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Superfood

The New Superfood Trends for 2017

The Hottest New Superfood Trends for 2017

A great way to make sure you stick to your healthy New Year’s Resolutions is to keep your diet fresh and interesting. Boost your culinary repertoire and stay in tip-top health with three of this year’s hottest new superfood trends.

Turmeric

The healing properties of turmeric are well known amongst medical herbalists, as this spice boasts more than 8,000 peer reviewed articles supporting its health benefits (1).

A powerful anti-inflammatory agent, turmeric has been found effective in relieving a range of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, and inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis (2-4). It reduces levels of unhealthy triglycerides in the bloodstream and helps to prevent blood platelets from sticking together, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes (5).

There is growing interest in adding turmeric to the diet in a variety of ways. The ‘golden latte’ – a healthy anti-inflammatory alternative to your usual coffee fix – is predicted to become popular as the year draws on. Simply heat 2 cups of water, 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and a little grated ginger in a pan for 10 minutes. Strain and then add a little honey and 2 tablespoons of coconut milk for the perfect creamy latte.

For those who don’t fancy brewing turmeric tea, this spice can be taken in capsule form. For example, 400mg standardised extract daily, is effective in relieving general and arthritic pain (6), and just one tablet (around 100mg) of turmeric extract daily has been found to improve irritable bowel syndrome (7).

Medicinal Mushrooms

Those who were enjoying green tea in 2016 will soon be quenching their thirst with a mushroom coffee.  Joining functional foods such as acai and cacao, medicinal mushrooms are bursting onto the superfood scene.

Mushrooms are in fact one of the most widely studied superfoods in the world. In natural medicine, their ability to balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation is well known (8). One of the few food sources of vitamin D, mushrooms also contain beta-glucans, compounds that support the immune system by boosting levels of white blood cells. Some varieties of mushrooms even have adaptogenic properties, meaning that they can help the body cope with stress.

Four Sigmatic founder Tero Isokauppila claims that the two varieties to look out for are the Chaga mushroom which “can help to fight pathogens and lower inflammation,” and lion’s mane which is believed to have “brain and nervous system protecting properties.”

The mild, earthy flavour of mushrooms means that they make a delicious healthy pairing for strong flavours such as coffee or chocolate. Mushroom lattes, made with a milk of your choice, or mushroom hot chocolate made with cacao and a healthy sweetener, are good options for those wanting to enjoy the healing benefits of mushrooms.

Prebiotic Foods

Those of us who take probiotics for digestive wellness may be adding prebiotics to boost gut health in 2017. Prebiotic fibres act as fertiliser for healthy bacteria in the gut, and so eating prebiotic foods regularly is a great way to grow your own healthy bacteria. Interest in prebiotic foods and supplements is set to grow this year, and is has been suggested that they may soon become even more popular than probiotics (9).

As well as boosting digestive health, prebiotics offer a host of health benefits including improved bone density, improved digestion, lower levels of inflammation and lower anxiety levels (10).

The king of prebiotic foods is the Jerusalem artichoke. Those who want to boost their own healthy bacteria should also include chicory root, asparagus, carrots, jicama, leeks and onions in their diet. Inulin works well as a healthy sweetener with prebiotic benefits, and snacks such as bananas or crisps made with prebiotic-rich Jerusalem artichoke are an easy way to get a healthy dose of prebiotic fibre.

References
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=curcumin
2. Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2006.
3. Effect of curcumin on diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain: possible involvement of opiod system. Eur J Pharmacol. 2013
4. Therapeutic strategies for the management of ulcerative colitis. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2009
5. Protective effects of Curcuma longa on ischemia-reperfusion induced myocardial injuries and their mechanisms. Life Sci. 2004.
6. Comparative evaluation of the pain-relieving properties of a lecithinized formulation of curcumin, nimesulide, and acetaminophen. J Pain Res. 2013
7. Turmeric extract may improve irritable bowel syndrome symptomology in otherwise healthy adults: a pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 2004.
8. Recent progress of research on medicinal mushrooms, foods, and other herbal products used in traditional Chinese medicine. J Tradit Complement Med. 2012
9. Industry Arc Booming Digestive Health Market to Propel the Usage of Prebiotic Ingredients. Accessed 25/02/2017.

