Category Archives: magnesium

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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Sun Chlorella: How to cope with the snooze you lose

Sleep trouble? Could Sun Chlorella help?

Most people will experience problems sleeping at some point in their life and it is thought that around a third of Brits suffer with chronic insomnia.

Many things can contribute to a sleepless night – stress, diet, environment and lifestyle factors – but when we do find ourselves tossing and turning into the small hours of the night, it can be all too tempting to reach for the sleeping pills – but a report published by a leading mental health charity suggested that Britain has become a nation of ‘sleeping pill addicts’.

Reduce your risk of becoming addicted to these pills and try something natural instead, such as Sun Chlorella. Research from across the globe has suggested that some whole foods may improve sleep quality by up to 42% . So before you pop those prescription pills, take a look at these tips from Sun Chlorella Holistic Nutritionist Nikki Hillis who has shared some of her favourite foods to help you achieve a longer, deeper sleep.

Sun Chl  1. Chlorella

It might seem bizarre but an algae supplement such as Sun Chlorella® is rich in chlorophyll that contains high amounts of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, tryptophan and omega 3 fatty acids, all essential nutrients for quality sleep.

A recent study by Oxford University showed that the participants on a course of daily supplements of omega-3 had nearly one hour more sleep and seven fewer waking episodes per night compared with the participants taking the placebo.

Furthermore, the tryptophan found in chlorella is a sleep-enhancing amino acid used by the brain to produce neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin that help you relax and go to sleep. While young people have the highest melatonin levels, production of this hormone wanes as we age. Calcium and magnesium relax the body and B vitamins are essential for stress relief.

nuts2. Nuts and Seeds

Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds and sesame seeds are rich in magnesium and calcium – two minerals that help promote sleep. Walnuts are also a good source of tryptophan. The unsaturated fats found in nuts improve your serotonin levels, and the protein in the nuts help maintain a stable blood sugar level to prevent you waking in the night. 100 grams of sesame seeds boasts over 1000 micrograms of tryptophan. The same amount of chia seeds have over 700 mgs of tryptophan, while pumpkin seeds have almost 600 mg.

3. Herbal teas (such as Chamomile, Passionflower, Valerian, Lavender, Lemongrass)

Valerian is one of the most common sleep remedies for insomnia. Numerous studies have found that valerian improves deep sleep, speed of falling asleep, and overall quality of sleep. Lemongrass’ calming properties have been long revered to ward off nightmares while chamomile tea is used regularly worldwide for insomnia, irritability, and restlessness.

kiwi 4. Kiwi Fruit

Research suggests that eating kiwi fruit may have significant benefits for sleep due to its high antioxidant and serotonin levels. Researchers at Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University studied the effects of kiwi consumption on sleep and found that eating kiwi on a daily basis was linked to substantial improvements to both sleep quality and sleep quantity. After 4 weeks of kiwi consumption, researchers found that the amount of time it takes to fall asleep after going to bed decreased by 35.4%, the amount of time spent in periods of wakefulness after initially falling asleep fell 28.9% and the total time spent asleep among the volunteers increased by 13.4%.

5. Honey

Honey promotes a truly deep and restorative sleep. If you take a teaspoon or two of honey before bed, you’ll be re-stocking your liver with glycogen so that your brain doesn’t activate a stress response, which often occurs when glycogen is low. Honey also contributes to the release of melatonin in the brain, as it leads to a slight spike in insulin levels and the release of tryptophan in the brain.

Sun Chlorella 'A' 6. Sun Chlorella Sound Asleep Smoothie
Smoothies are a popular and satisfying breakfast but we rarely associate them with bedtime. Here, Sun Chlorella Holistic Nutritionist – Nikki Hillis – shares her ‘Sound Asleep, Sun Chlorella Smoothie’ packed with tasty ingredients to help you nod off and enjoy a restful kip.

  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup uncooked oats
  • 2 cups kale
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 1 sachet of Sun Chlorella®
  • Bee pollen to sprinkle on top (optional)
  • Cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a blender and sprinkle with bee pollen and cinnamon.

