Category Archives: heart disease

Vitamin C for a Healthy Heart

A new study published in the journal Atherosclerosis earlier this month indicates that Vitamin C supplementation benefits heart health, and that its positive effects are most helpful for those with type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol (1).

The study, a meta-analysis carried out at Newcastle University, analysed data from 44 clinical trials, and concluded that Vitamin C has positive benefits on endothelial function.

The endothelium is the inner lining of blood vessels which, in a healthy body, works to assist the immune system and regulate blood clotting. It also expands and constricts, helping to regulate blood pressure.

Endothelial dysfunction is linked to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. Unfortunately these conditions are becoming increasingly common. Currently, around 30% of men and women in the UK have hypertension, and more than 50% have raised cholesterol levels.

The endothelium can be compromised by oxidative damage and inflammation as a result of infections, smoking, or an inflammatory diet loaded with sugar and trans fats. If the endothelium ceases to function properly, there can be serious health consequences, including atherosclerosis, stroke and heart attack.

vitaminC
the best way to increase your vitamin C intake is by incorporating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the day

There appear to be two ways that Vitamin C works to improve heart health. Firstly Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant, quenching oxidative damage to the endothelium. Secondly, this particular vitamin increases the availability of nitric oxide, a molecule that improves blood flow by causing blood vessels to relax.

The researchers found that higher doses of Vitamin C were linked with ‘significant improvement’ in endothelial function, with doses of 500mg and above showing the most benefit. The strongest benefits were seen in people with atherosclerosis, diabetes and heart failure.

For those interested in boosting Vitamin C levels, the best way to increase your vitamin C intake is by incorporating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the day. While oranges can provide a reasonable dose of vitamin C, other fruits and vegetables contain far greater amounts. See below for the richest sources. You can also boost your nitric oxide levels by eating a large leafy green salad every day. Spinach, arugula and beetroot are particularly good sources. Finally a healthy lifestyle is essential in protecting cardiovascular health, as regular exercise, weight loss and smoking cessation can all help to improve endothelial function.

Top 10 sources of vitamin C

Food (100g serving) Vitamin C (mg)
Red bell pepper 280
Guava 230
Brussels sprouts 200
Blackcurrants 200
Kale 120
Kiwi 98
Broccoli 89
Papaya 61
Strawberries 59
Oranges 53

 

Reference
1. Ashor AW, Lara J, Mathers JC, Siervo M. Effect of vitamin C on endothelial function in health and disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Atherosclerosis. 2014 Jul;235(1):9-20

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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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Serrapeptase: 5 Main Health Benefits

Serrapeptase, technically called Serratio Peptidase, is a proteolytic enzymes, meaning that it dissolves or digests protein. Serrapeptase was first found in silkworms, as it is this enzyme that silkworms use to dissolve their cocoons. It is now produced as a nutritional supplement through fermentation of plant-grown enzymes.

How does it work?
The reason that serrapeptase has such valuable therapeutic potential is that it dissolves only non-living tissue – tissues that can be a barrier to healing and optimal health. This special enzyme also helps reduce swelling after injury and inhibits the release of chemical messengers that cause pain. Its unique properties have led to a number of studies investigating its therapeutic benefits.

There are five main health benefits associated with serrapeptase:

  1. It is often used for its pain relieving benefits. Serrapeptase decreases pain by blocking the release of bradkinin and other ‘pain messengers’ from inflamed or damaged tissue (1). Because of this it is often used as an alternative to common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and is especially favoured by those concerned about side effects of long term NSAID usage such as ulcers bleeding in the digestive tract.
  2. Serrapeptase has been studied for its anti-inflammatory benefits (2). The supplement is believed to improve symptoms related to a whole host of inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, migraine and others due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
  3. The supplement is an effective mucolytic, meaning that it thins mucous. It shows promise as a treatment for those with chronic sinusitis (3). Ear, nose and throat problems also involve uncomfortable symptoms linked with increased mucous secretion. Serrapeptase has also been studied as a potential treatment for these conditions (4).
  4. Serrapeptase also appears to play a role in healing injury. The supplement has been used to support post-operative recovery, as well as speeding recovery from sprains and other injuries. For example, in a group of patients undergoing knee surgery, those taking serrapeptase supplements showed a 50% reduction in swelling compared to controls (5). Injured joints, ligaments or muscles are coated with fibrin which works to support the injured tissue while it regenerates. Sometimes excess fibrin can form unwanted scar tissue, inflammation and pain. This fibrin takes up valuable space in which living tissue should grow, reducing the motion of muscles and joints. Therefore by dissolving fibrin, serrapeptase offers potential to enhance recovery after injury.
  5. Because of its ability to dissolve fibrin, serrapeptase has also been used to dissolve arterial plaque, fibrous blockages in clogged or hardened arteries. As serrapeptase only dissolves dead or damaged tissue, this could enable the dissolution of harmful atherosclerotic plaques without causing any harm to the inside of the arteries.
Untitled-1
Serrapeptase may help in supporting injuries and has anti-inflammatory benefits.