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Probiotics and Children’s Immunity

A recent placebo-controlled trial has found that a combination of probiotics and vitamin C helps to prevent cold infections in young children.

The study, published last month in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved 69 preschool children who each received either a placebo supplement or a chewable probiotic and vitamin C supplement for a period of six months. The study was double-blind, meaning that neither the researchers nor the children or their parents knew whether each child was taking the supplement or a placebo.

The results at the end of the six month period were promising. The children who received the probiotic and vitamin C supplement had experienced fewer upper respiratory tract infections (ie common colds), and as a result had fewer absences from preschool and fewer visits to the doctor. The probiotic and vitamin C group were also less likely to have taken antibiotics, painkillers, cough medicines or nasal sprays compared with those children in the placebo group.

Both probiotics and vitamin C are known to modulate the immune system. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, reverses oxidative damage caused by infection. It is also believed to support production of phagocytes, cytokines and lymphcytes – cells that battle infection.
Healthy probiotic bacteria ramp up the body’s production of antibodies and lymphocytes, defending the body against infection (2).

In fact, around 70% of the body’s immune system resides in the digestive system which is home to around 100 trillion (about 3lbs) bacteria.

This particular study used 50mg of vitamin C alongside Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium lactis strains of probiotics. Other strains of probiotics have also been linked with increased resistance to infection, though more research needs to be done in order to determine which particular strain is most effective. Hopefully this study will pave the way for larger trials to be carried out. In the meantime, probiotics have repeatedly been demonstrated as a safe supplement for children, and so trying a probiotic supplement with vitamin C would seem a sensible measure for parents of children who seem to have one cold after another.

Ideally, all children should all eat a diet which is rich in vitamin C and other anti-oxidants, and encourages growth of healthy bacteria. This means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding foods that deplete levels of healthy bacteria such as sugar and white grains. Unfortunately children’s sugar intake is consistently above the maximum recommended amount, and only around 10% of children in the UK manage to eat their ‘5-a-day’ requirement of fruit and vegetables (3).

Especially good sources of prebiotics – foods which feed and therefore boost probiotic bacteria – include leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus and bananas. Natural probiotic yoghurt can also help to support children’s levels of healthy bacteria. Most added sugar comes from breakfast cereals and soft drinks, and so parents should look out for these items in particular, and read labels to check from hidden sugars.

Boosting vitamin C intake and reaching the 5-a-day recommendation means adding fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks – for children, small changes such as adding blueberries to breakfast or pureeing vegetables into pasta sauces are simple changes that can make a huge difference, ensuring that children are happy and healthy both in and out of school.

  1. Garaiova, I. et al (2014) Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomised controlled pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  2. Resta SC. Effects of probiotics and commensals on intestinal epithelial physiology: implications for nutrient handling. J Physiol. 2009. 587:4169-4174.
  3. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: results from Years 1 to 4 (combined) of the rolling programme for 2008 and 2009 to 2011 and 2012. Public Health England and Food Standard Agency. 14 May 2014
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Probiotics, our friends inside

The human intestinal tract is home to trillions of “friendly” bacteria that are crucial in maintaining good health. These bacteria are instrumental in protecting against tummy problems, supporting digestion and absorption of nutrients. The balance of this gut micro flora is also intrinsically linked with immunity, ensuring a positive balance of beneficial gut bacteria will give your immune system a fighting chance of beating off the majority of opportunistic pathogens.

Antacids, antibiotics and low fibre refined diets all disrupt this delicate balance. This is possibly why an estimated 1 in 5 adults in the UK suffer from gastrointestinal complaints. Rebalancing the gut micro flora through the diet or by taking a “probiotic” supplement containing strains of friendly bacteria has been shown to help maintain the health of the intestinal tract and aid digestion, reduced bloating and the establishment of a regular bowel habits.

