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The world-renowned pioneer in the fields of biochemistry and nutritional science, is Professor in the Graduate School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Research Scientist at Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Professor Ames’s work has concerned the study and therapeutic manipulation of metabolic dysfunction for restoring and enhancing human health. His research has focused on identifying important mutagens that damage human DNA, the defenses that protect us from them, and the consequences of DNA damage for cancer and aging.

Professor Ames received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology, and he is the recipient of the Eli Lilly Award of the American Chemical Society (1964), Arthur Flemming Award (1966), Lewis Rosenstiel Award (1976), FASEB/3M Award for Research in Life Sciences (1976), E.R.D.A. Distinguished Associate Award (1976), Environmental Mutagen Society Award (1977), California Technology Distinguished Alumni Award (1977), Simon Shubitz Cancer Prize (1978), Felix Wankel Research Award (1978), John Scott Medal (1979), Bolton L. Corson Medal (1980), New Brunswick Lectureship Award (1980), Wadsworth Award (1981), Charles S. Mott Prize (1983), Gairdner Foundation Award (1983), Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (1985), Spencer Award (1986), Roger J. Williams Award in Preventive Nutrition (1989), Gold Medal from the American Institute of Chemists (1991), Glenn Foundation Award (1992), Röntgen Prize of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (1993), Lovelace Award for Excellence in Environ. Health Research (1995), Frontiers of Science Award (1995), Messel Medal from the British Society of Chemical Industry 1996), Society of Toxicology Public Communications Award (1996), Achievement in Excellence Award from the Center for Excellence in Education (1996), Honda Prize (1996), Japan Prize (1997), Kehoe Award from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (1997), Medal of the City of Paris (1998), National Medal of Science (1998), American Society for Microbiology Lifetime Achievement Award (2001), Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research (2001), and Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal from the Genetics Society of America (2004).

Professor Ames has served on the National Cancer Institute board of directors, and he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has served on its Commission on Life Sciences. In addition, he is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Japan Cancer Association, and Academy of Toxicological Sciences. Professor Ames has published more than 500 scientific articles.

Notable awards

  • Eli Lilly Award of the American Chemical Society 1964
  • Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1970
  • Elected to National Academy of Sciences 1972
  • Rosenstiel Award 1975
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science 1980
  • Wadsworth Award 1981
  • Charles S. Mott Prize, GM Cancer Research Foundation 1983
  • IBM-Princess Takamatsu Cancer Res Fund Lectureship 1984
  • Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement 1985
  • Elected Foreign Member, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 1989
  • Gold Medal Award of the American Institute of Chemists 1991
  • Elected Fellow, Academy of Toxicological Sciences 1992
  • Elected Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology 1992
  • Glenn Foundation Award of the Gerontological Society of America 1992
  • Röntgen Prize of the Accademia Nazionale de Lincei (Italy) 1993
  • Messel Medal, British Society of Chemical Industry 1996
  • Society of Toxicology Public Communications Award 1996
  • Honda Prize 1996
  • Japan Prize 1997
  • Kehoe Award, American College of Occup. and Environ. Med 1997
  • Medal of the City of Paris 1998
  • U.S. National Medal of Science 1998
  • American Society for Microbiology Lifetime Achievement Award 2001
  • Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research 2001
  • Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal, Genetics Society Am 2004
  • American Society for Nutrition/CRN M.S. Rose Award 2008
  • Orthomolecular Medicine Hall of Fame 2010
  • Society Of Toxicology Lifetime Achievement Award 2012
  • American Society of Nutrition Class of 2018 Fellows 2018

Novel Nutrition Bar Improves Asthma Symptoms in Obese Teens

A pilot clinical trial by UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) researchers has found that targeted nutrient therapy can improve lung function in obese individuals with asthma, without requiring weight loss. The study, published on July 19 in The FASEB treatments.

Bruce Ames, PhD, senior scientist at CHORI and senior author of the FASEB paper, along with his colleague Mark Shigenaga, PhD, a co-author and expert in gut health, originated the idea for the CHORI-Bar, a patent-pending supplement bar designed to fill nutritional gaps in poor diets. The bar was developed over a period of 10 years, guided by some 15 small clinical trials, by a team of scientists in Ames’ group at CHORI, in collaboration with the USDA’s Healthy Processed Foods Research Unit.

Bruce Ames holds a tray of CHORI bars

Bruce Ames, PhD, has developed the CHORI-Bar over 10 years to fill nutritional gaps in poor diets.

