Tag Archives: diabetes

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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Insulin-boosting effects of natural extract fresh olive leaf

A robust new clinical trial has shown that Fresh Olive Leaf Extract has significant effects on insulin in men who are at risk of developing type II diabetes. The randomised cross-over double blind controlled clinical trial reveals olive leaf extract offers significant improvement in the action of insulin and the way it is secreted in overweight men. Type II diabetes is highest in overweight or obese people and occurs as a result of insulin not working effectively in the body. The findings, published in an international journal, could help the UK’s ageing and increasingly overweight population or “dia-risk” to help prevent onset of the disease.

The clinical trial was conducted at the Liggin’s Institute, based at The University of Auckland in New Zealand. The scientists monitored 47 overweight males who were at risk of developing type II diabetes. The study used Comvita’s Fresh Olive Leaf Extract, a black liquid which is made from the resilient, bitter-tasting leaves of the olive tree. The trial revealed that a 12 week course of the natural supplement improved insulin action to healthier levels. On average a 28% improvement in insulin secretion and a 15% improvement in insulin action was witnessed in the olive leaf group when compared to placebo.

The research suggests that a daily tablespoon of fresh olive leaf extract (or two capsules) holds promise for the millions of “Dia-risk” individuals in the UK as part of a preventative strategy against the onset of Type II diabetes. A condition which recent research suggests costs the NHS nearly £10 billion.

Untitled-1
Fresh Olive Leaf Extract has significant effects on insulin in men who are at risk of developing type II diabetes

Around 1 in 20 people in the UK are Type II diabetics and it is most likely to affect those with a BMI >30, although ethnicity also plays a part. It is also estimated that around 2% of people in the UK have type II diabetes, but are undiagnosed. Further millions of British adults and increasingly teenagers are “dia-risk”, meaning they are likely to develop the condition: such as those with an overweight or obese BMI, older people or those with a genetic predisposition.

Insulin is an essential tool in the body; it allows glucose to pass into the cells of the body to be used as energy. However in Type II diabetes (and to some extent the “dia-risk”) the pancreas cannot produce as much insulin as it needs to or this insulin can no longer be used effectively by the cells (known as insulin resistance). This means the glucose isn’t being used effectively in the body and remains in the blood leading to elevated blood sugar levels.

Diabetes Type II is a serious condition and many UK sufferers rely on prescribed drugs to treat their condition. This is not ideal as many common diabetic medications that are currently prescribed in the UK have been linked to unpleasant side effects such as sickness and diarrhoea – and serious health implications such as increased risk of heart failure.

“We are pleased to report that Olive Leaf was well tolerated by all participants with no major side effects,” Dr Ralf Schlothauer, Chief Technical Officer for Comvita, comments. “The study found on average a 15% improvement in insulin action, a very encouraging result.”

While we are very excited by the findings of the clinical trial, we would not advise any Type II diabetics to use olive leaf in place of medications prescribed by their doctor,” Simon Pothecary, UK spokesperson for Comvita comments “However the research holds promise for the millions of people who are at risk of developing the disease, perhaps they are overweight or there is a family history of the condition.”

While much research has focused on the health benefits of olive oil, new data regarding olive leaf is emerging. Active compounds found in olive oil called ‘polyphenolics’ have been identified, but the olive leaf contains these in much higher concentrations – around 30-40 times stronger.

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Top 5 Benefits of Aloe Vera

Boasting immune boosting, anti-microbial and wound-healing properties, the therapeutic uses of aloe vera are surprisingly diverse. Here are my top 5 uses for this versatile supplement.

1. Digestive Support
Aloe vera is often used by those with digestive complaints. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis are marked by long-lasting inflammation within the digestive tract. The natural anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera have led to a number of studies investigating the possible benefit of this plant for these conditions.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of aloe vera in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis demonstrated improved symptoms in patients taking aloe vera compared to those in the placebo group (1). Similar benefits have been reported in patients suffering with ulcerative colitis (2).

2. Immune Support

Aloe vera contains a special type of sugar molecule called acemannan which boosts the activity of macrophages. Macrophages (from the Greek, meaning ‘big eaters’) are white blood cells which function to destroy or ‘eat up’ pathogens. Alongside this action, acemannan also enhances T-cell function and interferon production. This type of immune enhancement is evident in studies which show that consumption of aloe vera gel is effective in combating candida infection (3).