A change of food may upset a sensitive tummy

Our immune system is used to dealing with bacterial or viral challenges on a regular basis, but when we travel we can encounter different or possibly more pathogenic strains that then cause us to become ill. A change of food may also upset a sensitive tummy, as well as traveller’s diarrhoea people may also suffer from bloating or discomfort. You can reduce your chances of falling ill by giving your immune system and gut flora extra support by taking a probiotic supplement before jetting off to exotic destinations. Closer to home evidence continues to grow that probiotic supplements are a key element in the management of IBS, a combination of L.plantarum and L.acidophilus has been found to be especially effective.

Choosing a probiotic supplement

The effectiveness of probiotics is linked to their ability to survive the transit from stomach to small intestine; to do so they must be able to resist both acidic and alkaline conditions.

To confer health benefits probiotic supplements must contain live bacteria capable of adhering to the intestinal lining and colonise in the colon. Always choose products by trusted and established manufacturers.

Lyophilised (freeze dried) bacteria are stable at room temperature so do not need refrigeration.

Look for a delayed release product, delaying the release of the bacteria until they reach the small intestine protects them against the acidic environment of the stomach and delivering them directly where they are needed.

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May is M.E. Awareness Month: Part 1

May is M.E. Awareness Month, a campaign aimed at promoting a greater understanding of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and the impact it has on the lives of sufferers. This year the campaign culminates in an international conference hosted by the charity ‘Invest in ME’ to be held in London at the end of the month (1).

Part 1 will look at the most common symptoms of M.E. along with common myths and misconceptions about this poorly understood disease.

What is M.E.?

Vitamin B12 may help with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
Vitamin B12 may help with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) affects several of the body’s systems, including the immune and nervous system. The result is chronic exhaustion, cognitive problems, nausea, headaches and persistent aches and pains.

In Beating Chronic Fatigue, Dr Kristine Downing-Orr describes CFS as “the body’s inability to recover following a biological or psychological trigger” (2). Essentially the body’s very healing mechanisms break down, leaving sufferers in a state of chronic ill health.

It is thought that 250,000 people in the UK have this illness, with women between the ages of 25-50 being most commonly affected (3). However, men, women and children of all ages can develop ME/CFS.

Myths and Misconceptions

Myth 1. Chronic Fatigue is all in the mind
ME is a genuine medical illness recognised by the World Health Organisation as a neurological disease. Sufferers of CFS/ME show abnormalities in both the immune system and nervous system. It is not a psychological condition. It is not depression. Nor is it ‘attention seeking’ or a ‘cry for help’.

Myth 2. Chronic Fatigue is caused by the Epstein Barr Virus.
It is true that some cases of CFS/ME develop after an infection. However, the cause of CFS/ME is still unknown. Other theories link the disease to hormone imbalance, immune problems or psychological trauma. It is quite possible that sufferers are genetically predisposed to the disease, leaving them vulnerable if they are exposed to ‘triggers’ such as infection or stress.

Myth 3. Counselling or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can ‘reverse’ CFS/ME
Psychological interventions can indeed help CFS sufferers to cope with their symptoms. However, this type of approach cannot ‘cure’ the illness (4).

Myth 4. Exercise can cure CFS/ME
Unfortunately exercise will not cure CFS/ME. Well meaning healthcare providers can sometimes recommend exercise for CFS/ME patients using guidelines intended for healthy people. In fact, increasing physical activity can worsen symptoms for sufferers. However, if undertaken in the right way, carefully monitored exercise programmes can be helpful for patients (5).

Myth 5. CFS/ME is difficult to diagnose
This is untrue. There are clear NICE guidelines regarding the diagnosis of CFS/ME. More recently, the Canadian criteria is being recognised as the standard diagnostic tool, and reflects the growing understanding of CFS/ME as a biological illness. This includes the following symptoms: Muscle fatigue or malaise following exertion; poor quality sleep; soreness and aches affecting different parts of the body; brain disturbances such as sensory problems or feelings of confusion (6).

Creating a greater awareness and dispelling myths about CFS/ME is essential. After all, effective treatment and management of CFS/ME depends on a clear understanding of the disease. In Part 2 we will look at some natural approaches to managing symptoms. This includes dietary recommendations and vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements designed to provide the body with the resources it needs to support healing and recovery.