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Movember: The Male Menopause

MG866-Made-in-Movember-Campaign-Photos-2014-Media-Images-Portrait-3-LowRes-RGB
The Movember movement was established to inspire men to be more aware of their health needs, and to seek medical help if needed. Men are less likely to visit a doctor than women. They tend to put off making GP appointments which can mean that symptoms are more advanced and harder to treat. On the internet, television and in popular magazines, there seems to be less information about men’s health than women’s health.

A good example of this is the menopause. While there is a good awareness of the female menopause and its impact on women’s health, there is a lack of awareness of the male menopause, medically known as the andropause. The very notion of ‘male menopause’ is contentious and three quarters of British men have not even heard of it. Despite this, the symptoms of low testosterone are very real.

Andropause is marked by a decrease in testosterone levels that can affect men in middle age, causing symptoms such as low energy levels, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, depression, irritability, increased body fat and loss of muscle mass. On average, from the age of 39, testosterone levels in men decrease by over 1% each year, while competing hormones such as oestradiol and prolactin begin to rise (1).

While andropause is often attributed to the inevitable ageing process, new studies suggest that dietary and lifestyle choices have a much bigger impact (2). Obesity and smoking have significant negative effects on testosterone levels. Stress levels, alcohol consumption, lack of sleep and exercise, nutritional deficiencies and environmental estrogens from plastics are all likely to affect men’s hormonal balance.

There are three key nutrients have been found to increase testosterone levels in clinical studies. The first of these is Vitamin D. Supplementing with this particular vitamin has been found to raise testosterone levels (3). The male reproductive tract is known to have Vitamin D receptors, suggesting that this is a key nutrient in male sexual health.

Magnesium supplementation has also been found to increase testosterone levels in both active and sedentary men after four weeks of supplementation (4). Magnesium is a co-factor in more than 300 biological processes in the body, and so ensuring sufficient intake is critical for anybody interested in achieving optimal health. Magnesium is needed for healthy metabolic pathways, which include hormone production. It also stops testosterone from binding to ‘sex hormone binding globulin’, meaning that it is more active in the body.

Finally, the mineral zinc has profound effects on hormonal health. Even marginal zinc deficiency is known to cause a drop in testosterone levels (4). Zinc is required for the production of testosterone from androstenedione. A deficiency in zinc leads to the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. It also increases the number estrogen receptors and decreases testosterone receptors. The best dietary sources are shellfish, beef and other unprocessed red meats.

Any man experiencing andropause symptoms should visit their GP for a routine check up. Hormone testing can confirm levels of circulating testosterone. The ‘free androgen index’, a measure of active testosterone levels, is a particularly important measure. As a general guideline, the normal range is between 0.7 and 1.0.

References

  1. Feldman HA, Longcope C, Derby CA, et al. Age trends in the level of serum testosterone and other hormones in middle-aged men: longitudinal results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87:589-598.
  2. Endocrine Society. “Declining testosterone levels in men not part of normal aging.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120623144944.htm (accessed November 10, 2014).
  3. Pilz S et al (2011) Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res Mar;43(3):223-5.
  4. Cinar V et al (2011) Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res. Apr;140(1):18-23.
  5. Prasad AS et al (1996) Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition 12(5):344-8.
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Ease stress levels with Magnesium for restful nights this Sleeptember

September marks the start of a new school year. Typically at this time of year our lives become busier, the holiday period is over and work pressure builds as we head into the colder, darker months in the run up to Christmas.

A recent study by The Sleep Council found that 90% of people admit to suffering from some form of stress in their lives, with almost two out of five saying they are regularly, frequently or constantly stressed.

Not surprisingly three quarters say they have problems sleeping while stressed, with the catch 22 that almost a third say when they can’t sleep they get stressed, while just over a quarter say the best way to relieve stress is to have a good night’s sleep.

It is not always possible to remove stress from our daily lives, but transdermal magnesium can help you to relax and increase the body’s ability to cope with stress.