Studies of serrapeptase supplementation have found positive benefits with a dosage of around 10mg, taken after meals three times daily. No long-term studies of this supplement have yet been conducted, although studies to date suggest that supplementation for a period of 4 weeks seems safe (1,2).

Although preliminary research looks promising, many of the studies have been small or uncontrolled and much of the supporting evidence is anecdotal (6). Serrapeptase does appear to show promise as an agent for reducing pain and inflammation and support recovery. Clearly more research is needed to determine the role and value of serrapeptase in medicine, though studies to date suggest it has some clinical potential.

References

1. Mazzone A et al (1990) Evaluation of Serratiapeptidase in acute or chronic inflammation of torhinolarygology pathology: a multi-centre, double-blind randomized trial versus placebo. J Int Med Res 18:379-88.

2. Tachibana M, Mizukoshi O, Harada Y, et al (1984) A multi-centre, double-blind study of serrapeptase versus placebo in post-antrotomy buccal swelling. Pharmatherapeutica 3:526-30.

3. Mizukoshi D et al (1982) A double-blind study of Danzen tablets in the treatment of chronic sinusitis. Igaku Ayumi 123:768-778.

4. Mazzonie C et al (1990) Evaluation of serrapeptase in acute or chronic inflammation of otorhinolaryngology pathology: a multicentre, double-blind randomized trial versus placebo. J Int Med Res 18(5):379-388.

5. Esch VP et al (1989) Reduction of postoperative swelling. Objective measurement of swelling in upper ankle joint in treatment with serrapeptase – a prospective study (german) Fortschr Med 107(4):76-8.

6. Bhagat S et al (2013) Serratiopeptidase: a systematic review of the existing evidence. Int J Surg 11(3):209-217.

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Low Vitamin B6 linked to Inflammation

Low levels of vitamin B6 in the body may be linked with a variety of inflammatory conditions, a new study suggests.

The study found that those with the lowest levels of B6 in their blood had the highest levels of inflammation. The reverse was also true. Those with the highest blood levels of vitamin B6 had the lowest levels of chronic inflammation and the lowest risk of inflammatory diseases.

Temporary inflammation, such as redness and swelling after an injury, is a powerful defence mechanism, triggering healing in the body. However, chronic inflammation is a destructive process, and has been identified as an emerging risk factor for a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, measured levels of vitamin B6 in 2,229 adults. The researchers also measured several different markers of inflammation, including homocysteine, cytokines and the inflammatory C-reactive protein (CRP).

While previous studies have also linked low blood levels of vitamin B6 with various signs of inflammation (2, 3), such as C-reactive protein (CRP), researchers say this is the first large-scale study to look at the relationship between this vitamin and a variety of inflammation indicators.

Lentils and Kidneys Beans contain B6
Lentils and Kidneys Beans contain B6 which may help toward healthy inflammation levels.

The results found that with the highest blood levels of vitamin B6 had 42% lower levels of inflammatory CRP compared to those with the lowest blood levels. This group also had 14% lower levels of homocysteine and 20% lower levels of cytokines.

The researchers also looked at the incidence of inflammatory conditions within the group. Again, those with the highest levels of B6 demonstrated a 21% lower rate of cardiovascular disease, and a 40% lower rate of diabetes.

The researchers are confident that “overall inflammation is inversely associated with [vitamin B6 blood levels]”. Until more research elucidates this link, it certainly seems sensible to ensure that your diet is providing you with an adequate intake of this vitamin.

If your diet is heavy in sugar, refined flour, alcohol and coffee, you are likely to have reduced levels of vitamin B6 in your body. A wholefoods diet including good sources of vitamin B6 such as chicken, turkey and beef will help to boost your levels. Vegetarians can get plenty of this vitamin in pulses such as lentils and kidney beans, and in other plant foods such as spinach, bell peppers and sesame seeds.