References

1. 8th Invest in ME International ME (ME/CFS) Conference 2013. More information at http://www.investinme.org/IiME%20Conference%202013/IIMEC8%20Home.html Accessed 25/04/13.

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

3. Action for M.E. http://www.actionforme.org.uk/get-informed/about-me/who-does-it-affect Accessed 25/04/13.

4. Van Hoof, E. (2004). Cognitive behavioral therapy as cure-all for CFS. Journal of Chronic Fatigue  Syndrome, 11, 43-47.

5. Edmonds, M., McGuire, H., & Price, J. (2004). Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 1-22.

6. Carruthers, B.M., Jain, A.K., DeMeirleir, K.L., Peterson, D.L., Klimas, N.G., Lerner, A.M., Bested, A.C., Flor-Henry, P., Joshi, P., Powles, A.C.P., Sherkey, J.A., & van de Sande, M.I. (2003). Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome: Clinical working case definition, diagnostic and treatments protocols. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 11, 7-115.

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Omega-3 supplements may prevent skin cancer

The many benefits of omega-3 supplementation, from heart health to anti-inflammatory effects in conditions such as arthritis, are well-known. A new study conducted by researchers at Manchester University has now investigated the potential of omega-3 to protect against skin cancer (1).

Skin cancer is a growing concern in the UK, where rates of malignant melanoma have increased significantly over the last 30 years. In fact, according to Cancer Research UK, incidence rates of this type of cancer have increased more rapidly than any other type of cancer (2). And it is not just a concern for the elderly. In the UK, more than 700 young people between the ages of 17 and 34 are diagnosed with skin cancer every year.

The study is the first of its kind to test the protective benefits of omega-3 on human volunteers. The volunteers were given either a 4g dose of omega-3 or a placebo supplement. They were then exposed to the equivalent of either 8, 15 or 30 minutes of summer midday sun through the use of a light machine.

Fish is the richest food source of omega 3, with mackeral, trout and herring being the strongest source
Fish is the richest food source of omega 3, with mackerel, trout and herring having the highest source of omega 3

This study measured the amount of damage to the immune system, or ‘immunosuppression’ caused by sunlight. Sun exposure and sunburn can actually suppress the immune system, and repeated exposure can cause long term damage to the immune system, making your body more susceptible to skin cancer. The results of this study showed that immunosuppression was 50% lower in those who took the supplement compared to those who were given a placebo.

The beneficial effects were noted in those who were exposed to 8 and 15 minutes of sun, but were not seen in those who underwent 30 minutes of exposure.

Professor Lesley Rhodes at the University’s Photobiology Unit, said this was the first time a study such as this has been carried out on humans. “This study adds to the evidence that omega-3 is a potential nutrient to protect against skin cancer. Although the changes we found when someone took the oil were small, they suggest that a continuous low level of chemoprevention from taking omega-3 could reduce the risk of skin cancer over an individual’s lifetime.”

Other nutritional lines of defence from the sun’s UV rays include antioxidants, which ‘mop up’ some of the oxidative damage caused by the sun. For example, previous research suggests that skin damage from the sun can be reduced by taking 2000mg of Vitamin C alongside 1000IU Vitamin E (3). Citrus fruits are the most obvious choice for those wanting to increase their Vitamin C intake, although green peppers, broccoli and green leafy vegetables are similarly beneficial. Garnishing your meals with chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts or a drizzle of olive oil will also give Vitamin E levels a boost.

While omega-3 oils and antioxidants are no substitute for suncream, these studies suggests it may provide helpful support alongside our usual protective measures. Research into the nutrition’s protective benefits for the skin continues, and Professor Rhodes’ team are currently continuing their investigations with omega-3 at Salford Royal Hospital.

Reference

1. S. M. Pilkington et al. (2013) Randomized controlled trial of oral omega-3 PUFA in solar-simulated radiation-induced suppression of human cutaneous immune responses. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 97 (3): 646 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.112.049494

2. ‘Skin Cancer Incidence Statistics’ Cancer Research UK http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/skin/incidence/uk-skin-cancer-incidence-statistics

3. Eberlain-Konig B et al (1998) Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid and d-alpha tocopherol. J Am Acad Dermatol 38:45-8

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Are you allergic to winter?

