Category Archives: cholesterol

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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Top Nutrients for Heart Health

Collectively, conditions affecting the heart are the UK’s biggest killer. Almost 2.3 million people live with coronary heart disease (CHD), leading to annual NHS healthcare costs of almost £2 billion. Key risk factors for heart disease affect large proportions of the adult population – one third of adults have high blood pressure while 60% have sub-optimal blood cholesterol levels. Despite these alarming figures, many risk factors are within our control and making simple changes to our diet and lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on our health. As we mark National Heart month we turn our attention to key nutrients and nutrition supplements that play a strong role in maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle.

ALA Omega-3

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a type of omega-3 essential fatty acid (or ‘good’ polyunsaturated fat) that has been shown over years of research to help maintain normal cholesterol levels. Although cholesterol is a vital resource in the body, helping to carry out a number of important functions such as repairing blood vessels, creating hormones, production of vitamin D, and helping to transport vitamins A, D, E & K, it can become a risk when levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol become too high. This can trigger a build-up of plaque in the arteries, which can eventually

making simple changes to our diet and lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on our health
Making simple changes to our diet and lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on our health

lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Dual cholesterol protection

Despite popular belief, only 20% of the cholesterol in our body comes from our diet whereas the majority, the remaining 80%, is produced by our own cells, mainly in the liver. ALA directly reduces production of cholesterol in the liver at its source, which is a highly effective way of normalising cholesterol levels.

ALA is also well known for reducing inflammation in the body, which helps to slow down plaque build-up in the arteries. Taking ALA daily is a great way to favourably balance the ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ fats consumed in the diet.

Ubiquinol CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring enzyme with a multitude of roles in the cardiovascular system. CoQ10 acts within our cells in the mitochondria, the body’s energy ‘powerhouse’. Maintaining healthy CoQ10 levels fuels the mitochondria and supports the high energy requirements of our organs, particularly the heart. In addition to energy production, CoQ10 plays a vital role in oxygen utilisation to further support the functioning of heart muscle cells and maintain good circulatory health. CoQ10 also helps to lower blood pressure and is recognised as an effective cholesterol lowering ‘agent’.

Research studies show that people with cardiovascular problems often have low levels of CoQ10. Risk of deficiency is even higher with patients taking statins to lower cholesterol, since not only are they likely to have low levels of CoQ10 but statins also block natural ubiquinol synthesis in the body.

Ubiquinol versus Ubiquinone

There are two types of CoQ10 used in supplements: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is ‘body-ready’, which means the body doesn’t have to convert it into a usable form – a therapeutic advantage over ubiquinone. As an antioxidant, ubiquinol also offers protection against arterial plaque, thereby reducing heart attack risk and safeguarding heart muscle cells from free radical damage. Uniquely, ubiquinol also regenerates other beneficial antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.

Ubiquinone versus ubiquinol is just half the battle with CoQ10; addressing bioavailability is a further challenge, since therapeutic outcomes are achieved by raising blood plasma levels. Most ubiquinol supplements are oil-based, which means that large ubiquinol particles struggle to pass through the gut’s water layer barrier and are poorly absorbed. A special patented delivery system called VESIsorb®, utilised by CoQ10 manufacturer Igennus, optimises absorption by converting ubiquinol into water-soluble particles, ‘pre-digesting’ it so ubiquinol is effectively fast-tracked through the digestive system. VESIsorb delivers ubiquinol into the blood stream 2 times faster than standard oil-based forms, increasing tissue distribution throughout the body to achieve significantly higher blood concentrations that remain at therapeutic levels for up to 6 times longer.

Live cultures

Three specific live cultures L. plantarum CECT 7527, 7528 and 7529, help break down bile salts, which are made from cholesterol, therefore allowing its removal from the body. These friendly bacteria also metabolise dietary cholesterol in the gut, therefore reducing its absorption into the bloodstream. The AB-LIFE strains also produce a beneficial short-chain fatty acid known as propionic acid, which signals the liver to produce less cholesterol and also has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Top heart health supplements

A new and unique formula from OptiBac Probiotics is the first of its kind formulated for heart health. For your cholesterol is a pioneering, well researched multi-targeted natural supplement that combines unique live cultures with omega-3 ALA from cold-pressed virgin flaxseed oil – offering a multitude of benefits for managing healthy cholesterol levels.

