Cholesterol and Statins

Optibac: High Cholesterol and the Problem with Statins

High Cholesterol and the Problem with Statins

Understanding our bodies and how what we do on a day-to-day basis may improve or prevent long-term health issues, has never been a more pertinent subject. We are constantly bombarded with articles and information concerning diets we should follow, exercise regimes we should adopt and health conditions that we can avoid.

High cholesterol is one such condition that we are hearing more about, and understanding how high cholesterol affects our health, as well as what we can do to manage and prevent this condition is of paramount importance. According to the British Heart Foundation, 60% of adults in the UK have high cholesterol. The prevalence grows year-on-year and increases the risk of:

  • Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries)
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

When reading statistics like this, one realises that high cholesterol is a serious condition that needs to be understood and dealt with effectively in order to prevent serious health issues from developing.

Cholesterol is a waxy fat that is carried through the bloodstream and is required (among other things) to repair blood vessels, create hormones and process vitamins. In other words, we need cholesterol. We often hear it broken down into ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) and ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL).

The great news is that having high cholesterol can be managed, but with all conditions, one must understand how it can be managed. Knowledge is power and with that in mind, we must look at what treatments are currently being used to reduce high cholesterol and whether there could be a better option out there…

The usual medical treatment for lowering high cholesterol is to be prescribed statins. Statins lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood and are viewed as the ‘go-to’ medication for those members of the population who are suffering with high cholesterol. As a consequence, the UK is the world’s 2nd highest statin dispensing nation.

OK, so there is a way of treating this condition that reduces the amount of harmful cholesterol in our bodies, therefore this is where we have to focus our energy when looking for a treatment or prevention, right? Well, not exactly…

Like many medicines, when embarking on a course of treatment we cannot simply focus on the benefits, we also need comprehensive information so that we can understand and avoid the risks. Statins, like many pharmaceutical medications, come with a worrying list of side effects. These need to be considered and understood before beginning to take them.

It has been reported that 25% of people on statins suffer with side effects (NHS, 2012) they commonly include:

  • Muscles & joint pain
  • Nosebleeds
  • Headache-like symptoms
  • Digestive problems
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)

There are also less common but more unpleasant side effects associated with taking statins, including:

  • Sickness
  • Blurred vision
  • Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis)
  • Ringing in the ears

Statins can also interact with other medicines that you may be prescribed such as antibiotics and warfarin. And many of those prescribed statins are often on the medication long-term, which, when you consider that high cholesterol isn’t merely a condition of the older population, could entail many years of statin use. For many people, long-term pharmaceutical use is something that they wish to avoid if possible, and they may be looking for a more natural option.

Optibac – For Your Cholesterol

This is where ‘For your cholesterol’, a new cholesterol-lowering probiotic from Optibac Probiotics may help you. Clinical trials have shown it to have health benefits for high cholesterol, but none of the less desirable side effects of statins.

Along with the specific probiotic strains that are contained in this product (Lactobacillus plantarum CECT 7527, Lactobacillus plantarum CECT 7528, Lactobacillus plantarum CECT 7529), it also includes Omega 3 which, in combination with the probiotics reduces inflammation in the body, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. Alongside this, the inclusion of Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in ‘For your cholesterol’ has been shown in many clinical trials to reduce LDL cholesterol and inflammation. This combination of live cultures and omega 3 supports blood cholesterol levels by utilising 6 different mechanisms of action – including acting on both the liver’s natural production of cholesterol as well as on the absorption of dietary cholesterol in the gastro-intestinal tract. A clinical trial(1) showed total cholesterol levels lowered by an average of 14% in just 3 months of taking ‘For your cholesterol’.

Taking ‘For your cholesterol’ may help:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve ratio of ‘good’ fats to ‘bad’ fats consumed
  • Down regulate your genes for cholesterol production

For those of us who may wish to continue with statin use, the good news is that ‘For your cholesterol’ can be safely taken alongside statins and any other medication you may already be on. However, this extensively researched product is safe to take on an ongoing basis with none of the side effects associated with cholesterol lowering medicine.

By Alexandra Ravenscroft, Nutritional Therapist

References
1. Fuentes MC et al. (2006) Cholesterol¬ lowering efficacy of Lactobacillus plantarum CECT 7527, 7528 and 7529 in hypercholesterolaemic adults. British Journal of Nutrition; pp 1 ¬- 7.

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Heart Disease

Heart Disease: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Risk

Simple Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

February is National Heart Month, a campaign run by the British Heart Foundation to raise awareness of the UK’s biggest killer. Heart disease is responsible for around 75,000 deaths in the UK each year, and many of these deaths are preventable.

The single biggest modifiable risk factor for heart disease is high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. One of the most common disorders in the UK, hypertension is defined as persistent raised blood pressure above 140/90mmHg.