The cold winter months can actually increase allergic symptoms in some people, spelling months of misery. Summer allergies are often spotted and tackled early by sufferers. Winter allergies however are less well-known, and are often mistaken for colds or flu, meaning that they are not dealt with effectively.

For those who suffer during the colder months, it is important to know the difference between an allergy and a cold, to understand the most common triggers and to take action to eliminate the troublesome symptoms.

Spot the difference! Is it an allergy or a cold?

Sneezing
Is it just a common cold or is it an allergy?

Many people believe that they are suffering with a common cold when in fact they are experiencing allergy symptoms. After all, coughing, sneezing and a runny nose can be symptoms of either ailment. However, a cold should not last more than 10 days. If your symptoms persist over weeks or months, then it is far more likely that you are suffering with an allergy. Other allergy symptoms include itchy eyes or nose, watery eyes and dark circles under the eyes.

Winter allergy triggers

Spending more time indoors, with the heating on full blast, can mean weeks of misery for allergy sufferers. Common allergy triggers during this time can be:

  • Mould. Moist conditions caused by indoor heating can lead to the growth of mould. Bathrooms and kitchens are particularly susceptible to this problem. Steamy showers in small bathrooms can also be a culprit. If you notice condensation on your windows during the cold weather, then look out for mould.
  • Dust mites. Ducted heating indoors encourages dust to circulate throughout the house. Extra bedding and long-stored winter clothing can also be a breeding ground for troublesome dust mites.
  • Animals. During the winter time, it is more likely that both you and your pet will spend more time indoors. Contrary to popular belief, allergies to pet fur are uncommon. It is more likely that you are allergic to certain proteins present in pet dander and saliva.

Winter Allergy Action Plan

There are a number of natural measures that may help to fight off persistent allergy symptoms at this time of year.

  • Vacuum and dust more often during the winter months.
  • Wash pillows and sheets in hot water every week.
  • Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows and duvets.
  • Natural nasal sprays such as those containing salt can lessen inflammation and help keep the nasal passages clear.
  • Watch out for mould, especially in moist areas such as the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Clean the filters in your air-conditioning and heater units.
  • Try an air filter to reduce allergens in your home.
  • Don’t assume sniffles are the result of cold viruses, especially if your symptoms last more than a couple of weeks. Check with your GP if you are unsure.
  • Anti-inflammatory nutrients and natural anti-histamines such as Vitamin C and omega-3 fish oils may be helpful. For allergic symptoms, I often recommend a combination of potent anti-inflammatory nutrients quercetin and bromelain. You should always check with your GP before taking any new supplements, especially if you are already taking prescribed medications.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

Image courtesy of “evah” (Sebastian Smit).

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Vitamin D and the immune system

You might have seen that a story broke in the news recently where scientists revealed they found no convincing evidence to suggest that taking vitamin D supplements will fend off a cold. However, the Office of Dietary Supplements confirms that vitamin D does play a role in immune function and there are many studies which suggest a link between vitamin D and flu and respiratory infections.

The first population based study to evaluate and demonstrate an association between blood serum levels and upper respiratory tract infections was published in 2009. Following this, the importance of vitamin D for its immune boosting properties was reported further in 2010, by Danish scientists, who discovered that vitamin D is crucial in activating the body’s immune defences. Findings showed that, without sufficient intake, the T cells, which are responsible for immune health, remain dormant and inactive leaving them unable to react and fight off serious infections in the body.

National Vitamin D Awareness Week
National Vitamin D Awareness Week is highlighting the importance of Vitamin D – as well as the positive effects on the immune system.

There have been many other studies. Researchers from University of Colorado, Denver, reported that people with low levels of vitamin D were 40 per cent more likely to have been struck down with a recent respiratory infection.* And a further study, by Japanese doctors, found that the risk of children suffering from influenza could be halved if they take vitamin D. It found that only one in ten children, aged six to 15 years, who took vitamin D came down with flu, compared with one in five given a placebo. Mitsuyoshi Urashimi, the doctor who led the trial, claims that vitamin D was more effective than vaccines in protecting against flu viruses.

