Tag Archives: omega 3

Eye Health

National Eye Health Week: Taking Care of Our Eyes

National Eye Health Week: Taking Care of Our Eyes

The seventh annual National Eye Health Week begins on 19th September. The campaign’s aim is to promote the importance of eye health and help people to understand the best ways to look after their eyes.

According to the campaign organiser Vision Matters, sight is the sense people fear losing the most. While regular sight tests are widely understood to be one of the best ways to prevent sight loss, there are several other ways that we can protect eye health. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of sight loss by preventing high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. Sun protective eyewear is also important to shield eyes from damaging UV rays.

Another important consideration is the effect of nutrition on eye health. Vision Matters emphasise the importance of a good diet in protecting eye health, especially as 60% of people living in the UK are unaware that our diet can affect the health of our eyes (1).

Low GI Diet

A good diet, full of low-GI, antioxidant-rich whole foods is crucial for eye health. Excess sugar in the blood can damage delicate eye tissues. Diets high in refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and sugary treats have been linked to an increase in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (2).

Degeneration of sight is also thought to be linked with diabetes. Sugar in the blood can damage the optic nerve at the back of the eye, as well as the lens at the front of the eye. Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels in diabetes can also affect the blood vessels supplying the eyes, eventually leading to blurred vision and sight loss.

Adopting a low-GI diet can be done with a few simple changes. Go for whole grains rather than refined grains and whole fruit rather than fruit juice. Concentrate on high fibre foods such as beans and vegetables and eat some protein with every meal, including breakfast.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fats are important for all-round eye health. They provide structural support to cell membranes and are also helpful for sufferers of dry eyes. Omega-3 fats are helpful in promoting proper drainage of intraocular fluid from the eye, and they also decrease the risk of glaucoma. Just one portion of oily fish per week has been found to reduce the risk of developing AMD by up to 40% (3).

The best sources are sardines, salmon and rainbow trout, as these oily fish are also low in mercury. Those who don’t like fish can obtain the omega-3 fat DHA from a good quality fish oil or algae supplement.

Antioxidants

Several clinical trials suggest that diets high in antioxidant nutrients are linked with lower rates of AMD (4).

By far the strongest evidence for the value in antioxidants in protecting eye health is for two nutrients called lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin help your eyes to filter out UV light and also protect the macula (the centre of the retina) from damage.

In a study of more than 4000 adults, those who ate the most foods containing lutein and zeaxanthin had a 35% lower risk of developing AMD (5). Consequently, the researchers supported the use of lutein and zeaxanthin supplements in the prevention of AMD.

Top 10 Foods for Lutein & Zeaxanthin (per 100g):

Kale (raw) 39,550 mcg
Kale (cooked) 15,798 mcg
Spinach (raw) 15,798 mcg
Collards (cooked) 8,091 mcg
Spinach (cooked) 7,043 mcg
Lettuce (cos or romaine) 2,635 mcg
Broccoli (cooked) 2,226 mcg
Corn (cooked) 1,800 mcg
Peas (canned) 1,350 mcg
Brussels sprouts (cooked) 1,290 mcg

References
1. Eyecare Trust ‘Healthy Eyes Report’.
2. Mares JA and Moeller SM. Diet and age-related macular degeneration: expanding our view. Am J Clin Nutr 83:4 pp. 733-734.
3. van Leeuwen R, Boekhoorn S, Vingerling JR, et al. Dietary intake of antioxidants and risk of age-related macular degeneration. JAMA 2005;294:3101–7.
4. The Relationship of Dietary Carotenoid and Vitamin A, E, and C Intake With Age-Related Macular Degeneration in a Case-Control Study Archives of Ophthalmology September 2007, Vol. 125 No. 9.
5. Seddon JM, Cote J, Rosner B. Progression of age-related macular degeneration: association with dietary fat, transunsaturated fat, nuts, and fish intake. Arch Ophthalmol 2003;121:1728–37.

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Sun Protection

More than Sunscreen: Comprehensive Sun Protection

More than Sunscreen: Comprehensive Sun Protection

Most of us welcome the summer months. After all, a healthy dose of sunshine has been linked with better bone health, higher levels of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin, and improved sleep quality. However, we can have too much of a good thing. A sensible approach to sun protection is essential to prevent premature skin ageing and other damaging effects from too much sun exposure.