Unfortunately hypertension, often referred to as ‘the silent killer’, typically has no outward symptoms. Around 13 million people in the UK suffer with hypertension, but 6 million of these remain undiagnosed (1).

Rule of 3: Everyday changes to protect your health

Taking control of our health means identifying those factors within our control and taking positive action to eliminate them. Unfortunately, dramatic lifestyle changes can feel overwhelming. While your GP can advise on medications, exercise and dietary changes to address heart health, there are simple changes you can begin to make every day to kick start healthy changes.

Here are three simple snacks and three supplements which have been shown to reduce blood pressure.

3 Simple Snacks

1. Snack on almonds and cashews

Replacing your usual savoury or sugary snacks with a handful of cashews or almonds will help to regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure. These nuts are among the best sources of dietary magnesium, a mineral responsible for dilating blood vessels and preventing spasms in the heart muscle. They also help to lower cholesterol levels. Studies have found nut consumption to be linked with an 8.3% reduced risk of heart disease (2).

2. Drink Hibiscus tea

A cup of hibiscus tea before breakfast lowers both diastolic and systolic blood pressure by more than 10%. A recent study found that one cup of hibiscus tea each day for four weeks was as effective as the drug Captopril in reducing blood pressure (3).

3. Get juicing

A daily juice or smoothie containing nitrate-rich vegetables offers a simple way to help reduce blood pressure. Nitrate-rich vegetables such as beetroot and kale are important for healthy blood flow, and lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels (4). Pomegranate enhances this effect by enhancing the activity of nitrates. Beets blend well with apples and berries, while kale blends well with tropical fruits such as pineapple or banana.

3 Key Nutrients for a Healthy Heart

1. Garlic

A recent meta-analysis provides evidence that garlic supplementation significantly reduces blood pressure in those with hypertension. In this study, doses ranged from 600mg to 900mg daily (5). The active component of garlic, called allicin, is destroyed during cooking, so supplements are a good choice for maximum benefit.

2. Fish oil

Several studies have linked fish oil supplementation with reduced blood pressure in those with hypertension (6). As well as lowering blood pressure, fish oil supplements reduce inflammation and platelet aggregation (‘sticky blood’). The American Heart Association recommends that those with coronary heart disease should take 1g of EPA plus DHA from fish oil supplements each day.

3. Magnesium

Diets high in sugar and low in plant foods tend to provide insufficient levels of magnesium. This is a concern because magnesium is important for the dilation of blood vessels. A recent meta-analysis found that magnesium supplementation does indeed lower blood pressure, but that larger studies are needed to confirm these findings (7). Those interested in supplementing magnesium have a number of options. Magnesium can be supplemented as a topical oil applied to skin, as magnesium salts in the bath or as a traditional oral supplement.

References
1. Blood pressure UK. http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/mediacentre/Bloodpressurenews/UKhighbloodpressurerisesbutmorediagnosed. Accessed 18/01/2016.
2. Hu FB, Stampfer MJ (1999) Nut consumption and risk of coronoary heart disease: a review of epidemiologic evidence. CurrAtheroscler Rep 1(3):533-40
3. Harrera-Arellano et L (2004) Effectiveness and tolerability of a standardised extract from Hibiscus sabdariffa in patients with mild to moderate hypertension: a controlled and randomised trial. 11(5):365-82
4. Kapil et al (2015) Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients: a randomised, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Hypertension 65(2):320-7
5. Reid et al (2008) Effect of garlic on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis. B
6. Breslow (2006) n-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. Am J ClinNutr. 86(6):1477S-1482S
7. Jee et al (2002) The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. Am J Hypertension 15(8):691-6

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Vitamin D: Building Muscle in Menopausal Women

Vitamin D: Building Muscle in Menopausal Women

Vitamin D Builds Muscle in Menopausal Women

A new Brazilian study suggests that post-menopausal women may benefit from vitamin D supplementation to increase muscle strength and reduce frailty (1). The study, conducted at Sao Paulo State University, found that older women given vitamin D supplements were stronger and had fewer falls.

Menopause and Muscle

It is well known that going through menopause increases women’s risk of bone loss, as a result of hormonal changes that influence bone health. However, many women are less aware of the effect of menopause on muscle strength.

During and after menopause, a decline in oestrogen levels leads to a gradual and ongoing decrease in muscle mass, known as sarcopenia.

This type of muscle loss is a key health concern for post-menopausal women for several reasons. Post-menopausal muscle loss puts women at risk of frailty, falls and reduced mobility. It can reduce their independence and quality of life. Additionally, a reduction in muscle mass also leads to a lower metabolism, putting older women at risk of unwanted weight gain.

Vitamin D and Muscle Mass

Vitamin D is crucial for healthy muscle function. It acts on special receptors in muscle, helping to boost muscle mass and strength. Vitamin D also plays a role in protein synthesis and works with calcium and magnesium to enable more powerful muscle contractions.

