New Anti-Aging Pill

Old Aspirin

Aspirin Healthy Living Magazine

Aspirin Healthy Living Magazine

A pill from the 19th century that can be bought at any drug store and costs only pennies a day has proven itself an anti-ager once again, this time in a study from the January 31, 2014 issue of Gut. Cancer researchers looked at the influence of low-dose aspirin tablets (100 mg/day for 2 years) on colorectal tumor recurrence in 311 patients whose growths were excised by endoscopy. At the end of the two-year period, those patients treated with aspirin displayed a 63% reduced incidence of colorectal tumors.

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“A large body of evidence supports aspirin’s effect in reducing cancer incidence and cancer mortality,” said UK researchers from Queen Mary University of London. “The beneficial effects are particularly large for colorectal, esophageal and gastric cancers with apparently smaller reductions for breast, prostate and lung cancer.”

The history of aspirin dates back about a century. In 1899, a product containing a synthetic version of salicylic acid, acetylsalicylic acid, began to be marketed as an “overthe- counter” painkiller by the Bayer Company of Germany. The name aspirin was based on the fact that it contained the root of Spiraea ulmeria (queen of the meadow plant, a natural source of salicylic acid) together with an “A” as an abbreviation for “acetyl,” note British researchers J.R. Vane and R.M. Botting in Aspirin and Other Salicylates.

Scientists did not begin to understand how aspirin exerts its effects on human health until the 1960s and 1970s. In essence, aspirin is a broad-spectrum inhibitor of prostaglandins, a family of fatty acids so ubiquitous in the human body they are detected in almost every tissue and body fluid. First discovered in the 1930s, prostaglandins produce a wide range of effects embracing practically every biological function, note Vane and Botting. In 1971, Vane and his colleagues at the Royal College of Surgeons of England discovered aspirin inhibits the formation of prostaglandins.

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Prevents 300,000 Deaths Yearly

Harvard Health Letter ranked aspirin among the top medical advances for its ability to decrease blood clots and, therefore, heart attacks, noting that nearly everyone who has ever had a heart attack or stroke suffers from angina or has undergone coronary artery bypass surgery should take onehalf to one aspirin tablet daily unless they are allergic to the drug. “Worldwide adoption of this advice by these and other high-risk patients would prevent about 100,000 deaths and twice as many nonfatal strokes and heart attacks each year,” reports the newsletter. Moreover, aspirin can reduce the risk of a first heart attack, in both men and women. In the August 1991 Circulation, P.M. Ridker and co-investigators reported results from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of alternate-day aspirin use among 22,071 US male physicians who were followed for 60.2 months, reporting alternate-day aspirin therapy notably reduced risk of a first heart attack.

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Prevents Aging Decline

All of this adds up to longevity potential. In the winter 2004 issue of Rejuvenation Research scientists say that aspirin as an anti-aging agent evolved from the multitude of properties and the potential to prevent cellular and functional declines from inflammatory and oxidative sources, two causes of damaged DNA. “Notably, aspirin may affect oxidant production, cytokine responses and block glycol-oxidation reactions, thus posing it as a triple threat against the symptoms of aging. Whether aging is molded by interplay between oxidative stress and inflammatory mediators has received little attention; however, we and other laboratories have explored this notion and have observed an elevated inflammatory status with age. Stemming from these observations and in view of the limited success of antioxidant therapies in improving lifespan in long-lived species…we propose…life-long use of a very low dose anti-inflammatory compound such as aspirin to engage the inflammatory and endogenous oxidative insults accompanying aging and, in so doing, attempt to increase maximum and mean lifespan.”

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Reduction Of Oxidative DNA

In the December 2012 issue of Aging, researchers reaffirmed aspirin’s role in preventing cumulative DNA damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Aspirin “decreased the level of constitutive DNA damage signaling,” the article said. “Reduction of oxidative DNA damage may lower predisposition to neoplastic transformation, which otherwise may result from errors in repair of DNA sites coding for oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes.”