Magnesium is a natural relaxant, but stress can greatly increase magnesium loss.

This can be a vicious circle, as our body needs magnesium to maintain a state of rest, but a lack of the mineral in our Western diets means many of us do not get the levels we need.

When magnesium levels are low, the nervous system gets out of balance, and we feel increasingly anxious, with our muscles naturally tightening. Magnesium deficiency promotes excessive muscle tension, leading to muscle spasms, tics, restlessness, and twitches. Studies also suggest that magnesium deficiency may also be one of the causes of insomnia.

Andrew Thomas, founder and managing director at BetterYou, said: “The physical effects of stress, including high heart rate and blood pressure, tense muscles and fast and shallow breathing, can play havoc in our bodies. Sleep helps to slow these effects and encourage a state of relaxation.

“Our body needs magnesium to maintain a state of rest, but a lack of the mineral in our low magnesium Western diets means that we are not getting the levels we need. Magnesium levels are difficult to rectify via traditional tablets, as our body benefits most from small regular amounts rather than a large single dose.”

A pilot study by Watkins & Josling (2010) found that magnesium levels increased with BetterYou Magnesium Oil an estimated five times quicker compared with oral supplementation.

Following this, a clinical trial by Cardiff University (2011), highlighted how well magnesium is absorbed through the skin. BetterYou’s range of magnesium products, including oil sprays and flakes, are absorbed faster than capsules and tablets; delivering magnesium directly into the skin tissue and entering cells immediately.

References

Stressember: The worry starts here
Opinion matters surveyed 2035 UK Adults on behalf of The Sleep Council
http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/2014/08/stresstember-the-worry-starts-here/

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Magnesium supplementation boosts physical performance in older women

A new study published last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that magnesium supplementation can improve physical performance in older women (1).

Compared with the placebo group, the magnesium group made significant improvements in all measures of physical performance
“Compared with the placebo group, the magnesium group made significant improvements in all measures of physical performance”

A focus on healthy ageing is paramount because the UK population is getting older. Currently one-in-six of the UK population is aged 65 and over. By 2050, this number will reach one-in-four. Life expectance is steadily increasing. Unfortunately ‘healthy life expectancy’, or years free from disability, is not increasing at the same rate (2). Good nutrition is a critical component of healthy ageing, allowing us to take charge of our health and remain fit and independent in later life.

This particular study tested the effect of magnesium on older women’s ability to carry out everyday functional movements such as lifting and carrying, alongside other measures of strength and balance.

The researchers studied a group of 139 healthy women with an average age of 71. Each of the women underwent a gentle 12-week exercise programme. While half of the women were given a placebo pill, the remainder of the group were given a daily magnesium supplement.

At the beginning and end of the study, each of the participants were tested for measures of physical performance. Simple functional movements, such as getting out of a chair and balancing tasks, were assessed. Compared with the placebo group, the magnesium group made significant improvements in all measures of physical performance.

The magnesium group also made ‘substantial’ improvements in walking speed compared to the placebo group. This result was of particular interest to the researchers because walking speed is an independent predictor of adverse health events.

The benefits of supplementation were most pronounced in those women whose diets were deficient in magnesium. However, improvements were also noted in those whose magnesium intake met the Recommended Daily Allowance.

As we age, we have a tendency to lose muscle mass. This degenerative loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, robs older people of independence by limiting mobility and the ability safely to carry out simple functional movements. “These findings suggest a role for magnesium supplementation in preventing or delaying the age-related decline in physical performance, particularly in magnesium-deficient individuals”, wrote the researchers.

Magnesium is involved in more physiological processes than any other mineral. It plays a critical role in energy production, bone and tooth formation, muscle function, cardiovascular health, bowel function and blood sugar regulation.

Unfortunately the average women in the UK does not manage to obtain the recommended amount of magnesium through her diet, and older women are even more at risk of deficiency (3). Eliminating refined grains, sugar and other processed foods from the diet goes a long way towards ensuring a good intake of magnesium. Magnesium supplements, and increased intake of magnesium-rich leafy greens, beans and lentils, can also help address deficiencies.

