Tag Archives: heart disease

Vitamin C for a Healthy Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 sources of vitamin C

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

 

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

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Fibre and Obesity

It is widely known that levels of obesity across the world have been rising at a staggering rate over the past few decades. We can’t miss the constant references to junk food and obesity in the news, however our obesogenic environments seem to present people with barriers to losing weight and becoming healthier.

Wholegrain Bread contains fibre
Foods like wholegrain bread contains fibre which could be good for a healthy weight and BMI.

It is important to overcome these barriers as the rises in overweight and obesity have been directly linked to low intakes of fibre rich foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole-grains and legumes (i.e. under the recommended intake of 18-30 grams of fibre a day in the UK).

Likewise, higher intakes of fibre are correlated with lower body mass index (BMI) and reduced incidence of metabolic disturbances such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Fibre may also help to induce satiety, balance blood sugar and prevent hunger pangs and cravings which in turn can help to reduce energy intake, which offers another potential benefit for overweight individuals.

In order to investigate the effect of overweight individuals’ fibre intake in particular, one study (1) compared the fibre intakes from healthy diet, supplementation or a placebo on body composition and other metabolic measures. This study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, aimed to discover the effects of additional fibre intakes on metabolic outcomes and also to determine the amount of fibre that would be the most effective. The study used four groups where subjects either consumed a placebo powder (breadcrumbs) with their usual diet (control), a fibre supplement in the form of 12g of psyllium husks with their usual diet, a healthy eating diet with placebo and finally healthy eating diet with fibre supplementation. The researchers found that compared to the control group, who simply ate their usual diet with a placebo, the subjects in all groups increased their daily fibre intakes. Specifically, the healthy eating diet with psyllium husk supplementation group increased their fibre intake by a massive 39g a day, which was in comparison to an 11g increase for health eating alone.

The authors noted that the addition of the fibre supplement to a normal diet was enough to produce improvements in weight, BMI and % body fat. However, they stated that it is the combination of a healthy diet with fibre supplementation that produced the greatest improvements in all bodily measures (including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, insulin, body weight and BMI) for overweight individuals. This led the authors to conclude that an intake of fibre above 30g per day from both dietary sources and fibre supplements was the most suitable for those who are overweight, and not simply the adoption of a healthy diet alone. Therefore, if you are interested in losing weight, increasing your health and reducing your risks of metabolic conditions, you may wish to include the following high fibre foods into your diet along with fibre supplements such as psyllium, rice bran, wheat bran etc:

– Vegetables; including split peas (around 8g of fibre per 100g).

– Seeds; for example flax seeds provide 2.7g of fibre per tablespoon.

– Cereals; e.g a medium size bowl of All-Bran contains 9.8g of fibre; Two pieces of Shredded Wheat contain 4.3g of fibre; Two Weetabix contain 3.6g of fibre.

– Legumes such as red kidney beans; three tablespoons of red kidney beans contain 5.4g of fibre.

– Fruits such as apricots; three whole apricots contain 5g of fibre; Three whole prunes contain 4.6g of fibre and a medium size pear (with skin) contains 3.7g of fibre.

Written by Lauren Foster

References

(1) Pal, S. Khossousi, A., Binns, C., Dhaliwal, S. & Ellis, V. (2011). The effect of a fibre supplement compared to a healthy diet on body composition, lipids, glucose, insulin and other metabolic syndrome risk factors in overweight and obese individuals. British Journal of Nutrition, 105, 90100.

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Fish oil counters the effects of air pollution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

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

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

3. Image courtesy of Tungphoto

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Dietary magnesium reduces risk of stroke

Recent research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found new evidence of a link between magnesium intake and risk of stroke.

The research was conducted at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. It took the form of a meta-analysis, whereby researchers collect and analyse data from many previous relevant studies. In all, the researchers took data from studies conducted from 1996 to 2011, involving more than 240,000 adults. Each study tracked adults from Europe, Asia or the United States, and lasted an average of 12 years. The data tracked how much magnesium each person took, and how many people suffered a stroke.

Leafy vegetables contain high levels of dietary magnesium
Leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, spinach and kale, contain high levels of dietary magnesium (2.)

The research team found that those with a higher level of dietary magnesium were less likely to experience a stroke. In fact, the risk of stroke was reduced by 8% for each additional 100 milligrams of magnesium a person consumed each day.

“Dietary magnesium intake is inversely associated with risk of stroke, specifically ischemic stroke”, concluded lead researched Susanna Larsson, adding that “the results suggest that people should eat a healthy diet with magnesium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains.”

Larsson also maintains that the other dietary factors might also have influenced the findings. After all, those whose diets are high in magnesium-rich foods are also likely to have higher intake or absorption of other nutrients, such as dietary fibre and folate. Hopefully, further large controlled trials of magnesium supplementation will clarify the link.

There are of course a number of reasons why magnesium in particular may help reduce the risk of stroke. Strokes are said to be caused by conditions such as hypertension, atherosclerosis and diabetic complications, all of which are linked with low magnesium. This mineral is essential for keeping blood vessels strong and preventing blood from clotting. The UK recommended intake for magnesium is currently 270mg for women and 300mg for men, although it is estimated that many of us in the UK do not manage to reach these levels in our diet.

The best way to ensure that you are getting enough dietary magnesium is to follow the below guidelines:

• Eat a wide variety of vegetables daily, including greens such as kale, spinach and chard.
• Include beans, legumes, nuts and seeds as magnesium-rich sources of protein.
• Include a variety of wholegrains, such as oats, buckwheat, barley, rye and quinoa.
• Choose animal foods that are magnesium-rich, such as halibut and mackerel.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

Reference
(1.) Larsson S, Orsini N and Wolk A. Dietary magnesium intake and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Feb 2012.

(2.) Image courtesy of Dan

 

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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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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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