Tag Archives: fish oil

Vegans respond well to algae-based omega-3 supplements

Omega-3 levels in vegans are low and can successfully be addressed with algae-based omega-3 supplements according to a new study (1).

The study of 165 vegans found that their omega-3 index was just 3.7%, which is too low and indicates a raised risk for heart disease.

The ‘omega-3 index’ is a measure of omega-3 in cell membranes. A level below 4% represents a high risk of developing heart disease, while a level of above 8% is considered low risk (2).

A selection of the group were supplemented with 243mg of algae-derived EPA + DHA each day for four months. During this time, the omega-3 index of this group rose from 3.1% to 4.8%. The researchers concluded that “low dose supplementation with algae-sourced DHA and EPA may mitigate the potential adverse effects of deficiency in this population.”

The recommended intake of omega-3 is 450mg per day, according to the government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Unfortunately in the UK the average intake is around half this amount, at just 250mg per day.

Incidentally, the level of omega-3 found in vegans in this study is actually no lower than that found in omnivores. This population-wide deficiency in omega-3 is a concern, especially considering the range of health benefits linked with this particular fat. In addition to its cardio-protective benefits, omega-3 has been linked with eye health, brain health and a healthy immune system.

An important consideration for those wanting to boost their omega-3 intake is the danger of toxins. The richest source of omega-3 is oily fish, but unfortunately these fish have a tendency to accumulate mercury and other toxic pollutants such as dioxins and PCBs. For this reason, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised not to eat more than two servings of oily fish each week.

fish_oil
Omega-3 levels in vegans are low and can successfully be addressed with algae-based omega-3

Because mercury tends to accumulate in protein rather than fat, fish oil supplements can provide a ‘cleaner’ way to obtain your daily omega-3. For this reason, supplements do not pose the same concerns over mercury ingestion as oily fish in the diet.

Dioxins and PCBs are rather a different story. These contaminants tend to accumulate in fat, and so are present not only in oily fish, but also in poor quality fish oil and algae-based supplements. For this reason it is essential to choose a very good-quality supplement. For example, Eskimo-3 was found to contain the lowest levels of dioxins and PCBs in independent testing. Products from Biocare and Higher Nature also performed well. To illustrate the variability in quality, the same study found that the level of contaminants in Boots Cod Liver Oil was more than 50 times greater than that found in Eskimo-3. Dioxin levels in Tesco’s Cod Liver Oil were also well above the maximum limit for fish oils intended for human consumption (3).

Good quality vegan supplements represent a clean way of supporting omega-3 levels, as algae can quite easily be grown in controlled, unpolluted conditions. This is the case for supplements such as opti3, which is made from algae grown in a fully-controlled pharmaceutical facility. This particular supplement is therefore recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women owing to its clean profile.

In light of the above study results, vegans wanting to ensure healthy levels of omega-3 would certainly do well to consider such a supplement. Even those of us who aren’t vegan or vegetarian might consider algae-based supplements as a sustainable and pure source of omega-3.

References

1. Sarter B et al (2014) Blood docosahaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in vegans: Association with age and gender and effects of an algal-derived omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Clinical Nutrition. March 2014.

2. Harris WS (2008) The omega-3 index as a risk factor for coronary heart disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 87: 6 1997S-2002S

3. FSAI (2002) Dioxins, Furans and PCBs in Farmed and Wild Salmon, Farmed Trout and Fish Oil Capsules. http://www.fsai.ie

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Fish Oil Supplements

We are often told that we should eat oily fish or take a fish oil supplement, but why? When? Which one do you choose?

Why do you need fish oil?

Although maligned by the weight loss industry, dietary fats exist for a reason. They are present in plant and animal tissue because they perform vital functions for those organisms and, when we consume them, they do the same for us. The body needs to ingest or synthesise a ready supply to maintain health. Some lipids are even essential because they cannot be manufactured by the body and must be obtained through diet. There are many different forms of lipids, one of the most crucial subsets are the essential fatty acids (EFAs), omega-3 and omega-6.