“The obese are eating the worst diets,” said Ames. “Our group had previously demonstrated that the CHORI-Bar improved metabolic health in obese, otherwise healthy, adults. We wanted to test whether the bar would also benefit people that had been diagnosed with obesity-linked conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension.”

“We chose obese asthma as the first test of this idea for several reasons”, said Joyce McCann, PhD, director of the CHORI-Bar project and co-first author of the paper.” We knew that eating a Mediterranean diet had been shown to protect against asthma, and that the bar composition had some similarities to a Mediterranean diet. In addition, we knew that obese asthma had been shown in some studies to be associated with the same type of metabolic dysregulation that the bar improves. The aim of the study was to find out if consumption of the bar would improve overall metabolic health in obese asthmatics, and secondarily also improve asthma symptoms.”

The nutritional scientists collaborated on the clinical trial with pediatric lung specialists at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, including co-first author Mustafa Bseikri, MD, who is now with Kaiser Permanente. The team tested the ability of the CHORI-Bar to improve asthma and quality of life in two groups of obese adolescents with poorly controlled asthma. Both groups, totaling 56 participants, attended eight weekly classes that emphasized the importance of healthy eating and exercise, though participants were not required to change their diets. One of the groups also ate two CHORI-Bars each day. The research team measured participants’ lung function and other indicators of metabolic health at the beginning and end of the study. Improvement in lung function occurred only in participants who ate the CHORI-Bar. The researchers said these findings are provocative and point to the need for larger trials.

The study also found that improved lung function only occurred in individuals with a low level of chronic inflammation and was not seen in those with higher levels. The role of chronic inflammation in blunting the positive effects of CHORI-Bar consumption in obese participants was also observed in a 2015 study led by McCann in obese adults, and is a topic for further study.

“While we do not know the mechanism by which the CHORI-Bar is improving lung function, we suspect it may be by strengthening the barrier in the lining of the lung”, said Shigenaga. “This barrier is known to be weakened in asthma, leading to the entry of antigens and inflammation. This parallels the way we think the bar is working at the gut barrier.”

The development of the CHORI-Bar is grounded in the Triage Theory proposed by Ames in 2006. The theory states that when an essential nutrient is modestly deficient, the body directs the nutrient’s limited supply to essential short-term functions, at the expense of those preventing long-term insidious damage which leads to diseases of aging, such as cancer and heart disease. The theory predicts that even a modestly inadequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals (which is very common) can have an adverse effect on bodily functions needed for a long and healthy life.

“This is a tremendous insight, led by a world pioneer in metabolism,” said Thoru Pederson, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.

Additional study authors include Ashutosh Lal, MD, Edward Fong, MD of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland; Kirsten Graves, MS RD; Ginny L. Gildengoren, PhD, Alisa Goldrich, and Jung Suh, PhD, of CHORI; Devan Block, OTR, of UCSF; Michele Mietus-Snyder at Children’s National Hospital, and Karen Hardy of Stanford University. The study was supported by the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute – Ames Foundation and a grant from the UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) – Strategic Opportunities Support (SOS) Program.

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises three top-ranked hospitals – UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland – as well as Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, UCSF Benioff Children’s Physicians and the UCSF Faculty Practice. UCSF Health has affiliations with hospitals and health organizations throughout the Bay Area. UCSF faculty also provide all physician care at the public Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and the SF VA Medical Center. The UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program is a major branch of the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine.

Interview With Dr. Bruce Ames: Nutrition Via Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Food is so plentiful that getting enough to eat seems assured. But because of the low quality of the diets and food so many people consume, most of us are deficient in at least some critical vitamins and minerals. As a result, the body, faced with shortages of key nutrients, quietly sacrifices long-term health for short-term survival. The result is age-related diseases like cancer, heart disease, immune dysfunction and cognitive decline.

Most of the world’s population, even in developed countries, has inadequate intake of one or more of the ~30 essential vitamins and minerals, mostly used as cofactors by the proteins/ enzymes of metabolism. A varied and balanced diet should provide enough vitamins and minerals; an unbalanced diet with too much refined food provides calories, but not enough vitamins and minerals. Triage theory posits that, as a result of recurrent shortages of vitamins and minerals during evolution, natural selection developed a strategic rationing response to moderate shortages so that the scarce vitamins and minerals are preferentially retained by vitamin and mineral dependent proteins that are essential for short-term survival and reproduction. In contrast, proteins needed for long-term health, which defend against the diseases associated with aging, are starved for the vitamins and minerals and thus are disabled. Moreover, since the damage from moderate deficiency is insidious, its importance for long-term health is not clinically apparent. Strong support for triage theory comes from the analyses of published data on proteins dependent on vitamin K and on selenium. Both of these vitamins and minerals have built into metabolism a triage-like trade- off between short-term survival and long-term health; each uses a different mechanism to accomplish this end. Mechanistic, genetic, and epidemiological evidence suggests that this metabolic trade-off accelerates aging-associated diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, immune dysfunction, and cognitive decline.