As B Vitamins tend to work together, it is usually advisable to supplement B6 as part of a balanced B-Complex formula.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

 

References

1. Sakakeeny L, Roubenoff R, Obin M, Fontes JD, Benjamin EJ, Bujanover Y, Jacques PF, Selhub J. (2012) Plasma pyridoxal-5-phosphate is inversely associated with systemic markers of inflammation in a population of U.A. Adults. J Nutr. 142(7):1280-5.

2. Shen J, Lai CQ, Mattei J, Ordovas JM, Tucker KL. (2010), Association of vitamin B-6 status with inflammation, oxidative stress, and chronic inflammatory conditions: the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 91(2):337-42.

3. Woolf K, Manore MM. (2008) Elevated plasma homocysteine and low vitamin B-6 status in nonsupplementing older women with rheumatoid arthritis. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Mar;108(3):443-53

4. Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat

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Fish oil counters the effects of air pollution

A new trial has found evidence that omega-3 supplementation can reduce the harmful effects of air pollution (1).
The randomised, controlled trial, soon to be published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that fish oil supplements can counter the effects of air pollution, helping to protect city dwellers from heart disease.

It is widely accepted that the air pollution of city living increases the risk of heart disease. In fact, city centre residents are almost twice as likely to develop the first signs of heart disease than people who lived in less polluted urban and rural areas, according to recent research (2).

Air pollution is a complex mixture of noxious gases, liquids and other particles that raise blood pressure, increase coagulation (blood clots), raise levels of inflammation and promote build up of deposits in the arteries.

While air pollution is a concern all year round, the summer months can be particularly troublesome. Air becomes stagnant owing to the longer days, and the increased amount of sunlight and ultraviolet radiation. The sunlight helps to form new, harmful compounds are formed that weren’t there before.

To reflect these city pollutants, the researchers used an ‘air pollution chamber’ filled with ambient fine and ultrafine particles, as well as another ‘clean’ chamber filled with filtered air.

Fish Oil Supplement
Fish Oil Supplements can help counter the effects of Air Pollution.

Twenty-nine healthy, middle-aged participants were given 3g daily of either fish oil or olive oil for four weeks before they entered the chamber. Each participant then spent two hours in the ‘clean’ chamber and the ‘polluted’ chamber. The researchers measured cardiac response before, immediately after and 20 hours after exposure to the pollution. They also measured blood lipids of the participants.

In those who took the placebo olive oil capsules, levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides rose immediately after the exposure to pollution. Levels of LDL and triglycerides are linked with heart disease risk. There was no such response in the fish oil group.

Heart rate variability (HRV) was also measured in each group. HRV simply means the way that heart beat varies. A lower heart rate variability is linked to poorer heart health, whereas the beat of a healthy heart is constantly changing as the body finds the most efficient way to operate. Those in the placebo group showed reduced HRV after pollution exposure, reflecting the harmful effects of their exposure to the pollution chamber. Those in the fish oil group showed no reduction in HRV.

The findings of the study suggest that fish oil supplements may help protect against both the cardiac and lipid effects of air pollution. Although a small study, it does appear to add to the vast weight of evidence for the benefits of omega-3 supplementation. Those of us who live in town and cities might do well to take a regular fish oil supplement for daily protection.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. J. Lambrechtsen, O. Gerke, K. Egstrup, N. P. Sand, B. L. Nørgaard, H. Petersen, H. Mickley, A. C. P. Diederichsen.The relation between coronary artery calcification in asymptomatic subjects and both traditional risk factors and living in the city centre: a DanRisk substudy.Journal of Internal Medicine, 2012; 271 (5): 444

2. Tong H, Rappold AG, Diaz-Sanchez D, Steck SE, Berntsen J, Cascio WE, Devlin RD, Samet JM. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Appears to Attenuate Particulate Air Pollution Induced Effects and Lipid Changes in Healthy Middle-Aged Adults. Environ Health Perspec. 2012 Apr 19. [Epub ahead of print]

3. Image courtesy of Tungphoto

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Omega-3 supplements buffer the effect of mental stress

Mental stress is known to have a negative effect on heart health, and unmanaged stress is linked with increased blood pressure, an important predictor of heart disease. Managing mental stress can be a huge help to those looking to support their cardiovascular health. Of course this is often easier said than done. After all, stress is a part of everyday life and it cannot be eliminated entirely.

However, managing our physical reaction to mental stress may be one way to support heart health.