Some anthropologists believe consumption of omega-3 fats lead to profound changes in the human brain. We probably evolved on a 1:1 ratio of omega 3:6 in our diets (1). Post agricultural and industrial revolutions, this has dramatically switched in favour of omega-6 and is now closer to 16:1. Balancing omega-3 and 6 fats is crucial for the management of many chronic diseases. Oils from cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel have been the subject of thousands of research papers, showing efficacy for a number of conditions. They provide a rich source of the active omega-3 fats, eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Vegetarian sources of omega-3 require further conversion in order to metabolise EPA and DHA.

The most obvious way to tackle the shortfall in dietary omega-3 is to consume more oily fish. Individual taste is often a barrier. Furthermore, the beneficial long chain omega-3 fats can be damaged by cooking and the larger fish such as salmon can contain high levels of heavy metals and other contaminants. Therefore fish oil supplementation presents a practical way to increase omega-3 intake, but not all fish oil products are created equally.

When choosing a product it is important to be sure that it has been produced with due regard to environmental impact, has an exemplary quality profile and is effective.

How much do you need?
The omega-3 essential fats, EPA and DHA, are mostly found in oily fish such as sardines and anchovies

To maintain healthy levels of essential fats, the government recommends that we all eat at least two portions of oily fish each week but this can be difficult to achieve through diet alone, especially if you don’t like to eat fish! A good quality fish oil supplement can be a great option to ensure levels are high enough to maintain good health.

How do you know if a supplement is good quality?

Here are a few tips when looking for a good quality fish oil supplement:

  • Look for a fish oil supplement that is produced from small fish such as anchovies and sardines as the levels of essential fats within these fish are naturally more concentrated. You will therefore get better quality oil.
  • Look at where the fish are sourced. Small fish sourced from areas such as the clear pacific waters will drastically minimise the level of pollutants. This will mean you will get cleaner, more pure oil.
  • Look for oil that has had minimal processing. Fatty acids are delicate and can become damaged when put through aggressive production methods. If minimal heat and chemicals are used, the oil will be closer to its natural form.
  • Look for variety. If fish oil is pure and clean, then it can be made into capsules and liquids that have very little fishy aftertaste. Some fish oils can even be mixed with fruit bases so that adults and children can enjoy taking a daily supplement.

References:

1. Simopoulos AP Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega 6/omega 3 ratio and genetic variation: nutritional implications for chronic diseases. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy 60 (2006) 502-507.

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The role of omega-3 in heart health

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

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

EPA and lipid management

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

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

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

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

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

AA to EPA ratio and cardiovascular health

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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Omega-3 supplements in early infancy may protect against allergies

A recent Australian study provides the first human data showing the benefits of very early postnatal fish oil supplementation in children (1).

The randomised controlled trial, led by Susan Prescott, investigated the effects of fish oil supplements on 420 infants from birth to six months of age. It found that supplementation significantly lowered the allergic response in infants.

Fish Oil for Infants
Products like Igennus Vegepa can be taken by the mother and provided to their infant via breast milk.

Allergies in children are on the rise. In 2004, 39 percent of children were diagnosed with one or more of the allergic conditions asthma, eczema or hayfever. Nobody really knows why allergies are on the increase although factors such as pollution and higher levels of environmental toxins may be partly to blame. Diet may also play a role. Essential fatty acids are important regulators of inflammation and immune response, and so imbalances of these types of fat in the western diet may be partly responsible.

The effects of fish oil supplements during the third trimester of pregnancy have been studied, and benefits include reduced risk of asthma in children. A more recent study has now investigated the effects of fish oil on children’s immune systems during the first 6 months after birth.

In this new study, published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy, each infant was given either a fish oil supplement providing 280 mg of DHA and 100 mg of EPA, or a placebo supplement each day. Signs of allergic response in each infant were then measured at both 6 and 12 months of age.

Blood tests taken at six months of age confirmed that the fish oil group of children had significantly higher levels of EPA and DHA that the control group. Levels of arachidonic acid, an inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid, were also lower in the fish oil group.