3. Detoxification

The detoxifying effect of aloe vera has been scientifically verified by lab tests of urinary indican levels. Indicans are molecules found in the urine, and they can be used to measure bacterial activity in the small and large intestine. Raised levels of indicans suggest compromised digestive health, including problems such as protein malabsorption and bacterial overgrowth (4). Aloe vera has been found to reduce urinary indican levels after just one week. This suggests that aloe consumption can improve protein digestion and absorption, or improve bacterial balance in the bowel.

Aloe-Vera-Gel
Aloe Vera Gel applied to the skin can help with 1st or 2nd degree burns

4. Skin Benefits
Applied topically, aloe vera can be used to help heal damaged skin. A recent meta-analysis, which examined studies involving a total of 371 patients, concluded that aloe vera may be considered effective in treating first and second degree burns. In fact the studies showed that topical application of aloe vera reduced healing time by an average of 9 days (5). It is thought that naturally occurring substances in aloe help cells to regenerate, speeding up healing.

Aloe is especially useful in the summer months owing to its cooling and soothing properties. A common ingredient in aftersun lotions, aloe vera is believed to act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Research is conflicting, although a recent randomised, double-blind trial found aloe vera to be more effective than hydrocortisone cream in reducing sunburn symptoms 48 hours after application (6).

5. Diabetes and blood sugar regulation

There have been several studies investigating the efficacy of aloe vera in the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. One of the first studies involved a group of 3,000 diabetic patients who supplemented their existing treatments with a natural remedy containing aloe gel and psyllium seed husks. In 94% of these patients, fasting blood glucose levels fell to normal levels within two months (7).

In diabetic models, consumption of aloe vera has been found not only to reduce fasting blood sugar levels, but also to reduce levels of liver enzymes (a sign of liver damage), and cholesterol (8). Aloe’s high fibre content, glycoproteins and antioxidant benefits are believed to help the body to regulate blood sugar more effectively.

A further controlled study of 72 diabetic patients supports these benefits, showing that 2 tbsp daily of aloe vera resulted in a significant reduction in blood sugar levels over a period of 42 days (9).

Aloe appears to have a huge number of nutritional benefits and healing properties, making it a versatile nutritional supplement.

References

  1.  Langmead L et al (2004) Anti-inflammatory effects of aloe vera gel in human colorectal mucosa in vitro. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 19:521–527
  2. Langmead L et al (2004) Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 19:739–747.
  1. Jackson JA et al (2000) Urine Indican as an Indicator of Disease. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol. 15, No. 1
  2. Sun-A Im et al (2010) In vivo evident of the immunomodulatory activity of orally administered aloe vera gel. Arch Pharm Res Vol 333:3, pp. 451-456
  3. Maenthaisong R et al (2007) The efficacy of Aloe vera used for burn wound healing: A systematic review. Burns. 33:713–18
  4. Reuter J et al (2008) Investigation of the anti-inflammatory potential of Aloe vera gel (97.5%) in the ultraviolet erythema test. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 21(2):106-110]
  5. Agarwal 0P (1985) Prevention of Atheromatous Heart Disease. Angiology. 36: 485-92.
  6. Okyar A et al (2001) Effect of Aloe vera leaves on blood glucose level in type I and type II diabetic rat models. Phytother Res.15(2):157-61.
  7. Bunyapraphatsara N (1996) Antidiabetic activity of aloe vera L. juice 11. Clinical trial in diabetes mellitus patients in combination with glibenclamide. Phytomedicine. 3:245-248
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Alpha-lipoic acid improves blood sugar control in diabetics

A new double-blind controlled study suggests that alpha lipoic acid supplementation may benefit patients with type 2 diabetes (1). Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of the condition, accounting for around 90% of diabetes sufferers.

Researchers investigated the effect of alpha lipoic acid supplements on glycemic control and oxidative status of 38 diabetic patients over a period of 6 months.

Alpha Lipoic Acid may help combat type 2 diabetes.
Alpha Lipoic Acid can help increase levels of antioxidants

Alpha-lipoic acid is a naturally occurring antioxidant that is present in every cell in the body. Its function is to help turn glucose into energy. It can help to increase insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake. In fact, previous clinical studies in humans have demonstrated improvement in insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes after supplementation with alpha lipoic acid (2).