High EPA
Omega 3 supplements high in EPA can be good for mental stress and heart health

With this in mind, a team of researchers at Alleghany College in the US recently investigated the effects of an omega-3 supplement on the effect of mental stress in adults. The team gave a group of 43 college students either a daily omega-3 supplement or a daily placebo supplement for three weeks. They then measured blood pressure and heart rate of the students at rest and during a mental arithmetic task. The stress response to the maths test in the omega-3 group was found to be significantly lower than that of those in the placebo group.

The authors concluded that supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce cardiovascular reactivity to stress.
The study is preliminary and will hopefully encourage further research to clarify the role of omega-3 in cardiovascular health.

The supplement used in the study provided a daily dose of 1400mg omega-3 (1000mg EPA and 400mg DHA). This intake is fairly normal for adults living in countries such as Japan where fish, seafood and tofu are a major part of the diet. In the UK, however, the level of omega-3 in the diet is far lower and is estimated at an average of 244mg daily.

Options for increasing EPA and DHA intakes include use of fish oil supplements, increased consumption of fish or consumption of foods enriched with omega 3 such as omega-3 enriched eggs.

Those considering taking fish oil supplements should first check with their GP, especially if they are taking medications such as anticoagulants. Also, be sure to choose a good quality oil that has been screened for contaminants. Finally, if your fish oil supplement leaves you with a fishy aftertaste this is a sign that the oil has oxidised (‘gone off’). I tend to favour omega-3 oils that can be taken straight from the spoon, such as the Eskimo brand, so that I can be sure on tasting that it is a good quality, fresh oil.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References
Ginty AT, Conklin SM. Preliminary Evidence that Acute Long-Chain Omega-3 Supplementation Reduces Cardiovascular Reactivity to Mental Stress: A Randomized and Placebo Controlled Trial. Biol Psychol. 2012, Jan. 89(1):269-72.

 

 

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Look after your heart this February

February is National Heart Health month which is an initiative supported by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). It is aimed at increasing individuals’ awareness on how to look after the health of their hearts and to ultimately reduce the number of heart disease related deaths. BHF state; “Our vision is of a World where people do not prematurely die of heart disease.”

Look after your heart this February
Eating a diet full of fruit and vegetables is good for supporting a healthy heart (5.)

There are many ways in which we can protect our heart, and bodykind‘s Nutritionists have often written about these. Back in March, Ani Richardson wrote about the benefits of eating a diet full of fruit and vegetables and the benefits of Pecans in relation to heart disease. Nadia Mason wrote about how a daily nutritious smoothie may reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease in August and in September wrote about Turmeric and Cinnamon being excellent spices for a healthy heart. There is continuous research conducted on heart health and it’s more important than ever to take actions to protect it.

In January this year, the BHF released some statistics (1.) that show heart attack death rates dropped dramatically in the early years of the new millennium, falling by more than half. The research, funded by the British Heart Foundation (which is important to note), showed an average of 5% drop in heart attacks each year from 2002 through to 2010. Whilst these figures are impressive, there are still over 30,000 people who have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital each year – many of who die before medical help arrives. That is why is it so important to prevent a heart attack in the first place – as they say; “prevention is better than cure”.

There are many nutrients that can benefit heart health and an overall balanced and wholefood-based diet full of fruits and vegetables are essential for this. One study (2.) published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011, found that there was a large reduction in coronary heart disease risk in men and women that had a diet rich in green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale) as well as olive oil (often associated with the Mediterranean lifestyle).

More specifically, one of the main nutrients which you can include in both your diet and in supplement form for heart health are omega 3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are generating a large amount of popularity for their multitude of beneficial health effects. They are found in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring and sardines as well as in flaxseeds, walnuts and soya beans. If you don’t eat fish on a regular basis you may want to consider a fish oil supplement (or flaxseed if you cannot eat fish) in oil or capsule form . One recent study (3.) published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2011, investigated circulating Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids and the incidence of coronary heart disease in 2,735 older adults between 1992 and 2006. The researchers found that the total level of fatty acids circulating in the blood systems of these patients was associated with lower levels of coronary heart disease.

Another study (4.), also in 2011, looked into the possibility that early menarche (a risk factor for developing cardio-metabolic diseases) could be related to vitamin D deficiency in early age. After investigating the plasma vitamin D concentrations for 242 females for an average of 30 months, they found that early menarche was indeed twice as likely in vitamin D deficient females as those that were not vitamin D deficient. The authors concluded that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with earlier menarche and therefore the possibility of increased risk of developing cardio-metabolic diseases. Vitamin D is found in oily fish (again), cod liver oil, eggs and dairy products as well as in supplement forms.