Since not all live cultures are the same, OptiBac Probiotics focuses on specific strains of natural bacteria that have been clinically tested and proven to survive stomach acidity, bile salts and digestive enzymes in order to find the best live cultures for the job.

VESIsorb® Ubiquinol-QH from Igennus provides 100 mg of fast-acting body-ready ubiquinol CoQ10 for optimal therapeutic benefits. Taken daily, this advanced supplement offers comprehensive cardiovascular support, providing potent antioxidant activity and maximal energy production.

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National Cholesterol Week

This week is National Cholesterol Week, HEART UK’s annual event to raise awareness of the dangers of high cholesterol. Heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer, accounting for around a quarter of all deaths. The good news is that if you have raised cholesterol alongside other markers of heart disease, it can in almost every case be reversed through dietary and lifestyle measures.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance manufactured by the liver and it plays an important role in your body. It is a component in the membrane of every cell in your body. It is also involved in hormone production and helps the nervous system to function properly. When there is inflammation or damaged tissue in the body, cholesterol can accumulate in the areas in need of healing. This may be why raised cholesterol can signify damage in your arteries. LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol is a particular concern because this type of cholesterol can become oxidised, leading to tissue damage and hardening of the arteries.

There are three cholesterol readings that you can have. Total cholesterol, LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and HDL (‘good’) cholesterol. LDL transports cholesterol from the liver through the bloodstream to sites where it is needed. HDL then transports it back again, and so HDL removes unwanted or damaged cholesterol from your arteries. Ideally HDL should make up at least a third of your total cholesterol.

While cholesterol is used as a marker for heart disease, in order to get a clearer idea of your real risk, it’s important to consider this marker alongside other markers such as levels of triglycerides, blood pressure and homocysteine.

If you eat a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates and fried foods, and low in protective fruits and vegetables, then cholesterol is likely to become damaged by oxidation. This type of diet also provides very little soluble fibre which is essential in eliminating excess cholesterol. In general, the best diet for lowering LDL cholesterol is a low GI diet. This type of diet has been found to be particularly effective in reducing LDL and triglycerides and raising HDL (1). A huge benefit of a low GI diet is that it has greater levels of soluble fibre which helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the body. It also provides plenty of antioxidants, helping to combat oxidative damage.

Here are 10 simple ways to reduce your cholesterol level, improve your lipid profile and lower your overall risk of heart disease.

Lettuce
Leafy Greens boost magnesium, helping to relax your arteries.

1. Increase leafy greens and add raw nuts and seeds to your diet.
These boost magnesium, helping to relax your arteries.

2. Drink 8 glasses of water each day.
Proper hydration reduces blood pressure by lowering levels of sodium inside cells.

3. Reduce your salt intake.
Reducing sodium levels can help to relax the arteries.

4. Add plant sterols.
Plant sterols lower ‘bad’ cholesterol by blocking its absorption. They are present in soya beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

5. Increase low GI carbohydrates.
Soluble fibre, in oats, lentils, beans and vegetables, helps to reduce levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol. Beta-glucans in oats are particularly beneficial.

6. Add antioxidant-rich foods every day.
Antioxidants ‘mop up’ damage within the arteries. Try blueberries, strawberries, plums, tenderstem broccoli and spinach.

7. Boost your omega-3 intake with oily fish, flaxseed oil or omega-3 eggs.
Omega-3 fats help to lower triglycerides, lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and increase ‘good’ cholesterol.

8. Add garlic, ginger and turmeric to your cooking.
Garlic promotes healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Turmeric and ginger help to relax the arteries.

9. Consider supplementing Co-Q10 and Vitamin C.
These nutrients reduce damage in the arteries and lower blood pressure.

10. Boost your B Vitamins.
Homocysteine is actually one of the strongest predictors of heart disease (2), damaging the lining of the arteries, but B vitamins convert it into a harmless substance. If you have raised homocysteine levels, then supplementing with B Vitamins can help. Try foods rich in folic acid such as broccoli, asparagus and spinach.

References

1. Stroke Statistics. British Heart Foundation and The Stroke Association. 2009.

2. Jardine MJ et al (2012) The effect of folic acid based homocysteine lowering on cardiovascular events in people with kidney disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2012;344:e3533.