Another benefit of alpha lipoic acid is that it can help to increase or maintain levels of other antioxidants including COQ 10, vitamin C, vitamin E and glutathione. This may be of benefit to diabetic patients because this condition leads to increased need for antioxidant protection. Even when diabetes sufferers are able to control their blood sugar well, they are still at risk of other complications as a result of raised levels of free radicals. Complications can include peripheral neuropathy, scar tissue formation and inflammation.

For these reasons, the researchers believe that the antioxidant properties of alpha lipoic acid may offer an additional benefit to diabetes patients.

The thirty-eight volunteers were randomly assigned to receive an alpha lipoic acid supplement (in doses of 300, 600, 900 or 1200 mg/day) or a placebo for 6 months. Each patient was instructed to take their supplement 30 minutes before meals.

All of the patients were receiving standard medical care for their condition, and were either taking prescribed drugs for diabetes, or following a prescribed diet.

After the 6-month period, all patients underwent blood tests to assess glucose levels and signs of oxidation.

The results showed that fasting blood glucose levels were lower in patients who had received alpha lipoic acid. Levels of substances called PGF2α-Isoprostanes, a product of oxidative stress, were also measured. These levels were lower in the alpha lipoic acid group, suggesting that this group also had lower levels of oxidative damage.

The supplements were monitored for safety, and were found to be well tolerated. The researchers state however that a larger test group may be needed to clarify the study’s results.

In the UK, numbers of people diagnosed with diabetes have doubled in the last ten years, and these figures continue to rise (3). Hopefully this study will pave the way for further research into natural adjuncts to standard treatment, to help improve quality of life for those affected.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

1.Porasuphatana S, Suddee S, Nartnampong A, Konsil J, Harnwong B, Santaweesuk A. Glycemic and oxidative status of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus following oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid: a randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled study. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2012;21(1):12-21.

2.Kamenova P. Improvement of insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus after oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid. Hormones (Athens). 2006;5:251-8.

3.Diabetes UK. Diabetes in the UK 2012: Key statistics on diabetes.

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Curcumin may lower diabetes risk

A new randomised, controlled study suggests that taking curcumin supplements may help delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes in people at high risk (1).

Curcumin is a natural substance found in the Indian spice turmeric. It has been widely studied for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Curcumin Spices
Spices such as curcumin (from turmeric) could help lower diabetes risk. (5)

Around 7 million people in the UK have ‘ pre-diabetes’ (3). People with pre-diabetes  also known as Impaired Glucose Regulation (IGR), have raised levels of blood sugar, and their cells have started to become resistant to insulin. Without proper care, pre-diabetes can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Some long-term damage may already be happening in the pre-diabetic state, including damage to the circulatory system, the heart and the eyes. For this reason it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Fortunately, the pre-diabetic condition can be reversed naturally with sensible dietary and lifestyle changes.

The randomized, double-blinded, placebo – controlled trial included 240 men and women who had been diagnosed pre-diabetic  All subjects were randomly assigned to receive either curcumin or placebo capsules for 9 months. Those given the curcumin capsules received 6 capsules of 250mg curcumin daily. The researchers recorded changes in insulin resistance and anti-inflammatory cytokines. The function of beta cells, cells in the pancreas that store and release insulin, were also monitored. These measurements were taken at the beginning of the study, and then again and 3, 6 and 9 months.

After nine months, 19 of the 116 participants in the placebo group had developed type 2 diabetes. None of those who took the curcumin capsules developed the disease.

When compared with the placebo group, those who took the curcumin capsules also had better beta cell function, lower levels of insulin resistance, and high levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

So how exactly do we explain these results? In recent years, research has helped us to better understand the link between inflammation and diabetes. It seems that inflammation in the body can actually suppress insulin-signalling pathways, making the body less responsive to insulin. A natural anti-inflammatory substance such as curcumin may help to repair this damage and restore these pathways so that they can function normally again.

While the results of this study look promising, more research in this area is certainly needed to confirm these findings. In the meantime, the best strategy to avoid Type 2 diabetes is to follow a healthy diet with regular exercise.