Unfortunately many adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D. In fact, 39% of adults have low vitamin D levels in the winter months and older adults who spend more time indoors are particularly vulnerable to deficiency (2).

Trial Results

The double-blind trial tested the effects of vitamin D supplements versus a placebo on the muscle strength and muscle mass of post-menopausal women. Muscle mass was estimated by the use of a total-body DXA (an X-ray scan), as well as tests of hand grip strength and fitness tests.

At the end of the 9-month study, the women receiving the vitamin D supplement showed a 25% increase in muscle strength, while the placebo group actually lost muscle mass. Over the 9 months, the women receiving the placebo supplements also had twice as many falls as those taking vitamin D.

“We concluded that the supplementation of vitamin D alone provided significant protection against the occurrence of sarcopenia, which is a degenerative loss of skeletal muscle, says Dr. L.M. Cangussu, one of the lead authors of the study.

Supplementing Vitamin D – Do’s and Don’ts

The ideal way to optimize vitamin D levels is through sensible sun exposure. This can be difficult in the winter months and can be especially challenging for those with darker skin who have a harder time converting sunlight to vitamin D.

Current recommendations are that anybody over the age of 65 should be supplementing 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D each day. Vitamin D3 is widely considered to be a better form to take than synthetic D2.  Taking vitamin D supplements alongside a fat-containing meal will also enhance absorption. Finally, many people prefer to take vitamin D alongside vitamin K as these two vitamins work synergistically.

References
1. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). “Vitamin D3 supplementation helps women build muscle even after menopause: New study demonstrates vitamin effectiveness in reducing degeneration and risk of falls.” September 2015
2. NICE. Vitamin D: increasing supplement use in at-risk groups. November 2014. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph56 Accessed 30/10/2015.

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Beating Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis: Is Calcium the Key?

Is Calcium the Key to Preventing Osteoporosis?

World Osteoporosis Day takes place every year on October 20. The campaign, organised by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), aims to raise global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease.

Our bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt in a process known as ‘bone turnover’. In our early years, bone is built faster than it is broken down, and we reach our ‘peak bone mass’ at some point during our 20s. After this time, preserving healthy bones becomes a vital health concern. If bone is broken down more quickly than it is remade, then osteoporosis may occur.

This condition is of particular concern to postmenopausal women who produce less of the bone-protecting hormone oestrogen. Women lose more bone during their menopausal years than at any other time in their life [1]. However, men are under-diagnosed when it comes to osteoporosis and are more likely to go untreated.

The Key Three: Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D

Calcium is widely understood to play a key role in bone health and in preventing osteoporosis. After all, 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in bone. However, a calcium-rich diet in the absence of other bone-building nutrients is not effective in building healthy bones. Good quality studies have even linked high calcium intake with increased risk of bone fracture. This is most likely because calcium must work alongside other nutrients to build and maintain healthy bones.

Calcium must be absorbed and retained effectively to benefit bones. This requires two more nutritional helpers: magnesium and vitamin D. These three nutrients work synergistically – none is effective without the others.

60% of the magnesium in our body is stored in our bones. Magnesium works hand in hand with calcium by stimulating the hormone calcitonin which helps to draw calcium into bone and keep it there. Magnesium is also required in order to convert vitamin D to its active form.

Unfortunately many of us fail to meet the recommended daily intake of magnesium. Deficiency in this mineral is a particular concern for girls. In a recent national survey, more than 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 18 had inadequate magnesium intake, putting them at risk of osteoporosis in later years.

Vitamin D is also essential for calcium absorption, helping to transport calcium out of the intestine and into the bloodstream. An estimated 60-70% of the UK population are low in Vitamin D. Elderly people and darker skinned populations are at particular risk of osteoporosis due to this. It is difficult to obtain sufficient Vitamin D from diet alone. Supplements or sun exposure (around 15 minutes each day) are the best ways to obtain the daily requirement of this vitamin to support healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis from occurring.

Nutrients for Bone Retention

Building healthy bone is only one part of the picture. Once healthy bone has been built, it is important to ensure that it is retained. Preventing bone from being broken down is essential in warding off osteoporosis. Special compounds in plant foods play a key role in preventing bone from being broken down. These compounds have ‘bone resorption inhibiting properties’. They support bone health by ‘turning off’ osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone tissue.

Dried plums, a source of phenols, have been shown in human studies to improve bone density by preventing bone breakdown. Other phytonutrients such as quercetin and hesperidin, present in fruits and vegetables such as onions, broccoli and citrus fruits, show similar benefits. Including these fruits and vegetables regularly alongside sources of calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D is the key to nourishing strong and healthy bones, therefore preventing osteoporosis in later life [2].