Those are the conclusions of researchers like Dr. Bruce Ames, emeritus professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Senior Scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and served on the board of directors of the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Ames recently spoke at the Evening Lecture Series (video HERE) at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola. He was interviewed for WUWF by IHMC Communications Manager Carl Wernicke.

Clinical studies show 'CHORI-bar' results in broad scale health improvements

Oakland, CA (April 22, 2015) - A fruit-based micronutrient and fiber-dense supplement bar (the "CHORI-bar") conceived by Drs. Bruce Ames and Mark K. Shigenaga at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), was shown in clinical trials to improve metabolism in overweight/obese (OW/OB) otherwise healthy adults in ways that are consistent with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Consumption of the bar for two months also reduced chronic inflammation, and initiated a reduction in weight and waist circumference. Decreased inflammation and improved weight and weight distribution can lower the risk of many chronic diseases.

These effects occurred without requiring that participants make any change in their current diet or other lifestyle practices other than to eat two CHORI-bars each day for two months. The CHORI-bar is not just another nutrition bar. It is a serious intervention to improve health. Its composition is therefore complex, and required a number of years and a series of clinical trials to develop.

The publication describing this work appeared online today (April 22, 2015)1 at The FASEB Journal. The bar was developed over the past 10 years by a team of scientists led by Drs. Bruce N. Ames and Joyce C. McCann at CHORI (2,3), in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Most people do not eat an optimally nutritious diet - particularly the obese. This results in unhealthy metabolism, which not only diminishes vigor, but increases future risk of many diseases. While poor diets contain much that is not healthy (e.g., too much salt, sugar), they also are missing or deficient in a number of important components (e.g., vitamins/minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber) necessary for healthy metabolism. The CHORI-bar is intended to fill these gaps with components present in the bar in normal dietary amounts.

Considerable evidence in the scientific literature, including Drs. Ames and McCann's work on vitamins and minerals, supports the idea that simply supplying missing or deficient dietary ingredients will improve metabolism (4-7). Development of the CHORI-bar has also been guided by Dr. Mark Shigenaga's insights into the importance of a healthy gut supported by optimal nutrition for disease prevention.

Because of the strong flavors associated with some vitamins and minerals, CHORI partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture to produce a tasty bar. Formulation development was guided by over 15 small clinical trials to ensure that beneficial properties of the bar were retained. Most early trials were two weeks in length and involved primarily lean individuals, most of whom benefited by increased HDL cholesterol. Results presented in this publication are compiled from 3 two-month clinical trials that also included a significant number of overweight/obese individuals. These trials were conducted over a 4-year period using very similar bar formulations. These trials employed a simple, economical design in which participants acted as their own controls (i.e., change in metabolic markers was measured before and after eating the bar).

Healthy metabolism is like a complex, smooth-running machine. Unhealthy metabolism is like an old machine with many rusted out joints. There is no magic bullet ingredient in nutrition - "oiling" one joint is not going to allow the rusted out machine to run. The CHORI-team thinks the broad scale improvements observed with the CHORI-bar may be the result of "oiling" multiple joints by the complex nutrient mixture. They are currently conducting experiments to better understand which ingredients in the bar are most important in the complex mixture for the observed effects.

The increasing prevalence of obesity is taking a huge toll on public health. Conventional approaches that encourage weight loss by improving dietary habits, reducing caloric intake and modifying activity can be successful, but prove difficult for many to initiate and sustain. The CHORI-bar is intended as a non-traditional means to positively impact the obesity epidemic by initiating a healthier metabolism without requiring sudden drastic behavioral changes. It may therefore assist in weight loss programs by beginning a process of favorable metabolic change. Improved metabolism resulting from eating the bar is also associated with a number of reports of feeling better (though this observation has not yet been formally tested), which the CHORI team predicts will help people transition to improved lifestyle habits.

The power of nutrient-rich, properly formulated food-based supplements, such as the CHORI-bar, to move dysregulated metabolism in a healthy direction may help reverse obesity-associated conditions, and thereby reduce the risk of future chronic diseases. The full potential of food-based supplements to do the work of some drugs without their negative side effects is just beginning to be seriously investigated.