Vitamin D comes in many forms, with tablets generally being the most accepted way of gaining this essential vitamin. But tablets are certainly not the only way. Modern diet, increased stress levels and an ageing population means that our digestive efficiency is worsening. This can often mean that tablets aren’t absorbed quite as effectively as they were designed to. An alternative route for administration is the sublingual route. Oral sprays deliver the vitamin under the tongue via the mucous membrane, which is then transported directly into the bloodstream, meaning it doesn’t have to rely on the digestive system for absorption.

Researchers at Cardiff University recently found that more than a third of the BetterYou’s DLux range of vitamin D oral sprays are absorbed immediately into the bloodstream, via the tissue in the cheek and under the tongue.

 

References

* http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/content/view/print/690821

* BetterYou Ltd

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The health benefits of coconut oil

Coconut oil has recently become increasingly prevalent both in the media and in current research which has found that many of its contents can be extremely beneficial to health.  For example, one recent study (1) published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine this year reported on its vast medicinal aspects, as it has been found to be antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, antioxidant, immunostimulant (supports the immune system), and the list goes on.

The health benefits of coconut oil
Current research has found that coconut oil can be extremely beneficial to health. (8)

Additionally, another study (2) comments on previous research reporting on the many health benefits of coconut oil. These include preventing illnesses and diseases, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, aiding digestion and helping to keep skin elastic and silky, keeping wrinkles at bay.  This can be attributed to its numerous nutrient contents including being rich in medium chain fatty acids, such as lauric acid which has shown to inhibit harmful elements (pathogens) within the body which can help to slow the effects of ageing (3).  This study (3) also found that virgin coconut oil had greater antioxidant activity than the refined oil and another study (4) suggested that coconut oil intake is associated with beneficial lipid profiles which promotes healthy cholesterol levels due to its high density lipoprotein content.  An all round health booster!

Also, you may have seen the recent article in the Daily Mail (5) that reports on the use of coconut oil by supermodel Miranda Kerr (wife of actor Orlando Bloom), where she is quoted as saying that she credited her glowing clear skin and shiny hair to the oil.  One study (6) also reported on the oils beneficial effects to the skin saying that it had shown to have antimicrobial effects on fungi and viruses which can inhabit atopic dermatitis.  In this study, published in 2008 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society, patients topically treated with virgin coconut oil (by rubbing the oil into their skin) reported significantly reduced scores for dryness and related conditions.  Therefore you may find some relief from rubbing this oil into your dry spots on your elbows, knees and ankles or even see if this helps with sunburn or any other problem skin areas.

Also, another study (7) identified the superior effects of coconut oil when applied (topically) to hair before conditioning compared to mineral oil and other vegetable oils such as sunflower oil. They reported protective effects to both undamaged and chemically treated hair.  They attributed this effect to the ability of coconut oil to access the hair cuticle and lubricate it, which reduces water retention and swelling.  You may also find that coconut oil can help with split ends.

So as well as being a healthy oil when consumed on salads, used as a cooking oil or even a spoonful in your green tea just like Miranda Kerr, you can also benefit from using this oil topically on skin and hair.

P.S.  A top tip may be to rub some into your shoes to soften them which may prevent any irritation they may cause you, as well as making your feet smell like coconuts!

Written by Lauren Foster

 

References

(1) DebMandal, M. & Mandal, S. (2011) Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Arecaceae): In health promotion and disease prevention. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, 241-247.

 (2) Arenillo, S.A (2008) Yield and Quality of Virgin Coconut Oil Using Varieties of Coconuts. Liceo Journal of Higher Education Research, Vol. 5, No. 2, 190-198.

 (3) Marina, A.M., Che Man, Y.B. & Amin, I.(2009) Virgin coconut oil: emerging functional food oil. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 20, 481-487.

 (4) Feranil, A.B., Duazo, P.L., Kuzawa, C.W., Adair, L.S. (2011) Coconut oil is associated with a beneficial lipid profile in pre-menopausal women in the Philippines. Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 20, (2):190-195.