Bone Boosting Recipes

Dried Plum ‘Bone Booster’ Snack Bars

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves: 8

Special phenolic compounds in dried plums increase levels of a hormone linked to bone formation. These compounds also help to prevent bone from being broken down. Dried plums, or prunes, are also high in antioxidants and provide an excellent source of potassium, boron and copper – essential nutrients for bone health. Soy flour provides a source of ‘bone boosting’ phytoestrogens, while almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are useful sources of calcium and magnesium. [3]

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • ¼ cup Dried Plum (Prune) purée
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tsp grated orange zest
  • ¼ cup soy flour
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup whole almonds
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds

Directions

Heat oven to 160°C. Spray an 8×8” baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving the paper overhanging on 2 sides. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dried plum purée, honey, orange juice, egg white and orange zest. In small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon and baking powder. Fold flour mixture, oats, almonds, coconut, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds into dried plum mixture.

Press mixture evenly into prepared pan. Bake about 30 minutes or until firm to the touch. Cool on rack; remove from pan, using paper to lift it out. Cut in four, then cut across in half to make 8 bars.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 212
Cholesterol: 0mg
Total Fat: 12g
Saturated Fat: 4g
Sodium: 41mg
Carbohydrate: 22g
Protein: 6g
Fibre: 3g
Potassium: 159mg

‘Better Bones’ Banana Oat Bars

Makes one 9×9-inch pan. 6 Servings.

Oats and flaxseed provide lignans which support bone and hormonal health after menopause. Bananas provide potassium which helps to prevent loss of calcium from the body. Anti-inflammatory omega 3, in the ground flaxseed and walnuts, is linked with improved bone density. Special phenolic compounds in dried plums increase levels of a hormone linked to bone formation. These compounds also help to prevent bone from being broken down. Dried plums, or prunes, are also high in antioxidants and provide essential nutrients for bone health such as potassium, boron and copper.

Ingredients

  • 2 large, very ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup pitted, chopped prunes
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • Grated nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

Directions

Heat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 9×9-inch square baking dish with olive oil.

Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium mixing bowl until no large chunks remain. Stir in the vanilla, if using. Add the oats and stir them in. Stir in the prunes and nuts.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan. Sprinkle the top lightly with cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to crisp up.

Per serving:

Calories: 200
Fat: 4.9g
Fibre: 5.6g
Sugar: 10.7g
Protein: 5.5g

Written by Nadia Mason

References
1. Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:504-511.
2. Hooshmand et al (2011) Comparative effects of dried plum and dried apple on bone in postmenopausal women. Brr J Nutr 106(6):923-30.
3. Gunn et al (2015) Nutrients Increased Intake of Selected Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit may Reduce Bone Turnover in Post-Menopausal Women 7(4): 2499–2517.

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Light therapy & SAD: Look on the Bright Side

Could Light Therapy help beat your winter blues?

While many look forward to the crisp and clear autumn and winter months, others find that they struggle through these months feeling tired and low. Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression that is brought on when levels of natural sunlight are reduced. Symptoms tend to begin as the days get shorter and winter draws in, only lifting completely during the summer months. A milder form of seasonal depression – often called sub-syndromal SAD (S-SAD) or simply ‘the winter blues’ – affects around 1 in 10 adults.

Bright Light Therapy
SAD is a form of depression that is brought on when levels of natural sunlight are reduced

I was interested to read a recent Swedish study that tested a treatment called ‘bright light therapy’ on individuals with SAD and with S-SAD (1). Bright light therapy is a treatment that involves exposure to a special light that mimics natural outdoor light.

The study tested the effects of the light therapy on 49 individuals who had been diagnosed with either SAD or S-SAD.

When the individuals began to experience winter depressive symptoms, some of the group were either given a 10-day course of bright light therapy, or were put onto a 3-week waiting list, after which they were given the 10-day treatment course. The group of people on the waiting list were used as the ‘control’ group for this study.

The study found that bright light therapy was linked to improvements in a number of symptoms. The researchers had conducted an earlier randomised clinical trial which found that bright light therapy did indeed have a positive effect on depressive mood in those with SAD and S-SAD (2). This new study, however, also measured the effects of bright light therapy on other symptoms, such as tiredness, fatigue, sleep problems and health-related quality of life. All of these symptoms had improved after the 10-day course of light therapy. Symptoms were then measured again, a month after the treatment had finished, and it was found that the symptom improvements had lasted.

The study suffers because, although a control group was used, strictly speaking there was no placebo group. If the second group had been exposed to a ‘placebo’ light rather than the therapeutic bright light, then this might have served as a better comparison group. The study is nevertheless very interesting because it indicates that light therapy can help not just depressive mood, but that it can bring about improvement in a number of symptoms including milder symptoms of depression and daytime sleepiness.