The infants who had received the fish oil had significantly lower allergic responses to both dust mites and milk protein. Substances such as interleukin-13, a type of protein involved in allergic responses, were much lower in the fish oil group. Significantly fewer infants in the fish oil group were diagnosed with eczema at 12 months old.

Harry Rice, PhD, Vice President of scientific and regulatory affairs for GOED, the omega-3 trade association, felt positive about the findings. “The present results demonstrating the immunomodulatory properties of EPA and DHA translating into allergy protection suggest that the simple step of supplementation with EPA and DHA in infancy may result in increased quality of life, not to mention decreased health costs, for those afflicted with allergic conditions.”

While there are several pleasant-tasting fish oil supplements formulated for children, few are explicitly recommended for young infants. In fact, the researchers noted that maternal supplementation may be a more efficient way of supplementing breastfed infants who might sometimes reject the capsules through spitting or vomiting. Until further studies have been carried out, the long-term impact of this type of supplementation is not certain. In the meantime, breastfeeding mothers may want to try a good quality fish oil supplement as a nutritional safeguard for their child’s immune health.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References
1. D’Vaz N, Meldrum SJ, Dunstan JA, Lee-Pullen TF, Metcalfe J, Holt BJ, Serralha M, Tulic MK, Mori TA, Prescott SL (2012) Fish oil supplementation in early infancy modulates developing infant immune responses. Clin & Exp Allergy 42:8 pp1206-1216

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An introduction to Igennus

Igennus – Where It All Began…

It’s not always easy to see the positive during a crisis – let alone an opportunity – but this was exactly how the seed of an idea for a specialist nutrition business was planted in the mind of Igennus Healthcare Nutrition’s Founder and CEO, Dr Jav Nazemi.

In 1998, Jav’s family experienced a health scare with their youngest daughter, who was diagnosed with a rare heart condition. This left her with a damaged and narrowed heart valve, which caused blood clots that subsequently caused blind spots in her vision.

Not wanting to rely on lifelong prescriptions of penicillin and aspirin, the family avidly researched how good diet and nutrition could help to manage their daughter’s condition. Jav spoke to Hammersmith clinician Professor Basant Puri (an eminent researcher, author and proponent of nutritional medicine) for advice. Professor Basant was doing research on Fish Oils and getting remarkable results. This was the start of a journey that led to the formation of Igennus Healthcare Nutrition – a company founded on the principles of holistic health and nutritional science.

The  Igennus Family of Products

E-EPA 90E-EPA 90 - Restore Wellbeing – Step 1

E-EPA 90 is the purest ethyl-EPA concentrate available without prescription, suitable for counteracting omega-3 deficiencies and restoring a healthy omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Research suggests that EPA plays an important role in supporting optimum brain function, including attention, concentration and emotional wellbeing.

Vegepa E-Epa 70Vegepa E-EPA 70 - Maintain Wellbeing – Step 2

Vegepa combines the benefits of 70% ethyl-EPA concentrate extracted from marine anchovy oil with GLA and triterpene antioxidants from organic virgin evening primrose oil. This unique formulation balances and maintains healthy omega-3 and omega-6 levels, providing cells with essential nutrients to support efficient brain function and emotional wellbeing.

Vegepa ChewablesVegepa E-EPA 70 Orange Chewables - From Age 3+

Vegepa Chewables combine the benefits of 70% ethyl-EPA concentrate extracted from marine anchovy oil with GLA and triterpene antioxidants from organic virgin evening primrose oil. This unique formulation balances and maintains healthy omega-3 and omega-6 levels, providing cells with essential nutrients to support brain function, including attention and concentration. These child-friendly capsules are sugar-free, sweetened with natural xylitol and flavoured with sweet orange oil.

EchiomegaEchiomega – Suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans

Echiomega Echium Seed Oil (sourced from Echium plantagineum) provides the richest natural source of the omega-3 SDA, offering support for cardiovascular health and eye function, maintaining anti-inflammatory and immune response, and promoting healthy skin.  Echium Seed Oil offers the highest rate of conversion of any plant-derived omega-rich oil to the important long-chain fatty acid EPA, making Echiomega an ideal supplement for vegetarians and vegans.