As well as these nutrients, B vitamins (more specifically folic acid, B6 and B12) which are found in whole grains, meat and eggs, help to keep our arteries healthy. Vitamins E and C can also keep our heart healthy and antioxidants and bioflavonoids found in a variety of fruit and vegetables are also a great addition to any diet or supplement regime to reduce the level of free radicals in the body that can harm the heart.

Exercise is also must, even if it’s just a brisk walk around the office car park on your lunch break to get the blood circulating. Aiming for 30 minutes 3-5 times per week is the ideal. Perhaps try walking to the shop instead of driving or take the steps instead of the lift. Why not consider getting a group of friends together and organising a walking or bike-riding club? The possibilities are endless with exercise and it doesn’t have to mean slogging away on the treadmill for hours in the gym!

Written by Katie Guest and Lauren Foster

References

(1.) BHF

(2.) Benedetta, B., Masala, G., Saieva, C. et al (2011) Fruit, vegetables, and olive oil and risk of coronary heart disease in Italian women: the EPICOR Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 93, no. 2, 275-283.

(3.) Mozaffarian, D., Lemaitre, R.N., King, I.B., Song, X., Spiegelman, D., Sacks, F.M., Rimm, E.B. & Siscovick, D.S. (2011) Circulating Long-Chain ω-3 Fatty Acids and Incidence of Congestive Heart Failure in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study. A Cohort Study. Annals of Internal Medicine, 155: 160-170.

(4.) Villamor, E., Marin, C., Mora-Plazas, M. & Baylin, A. (2011) Vitamin D deficiency and age at menarche: a prospective study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 94, no. 4, 1020-1025.

(5.) Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane

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Turmeric and Cinnamon – Spices for a Healthy Heart

Eating a diet rich in spices can reduce the body’s response to high fat meals.  A new study has tested the effects of culinary spices on markers of conditions such as heart disease.

Turmeric & Cinnamon For Heart Health
Eating a diet rich in spices can reduce the body’s response to high fat meals. (2)

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, tested the effects of a spicy meal on levels of insulin, triglycerides and antioxidant defences.

Professor Sheila West and her colleagues prepared meals on two separate days for six men between the ages of 30 and 65 who were overweight, but otherwise healthy.  The researchers added two tablespoons of culinary spices to the test meal, which consisted of chicken curry, Italian herb bread, and a cinnamon biscuit.  The spice mix used was a blend of rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika.

The second ‘control’ meal was identical, except that spices were not included.

After each meal, the team drew blood from the participants every 30 minutes for three hours, measuring the effects of each meal on the body.

Compared with the unseasoned meal group, the spicy meal increased antioxidant activity in the blood by 13 percent and decreased insulin response by 21 percent.  Blood triglycerides also decreased by 30 percent compared with the unseasoned meal group.

“Normally, when you eat a high-fat meal, you end up with high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood,” explains West.  “If this happens too frequently, or if triglyceride levels are raised too much, your risk of heart disease is increased.  We found that adding spices to a high-fat meal reduced triglyceride response by about 30 percent, compared to a similar meal with no spices added.”

This was a small, preliminary study, and further studies using a larger test group would help to clarify the results.  West intends to conduct further research to find if smaller doses of spices exert similar benefits.

In the meantime, for those who enjoy cooking, adding culinary spices is a simple way to add ‘kick’ to your dishes, and may offer health benefits too. The active components of ingredients such as garlic and turmeric are available in supplement form, which can be a convenient option. Those who enjoy spicy foods can try adding fresh, grated ginger to stir frys.  Turmeric goes well with chicken, rice and vegetable dishes, while its vibrant colour really helps to lift a dish.  Rosemary and oregano are great in Italian dishes, in stews or with roasted vegetables. Finally cinnamon can be added to your morning oatmeal for a sweet and healthy way to start your day.

Written by Nadia Mason

Reference

1.   A. C. Skulas-Ray, P. M. Kris-Etherton, D. L. Teeter, C.-Y. O. Chen, J. P. Vanden Heuvel, S. G. West. A High Antioxidant Spice Blend Attenuates Postprandial Insulin and Triglyceride Responses and Increases Some Plasma Measures of Antioxidant Activity in Healthy, Overweight Men. Journal of Nutrition, 2011; 141 (8): 1451 DOI: 10.3945/jn.111.138966.

2.  Image courtesy of  Michelle Meiklejohn.

 

 

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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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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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