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The role of omega-3 in heart health

Deaths caused by cardiovascular disease are generally premature and could easily, in some cases, be prevented by making lifestyle changes that include adopting a healthy lifestyle and increasing physical activity.

The role of lipid lowering (cholesterol and triglyceride) in reducing the risk of mortality and morbidity from cardiovascular disease is well documented. The cardiovascular benefits of omega-3, certainly in terms of cholesterol and triglyceride management, are probably the most researched of all the dietary nutrients known to influence cardiovascular disease risk. With the recent approval of the use of pure eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) as a prescription treatment for hypertriglyceridemia [1] and with overwhelming evidence for EPA’s role over docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in cholesterol management, [2] consumers should be aware of the differential effects of the two main omega-3s, EPA and DHA, on cardiovascular disease risk factors and why they should choose isolated EPA over generic fish oil.

EPA and lipid management

Whilst fish oil provides a convenient dietary intervention for maintaining heart health, the differential effects of the two main long-chain omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on cardiovascular disease risk factors means that not all fish oil products are equal in their action.

Firstly, generic oils generally contain around 30% total omega-3 and are therefore not considered viable as a therapeutic. For example, the optimal triglyceride-lowering doses of omega-3 are 3-4g/day, with little evidence to support lipid-altering efficacy in doses of less than 1g/day. [3] In addition to providing a soluble means for transporting cholesterol and triglycerides through the blood, lipoproteins have cell-targeting signals that direct the lipids they carry to certain tissues.

Pharmepa Step 1: Restore (E-EPA 90) contains the purest ethyl-EPA concentrate available without prescription

Whilst high density lipoproteins (HDL) correlate with better health outcomes, effectively clearing cholesterol from the system, low density lipoproteins (LDL) are, in contrast, considered the cholesterol ‘bad boy’ and are responsible for the detrimental effects associated with total cholesterol.

Both EPA and DHA decrease triglyceride levels, and whilst EPA lowers LDL levels, DHA appears to increase LDL levels [4, 5]. Given that products that contain a mixture of EPA and DHA may increase LDL levels, the benefits of a pure EPA product understandably extend to both cholesterol and triglyceride management. Indeed, the cholesterol-lowering ability of pure EPA at a dose of 1.8 grams in a study of approximately 19,000 statin-treated patients with hypercholesterolaemia was shown to reduce the 5-year cumulative risk of major coronary events by 19%. Igennus’ Pharmepa Step 1: Restore (E-EPA 90) contains the purest ethyl-EPA concentrate available (90%) without prescription, delivers 1g pure EPA in just two easy-to-swallow capsules, and is ideal for those individuals wanting to manage cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

AA to EPA ratio and cardiovascular health

In addition to altering lipid metabolism, omega-3 may also improve cardiovascular health by inhibiting inflammatory products derived from the key pro-inflammatory fatty acid arachidonic acid (AA). AA and EPA are converted through phospholipase A2, cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipooxygenase (LOX) to prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes, as well as various hydroxyl-fatty acids, and the AA to EPA ratio provides an established risk factor for numerous inflammatory-related conditions, including poor cardiovascular health. Indeed, inflammation is an important process in the development of cardiovascular disease; chronic inflammation, characterised by elevated plasma levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and IL-6, are commonly found in subjects at high cardiovascular risk, including type2 diabetics and patients with coronary heart disease. [6] Supplementing with EPA, in addition to triglyceride and cholesterol improvement, increases EPA blood levels, improves the AA to EPA ratio (which directly correlates with changes in improved LDL levels) and reduces cardiovascular related inflammation. [7]

In summary, EPA, unlike DHA, lowers levels of triglyceride, lowers ‘bad’ cholesterol and increases ‘good’ cholesterol, whilst reducing inflammation via management of the AA to EPA ratio. By providing pure isolated EPA at the concentrations required for therapeutic outcomes, Igennus’ Pharmepa range of EPA products are ideal health supplements for managing optimal heart health by managing lipid levels and modulating dysregulated inflammation. The prescription-strength ethyl-EPA Pharmepa Restore & MaintainTM  protocol is an innovative two-step treatment programme formulated to re-establish a healthy inflammatory status within the body. Step 1 counteracts an unhealthy AA to EPA ratio – the direct measure of inflammatory status, and step 2 ensures long-term balance for optimal cardiovascular health benefits.