This particular study used magnesium in the form of magnesium oxide, at a dosage of 300mg elemental magnesium. While magnesium oxide is cheap, it is not the most bioavailable form of magnesium. Magnesium citrate or magnesium malate, which demonstrate superior bioavailability, are often considered more helpful by nutritionists.

References

  1. Veronese N, et al. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program: a randomised controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Epub 9 July 2014
  2. Cracknell R (2010) The ageing population. Key Issues for the New Parliament. House of Commons Library Research.
  3. Food Standard Agency. (2011) National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults over 65 years.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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May is M.E. Awareness Month: Part 2

May is M.E. Awareness Month, aimed at promoting a greater understanding of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for patients, their families and healthcare practitioners. Part 1 looked at the most common symptoms of ME, along with common myths and misconceptions about this poorly understood disease. Part 2 presents five simple dietary guidelines for chronic fatigue suffers along with five supplements believed to help manage symptoms and improve their health and well-being.

In ‘Beating Chronic Fatigue’ Dr Kristina Downing Orr writes that many chronic fatigue sufferers have a dysregulation of blood-sugar levels (1). It is certainly true that poor blood sugar control can create symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, dizziness and emotional disturbances. It makes sense that managing blood sugar levels through smart dietary choices may be helpful. The following five guidelines should improve energy levels by regulating blood sugar throughout the day.

Eggs are a high source of lean protein and can easily be fitted into the diet

1. Include lean protein at every meal – chicken, game, fish, organic red meat, eggs, tofu, yoghurt, fresh nuts and seeds are good options.

2. Cut out alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee or cola.

3. Eliminate hidden sugars lurking in pre-packaged foods. Look out for ingredients such as dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, lactose, polydextrose, mannitol, sorbitol and maltodextin.

4. Eliminate refined grains that release sugar into the bloodstream quickly. These include corn flour, white rice, and white flour.

5. Aim for a balance of one third protein to two thirds ‘smart’ carbs at every meal. This means roughly a handful of protein to two handfuls of veggies.

Nutritional supplements are often used by those with CFS as they may help correct deficiencies, support the immune system and the liver, and support processes such as cellular energy-production. Here we look at five supplements commonly recommended by nutritional practitioners.

Vitamin B12
Some small studies have suggested a link between B12 supplementation and relief of symptoms, possibly because B12 improves the delivery of oxygen to the body’s organs. Vitamin B12 injections have been found to result in increased wellbeing in CFS patients when compared to placebo injections (2).

D-Ribose
A recent pilot study of 41 CFS patients found that D-ribose improved symptoms such as energy, sleep, mental clarity, pain intensity and well-being (3). In energy-depleted states, ribose levels tend to be low. Ribose increases cellular energy by raising levels of ATP (the body’s ‘fuel’) because ribose is a key component in these ‘energy molecules’. D-Ribose supplementation appears to be well tolerated. While the initial findings are promising, more research is needed in this area.

NADH
NADH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is simply a reduced form of vitamin B3, and it is essential in maintaining sufficient levels of the fuel ATP. One good quality crossover RCT showed statistically significant effects of NADH (10 mg daily) on symptom scores when compared with placebo after 1 month of treatment (4).

Magnesium
The onset of CFS is linked to stress, and stress in turn is known to deplete levels of magnesium (5). Many CFS specialists believe that CFS patients have low intracellular magnesium levels, even when blood levels of magnesium appear to be normal. A randomised, double-blind controlled trial found that treatment with magnesium sulphate injections improved energy levels, emotional state, and pain scores in CFS patients (6).

Essential Fatty Acids
Researchers have suggested that patients with chronic fatigue have problems metabolising essential fatty acids, leading to problems with the immune system, nervous system and endocrine system. It may be that supplementation with fatty acids such as EPA and GLA improves symptoms by bypassing these ‘metabolic blocks’. Two randomised controlled trials have indeed found that essential fatty acid supplementation to be of benefit in CFS (7,8).

