"Gulf War Syndrome" reduces the bioenergetic function of blood cells in veterans "Gulf War Syndrome" reduces the bioenergetic function of blood cells in veterans

"Gulf War Syndrome" reduces the bioenergetic function of blood cells in veterans

"Gulf War Syndrome" reduces the bioenergetic function of blood cells in veterans

A new study has found that Gulf War Illness (GWI) significantly reduces the ability of white blood cells to produce energy, and creates a measurable biochemical difference in those infected with the disease.
Gulf War Illness (or Gulf War Syndrome) is defined as a group of physical and psychological symptoms that appeared on soldiers participating in the Second Gulf War, including diseases of the immune system and congenital deformities of the soldiers’ children.

“Historically, Gulf War illness was diagnosed based on symptoms reported by veterans, such as exercise-induced fatigue, indigestion, or dizziness,” says Joel Mayer, a professor of environmental genomics at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, who led the new study. "or insomnia, or memory problems. There were no objective biochemical or molecular measurements that doctors could use to diagnose it."

The new study provides accessible measurements in blood samples, which, although insufficient to serve as a standalone diagnostic test, could be useful to help improve treatment of veterans with Gulf War Syndrome by giving doctors a new way to evaluate... Whether the treatment prescribed to them helps or not.

“Knowing that this is an energy deficiency can help us focus on more effective ways to relieve symptoms,” Mayer added. “Blood tests, repeated over the course of treatment, will show whether the veteran’s white blood cells are responding to the treatment and producing more energy.”

The research team from Duke University, the Department of Veterans Affairs' Center for the Study of War-Related Illness and Injury, and the Medical College of New Jersey published the new study's findings in the journal PLOS ONE.

The results reveal that Gulf War Illness prevents energy production in white blood cells by impairing the functioning of cell mitochondria, which are the structures inside the cell that extract energy from food and convert it into the chemical energy needed to fuel growth, movement, bodily processes, and other functions.

“The idea to investigate the role that mitochondria might play in Gulf War Illness came from Mike Falvo, one of my co-authors from Veterans Affairs and New Jersey Medical College, who noticed that many of the symptoms of Gulf War Illness were similar to those associated with mitochondrial diseases,” Mayer noted. Therefore, we analyzed mitochondrial cellular respiration (or mitochondria) and extracellular acidification (an indicator measuring the rate of cellular metabolism), both of which are responsible for generating energy, in the white blood cells of 114 Gulf War veterans, 80 of whom were diagnosed with Gulf War syndrome. "We also looked for evidence of mitochondrial DNA damage and nuclear DNA damage."

The analyzes did not reveal any evidence of DNA damage, but they did show significantly lower levels of extracellular acidification and oxygen consumption in the white blood cells of the veterans with Gulf War illness, signs that their mitochondria were generating less energy.

Subsequent blood tests on about a third of the veterans participating in the study showed that some of these levels could vary over time, but the general pattern remained: The cells of veterans with Gulf War illness produced less energy.

The cause of Gulf War Illness is still unknown. To determine whether environmental factors might play a role, Mayer and his colleagues turned to surveys veterans took of their self-reported symptoms and their written recollections of their prevalence.

“We found that veterans who recalled being exposed to pesticides and pyridostigmine bromide, a drug used during the Gulf War as pretreatment to protect troops from the harmful effects of nerve agents, were more likely to develop GBS,” Mayer said. “The interesting question now is how these effects persisted.” for a long period after exposure.

How can spending time outdoors enhance our health?!

A poll showed that those who spend more time outside enjoy better health, are more active and productive than those who do not.
The new study found, based on the survey, that those who spent 20 hours or more per week in a green or natural space were 41% more productive on an average day than those who spent less than 30 minutes per week outside.

Three-quarters of adults claim that spending time in nature or green spaces gives them a boost of happiness throughout the day.

The study conducted on 2,000 adults showed that 79% of them said it made them feel healthier and more active.

A clearer mind (44%), sleeping more soundly (28%), and feeling less stressed (38%) were among the top health benefits participants reported from getting outdoors – as well as feeling better physically and mentally (70% ).

While those who spend more time indoors than they would like often feel sluggish (37%), tired (25%), and isolated (16%).

This study follows previous research conducted in 2022, which found that spending time in nature can benefit health and well-being in the long term.

Louise McCathy, fundraising director at NHS Charities Together, said: “As well as helping us connect with the natural world, outdoor experiences provide a much-needed opportunity to relieve stress – and can make a huge difference to our overall health.”

The study also found that in addition to feeling healthier, those who spend more time in nature are more likely to adopt behaviors that are beneficial to the environment.

These behaviors include eating a more plant-based diet (18%), choosing to walk or bike instead of driving (31%), and recycling more (55%).

54% of survey participants said that their attitudes towards the environment were influenced by spending time outdoors, and 13% had begun picking up litter while walking.

Two-thirds indicated that spending time outdoors makes them care more about their health, with 46% feeling relaxed and 42% feeling calmer.

The study, conducted via OnePoll, also revealed that the best things about being outside are fresh air (64%), scenery (47%), and seeing animals and wildlife (46%).

However, despite enjoying being outside, a lack of access to green areas and attractive parks was a barrier to spending more time in nature for one in 10 people.

Previous studies have shown that being in nature has a positive effect on our bodies by reducing cortisol levels and muscle tension and boosts our cardiovascular systems (lowering heart rate and blood pressure). Which may lead to lower rates of heart disease.

The outdoors can also help increase your vitamin D level, which is important for bones, blood cells and the immune system.

Regular access to green spaces has been linked to a lower risk of depression and improved focus and attention. Daily exposure to natural light also helps regulate sleep-wake cycles.

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