References

1.  Ballantyne CM, Braeckman RA, Soni PN: Icosapent ethyl for the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia. Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy 2013, 14:1409-1416.

2. Yokoyama M, Origasa H, Matsuzaki M, Matsuzawa Y, Saito Y, Ishikawa Y, Oikawa S, Sasaki J, Hishida H, Itakura H, et al: Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid on major coronary events in hypercholesterolaemic patients (JELIS): a randomised open-label, blinded endpoint analysis. Lancet 2007, 369:1090-1098.

3. Pirillo A, Catapano AL: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of hypertriglyceridaemia. International journal of cardiology 2013.

4. Itakura H, Yokoyama M, Matsuzaki M, Saito Y, Origasa H, Ishikawa Y, Oikawa S, Sasaki J, Hishida H, Kita T, et al: The change in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration is positively related to plasma docosahexaenoic acid but not eicosapentaenoic acid. Journal of atherosclerosis and thrombosis 2012, 19:673-679.

5. Cottin SC, Sanders TA, Hall WL: The differential effects of EPA and DHA on cardiovascular risk factors. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2011, 70:215-231.

6. Brevetti G, Giugliano G, Brevetti L, Hiatt WR: Inflammation in peripheral artery disease. Circulation 2010, 122:1862-1875.

7. Tani S, Nagao K, Matsumoto M, Hirayama A: Highly Purified Eicosapentaenoic Acid May Increase Low-Density Lipoprotein Particle Size by Improving Triglyceride Metabolism in Patients With Hypertriglyceridemia. Circulation journal : official journal of the Japanese Circulation Society 2013.

 

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Can CoEnzyme-Q10 combat statin side-effects?

A new study (1) confirms long-standing concerns about the side-effects of cholesterol-lowering statins. The study suggests that statin drugs can cause significant problems with energy levels and general fatigue, especially in women.

Statins are routinely prescribed to individuals with raised cholesterol levels and are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the UK. These drugs lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting a liver enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) which plays a role in cholesterol production. Unfortunately this enzyme is also important for the production of Co-enzyme Q10. CoQ10 is a nutrient found in almost every cell in the body and is essential for energy production in the muscles.

The study, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, followed a group of individuals who were randomised to take one of two statins (simvastatin at 20 mg per day or pravastatin at 40 mg per day) or placebo for six months. Participants were rated at regular intervals through the study for their perceived fatigue on exertion, general fatigue and energy levels.

Overall, statins did indeed appear to cause a significant change in energy and worsen fatigue on exertion. Women were more affected than men.

In fact, 40% of the women receiving statins reported either a reduction in energy or a worsening of fatigue on exertion. 10% of the women reported that both of these issues were ‘much worse’.

Nuts contain CoQ10
Nuts contain Co-Enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) which is beneficial towards energy levels

Co-enzyme Q10 is essential for the ‘battery’ in each cell to power our muscles and organs. It is not surprising that depletion of CoQ10 can cause muscle weakness and fatigue. CoQ10 is also vital for heart function. According to one recent study (2), 71% of healthy people develop heart rhythm abnormalities when given statins.

It is important for those taking statins to be aware of the side-effects such as fatigue and muscle weakness, as these symptoms may only appear after some months or years after beginning statin treatment.

The good news is that those taking statins may be able to protect themselves from these side-effects by including good sources of CoQ10 in their diet. The richest dietary sources of this nutrient are organ meats such as liver and kidney, as these are the bodily organs that naturally store high levels of CoQ10. Other sources include oily fish, eggs, nuts and spinach.

For many individuals, dietary sources of CoQ10 may be inadequate to combat the draining effect of statins. In these cases I would recommend would be to supplementing 50 – 100 mg of CoQ10 each day.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. Golomb BA, et al. Effects of Statins on Energy and Fatigue With Exertion: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Int Med epub 11 June 2012

2. Silver MA, Langsjoen PH, Szabo S, Patil H, Zelinger A. (2004) Effect of atorvastatin on left ventricular diastolic function and ability of coenzyme Q10 to reverse that dysfunction. Am J Cardiol, 94(10):1306-10.