References

1. Beating Chronic Fatigue: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Complete Recovery. Dr Kristina Downing-Orr. London: Piatkus. 2010.

2. Ellis FR, Nasser S. A pilot study of vitamin B12 in the treatment of tiredness. Br J Nutr 1973;30:277-283.

3. Teitelbaum JE, Johnson C, St Cyr J (2006) The use of D-ribose in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia: a pilot study. Nov;12(9):857-62. J Altern Complement Med.

4. Forsyth LM, Preuss HG, MacDowell AL, Chiazze L Jr, Birkmayer GD, Bellanti JA. (1999) Therapeutic effects of oral NADH on the symptoms of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 82(2):185–191.

5. Werbach M (2000) Nutritional Strategies for Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Altern Med Rev 5(2):93-108.

6. Cox IM, Campbell MJ, Dowson D. (1991) Red blood cell magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome.Lancet. 337(8744):757–760.

7. Behan PO, Behan WM, Horrobin D. (1990) Effect of high doses of essential fatty acids on the postviral fatigue syndrome.  Acta Neurol Scand. 82:209-216.

8. Warren G, McKendrick M, Peet M. The role of essential fatty acids in chronic fatigue syndrome: a case-controlled study of red-cell membrane essential fatty acids (EFA) and a placebo-controlled treatment study with high dose of EFA.  Acta Neurol Scand.1999;99:112-116.

9. Image courtesy of artur84.

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Choosing the Best Supplements: Part Two

In Part One I discussed some guidelines to help ensure that you are getting the best out of your supplements. Read on for more pointers.

Mineral Bioavailability
There isn’t much point in taking a supplement in a form that your body cannot use. Mineral bioavailability simply refers to the proportion of a mineral that is actually absorbed into the blood to be used by the body.

A ‘bioavailable’ mineral must be soluble in the intestine so that it can be absorbed. Minerals should be bound to different compounds to aid their absorption. This binding, or ‘chelation’, helps the mineral to survive the acid environment of the stomach and pass through into the small intestine for absorption.

If the mineral is bound too tightly, or not tightly enough, it can be released at the wrong time.  This is why the ‘form’ of the mineral is an important consideration.

Generally inorganic forms of minerals – carbonates, sulphates and oxides are not well absorbed. On the other hand, organic forms such as citrates, gluconates, aspartates and amino-acid chelates are more bioavailable.

Better quality minerals, i.e. those that are in a bioavailable, organic form do tend to be more expensive. However, cheaper supplements may be a false economy if they are poorly utilised by the body. Choosing a supplement becomes a case of weighing the cost of the supplement against its bioavailability. For example, in the New Optimum Nutrition Bible, Patrick Holford (1) explains that iron amino acid chelate is four times better absorbed than other forms, making it worth the additional cost.

Holford lists the most bioavailable forms of each mineral. All of the following forms are the most readily available to the body. In descending order (the very best first), he lists:

multi-nutrient
A multi-mineral supplement including Chronium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Manganese and Selenium.

Calcium – amino acid chelate, ascorbate, citrate, gluconate, carbonate

Magnesium – amino acid chelate, ascorbate, citrate, gluconate, carbonate

Iron – amino acid chelate, ascorbate, citrate, gluconate, sulphate, oxide

Zinc – picolinate, amino acid chelate, ascorbate, citrate, gluconate, sulphate

Manganese – amino acid chelate, ascorbate, citrate, gluconate

Selenium – Selenocysteine or selenomethionine, sodium selenite

Chromium – Picolinate, polynicotinate, ascorbate, gluconate

Tablets or Capsules?
Deciding between capsules or tablets is often a personal preference. Those who find tablets difficult to swallow often favour easy-to-swallow capsules. Sensitive individuals also tend to prefer capsules which are more likely to be free from fillers or binders. On the other hand, tablets can be compressed meaning that a higher dosage can be delivered in a single pill. They also allow for ‘sustained-release’ formulas. This can be useful for water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C, where absorption is better when given as a steady release formula rather than in a single dose.