 (5) Daily Mail (2011) Victoria’s Secret? Coconut oil… Sales boom as model Miranda Kerr reveals daily dose of ‘healthy fat’ is key to her beauty. Mail Online. (Online):   (Accessed 5/9/2011).

 (6) Verallo-Rowell, V.M., Dillague, K.M., Syah-Tjundawan, B.S. (2008) Novel Antibacterial and Emollient Effects of Coconut and Virgin Olive Oils: Methods, Dermatitis, 19(6):308-15.

 (7) Rele, A.S. & Mohile, R.B. (2003) Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 54(2):175-92.

(8) Image courtesy of pixomar.

 

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The sunshine vitamin: Vitamin D and healthy immunity

New research supports the link between vitamin D and a healthy immune system.  The recent study of almost 7,000 adults in the UK has confirmed a link between Vitamin D levels and the risk of infection (1).

Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin
New research supports the link between vitamin D and a healthy immune system. (5)

Natural sunshine can provide our bodies with up to 10,000iu vitamin D each day.  This ‘sunshine vitamin’ helps to boost the body’s defences by increasing levels of ‘anti-microbial peptides’.  Working like natural antibiotics, these peptides mount an attack against unwanted infections.

During the winter months, infections such as colds, flu and chest infections are common.  It is believed that this increased risk of infection is due in part to the lower levels of vitamin D that we receive in the colder months.

There is however increasing concern over vitamin D levels throughout the year. After all, most of us are careful to protect our skin from the sun during the summer months, a sensible measure to help prevent burning, premature skin ageing and to protect against skin cancer.
The study, conducted by researchers from University College London, looked at the relationship between Vitamin D levels and infection. Higher levels of vitamin D were linked with lower risk of infection.

For each 10nmol/l (4ng/ml) increase in vitamin D, the risk of infection dropped by 7 per cent.  The researchers discovered a further link between higher vitamin D levels and better lung function.

While this particular study was epidemiological in nature, it will be interesting to see how future controlled trials will further our understanding.  After all, vitamin D not only supports the immune system and bone health.  More recently, deficiency has been linked with cardiovascular disease, impaired glucose tolerance, poor muscle development and certain types of cancer (2).  The Department of Health now recommends that certain groups in the UK population should take daily vitamin D supplements (3).  These groups are:

• all children aged six months to five years old
• all pregnant and breastfeeding women
• all people aged 65 and over
• people who are not exposed to much sun, such as those who are confined indoors for long periods

BioCare BioMulsion D
BioCare’s BioMulsion D provides 2000iu vitamin D in just two drops

• people with darker skins such as people of African-Caribbean and South Asian origin

While vitamin D can be obtained in the diet through oily fish such as salmon and sardines, it is generally believed that supplementation is the most viable way of ensuring adequate intake.  A recent European policy document concludes that “only vitamin D supplements or vitamin D enriched food products are truly viable options for optimising the vitamin D status” (4).

Bolstering your vitamin D levels can be as simple as spending some time outdoors every day, while ensuring that you eat vitamin D enriched foods such as breakfast cereals, milk, margarine and soy drinks.  Those who would like to take an easily absorbed supplement might consider an emulsified liquid vitamin D such as Biocare’s BioMulsion D which provides 2000iu vitamin D in just two drops.

 

Written by Nadia Mason

References:

1. Berry DJ, et al. Vitamin D status has a linear association with seasonal infections and lung function in British adults. British Journal of Nutrition. Available on CJO June 2011 doi:10.1017/S0007114511001991

2. Vieth R, Bischoff-Ferrari H, Boucher BJ, Dawson-Hughes B, Garland CF, Heaney RP, Holick MF, Hollis BW, Lamberg-Allardt C, McGrath JJ, Norman AW, Scragg R, Whiting SJ, Willett WC, Zittermann A. The urgent need to recommend an intake of vitamin D that is effective.  Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:649–50. 

3. NHS Choices. “Vitamins and Minerals – Vitamin D”.  Web article. Visited on 30th June 2011.

4. The Standing Committee of European Doctors. Vitamin D Nutritional Policy in Europe.  March 2010. Visited on 30th June 2011.

5. Image Ccourtesy of  digitalart.

 

 

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