3. Image courtesy of Zole4

 

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Green tea found to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol

Green tea, both the beverage and the supplement form, can reduce levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, according to a recent US study (1).

The meta-analysis, published last month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, analysed 20 randomised controlled trials.

Green Tea can help support healthy cholesterol levels
Green Tea can help support healthy cholesterol levels (2.)

Each of the 20 trials measured the effects of either green tea itself, or capsules containing green tea compounds called catechins. Each participant was given either a daily green tea supplement or drink, or else a placebo capsule or drink.

In total, the trails involved a total of 1,415 adults with raised cholesterol levels. Each of the trials lasted between three and six months. Green tea was found to reduce the trial participants’ total cholesterol and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol by 5-6 more points than placebo drinks or capsules.

It is thought that the catechin compounds in green tea work to lower cholesterol levels by reducing its absorption in the gut.

Further research is needed in order to determine the optimal dose of green tea compounds. Senior researcher Olivia Phung also added that green tea is not a substitute for prescribed medication, but suggests that “adding green tea to your diet could be one way to further improve cholesterol numbers”.

It is also important to note that green tea and its extracts contain caffeine, which some people may need to avoid.

Overall, the study indicates that the use of herbal supplements such as green tea is one strategy to lower cholesterol, alongside medication and lifestyle changes.

Other strategies include reducing levels of saturated fat in your diet, such as fatty meats, and baked goods such as biscuits, pastries and cakes. Saturated fats should be replaced by healthy fats such as those present in nuts, seeds, avocado and oily fish.

Taking regular exercise can also reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, and reducing alcohol intake can lower both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

To learn more about the causes, treatment and prevention of high cholesterol, visit the British Heart Foundation website.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

(1.) Phung OJ, et al. Green Tea Catechins Decrease Total and Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, November 2011. 111(11): 1720-1729.

(2.) Image courtesy of dem10

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The health benefits of coconut oil

Coconut oil has recently become increasingly prevalent both in the media and in current research which has found that many of its contents can be extremely beneficial to health.  For example, one recent study (1) published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine this year reported on its vast medicinal aspects, as it has been found to be antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, antioxidant, immunostimulant (supports the immune system), and the list goes on.

The health benefits of coconut oil
Current research has found that coconut oil can be extremely beneficial to health. (8)

Additionally, another study (2) comments on previous research reporting on the many health benefits of coconut oil. These include preventing illnesses and diseases, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, aiding digestion and helping to keep skin elastic and silky, keeping wrinkles at bay.  This can be attributed to its numerous nutrient contents including being rich in medium chain fatty acids, such as lauric acid which has shown to inhibit harmful elements (pathogens) within the body which can help to slow the effects of ageing (3).  This study (3) also found that virgin coconut oil had greater antioxidant activity than the refined oil and another study (4) suggested that coconut oil intake is associated with beneficial lipid profiles which promotes healthy cholesterol levels due to its high density lipoprotein content.  An all round health booster!

Also, you may have seen the recent article in the Daily Mail (5) that reports on the use of coconut oil by supermodel Miranda Kerr (wife of actor Orlando Bloom), where she is quoted as saying that she credited her glowing clear skin and shiny hair to the oil.  One study (6) also reported on the oils beneficial effects to the skin saying that it had shown to have antimicrobial effects on fungi and viruses which can inhabit atopic dermatitis.  In this study, published in 2008 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society, patients topically treated with virgin coconut oil (by rubbing the oil into their skin) reported significantly reduced scores for dryness and related conditions.  Therefore you may find some relief from rubbing this oil into your dry spots on your elbows, knees and ankles or even see if this helps with sunburn or any other problem skin areas.

Also, another study (7) identified the superior effects of coconut oil when applied (topically) to hair before conditioning compared to mineral oil and other vegetable oils such as sunflower oil. They reported protective effects to both undamaged and chemically treated hair.  They attributed this effect to the ability of coconut oil to access the hair cuticle and lubricate it, which reduces water retention and swelling.  You may also find that coconut oil can help with split ends.

So as well as being a healthy oil when consumed on salads, used as a cooking oil or even a spoonful in your green tea just like Miranda Kerr, you can also benefit from using this oil topically on skin and hair.

P.S.  A top tip may be to rub some into your shoes to soften them which may prevent any irritation they may cause you, as well as making your feet smell like coconuts!