For very sensitive individuals or for the delivery of light-sensitive nutrients such as coenzyme Q-10, capsules are the best choice. There are of course advantages to both types of supplements, which are listed below.

Capsules Tablets
Superior protection against oxygen and light Low cost
No need for fillers and binders Allows for sustained-release formulas
Odorless and tasteless Can fit more ingredients in through compression
Less gastrointestinal irritation Can be notched to divide the dose

Quality Assurance
The simplest way to be certain of the quality of a supplement is to check that it is GMP certified. Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) is an assurance of quality of manufacture. While medical drugs are held to these strict standards, it is not currently a legal requirement for food supplements in the UK. However, most reputable supplement companies voluntarily submit their products to GMP certification. This compliance requires thorough record keeping, quality testing, and standards consistent with the manufacture of drugs.

Reference

1. Holford, P (2004) Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus.

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Choosing the Best Supplements: Part One

Choosing the right kind of supplement is extremely important, and yet the choice available can create lots of confusion. I am frequently asked about how to select the most suitable type of supplement. Will the supplement be absorbed properly, and is a ‘natural’ form always better than a synthetic form? Are capsules better than tablets? Which brand is best? Some simple pointers can help you to choose the right supplement for you.

Is Natural better than Synthetic?

Many people prefer to take vitamins in their natural form as they believe that nutrients derived from plants and other natural materials are more effective. Although this is not always the case, there are certainly instances where this belief holds up. Vitamin E, for example, is almost 40% more potent in its natural form that in its synthetic form. The natural form of Vitamin E is called d-alpha-tocopherol and this natural form, usually derived from wheat germ or soya oil, is undoubtedly superior.

Likewise, the natural form of Vitamin D, cholecalciferol or D3, has a more sustained effect on Vitamin D levels in the body than its synthetic counterpart Vitamin D2.

Generally, however, the natural and synthetic forms of most vitamins and minerals tend to behave in similar ways. Synthetic forms of some nutrients, such as Vitamin C, can in fact work out cheaper and can be more concentrated.

Perhaps the most important consideration is that vitamin supplements derived from natural sources may well contain as yet unknown nutrients that help increase their effectiveness. Vitamin C, for example, is more effective when taken alongside bioflavonoids, and these nutrients are almost always found together in nature. Supplement manufacturers can utilise this natural Vitamin C ‘boost’ by combining a potent synthetic Vitamin C supplement with additional bioflavonoids. By replicating this natural combination manufacturers can improve the supplement’s potency.

Improving supplement absorption

Getting the best out of your supplements also means making sure that you are taking them correctly. There are a number of lifestyle and dietary factors that can affect supplement absorption. Supplements should always be taken separately from alcohol, especially if the supplements contain magnesium or B vitamins. Alcohol lowers levels of digestive enzymes from the pancreas, meaning that supplements may not be broken down and digested (1). Alcohol also damages the cells lining the stomach and intestines, impairing absorption (2).

Cal-mag
Calcium and magnesium are better absorbed alongside proteins

As smoking influences the absorption of minerals such as calcium, it is not recommended to smoke during meal times, especially if you are taking your supplements with a meal.

Stress is another lifestyle factor that can hinder supplement absorption. As stress can effectively shut down digestion, it would be wise to try to take your supplements after a leisurely meal rather than on the run during a busy day.

To ensure maximum absorption, most vitamin and mineral supplements are best taken immediately after a meal. Calcium and magnesium are better absorbed alongside proteins. Vitamins A, E and D are all fat-soluble, and so are best taken alongside a meal containing fats or oils.

Other important factors when choosing a nutritional supplement include bioavailability, the form of delivery (tablet or capsule) and the manufacturing standards of the supplement company.

References

(1) Korsten, M.A. Alcoholism and pancreatitis: Does nutrition play a role? Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):232-237, 1989. 