Surprisingly, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has reported that sunscreens are linked with a higher risk of melanoma (1). A recent review has supported these findings, linking sunscreen use with increased risk of moles and malignant melanoma (2). The agency suggests that this could be partly because those who wear sunscreen do so in order th48at they can spend longer in the sun. The protective effect of sunscreen is then outweighed by overexposure to the sun, meaning the idea of sun protection for the individual is compromised. The Working Group concluded that sunscreens do indeed protect against skin cancer, but only if consumers use it sensibly, and as only one part of their sun protection strategy:

“Use of sunscreens should be one part of a comprehensive sun avoidance strategy that includes moving into shade when the sun is near zenith and the use of protective clothing.”

Clearly, staying out of direct sunlight when the sun is at its strongest – between the hours of 10am and 2pm – is a sensible measure. Covering up with a light linen shirt and a wide brimmed hat can also offer good sun protection whilst allowing the wearer to stay cool and comfortable.

Recent studies have also investigated ways of protecting the skin from the inside – especially with nutrients that help to protect the skin from free radical damage, increase natural resistance to UVA and UVB light and fight inflammation. Here are three top supplements for inside-out protection:

1. Lycopene

Naturally present in tomatoes, red peppers and grapefruit, lycopene is a carotenoid that neutralises the harmful effects of UV light. Human studies have found that lycopene offers protection against sun damage: women supplementing just 16mg lycopene each day experienced significant sun protection (3). Eating plenty of tomato-based meals can provide a good amount of lycopene each day. Some multivitamin formulas are also fortified with lycopene for additional antioxidant benefits.

2. Astaxanthin

Even more potent than lycopene, astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant with multiple health benefits. It is produced by microalgae, serving as a protective shield against UV radiation at times when water is sparse and sunlight is strong.

Known as the ‘King of Antioxidants’, astaxanthin is hundreds of times more powerful than other antioxidants such as vitamin E when it comes to quenching oxidative damage from sunlight. Lab studies have confirmed that astaxanthin offers protection from UVA damage, and preliminary human trials have shown that just three weeks of supplementation with 4mg astaxanthin resulted in significant sun protection (4,5).

Omega-3

When your skin is at risk of sun damage, a bodily process called ‘p53 expression’ is triggered to protect it. When this process goes awry, this can result in melanoma. Omega-3 oils appear to protect the skin by regulating this process. Several studies support the sun protection benefits of omega-3 supplementation. People with higher levels of omega-3 in their blood show less sun damage, and 4g of omega-3 daily has been found to reduce sunburn and reduce damaging p53 in the skin (6,7).

One final consideration when using sunscreen is that these protective sun creams also block synthesis of vitamin D. This might be a particular concern for those of us who are careful to use sunscreen regularly – especially as many of us spend a lot of time indoors, and are based in the UK where UV light is not as strong. When using a sunscreen of SPF15 or above, or if regularly using cosmetics and moisturizers with added UV protection, it may be wise to supplement vitamin D in order to ensure sufficient levels throughout the year.

Topical sunscreens are certainly a sensible measure to protect the skin, but the Cancer Research Agency agrees that it is only part of the story. Adding a healthy diet rich in protective antioxidants and skin-healthy nutrients will also help to ensure that your skin is protected from the inside out.

References
1. Vainio H, et al. Cancer-preventive effects of sunscreens are uncertain. Scandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health 2000;26(6):529-531
2. Autier P. Sunscreen abuse for intentional sun exposure. Br J Dermatol. 2009;161 Suppl 3:40-5
3. Stahl W et al (2001) Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. J Nutr 131(5):1449-51.
4. Lyons NM and O’Brien NM (2002) Modulatory effects of an algal extract containing astaxanthin on UVA-irradiated cells in culture. Journal of Dermatological Science 30(1):73-84
5. Clinical Trial Indicates Sun Protection from BioAstin Supplement. http://www.cyanotech.com/pdfs/bioastin/batl33.pdf
6. van der Pol JC et al (2011) Serum omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and cutaneous p53 expression in an Australian population. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 20(3):530-6.
7. Rhodes LE et al (2003) Effect of eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, on UVR-related cancer risk in humans. An assessment of early genotoxic markers. Carcinogenesis 24(5):919-925

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week: The Benefits of Fish Oil

Rheumatoid Arthritis and the Benefits of Fish Oil

June 13th marks the beginning of Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week, a campaign run by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society. One of the main goals of the campaign is to heighten awareness of the early warning symptoms of this condition, and to support those who have been recently diagnosed.

