injury.

Sugar Cravings Explained by Gut to Brain Circuit

New research has shown that while the sensation of sweetness begins on the tongue, sugar molecules also trip sensors found in the gut which directly send signals to the brain. A little bit of sugar can make us crave just about anything, but its sweetness doesn’t totally explain our desire. The new study shows that this magic molecule has a back channel to the brain.

The team at Howard Hughes Medical Institute shows while sugar triggers specialized taste buds found on the tongue, it also switches on an entirely separate neurological pathway that beings in the gut. Signals in the intestines heralding the arrival of sugar travel to the brain. Here they nurture a desire for more, the researcher’s experiments with mice have shown. This particular gut to brain pathway appears to be picky responding only to sugar molecules and not artificial sweeteners.

Scientists have already known that sugar exerted unique control over the brain. In a 2008 study, mice without the ability to taste sweetness can still prefer sugar. The recent study’s discovery of the sugar sensing pathway helps explain why sugar is special and points to ways a person might quell their insatiable appetite for it. By separating the concepts of sweet and sugar, the team says sweet is linking and sugar is wanting.

The term sugar is a catchall which encompasses a variety of substances our bodies use as fuel. Consuming sugar activates the brain’s system of reward making mice and humans alike feel good. However, in our world where sugar that has been refined is plentiful, this deeply ingrained appetite can run amok.

The average American’s yearly sugar intake has skyrocketed from less than 10 pounds in the late 1800s to more than 100 pounds today with that increase coming at a cost. Studies have linked excess consumption of sugar to a variety of health problems including type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Earlier research has shown that sugar and artificial sweeteners switch on the same taste sensing system. In the mouth, these molecules activate the sweet taste receptors found on taste buds which initiates signals that travel to the part of the brain that processes the sweetness.

However, sugar affects behavior in a way that artificial sweeteners do not. The team ran a test pitting sugar against the artificial sweetener Acesulfame K which is typically found in diet sodas, sweetening packets and other food and beverage products. When offered water with the sugar or sweetener, mice initially drank both. However, within two days they switched almost exclusively to the water that contained sugar. The team reasoned that this unquenchable motivation the mice have for consuming sugar rather than sweetness, might have a neural basis.

Through brain activity visualization when the mice consumed sugar vs. artificial sweetener or water, the team identified for the first time the region of the brain that responds solely to sugar – the caudal nucleus of the solitary tract (cNST). The cNST which is found in the brain stem separate from where mice process taste, is a hub for information about the state of the body.

The team determined that the path to the cNST begins in the lining of the intestine. Here, sensor molecules spark a signal that travels by the vagus nerve which provides a direct line of information from the intestines to the brain.

This gut to brain circuit has a preference for one form of sugar – glucose and similar molecules. It ignores artificial sweeteners which might explain why these additives can’t seem to fully replicate the appeal of sugar. It also overlooks other types of sugar, mostly fructose which is found in fruit. Glucose is an energy source for all living things. This could explain why the system’s specificity for the molecule has evolved.

Earlier scientists speculated that sugar’s energy content or calories might explain it appeal since many artificial sweeteners are lacking in calories. However, the recent study has shown this is not the case since calorie free, glucose like molecules can also activate the gut to brain sugar sensing pathway.

The group is now studying the links between this gut brain circuit and other systems of the brain such as feeding, reward, and emotions to better understand how the brain’s strong preference for sugar develops. And although the study has been on mice, the team believes that essentially the same glucose sensing pathway exists in people.

Through uncovering this circuit that explains how sugar directly impacts our brain to drive consumption, it also exposes new potential opportunities and targets for strategies to help curtail the insatiable appetite for sugar many of us have.

To view the original scientific study click below

The gut–brain axis mediates sugar preference.