Despite the design flaw in the study, light therapy does appear to be a promising treatment for the ‘winter blues’. Systematic reviews have reported that light therapy represents an effective and well-tolerated treatment for SAD (3). A home light box may therefore be a wise investment for those who need a boost during these darker months. Using a light box for between 30 minutes to an hour in the morning is considered to be an effective approach, and the light should be at least 2500 lux to be beneficial. Some individuals also use a Sunrise Alarm Clock as well to help balance their circadian rhythm and ensure they wake naturally in the morning rather than to the sharp, shrill noise of a standard alarm clock. These Wake-Up Lights simulate the “sunrise” so the brain wakes gradually.

Seasonal affective disorder, or the milder ‘winter blues’ can mean months of misery for those affected. With an estimated 1 in 20 adults affected by SAD, and a further 1 in 10 suffering from its milder form S-SAD, it is certainly an approach worth considering.

Written by Nadia Mason

References
1. Rastad C, et al. Improvement in Fatigue, Sleepiness, and Health-Related Quality of Life with Bright Light Treatment in Persons with Seasonal Affective Disorder and Subsyndromal SAD. Depression Research and Treatment. 2011:543906
2. Rastad C, Ulfberg J, Lindberg P. Light room therapy effective in mild forms of seasonal affective disorder—a randomised controlled study. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2008. 108(3):291–296.
3. Lee T M, Chan C C. Dose-response relationship of phototherapy for seasonal affective disorder: a meta-analysis. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 2000. 99(5): 315-323

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Disrupted Sleep - could it be making you fat?

Disrupted sleep – could it be making you fat?

New study: Disrupted sleep can increase ‘hunger hormones’

Disrupted sleep can increase ‘hunger hormones’ leading to unwanted weight gain, a new study suggests (1). The review, published recently in the Journal of Psychology, examines the various ways in which disrupted sleep and the associated problems cause increased food intake.

Disrupted Sleep and ‘Hunger Hormones’

Our experience of hunger is controlled by two hormones – leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that tells our brain that we are feeling full, while ghrelin sends signals from our stomach to our brain to increase appetite.

Studies have found that a lack of sleep leads to an imbalance in leptin and ghrelin (2,3). Any imbalance in these hormones can spell trouble for appetite and cravings. The result is that we are left feeling hungrier than usual. This type of imbalance also means that we are less likely to feel ‘full’ after a good meal and more likely to experience cravings for sugar-laden foods.

Disrupted Sleep and Will-Power

The researchers pinpoint another mechanism that may link sleep and weight problems. “Disrupted sleep patterns may impact food intake of both adults and children via impairment of executive functions”. If you’ve ever blamed a lack of will-power for thwarted weight loss attempts, then it may be helpful to look at improving your sleep. It seems that disrupted sleep can impair the part of the brain that is responsible for ‘executive control’ and ‘impulse modulation’, and so can sabotage weight loss attempts by affecting healthy meal planning, impulse control and simple ‘will power’. (4).

Disrupted Sleep and Emotional Eating

A third factor highlighted in the review is the role that sleep plays on emotional regulation, scientifically known as the limbic system. A pattern of disrupted sleep means we are more likely to see the ‘glass half empty’ – negative emotions are amplified and emotional challenges are more difficult to manage (5).

The result is comfort eating. We begin to reach for sugar-laden or stodgy foods – sweet and energy-dense foods to rebalance our levels of ‘happy hormones’ such as serotonin and endorphins.

Solutions for disrupted sleep

“Sleep should be actively considered in efforts to modify dietary behaviour,”, this new study concludes. In other words, if you are struggling with weight loss or sticking to a healthy eating programme, then addressing sleep problems is a good place to start.

Basic sleep hygiene is important. Try to go to bed and rise at the same times each day, and refrain from doing anything too stimulating – playing computer games, checking emails, heavy exercise – in the couple of hours before bed. Make sure that your bedroom is dark and kept at a comfortable temperature.

Magnesium, the ‘relaxing mineral’ has been found to relieve sleep problems. Taking 300mg magnesium before bed, or using a topical magnesium oil, can boost your levels in order to promote healthful sleep. Magnesium salts can also be added to bath water and will be absorbed through the skin.

L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid, plays a role in relaxation and has been seen to improve sleep quality in recent studies (6). L-theanine works by enhancing alpha-wave activity in the brain, resulting in a more relaxed state and reduced anxiety levels.

Valerian is a herbal supplement often used for promoting healthful sleep. Many individuals have found relief with herbal sleep formulas although more research needs to be done in this area.

Finally, tart cherry juice (such as CherryActive), has also performed well in initial placebo-controlled sleep studies, probably as a result of its anti-inflammatory properties and melatonin content. This type of cherry juice has been found to improve sleep parameters such as sleep quality, efficiency and total sleep time (7).