Expensive Drugs As Effective As Aspirin

As for its traditional usage in relieving mild to moderate pain and reducing fever and inflammation, aspirin continues to impress the medical community, notes Sidney M. Wolfe, MD, of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group in Washington, DC and co-author of Worst Pills, Best Pills. “All prescription drugs for rheumatoid arthritis are much more expensive than aspirin, have significant side effects and are no more effective than aspirin,” says Wolfe. Moreover, although all NSAIDs including acetaminophencontaining products (e.g., Tylenol) pose the risk of kidney failure when used excessively and chronically, aspirin is least likely to pose these risks, note T.V. Perneger and coinvestigators in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Risks

However, those men and women over age 70 considering use of aspirin as prophylactic therapy against heart disease should think twice about its regular use if they are otherwise at low risk for heart disease or stroke. The danger of bleeding complications may outweigh the benefits. In Clinical Pharmacology Therapy, C.A. Silagy and co-investigators observed that in a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial of 400 subjects who were 70 or older, who received either 100 mg of entericcoated aspirin daily or placebo (and who had no preexisting major vascular diseases at the time of entry), that there were more gastrointestinal symptoms among those using aspirin and that clinically evident gastrointestinal bleeding occurred in 3% of the subjects receiving aspirin and none receiving placebo. The researchers concluded until the risk-benefit trade-off from the use of low-dose aspirin is established with an appropriate clinical trial, caution should be exercised when this compound is used for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in this age group.

This study points up the recommendation that people should not take aspirin if they have ulcers, a severely irritated stomach, gout, severe anemia, hemophilia or other bleeding problems. “If you take aspirin only occasionally, plain, generic aspirin is best,” says Wolfe. For long-term use, Wolfe asserts enterically coated aspirin will help prevent stomach bleeding—(although the Clinical Pharmacology Therapy report demonstrates even lowdose enterically coated aspirin can cause bleeding in the elderly). Wolfe recommends against buffered aspirin “since it is no better than plain aspirin and is more costly.”

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Then there is a small increased risk for the most serious kinds of disabling strokes that occur not from blood clots but hemorrhage; in other words, too much inhibition of prostaglandins occurs. In a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine, P.M. Ridker of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and co-investigators found increase in frequency of stroke with aspirin therapy. These results confirmed a report in the British Medical Journal Clinical Research Edition. In this case, the reduction in non-fatal strokes was a substantial 25% but disabling strokes were somewhat more common among those given aspirin. Thus, the bottom line appears to be aspirin can prevent less serious types of stroke but may increase the risk of those potentially most disabling. (It is especially important that people not use aspirin if they are taking anticoagulant drugs such as heparin or warfarin, notes Wolfe.)

Finally, aspirin should never be given to children under the age of two or under age 16 who are suffering from a cold, flu or chicken pox because of the risk of Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially fatal illness.

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The amount to take is also important. One of the nation’s leading aspirin researchers, Dr Charles Hennekens, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, advises the use of about 80 mg.

“Don’t take this little white pill without supervision,” advises pharmacist Joe Graedon. “Anyone who is contemplating a lifelong regimen of aspirin needs to be under medical supervision. This is not a do-it-yourself project.”

REFERENCES Halicka HD, Zhao H, Li J, Lee YS, Hsieh TC, Wu JM, Darzynkiewicz Z. Potential anti-aging agents suppress the level of constitutive mTOR- and DNA damage- signaling. Aging (Albany NY). 2012 Dec;4(12):952-965. Ishikawa H, Mutoh M, Suzuki S, Tokudome S, Saida Y, Abe T, Okamura S, Tajika M, Joh T, Tanaka S, Kudo SE, Matsuda T, Iimuro M, Yukawa T, Takayama T, Sato Y, Lee K, Kitamura S, Mizuno M, Sano Y, Gondo N, Sugimoto K, Kusunoki M, Goto C, Matsuura N, Sakai T, Wakabayashi K. The preventive effects of low-dose enteric-coated aspirin tablets on the development of colorectal tumours in Asian patients: a randomised trial. Gut. 2014 Jan 31. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2013-305827. [E-pub ahead of print] Thorat MA, Cuzick J. Role of aspirin in cancer prevention. Curr Oncol Rep. 2013 Dec;15(6):533-540. doi: 10.1007/s11912-013-0351-3.
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