Omegaflex DuoOmegaFlex Duo - Replenish & Repair joints and bones

Omegaflex DUO is an advanced multi-action formula for the joints and bones, combining the powerful natural anti-inflammatory properties of ethyl-EPA and GLA with the tissue-restoring properties of glucosamine & bioavailable calcium, vitamins C & D3 and minerals.  These vital nutrients nourish the synovial fluid, support collagen synthesis and form the building blocks for cartilage and bone tissue renewal, as well as offering direct anti-inflammatory support. These natural and synergistic ingredients are highly bioavailable – using a special form of hypoallergenic glucosamine (non-shellfish-derived) and ‘pre-digested’ algae-derived calcium for optimum absorption and utilisation in the body.

Commitment to efficacy, quality and sustainability

Igennus has carved out a specialist expertise in the area of polyunsaturated fatty acids and its relevance to a wide range of health concerns. From the very beginning, Igennus has pioneered the use of pure EPA for preventative and restorative health. Igennus’ lead product Vegepa E-EPA 70 now has a dedicated and loyal following, with thousands of customers taking daily doses of pure EPA for inflammatory conditions and ailments ranging from CFS, psoriasis, arthritis and diabetes to depression, ADHD and schizophrenia.

Research and development are central to the innovation of Igennus’ specialist EPA supplements, which are developed in association with nutrition scientists and independent researchers and clinicians. The provision of efficacious supplements and a relentless focus on quality and safety are key – a company-wide commitment that influences choice of suppliers, raw materials, packaging facilities and even testing labs. All products are independently batch-tested to guarantee safety and are certified free from heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins. Igennus EPA is sourced from sustainable marine anchovies, with minimal impact on biodiversity.

Igennus won’t compromise on using natural ingredients, and avoid artificial colours, flavours, preservatives and sweeteners at all costs – a commitment that has its challenges, but something Igennus is committed to for the long term.

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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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Beat the winter blues: diet and SAD

Previously I have written about the benefits of light therapy in treating seasonal affective disorder. Light therapy is a popular choice with those looking for a drug-free approach to dealing with SAD or the ‘winter blues’. An equally important consideration is how diet affects mood and symptoms in those with SAD – and in particular the importance of the macronutrients carbohydrate, protein and fat in the management of this condition.

Hormones and SAD

SAD is characterised by symptoms such as low mood, carbohydrate cravings, weight gain and fatigue (1, 2). These symptoms are linked to hormones that control our mood and energy levels.

Our body’s natural anti-depressant hormone, serotonin, is stimulated by light. The more light we have during the daytime, the more serotonin we produce. In the darker months of autumn and winter, serotonin levels can drop, resulting in feelings such as low mood, lack of energy and food cravings.

Likewise, darkness stimulates the hormone melatonin, which lowers body temperature and causes tiredness and feelings of fatigue.

How can diet help?

Those with SAD are thought to crave sugary and starchy foods because these types of carbohydrate temporarily boost levels of the body’s natural anti-depressant serotonin. These types of foods also boost energy levels and raise body temperature, countering the effects of melatonin.

Brown Rice
Whole grains such as brown rice and oats and proteins such as nuts help to keep blood sugar levels stable. (5)

Eating this type of diet can only be a temporary ‘fix’ however. In fact, a carbohydrate-rich diet based around sugary and starchy foods, leads to unstable blood sugar levels. This in turn can create a variety of symptoms that we might link to the ‘winter blues’ – moodiness, fatigue, foggy thinking and food cravings.

The solution is to eat a diet based around ‘low glycemic index’ carbohydrates that help to keep blood sugar levels stable. Whole grains such as brown rice and oats, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables are the wisest choices of carbohydrate.

Including a source of lean protein (such as chicken, turkey, eggs, beans or lentils) with each main meal is also a good idea. This helps the body in two ways. Firstly, including protein with each meal helps to control blood sugar levels, fighting off energy dips and cravings. Secondly, protein provides a source of the amino acid tryptophan, which the body can convert to serotonin. Including foods high in tryptophan – such as chicken, tuna, tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds and milk – in your daily diet can help to support your body in making serotonin.