References:

  1. Alyssa Lundahl and Timothy D Nelson (2015) Sleep and food intake: A multisystem review of mechanisms in children and adults. Journal of Health Psychology, 20(6):794-805
  2. Tatone F, Dubois L, Ramsay T, et al (2012) Sex differences in the association between sleep duration, diet and body mass index: A birth cohort study. Journal of Sleep Research 21(4): 448–460
  3. Burt J, Dube L, Thibault L, et al (2014) Sleep and eating in childhood: A potential behavioral mechanism underlying the relationship between poor sleep and obesity. Sleep Medicine Reviews 15(1): 71–75
  4. Beebe DW, Fallone G, Godiwala N, et al. (2008) Feasibility and behavioral effects of an at-home multi-night sleep restriction protocol for adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49(9): 915–923
  5. Daniela T, Alessandro C, Giuseppe C, et al. (2010) Lack of sleep affects the evaluation of emotional stimuli. Brain Research Bulletin 82(1): 104–108
  6. Lyon MR et al (2011) The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine®) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Dec;16(4):348-54
  7. Wilfred RP et al (2010) Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study. J Food Med. 13(3):579-583
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Wiley’s Finest: Super Fats!

EPA/DHA Counts!

Not all fats are the same, and it pays to know the difference.

After decades of demonising fats in the diet, the latest headlines report “fat is good for you!” But the devil is the detail and it matters which type of fat you choose to consume. There are good, bad and ugly fats in the diet and having the knowledge to make wise food choices can delay or even prevent, the onset of a myriad of diseases from head to toe and from cradle to grave.

Most people eat too much processed fat- found in hydrogenated margarines, convenience, fast and fried foods and in intensively reared animal products. These foods are eaten in abundance and overload the body with trans-fats and omega-6 fats. The historical harmful onus that has been planted on saturated fats from meat and dairy, being linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, is currently under question. Eminent researcher Hibbeln points out that the over consumption of vegetable oils rich in omega-6 may bear the blame.

Commercial vegetable oils such as soya, corn, groundnut, sunflower and all foods and margarines containing them are flooding our plates. These oils are abundant in omega-6, which converts to the biochemical AA* and triggers pain, blood clotting and inflammation if intakes become too high. Consequently, the population rely on COX inhibitors- such as aspirin and ibuprofen- drugs which block the conversion of AA to keep the blood thin and pain at bay. Furthermore, the polyunsaturated omega-6 fats are more prone to ‘rusting’ up in the blood stream than saturated fats, causing damage that leads to the buildup of arterial plaques.

Time for an Oil Change!

The focus here is to increase intakes of the healthful omega-3 fats, particularly EPA and DHA* which are found only in seafood. The specific chemical and physical nature of these marine oils bestow unique biological structure and function and are critically concentrated in the brain and eyes.

Smart Fats – Seafood DHA and EPA

Seafood DHA and EPA are the gift of vision and award intelligence. The retina of the eye contains a higher level of DHA than any other tissue.

Research supports the role of the remarkable ‘Super Fats EPA and DHA’ to have beneficial effects in all parts of the body, especially in brain. Diets high in fish are strongly correlated with freedom from depression, postpartum depression, aggression, psychosis and cardiovascular disease. Further research supports childhood neurodevelopment including visual functions, learning ability, mood, despondency, anxiety, sleep and behavioural disorders.

Importantly, EPA converts to bioactive substances that reduce the the propensity of the blood to clot and curbs pain and inflammation, circumventing the need for drug therapy.
Some plant oils contain omega-3 ALA*, rich in flaxseed and hemp, with lower amounts in walnuts and pumpkin seeds.

Most diets are deficient in omega-3, since most people do not eat enough oily fish or flaxseeds.

Marine oils EPA and DHA are more biologically active that plant omega-3 ALA. Too much omega-6 blocks and overwhelms the health promoting aspects of omega-3, so it is a good idea to cut down the intake of omega-6s, whilst increasing the intake of omega-3s.

Fish Oil Supplements “The Professional’s Choice”

Wileys Making an educated choice about which omega-3 supplements you choose:
A favourite product is ‘Wiley’s Finest Peak Omega-3 Liquid’, which provides 2.150mg EPA/DHA per 5ml dose. Babi Chana BSc (HONS) BSc Nut.Med BANT. CHNC believes this product is the professional’s choice, since it gives a therapeutic amount of EPA/DHA to be effective and efficient to correct imbalances and deficiencies of dietary fat intakes.
Furthermore, Wiley’s Finest fresh fish oil is produced in Alaska from wild Pollock caught in US waters. The oil is then purified and gently concentrated up to 75% Omega-3 to make a mini softgel – 55% smaller than regular strength fish oil, yet with 30% more Omega – Wiley’s actually excel in sustainability, use recycled packaging and make biodiesel from the leftover fats…and it’s affordable!

*Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid.
Alphalinoleic Acid. Arachidonic Acid

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Doctor’s Best: CoQ10

What is Coenzyme Q10?

Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like, fat soluble nutrient central to energy production at the cellular level, essential for generating metabolic energy in the form of ATP.

What is ATP?

ATP is the energy currency of every cell in the human body, it is necessary for not only exercise but for life. ATP is produced in the mitochondria, the power-house of cells, where Coenzymes Q10 plays its role.

CoQ10 levels and age

Unfortunately, CoQ10 levels decrease with age. A factor that may actually contribute to the aging process. It is believed that exhaustive, prolonged exercise may further deplete CoQ10 levels. Food content of CoQ10 can be very low, thus many healthcare providers recommend supplementing with Coenzyme Q10. Given CoQ10’s vital role in energy production, supplementation seems to be a wise decision for any athlete engaging in exhaustive exercise.

Clinical trials on Coenzyme Q10

Clinical trials have demonstrated Coenzyme Q10’s usefulness as an ergogenic aid, which are substances that benefit athletic performance. One study demonstrated that only 8 weeks of CoQ10 supplementation at 100mg showed performance improvement and fatigue reduction in repeated bouts of exercise compared to placebo (1).
Another study showed significant improvement in power production in elite, Olympic athletes after 6 weeks of supplementation (2).

In 2008, a clinical trial showed that CoQ 10 supplementation improved time to exhaustion for participants in only 2 weeks (3).

CoQ10 and Athletic Performance

CoQ 10’s use as an ergogenic aid extends beyond its direct improvement of performance markers, it also helps athletes deal with exercise-induced stress. Taking CoQ 10 before strenuous bouts of exercise has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammatory signaling, preventing further damages to the muscles (4).

Scientific References:

  1. Gökbel H, Gül I, Belviranl M, Okudan N. The effects of coenzyme Q10 supplementation on performance during repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise in sedentary men. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(1):97-102.
  2. Alf D, Schmidt ME, Siebrecht SC. Ubiquinol supplementation enhances peak power production in trained athletes: a double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10:24.
  3. Cooke M, Iosia M, Buford T, et al. Effects of acute and 14-day coenzyme Q10 supplementation on exercise performance in both trained and untrained individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5:8.
  4. Díaz-castro J, Guisado R, Kajarabille N, et al. Coenzyme Q(10) supplementation ameliorates inflammatory signaling and oxidative stress associated with strenuous exercise. Eur J Nutr. 2012;51(7):791-9.
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Optibac Probiotics – travel with a happy and healthy digestive system

50% of travellers experience digestive issues when abroad. Don’t be one of them!

Traveller’s Diarrhoea is the most frequently experienced health disorder experienced by those travelling abroad[1]. Research suggest that pathogenic bacteria are responsible for 85% of all cases of Traveller’s Diarrhoea[3], with E. coli being the most common offender[4,5]. Despite it being a generally minor condition, it can ruin your holiday. Statistics reveal that 20% of sufferers are confined to bed for a day, and 33% need to stop their activities[2].

Of course some destinations are higher risk than others and are generally the more exotic locations such as Egypt, India, and Mexico.

So what is the best natural approach to Traveller’s Diarrhoea?

Much research shows the potential for probiotics to be a natural preventative. Studies suggest that probiotics, a.k.a. friendly bacteria, can help to strengthen the gut’s protective barrier against pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella. A review of the research on this (meta-analysis) found that 85% of cases of Traveller’s Diarrhoea were prevented by probiotics[7].

How can taking bacteria avoid a bacterial infection?

Well as with other issues with gut health, having enough of the relevant strain of bacteria will help fight the unwanted pathogenic bacteria. It has been found that a combination of B. longum Rosell-175, Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell-11, Saccharomyces boulardii and L. acidophilus Rosell-52 have been shown to be effective in preventing infection with E. coli[8]. Other trials also show that Saccharomyces boulardii may be especially helpful in cases of Traveller’s Diarrhoea due to its unique ability to actually bind to unwanted, pathogenic bacteria and then help excrete them, as well as its documented ability to alleviate diarrhoea during an infection [9,10,11,12].

L. acidophilus Rosell-52 & L. rhamnosus Rosell-11 have also been shown to help prevent infection by less common pathogens including: P. aeruginosa, Klebsiella, and Staphylococcus [13,14].

So all in all these bacteria can be of huge help staying happy and healthy when travelling. Nutritional Therapist, Joanna Lutyens from OptiBac Probiotics says ‘ Your digestive system may be under siege when travelling abroad, both from an intake of foods which your body is not used to, as well as a whole new range of bacteria. It is therefore really important to look after your digestive health when travelling. Taking a probiotic specifically designed to support your gut health in this situation may really help prevent discomfort or illness. Of course there are other things you can do to avoid getting the dreaded Delhi Belly. Tips include avoiding unpeeled fruit and vegetables, avoid tap water even when brushing your teeth, wash your hands regularly, avoid ice cubes and stay hydrated.’

