Nutrition Bar Improves Metabolic Biomarkers Linked to Cardiovascular Disease, Cognitive Decline and Anti-Oxidant Defenses

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Scientists at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) Nutrition & Metabolism Center recently announced that they have developed a low-calorie, high-fiber, fruit-based vitamin and mineral nutrition bar called the CHORI-bar, which improves biomarkers linked to risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and associated decline in antioxidant defenses.

Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute

After years of studying the interactions of vitamins and minerals with metabolic processes, Dr. Bruce Ames, professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley, and a senior scientist at CHORI, became convinced that modest deficiencies could be contributing to metabolic imbalances that increase risk of diseases associated with obesity and aging, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. In 2006, Dr. Ames published a key article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences entitled ‘Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the degenerative diseases of aging through allocation of scarce micronutrients by triage’ [2]. In the article, Dr. Ames proposed the Triage theory, which postulated that DNA damage and late onset disease are consequences of a ‘triage allocation mechanism’ developed during evolution to cope with periods of micronutrient shortage.

Simply put, micronutrients, when scarce, are used for short-term survival at the expense of long-term survival.

The Triage theory helps explain why the quarter of the population that eats the fewest fruits and vegetables has double the cancer rate for most types of cancer compared with the quarter that eats the most fruits and vegetables.

In 2003, Dr. Ames and his colleague Mark Shigenaga, PhD, whose research focuses on the impact of food on gut function, began development of the CHORI-bar, an economical, low calorie, food supplement that could restore metabolic balance. Dr. Ames assembled a team of scientists and a started a collaboration with the Processed Foods Unit at the United States Department of Agriculture to assist in the production of a tasty and nutritious bar.

Intestinal health is now widely recognized to be an important determinant of overall health. Food components that benefit gut health, such as certain soluble fibers and polyphenols, were included in the bar along with DHA, insoluble fiber and a number of other ingredients, all aimed at helping to restore optimal nutrition. Since the project began, a series of bar formulations were developed, and to date 11 small pilot trials have been conducted to refine components and improve taste. Improvements are continuing to expand the number of disease risk biomarkers favorably impacted by the bar.

The first research report on the CHORI-bar appears in the August 2012 issue of the FASEB Journal (the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) [3]. The report details the results of a  2-week trial in 25 healthy adults with varied ages and body mass index (BMI). Participants ate two bars each day for 2-weeks. Changes in cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk biomarkers were measured at the end of the 2-week period and compared to levels taken at the beginning of the trial prior to CHORI-bar consumption.

A number of other assays (i.e. tests) were conducted to quantify specific compounds and metabolites, providing for a more more in depth look at biomarkers and clues to mechanisms underlying effects of the CHORI-bar.

The investigators found that following the 2-week program, plasma high density lipoprotein (HDL) (commonly called “good cholesterol”) increased 28%. HDL is a cholesterol transporter that carries cholesterol from cells in the body to the liver, where it is then excreted. Total plasma homocysteine decreased 19%. Homocysteine is a a non-protein amino acid that causes a number of issues, including endothelial damage and dysfunction (endothelial cells line the circulatory system, from small capillaries to veins and arteries to the heart) and free radical formation. Increased HDL and decreased homocysteine are associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. Total glutathione levels increased 20%. Increased glutathione reflects improved antioxidant defense. Changes in biomarkers linked to insulin resistance and inflammation were not observed.

The metabolic changes are striking for two reasons. First, significant results were observed even though the trial lasted only two weeks, and two, comparable benefits were seen across a range of baseline BMIs and metabolic parameters. The researchers suggest that longer-term trials may result in a broader spectrum of favorable biomarker changes.

References

  1. New Nutrition Bar Developed by CHORI Scientists Improves Metabolic Biomarkers Linked to Cardiovascular Disease, Cognitive Decline, and Anti-Oxidant Defenses in Only Two Weeks. Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. 2012 May 10.
  2. Ames BN. Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the degenerative diseases of aging through allocation of scarce micronutrients by triage. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Nov 21;103(47):17589-94. Epub 2006 Nov 13.
    View abstract
  3. Mietus-Snyder et al. A nutrient-dense, high-fiber, fruit-based supplement bar increases HDL cholesterol, particularly large HDL, lowers homocysteine, and raises glutathione in a 2-wk trial. FASEB J. 2012 May 1. [Epub ahead of print]
    View abstract
About the Author

Walter Jessen is Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH. He's also a senior writer at Highlight HEALTH.