(2) Feinman, L. Absorption and utilization of nutrients in alcoholism. Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):207-210, 1989. 

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Raynaud’s Awareness Month

February is Raynaud’s Awareness Month, a campaign aimed at increasing understanding of this debilitating condition amongst the general public. Many sufferers of Raynaud’s are unaware that their condition has a name and do not know that there are therapies available to help.

Raynaud’s Phemomenon (RP) affects somewhere between 3-20% of the population worldwide, with women more commoly affected than men. Raynaud’s is characterised by problems with blood flow to the extremities, causing pain, tingling sensations, numbness or discomfort. These symptoms are most often present in the hands, but can also occur in the toes, ears and nose. During a Raynaud’s episode, the fingers will turn white as blood supply is interrupted. They may then turn blue before blood flow resumes, accompanied by a feeling of burning. Episodes can be triggered by emotional stress or by temperature changes.

Ginkgo Biloba may help combat Reynaud's Disease
Ginkgo has been reported to improve circulation in small blood vessels

There is currently no documented cure for Raynaud’s. However, studies suggest that some nutritional supplements may be useful in relieving symptoms.

The herb ginkgo has been reported to improve the circulation in small blood vessels and reduce pain in people with Raynaud’s disease. In a recent double blind study, Ginkgo supplementation taken over a 10-week period reduced the number of attacks experienced by Raynaud’s sufferers (1).

Essential fatty acids are also reported to be beneficial for those with Raynaud’s. Fish oil has a number of effects that may improve blood circulation. It reduces vascular reactivity and blood viscosity, suggesting that it should help improve blood flow and circulation in Raynaud’s patients. A double-blind study did in fact find that fish oil supplementation improved tolerance to cold and delayed the onset of symptoms. Other studies have found fish oil to be useful in decreasing both frequency and severity of attacks (2). Evening primrose oil has similar vascular effects to that of fish oil, and a small double blind study found it offered similar benefits in Raynaud’s (3).

A form of Vitamin B3 known as inositol hexaniacinate, reduces spasms in the arteries and improves peripheral circulation. For this reason it has been tested as a therapy for Raynaud’s and in larger doses has been found to improve circulation and reduce attacks (4,5). Larger doses of 3-4 grams, like those used in the studies, should only be taken under the supervision of a medical practitioner.

Problems with magnesium metabolism may also factor in Raynaud’s (6). Magnesium deficiency can cause blood vessels to spasm. Ensuring an optimal intake of this mineral helps blood vessels to ‘relax’ and encourages healthy blood flow. The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 300mg for men and 270mg for women, but many adults in the UK fall short. Increasing intake of green, leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses can boost magnesium levels significantly.

Finally, dietary and lifestyle changes can also help to manage this condition. Smoking, which constricts blood vessels, will aggravate Raynaud’s and so giving up the cigarettes should improve symptoms immensely. Relaxation techniques and stress management are also recommended. Other helpful dietary measures include cutting down caffeine and alcohol, and reducing fatty and fried foods.

If you’d like more information on Raynaud’s you can visit the Raynaud’s & Scleroderma Association website which is dedicated to helping those affected by the condition.

References

1. Muir AH, Robb R, McLaren M, Daly F, Belch JJ (2002) The use of Ginkgo biloba in Raynaud’s disease: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Vasc. Med 7(4):265-7.

2. DiGiacomo RA et al. (1989) Fish-oil dietary supplementation in patients with Raynaud’s phenomenon: a double-blind, controlled, prospective study. Am J Med 68:158–64.

3. Belch JJ, Shaw B, O’Dowd A, et al. (1985) Evening primrose oil (Efamol) in the treatment of Raynaud’s phenomenon: a double-blind study. Thromb Haemost. 54:490-494.

4. Holti G (1979) An experimentally controlled evaluation of the effect of inositol nicotinate upon the digital blood flow in patients with Raynaud’s phenomenon. J Int Med Res 7:473–83.