References:

  1. Bradley AC, 2007.
  2. World Tourism Organisation. Tourism highlights. 2008. Available at www.unwto.org
  3. Black RE. Epidemiology of travellers’ diarrhoea and relative importance of various pathogens. Rec. Infect. Dis. 1990: 12 (suppl 1): S73-S79
  4. Jiang ZD; Mathewson JJ, Ericsson CD, Svennerholm AM, Pulido C, DUPont HL. Characterisation of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli strains in patients with traveller’s diarrhoea acquired in Guadalajara, Mexico, 1992-1997. J Infect Dis. 2000;181:779-82
  5. Adachi JA, Jiang ZD, Mathewson JJ, Verenkar MP, Thompson S, Martinez-Sandoval F, et al. Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli as a major etiologic agent in traveller’s diarrhoea in 3 regions of the world. Clin Infect Dis. 2001;32:1706-9.
  6. Centres for disease control and prevention – www.cdc.gov.travel/yellowbookch4-diarrhoea.aspx
  7. McFarland MV, Meta-analysis of probiotics for the prevention of traveller’s diarrhoea. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease. 2007; 5: 97-105.
  8. Bisson JF. (ETAP), H. Durand (Institut Rosell- Lallemand), Effects of Different Probiotic Formulations on the Traveller’s Diarrhoea Model in Rats. Submitted.
  9. Kirchhelle, A. et al. Treatment of persistent diarrhoea with S. boulardii in returning travellers. Results of a prospective study. Fortschy. Med. 1996, 114:136-140
  10. Kollaritsch, H. et al. Prevention of traveler’s diarrhoea with Saccharomyces boulardii. Results of a placebo controlled double blind study. Fortschr. Med. 1993, 111:152-156.
  11. Kurugol Z., Koturoglu G. Effects of Saccharomyces boulardii in children with acute diarrhoea. Acta pediatr 2005; 94;44-7.
  12. Htwe K; et al. Effect of Saccharomyces boulardii in the Treatment of Acute Watery Diarrhoea in Myanmar Children: A Randomized Controlled Study. Am. J. Top. Med. Hyg. 2008; 78(2):214-216
  13. Tlaskal P, Lactobacillus acidophilus in the treatment of children with gastrointestinal tract illnesses. 1995, Cesko-Slovenska Pediatrie, 51 :615-619.
  14. Wasowska, K. Prevention and eradication of intestinal dysbacteriosis in infants and children. unpublished results 1997
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Spiezia Organics Facial Ritual

A five step guide to feeling fabulous!

Follow these five simple steps to achieve beautiful healthy skin the natural way. These 100% organic products, made only from natural ingredients are a joy to use and will last for ages – a little of each product goes a long way.

STEP 1 – FACIAL CLEANSER

Spiezia facial cleanser Gently massage a pea size amount in circular movements onto the face. Start around the mouth and jaw line and work up over the forehead to the scalp line. Leave to absorb into the skin for 2-3 minutes. This is a good time to put the kettle on and have an organic tea!

STEP 2 – FLORAL SKIN TONER

Spiezia Floral Skin Toner Shake the bottle to blend the essential oils and floral waters. Apply toner to some cotton wool and gently remove the facial cleanser using upward sweeping motions. Alternatively, apply to a damp muslin flannel and press over the face for a revitalising effect.

STEP 3 – ROSE & VANILLA FACE OIL

Spiezia Rose & Vanilla Face Oil For a lighter treatment. Pour a very small amount of oil into your hand and allow to warm. Clasp the fingers together under the chin and draw the fingers outwards to the angle of the jaw bone. Stroke up the face towards the forehead to apply. Then, using a series of light circular movements with the finger tips, gently massage into the skin, beginning at the base of the neck and finishing at the forehead. Allow the oil to completely absorb into the skin before applying make-up.

STEP 4 – INTENSIVE MOISTURISER

Spiezia Intensive Moisturiser For a deeper, hydrating treatment. Take a pea sized amount and warm between the fingers. Clasp the fingers together under the chin and draw the fingers outwards to the angle of the jaw bone. Stroke up the face towards the forehead. Then, using a series of light circular movements with the finger tips, gently massage into the skin, beginning at the base of the neck and finishing at the forehead. Allow the moisturiser to completely soak into the skin before applying make-up.

STEP 5 – WEEKLY – ROSE & CHAMOMILE GENTLE FACE SCRUB

Spiezia Rose & Chamomile Face Scrub Apply a small amount to the fingertips and, working from the neck up, slowly circle the fingertips all over the face to encourage gentle exfoliation for a minute or two. Softly brush the residue away with finger tips or gently remove with a warm damp cloth.

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