A substantial decline in immune system function with increasing age--known as immune senescence--raises the risk of serious disease and premature death in middle years and beyond. Immune senescence results in less antibody production in response to immunization shots and to disease-causing organisms, lowering the usefulness of vaccines and raising the chances of prolonged illness.
In recent years, scientists have achieved notable medical successes by developing compounds aimed at key molecules that cause or allow specific diseases to develop. In some instances, the compounds have been derived from natural food components and targeted at improving immune system function. One such compound is a dried extract of fermented wheat germ (trade name Avemar in Europe). Avemar has proven effective at supporting optimal immune system function and has produced substantial clinical effects in a wide range of conditions such as cancer and autoimmune disorders.
Aging Population Focuses on Quality of Life Via Improved Health
During the last century, the median age and the life expectancy of people in developed nations have been increasing steadily. (1) Today, one in every five Americans is expected to be age 65 or over by the year 2030. (2) People aged 100 and over are now the fastest-growing portion of the US population, numbering over 60,000--a very substantial increase from 3,700 in 1940. (3) The US Census Bureau expects almost ten percent of those born 1946-1965 to live into their 90s, with almost four percent--a total of three million--reaching the age of 100. (4) Increasingly, however, the focus of educated, aging populations is not on longevity alone but on maintaining excellent health so that a high quality of life is enjoyed even as age advances.
Immune System Function Is the Key to Health
Impairment of immunity plays a key role in the increase of cancer incidence with advancing age. Today, cancer is the leading cause of death in those aged 45 to 85.
Of the current top ten causes of death in those 45 and older, only one cause--accidents--is unrelated to either immunity or metabolism. (5) Almost as feared among an aging population as a shortened lifespan is the pain and decreased mobility and loss of independence that can come with the age-related increase in the prevalence of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Nobel Laureate Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi and Avemar
The 1937 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded to Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, the Hungarian biochemist famous for first isolating vitamin C and for groundbreaking work in the biochemistry of cell metabolism. In the later years of his career, Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi turned his focus to cancer, which had taken the life of his first wife and of other family members. Aware that populations eating whole grains had less cancer than those that didn't, Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi investigated the wheat plant for its anti-cancer properties and soon isolated compounds called methoxy-substituted benzoquinones, which data from his early experiments suggested would demonstrate anti-cancer properties if taken in supplemental quantities. Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi, an expert in fermentation, concentrated the wheat...