5. Ring EF, Bacon PA. (1977) Quantitative thermographic assessment of inositol nicotinate therapy in Raynaud’s phenomenon. J Int Med Res. 5:217–22.

6. Leppert J, Aberg H, Levin K, et al. (1994) The concentration of magnesium in erythrocytes in female patients with primary Raynaud’s phenomenon; fluctuation with the time of year. Angiology 45:283–8.

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Migraine and Magnesium

Medical specialists have recently recommended that all migraine sufferers should be treated with magnesium supplementation (1).

Migraine and Magnesium
Research shows the benefits of magnesium (citrate) supplementation in preventing and reducing migraines.

A migraine is more than just a headache, it has a huge impact on the lives of sufferers and costs the UK more than £2.25 billion per year. One in seven people in the UK suffers with migraine, with women more likely to be affected than men. Fortunately, nutritional strategies can be very successful in helping sufferers by reducing the severity of symptoms and the frequency of attacks.

Clients who come to see me about migraine often need a personalised approach, as the condition and its triggers can be very individual. It is always important to consider dietary factors that can trigger an attack. A diet high in sugary foods and processed ‘high glycemic’ carbohydrates can trigger a migraine by causing episodes of hypoglycaemia. Food intolerances are also fairly common, with sufferers reacting to substances such as amines in chocolate, cheese, beer and wine. Excess salt, artificial sweeteners and wheat have also been identified as possible culprits. Allergic reactions to food can cause platelets to release serotonin and histamine, triggering a migraine attack in sensitive individuals.

Because migraines can be so individual, it can be difficult to make blanket treatment recommendations to sufferers. However, a recent article published in the Journal of Neural Transmission last week may change this. The article, written by two doctors with a particular interest in headache and migraine, recommended that all migraine sufferers should be treated with magnesium supplementation.

Magnesium deficiency is very common, affecting around 15% of the population (2). Poor intake is a common reason for deficiency, as a diet high in natural, plant-based wholefoods is essential for sufficient magnesium intake. Likewise, a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates leads to depleted magnesium levels. The authors also explain that poor absorption, stress and excessive excretion of magnesium by the kidneys can contribute to magnesium deficiency.

The authors suggest several ways that magnesium levels can be linked with migraine. For example, adequate levels of magnesium are essential in maintaining vascular tone and preventing neural hyperexcitation. Magnesium is also linked to the availability of serotonin, a neurotransmitter than can contribute to migraine by affecting the constriction of blood vessels in the brain.

The problem with testing for magnesium deficiency is that blood tests are not a reliable way to determine magnesium levels. This is because magnesium tends to ‘hide away’ inside cells and in bone, and so cannot be measured accurately in a blood test.

For this reason, the authors recommend that all migraine sufferers should be treated with oral magnesium. Their reasoning is that it is difficult to determine whether somebody is deficient in magnesium. However, such supplementation is harmless for those who are not magnesium deficient, and is potentially very helpful for those who are indeed deficient.

The best forms of magnesium are organic forms such as magnesium citrate, malate or aspartate. Inorganic forms, such as magnesium oxide, are less well absorbed, and more likely to have a laxative effect. If magnesium produces loose stools or diarrhoea, then the dosage should be reduced to a more tolerable level. The form of magnesium I most often recommend is magnesium citrate, at a level of 300-400mg per day. Dividing the dose and taking a well-absorbed form helps to reduce the likelihood of any side-effects.

For a condition such as migraine, which can have a huge impact on the wellbeing of sufferers, magnesium could provide welcome relief. The authors conclude that “considering that up to 50% of patients with migraines could potentially benefit from this extremely safe and very inexpensive treatment, it should be recommended to all migraine patients.”

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. Magnesium effective in the treatment of migraine
Maukop A, et al. Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm 2012 May;119(5):575-9

2. 2. Schimatschek HF, Rempis R (2001) Prevalence of hypomagnesemia
in an unselected German population of 16,000 individuals. Magnes Res 14:283–290

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