Written by Lauren Foster

 

References

(1) DebMandal, M. & Mandal, S. (2011) Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Arecaceae): In health promotion and disease prevention. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, 241-247.

 (2) Arenillo, S.A (2008) Yield and Quality of Virgin Coconut Oil Using Varieties of Coconuts. Liceo Journal of Higher Education Research, Vol. 5, No. 2, 190-198.

 (3) Marina, A.M., Che Man, Y.B. & Amin, I.(2009) Virgin coconut oil: emerging functional food oil. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 20, 481-487.

 (4) Feranil, A.B., Duazo, P.L., Kuzawa, C.W., Adair, L.S. (2011) Coconut oil is associated with a beneficial lipid profile in pre-menopausal women in the Philippines. Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 20, (2):190-195.

 (5) Daily Mail (2011) Victoria’s Secret? Coconut oil… Sales boom as model Miranda Kerr reveals daily dose of ‘healthy fat’ is key to her beauty. Mail Online. (Online):   (Accessed 5/9/2011).

 (6) Verallo-Rowell, V.M., Dillague, K.M., Syah-Tjundawan, B.S. (2008) Novel Antibacterial and Emollient Effects of Coconut and Virgin Olive Oils: Methods, Dermatitis, 19(6):308-15.

 (7) Rele, A.S. & Mohile, R.B. (2003) Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 54(2):175-92.

(8) Image courtesy of pixomar.

 

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Back To School – Part 1 – Children’s Nutrition

With your children rested and rejuvenated from the summer holidays and poised and ready to return to school in September, now is the perfect time to make changes to their diet to improve their health and academic performance alike.

Children's Nutrition
Now is the perfect time to make the changes to your children's diet to improve their health and academic performance alike. (5)

Childhood is a very demanding time for the body.  Both physical and mental growth and development are operating at top speed which means that the food and ‘fuel’ children receive at this stage of life is crucial for their present and future development as adults.  As their provider of food, parents and guardians are ultimately responsible for the majority of what their child consumes, however this is often more easily said than done in an age where long hours at work are the norm and time is of the essence.

The easy option would be to give your kids quick processed foods, however these foods are often laden with saturated fats, sugars, and salt and their consumption in childhood has been linked to the formulation of atherosclerosis (where fat deposits stick to the arterial walls) which can increase risks to health and disease in later life. These foods are also heavily associated with childhood obesity which is now an epidemic (1). Therefore it is vitally important to give your kids healthy foods and limit the junk to help them to get the best possible nutrition.

Natural, fresh and nutrient dense foods should form the majority of a child’s daily food consumption.  These foods can include a variety of fruit such as Oranges which contain vitamin C to keep our children’s cells, tissues and organs healthy as well as to strengthen the immune system.  Cherries are full of antioxidants and bioflavonoids to reduce inflammation which can help headaches.  Strawberries contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals especially vitamin C.

Vegetables are also essential such as broccoli for vitamin C and fibre as well as antioxidants.  Peas are an excellent source of fibre and many vitamins especially vitamin K which is good for bones.  Carrots contain vitamin A providing benefits to eyes and skin and sweetcorn provides fibre and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are especially good for the eyes.

Wholegrains such as wholemeal bread, pasta and brown rice as well as legumes are also great for keeping our kids blood sugar levels balanced and to prevent snacking.  Low fat dairy is also needed to build strong bones and teeth as well as lean meats such as poultry for protein.  Fish is very important for the ‘good fats’ omega 3’s which are great for brain function, concentration and also for skin, hair and nails.  These foods are packed full of great health boosting nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids to help keep kids healthy with strong immune systems, great learning capacity, full of energy and to reduce their risk of disease (3).  They also contain complex carbohydrates (fibre) to balance blood sugar, reducing those dreaded sugar rushes as well as limiting hunger pangs and keeping your child’s digestion on track.  With all of these benefits it’s easy to see why it’s so important to try to include these foods in your child’s diet.

As well as improving your child’s diet, you may wish to consider supplements specifically designed for children to ensure you give them the vital nutrients their developing body needs as the nutrients mentioned previously (e.g. multivitamins, vitamins C and K, omegas, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin) can all be found in a supplement form.  There are a good number of supplements appropriate for children and you may which to get some advice from a registered nutritionist for any more complex requirements. However, here are a few that can make life easier for parent and child alike.