Finally, healthy fats have been extensively studied in relation to depression and mood. Omega-3 fats also have a role in the production and utilisation of serotonin. Inflammatory chemicals in the body can cause serotonin deficiency in the brain. Omega-3 oils can reduce levels of these inflammatory chemicals, therefore helping to boost the brain’s serotonin levels.

The importance of omega-3 in dealing with SAD might explain the low incidence of SAD in Icelanders who have a diet high in oily fish (3). Ensuring a good level of omega-3 in your diet is essential. Including oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring or salmon in your diet can help to boost levels of omega-3, as can eating flaxseed oil, walnuts and omega-3 eggs.

Formal research in this area is limited, with many studies simply looking at the impact of a single meal on symptoms of SAD. This is an inadequate assessment of the role of diet. One study that looked at the longer term impact of diet on SAD showed promising results (4). I have certainly found in clinical practice that patients need to be consistent in their dietary choices in order to see an improvement in symptoms over time.

A well-managed diet, along with light therapy (such as a sunrise alarm clock or SAD light box), appears to be a safe approach to managing SAD. Of course carbohydrates, protein and fats are not the only nutrients of importance to those with the winter blues. Part 3 will examine the evidence behind other nutrients and dietary supplements in the support of SAD.

 

Written by Nadia Mason

References

1. Sher L. Genetic studies of seasonal affective disorder and seasonality. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 2001, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 105-110.

2. Magnusson A, Boivin D. Seasonal affective disorder: an overview. Chronobiology Int. 2003. 20(2):189-207.

3. Cott J, Hibbeln JR. Lack of seasonal mood change in Icelanders. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2001.

4. Wells, A, et al. (1998) Alterations in mood after changing to a low-fat diet. British Journal of Nutrition 79(1):23-30.

5. Image courtesy of Marcuso.

 

 

 

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Fish and fish oils may be important for bone health

The long chain omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines, play an important role in optimal health.  As previously mentioned in my blog posts they are important for our hearts, brain, eyes and may protect against various conditions.  There is also some evidence to suggest that these fatty acids are important for bone health and perhaps prevent against osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Pharma Nord Bio Fish Oil
A new study has found that fish consumption may protect against bone loss.

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1) has found that fish consumption may protect against bone loss.  The study aimed to look at the association between dietary intake of fatty acids and fish and bone mineral density in older adults (average age of 75 years).  The study tracked changes in bone mineral density over a four year period.

The results of the study showed that high intakes of fish, 3 or more servings of fish a week, were associated with maintenance (ie no changes) in bone mineral density in men and women.  The study was only an association study so it does not prove that eating fish can prevent bone loss in old age however, previous studies  have also found that eating a diet rich in fish or having good intakes of the fish oils EPA and DHA, may contribute to a reduced risk of osteoporosis.  It is thought that the fish oils may be working to protect bone through their anti-inflammatory actions.  Inflammation in the body is known to be involved in the process of bone loss.

More evidence and further research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn, however, oily fish has been shown in numerous studies to benefit health so including at least 2 servings a week in the diet is a good idea.   For individuals who don’t regularly eat fish a fish oil supplement rich in DHA and EPA may be worth considering but it is always best to check with a medical doctor prior to starting any new supplement regimen.

A healthy diet is important for strong, healthy bones.  Calcium, vitamin D are well known to be important for healthy bones but there are many other nutrients that are involved in bone strength such as magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium, silicon, manganese, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B and phytonutrients – biochemical plant compounds found in fruits and vegetables.  A varied, healthy diet, especially on rich in fruits and vegetables and unprocessed unrefined pulses, beans, nuts/seeds and wholegrains, will provide a huge array of nutrients that may positively impact bone health.  Please read my other posts relating to bone health for more information on how good nutrition may be helpful to keep bones strong.

(1)  Emily K Farina EK et al.  2011.  Protective effects of fish intake and interactive effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intakes on hip bone mineral density in older adults: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study.  Am J Clin Nutr.  93:1142-1151.

Written by Ani Richardson

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