Many people do not recognise the early warning signs of rheumatoid arthritis. This is because the symptoms can be blamed on ‘overdoing things’. By recognising the three key symptoms – swelling, stiffness and fatigue – sufferers can take early action to seek help and find the right treatment. Because the disease is progressive, if sufferers are able to recognise and address the condition early, they are more likely to find treatment effective.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Normally the body’s immune system produces an inflammatory response as part of the healing process. If a joint is injured, special chemicals are released that cause short-term pain and swelling, immobilising the joint to give it opportunity to heal. However, sometimes this process can go awry and the immune system creates long-term chronic, painful inflammation that damages the joint tissues.

How is it Treated?

Medications for rheumatoid arthritis tend to work by suppressing inflammation. Examples are corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disease-modifying anti-inflammatory drugs (DMARDs).

However, recent studies have also highlighted the success of natural agents in modifying the inflammatory response. One of the most promising natural supplements linked to treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is fish oil.

The Benefits of Fish Oil

A study published just last year tested the effects of fish oil versus placebo on 144 patients with recent onset rheumatoid arthritis. Most of the patients were women in their 50s, and were already taking conventional arthritis medication. The group was given either placebo capsules or supplements of high-dose fish oil (5.5g per day).

Those taking the fish oil showed greater improvement in daily function in the first three months. After a year, the women given the high dose fish oil showed double the rate of remission compared with those on placebo.

It makes sense that fish oil should relieve inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Fish oil is a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. The body uses both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to make chemicals called prostaglandins and leukotrienes. The right balance of these chemicals help to control inflammation, and EPA and DHA promote the anti-inflammatory chemicals.

These omega-3 fatty acids actually have a similar action to medications used in rheumatoid arthritis: they help to block production of several inflammatory chemicals involved in arthritis, including prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene B4, and peptide mediators, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)α and IL-1β (2).

Plant foods such as flaxseed and hempseed are sources are a type of omega-3 fat called ALA. However, the long chain omega-3 fats used in this study are only found in fish and seafood, such as salmon, herring and mackerel, and in algal oil which represents a vegan source.

The study authors concluded that fish oil led to ‘increased rates of remission and decreased drug use’ in those with recent onset rheumatoid arthritis. This study certainly indicates that fish oil supplementation would be a sensible supplement to consider for anyone recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

References
1. Proudman Sm et al (2015) Fish oil in recent onset rheumatoid arthritis: a randomised, double-blind controlled trial within algorithm-based drug use. Ann Rheum Dis 2015;74:89-95
2. Proudman SM et al (2008) Dietary omega-3 fats for treatment of inflammatory joint disease: efficacy and utility. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 34:469–79.

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National Vegetarian Week

Vegetarian Lifestyle: Supercharge Your Diet

National Vegetarian Week: Supercharge Your Vegetarian Diet

May 16th marked the beginning of National Vegetarian Week, a campaign aimed at promoting the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle.

A balanced vegetarian diet is an extremely healthy choice. Vegetarians have lower mortality rates than the general population. A balanced vegetarian diet tends to provide higher levels of vitamin C, folate and thiamine than a carnivorous diet. It is also high in fibre, boosting digestive health and potentially lowering the risk of both type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer (1).

Alongside the many benefits of a vegetarian diet, there are also some potential pitfalls. Some essential nutrients are absorbed more poorly in vegetarians, while other nutrients may be less readily available in a meatless diet. Being aware of these factors can help vegetarians to achieve the full health benefits of a meat-free lifestyle.

Iron and Zinc

A balanced vegetarian diet actually contains a fair amount of iron, with iron intakes similar to that of meat eaters. Chickpeas, beans, lentils, whole grains and green leafy vegetables are all good vegetarian sources of iron.