Essential Fatty Acids – Known to aid in behavioural issue, to boost academic performance and to ease skin problems including eczema.

Pycnogenol – More than 200 studies show this patented pine bark extract to be safe and effective in numerous health conditions including respiratory health in adults and children.

Echinacea – Offers an immune boosting alternative to antibiotics for minor day to day ailments.

Probiotics – Immune supporting and digestion boosting.  Look for formulations specifically designed for children.

Multivitamins – A daily insurance policy to ensure your child has the nutrients required for optimum nutrition.  They have also been shown to aid in behavioural problems.

Don’t miss part 2 of our back to school blogs where we share our top tips for healthy lunch boxes and snack ideas.

Written by Lauren Foster

References

1. Foresight Group (2007). Government Office for Science. Tackling Obesities: Future Choices – Project Report 2nd Edition. London: HM Government.

2. Melanson, K.J. (2008) Nutrition Review: Lifestyle Approaches to Promoting Healthy Eating for Children. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 2: 26.

3. Abdel-Salam, A.M. (2010) Functional Foods: Hopefulness to Good Health. American Journal of Food Technology, 5: 86-99.

4. Singh, P. & Goyal, G.K. (2008) Dietary Lycopene: Its Properties and Anticarcinogenic Effects. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Science and Food Safety, Vol. 7, Issue 3, 255-270.

5.  Image courtesy of Ambro.

 

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Daily smoothie may reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease

A daily smoothie may reduce levels of cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin, a new study has found.

Try one of our tasty smoothie recipes
Try one of our delicious nutritious smoothie recipes (2)

The new exploratory study on overweight participants measured the effects of a daily smoothie made with acai berries on markers for diabetes and heart disease.  It discovered effects such as reductions in glucose, insulin and cholesterol levels (1).  The study’s authors reasoned that the high fibre, antioxidant, and fatty acid combination in the acai smoothie could explain these positive effects.

Previous studies have noted that reductions in fasting glucose of 3.6 percent and in cholesterol of 2.3 percent result in a significant reduction (58%) in the risk of becoming diabetic.  In this current study, fasting glucose was reduced by 5.3 percent and cholesterol by 10.6 percent, indicating a significant reduction in the risk of developing diabetes.

This was a small, prospective study, and it is hoped that larger controlled trials may clarify the health benefits of smoothies.

Smoothies certainly offer excellent nutritional value.  They blend the whole fruit, rather than just the juice, delivering a good serving a fibre along with the fruit’s vitamins and antioxidants.  The fibre content helps to provide a steady release of energy rather than the sugar rush of pure fruit juice.

Smoothies are simple to make, delicious to drink and are a great way to give yourself a nutrient boost. Ideal summer fruits are blueberries, peaches, plums, strawberries, watermelon, kiwifruit and bananas.  To boost healthy fats, add flaxseed oil, avocado, walnuts or ground flax. To boost energy and fibre, blend in some oats. And to boost your protein intake, try adding some silken tofu or hemp protein to the mix.

Omega-3 boost: Blueberry and banana smoothie with ground flaxseed
Serves 1

This sweet and creamy smoothie will give you a welcome boost of omega-3 and fibre.  You can buy ground flaxseed. Or even better – buy whole flaxseed and freshly grind them in a coffee grinder or in a smoothie maker designed for the job.

  • 100g natural probiotic yoghurt
  • 1 small banana
  • Handful blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 100ml skimmed milk (or a milk substitute such as soya milk or oat milk)
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • Optional: seeds from one vanilla pod
Tribest Blenders
Our new Tribest blenders are perfect for smoothie making!

Sports recovery shake: High protein summer fruits

Hemp is not only a source of plant-based easy-to-digest protein, but it also boasts significant amounts of fibre, magnesium, iron and essential fatty acids.  Montmorency cherries in CherryActive ‘mop up’ free radicals produced by training, helping to support muscle repair and prevent Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

  • One banana
  • Two handfuls frozen summer fruits
  • 3-4 tbsp hemp protein powder
  • 250ml skimmed milk (or a milk substitute such as soya milk or oat milk)
  • Optional: 20ml CherryActive concentrate

Kids Eat Your Greens! Popeye’s Sweet Spinach Smoothie

A brilliant way to encourage kids to eat their greens!  Children love the sweetness of the fresh strawberries and banana, while the spinach is loaded with antioxidants, iron, Vitamin K and magnesium.