As turmeric powder contains just 3% curcumin (4), the best way to obtain a therapeutic level of curcumin may be through a good quality supplement. Curcumin supplements should not be taken by those on anti-coagulant medications. There is certainly no harm in adding a little colour and spice to your cooking with a daily sprinkle of turmeric. As well as adding spice and colour to curries, turmeric also mixes well with scrambled eggs, lentil soup, tuna salad, and rice dishes. Try also adding a little black pepper, as the piperine in black pepper is believed to enhance absorption of curcumin.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

 References

1.  Chuengsamarn et al (2012) Curcumin Extract for Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes. Published online before print. 6 July 2012.

2. Aggarwal BB, Sundaram C, Malani N, Ichikawa H (2007) Curcumin: the Indian solid gold. Adv Exp Med Biol. 595:1-75.

3. ‘Prediabetes – preventing the Type 2 diabetes epidemic’ Diabetes UK 2009

4. Tayyem et al. (2006) Curcumin content of turmeric and curry powders. Nutr Cancer. 55(2):126-31.

5.Image courtesy of nksz 

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Diabetes epidemic on a global scale

The number of people dignosed with Type 2 diabetes has more than doubled since the 1980s, and this number continues to grow in almost every part of the world.

In a large-scale study published in The Lancet last month, researchers found that rates of diabetes have either risen or at best remained the same in virtually all parts of the world in the past 30 years.

Glaucometer
The number of people dignosed with Type 2 diabetes has more than doubled since the 1980s (2)

While Type 1 diabetes is an automimmune disorder, Type 2 is a preventable condition caused by factors such as diet and lifestyle.  Type 2 diabetes occurs when the cells of the body become ‘insulin resistant’, meaning that they are no longer able to take up sugar.  As a result, sugar continues to circulate in the bloodstream where it can cause damage around the body.

The long term risks of diabetes include damage to the nerves, kidneys and retinas, as well as increased rates of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Many of those diagnosed with Type 2 diabates end up taking long-term prescription medications to control blood glucose levels.

The new study is the largest of its kind for diabetes, and was conducted by an international group of researchers in collaboration with the World Health Organisation.

It found that between 1980 and 2008, the number of adults with diabetes rose from 153 million to 347 million. Much of this rise was a result of population growth and longevity.  However, 30% of the rise was due to higher prevalence.  Currently 9.8% of men and 9.2% of women now suffer with Type 2 diabetes.

Goodarz Danaei, from the Harvard School of Public Health, added “Unless we develop better programs for detecting people with elevated blood sugar and helping them to improve their diet and physical activity and control their weight, diabetes will inevitably continue to impose a major burden on health systems around the world.”  These three simple changes to your diet can help reduce your risk of diabetes:

Cut the sugar

Refined carbohydrates cause sharp rises in your blood sugar levels.  Over time this can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Start by replacing sugary foods with more healthy alternatives.  Replace sugary sodas and energy drinks with herbal teas and green tea. Switch sweets and chocolate for a piece of fruit.  Avoid sugary breakfast cereal and start the day with eggs on wholegrain toast or fruit and yoghurt.

BioCare Get Up and Go Low GL Breakfast Shake Powder - 300g Powder
Try a high fibre smoothie, such as Biocare’s Get Up and Go Low GL Breakfast Shake.

Increase your fibre intake

A high fibre diet decreases your risk of diabetes, and you should aim for between 20 and 35g fibre each day.
Easy ways to increase your fibre intake include replacing fruit juice with a piece of fruit or a fruit smoothie, and replacing white pasta, rice and bread with wholegrain alternatives.  You could also try a high fibre smoothie, such as BioCare’s Get Up and Go Low GL Breakfast Shake.

Add lean protein

Including a source of lean protein with each meal can help you to control your blood sugar.

Replace fatty and processed meats such as burgers, bacon and sausages with lean meats such as chicken and turkey.  Other good sources of lean protein include eggs, cottage cheese, reduced fat hummus, tofu, and pulses such as beans, lentils and chickpeas.

Written by Nadia Mason
References
Goodarz Danaei et al. (2011) National, regional, and global trends in fasting plasma glucose and diabetes prevalence since 1980: systematic analysis of health examination surveys and epidemiological studies with 370 country-years and 2.7 million participants.  The Lancet. 378(9875):31-40

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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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