  • Large handful spinach
  • 10 strawberries
  • 1 small banana
  • 200ml water
  • 50ml natural probiotic yoghurt
  • Optional: honey to taste

Written by Nadia Mason

References

(1). Udani JK et al. Effect of Acai berry preparation on metabolic parameters in a healthy overweight population: a pilot study. Nutrition Journal 2011; 10:45

(2)  Image courtesy of gameanna.

 

 

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Beta Glucan- The Invader Defender!

With the peak holiday season now in full flow and the exciting prospect of travel abroad for much needed relaxation, adventure or indulgence, your thoughts may be naturally turning towards protecting your health while you are away.  This may be through sun protection such as astaxanthin or natural sun creams or maybe you are thinking about some form of digestive support.  However there is one special little polysaccharide that may be just what you’re looking for to help protect you and your loved ones from illness while in foreign environments.

Beta Glucan- The Invader Defender!
Beta Glucans can function to create gut balance and provide an effective immune system boost (2)

Beta Glucan is a non-starch polysaccharide present in oats, barley, yeast, rye and mushrooms.  A recently published (1) research study has found that Beta Glucans can function to create gut balance and provide an effective immune system boost, helping to increasing your immune system before your holiday and while away, which is a great way to support your body from new germs and changes in lifestyle.  As discussed recently in the bodykind blog, supporting the gut is an important aspect when looking for ways to boost your immune system.  Beta Glucans act to strengthen your body’s natural resistance to bugs through the digestive system, lowering the likelihood of contracting illnesses such as colds and flu.  Furthermore, Beta Glucans could significantly enhance the survival of probiotics which have also been associated with increased immunity through improved ‘friendly gut bacteria’, reducing the dreaded ‘holiday tummy’ so many of us suffer from while away.

Additionally, Beta Glucans have been shown to increase immune activity through their ability to resist harmful bacteria, viruses and pathogens (3) acting as a safeguard for your health.  This makes them a great addition to your pre-holiday routine.  They also have the amazing ability of sensing fungal infections and releasing the necessary defending properties to deactivate the infection and reduce inflammation (4).  Moreover increased resistance through Beta Glucans have been shown against many different infections including Streptococcus, potentially reducing the need for antibiotics, especially useful while away on holiday.

There are numerous longer term benefits of enhancing your supplementation regimen with a Beta  Glucan.  They are reported to help reduce the risk of other illnesses and diseases such as tuberculosis and those that are septic and they have also been shown to promote anti tumour activity. (2)  In addition to these health benefits, Beta Glucan has been found to potentially reduce cholesterol and the likelihood of contracting diabetes and can also improve the lipid and glucose profiles of those already suffering from diabetes and hypertension (5).

This means that although this may begin as a holiday protector, continuation of this ‘invader defender’ may bring fantastic benefits to your health all year round.

As well as in supplement form, Beta Glucan is naturally found in oats, barley, yeast, rye and mushrooms and can also be fortified to foods such as bread and cereals.

 

Written by Lauren Foster

(1)  Stack, H.M., Kearney, N Stanton, C., Fitzgerald, G.F. and Ross, R.P. (2010). Association of Beta-Glucan Endogenous Production with Increased Stress Tolerance of Intestinal Lactobacilli. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 76, p. 500–507.

(2)  Image courtesy of  Salvatore Vuono.

(3)  Murphya, E. A., Davisb, J.M. and Carmichael, M.D. (2010) Immune modulating effects of b-glucan. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 13, 656–661.

(4)  Kankkunen, P., Teirilä, L. Rintahaka, J., Alenius, H., Wolff, H. and Matikainen, S.  (2010) 1,3 -b-Glucans Activate Both Dectin-1 and Inflammasome in Human Macrophages. Journal of Immunology, 184, 6335-6342.

(5)   S. Liatis, P. Tsapogas, E. Chala, C. Dimosthenopoulos, K. Kyriakopoulos, E. Kapantais, N. Katsilambros. (2009) The consumption of bread enriched with betaglucan reduces LDL-cholesterol and improves insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes & Metabolism, 35, 115–120.

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