The daily RNI for iron is 14.8mg for women and 8.7mg for men. However, an American study has suggested that the dietary recommendation for iron should be raised to 14mg for vegetarian men and to 33mg for vegetarian women (2). This is because the vegetarian diet is rich in phytates – compounds found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds – which inhibit iron absorption.

Meat eaters on the other hand tend to get much of their iron in the form of haem iron from meat, fish and poultry, which is better absorbed.

For this reason, vegetarians should be careful to optimise their iron intake. Eating iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C can enhance iron absorption. Some food preparation techniques, such as soaking and sprouting beans, grains and seeds, can break down phytates, making iron more bioavailable. An iron supplement may also be a sensible measure to ensure optimum intake.

Another important consideration for vegetarians is zinc intake. Again, plant-derived foods that are rich in zinc are also high in phytic acid, an inhibitor of zinc absorption. For this reason, vegetarians may benefit from a raised zinc intake to ensure that a sufficient amount is absorbed. A good vegetarian multivitamin containing iron and zinc will help to guard against any insufficiency. Including zinc-rich foods such as yoghurt, cheese, tofu, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds in your diet is important.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is common in the UK, in both vegetarians and meat eaters. While some foods contain small amounts of vitamin D, the main source of this vitamin for vegetarians and meat eaters alike is sunlight.

Unfortunately, many of us in the UK do not get enough sun exposure throughout the year. For this reason, vitamin D supplementation is commonly recommended. Current UK recommendations are that babies, children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, elderly people and those who are confined indoors or cover up for cultural reasons should all supplement vitamin D.

An additional consideration for vegetarians is that many vitamin D supplements are sourced from animals. Some vitamin D supplements are sourced from fish oil. In addition, strict vegetarians often prefer to avoid supplements containing vitamin D3 which is made from sheep’s wool. Fortunately, alternative vitamin D supplements sourced from lichen provide well-absorbed vegan vitamin D3.

DHA: Essential Brain Food

Vegetarian sources of omega-3 include green leafy vegetables and flaxseeds. This type of omega-3 fat, ALA, is helpful for cardiovascular health.

Unfortunately, the vegetarian diet is very low in DHA, which is another type of omega-3 fat needed for optimal brain function. The main source of dietary DHA is oily fish and organ meats, though dairy and eggs also provide small amounts. A vegetarian diet with dairy and egg products only supplies around 20 mg/day of DHA (3), which is far below recommended levels.

Because of its role in brain function, DHA intake has been linked to improving both learning and memory. It is also implicated in the slowing of cognitive decline (4,5).

The simplest way for vegetarians to meet the recommended amount of DHA is to take a marine algae supplement. Omega-3 supplements made from algae are just as effective as fish oil supplements, and provide a simple and direct source of vegetarian DHA.

The Vegetarian Lifestyle

The advantages of a vegetarian diet are well studied. Vegetarians have been found to have lower blood pressure, a lower BMI and a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Although some nutrients may be less available in a plant-based diet, being aware of these potential pitfalls can help to optimise your nutritional status while reaping the many benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.

References
1. Davey G et al. (2003) EPIC-Oxford: lifestyle characteristics and nutrient intakes in a cohort of 33,883 meateaters and 31,546 non meat-eaters in the UK. Public Health Nutrition 6: 259–68.
2. Hunt J (2002) Moving toward a plant-based diet: are iron and zinc at risk? Nutrition Reviews 60 (5): 127–34.
3. 41. Sanders TA. DHA status of vegetarians. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2009 Aug-Sep;81(2-3):137-41.
4. 10. Su HM. Mechanisms of n-3 fatty acid-mediated development and maintenance of learning memory performance. J Nutr Biochem. 2010 May;21(5):364-73.
5. 28. Hashimoto M, Hossain S. Neuroprotective and ameliorative actions of polyunsaturated fatty acids against neuronal diseases: beneficial effect of docosahexaenoic acid on cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. J Pharmacol Sci. 2011;116(2):150-62.

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Igennus MindCare® : Lift your mood

Lift your mood with optimum nutrition MindCare cover woman iStock_000016416086XXXLarge - Copy

Nutrition can have a huge impact on mood, by providing the brain with the right building blocks for the structure of the brain, as well as supporting production of mood-enhancing brain chemical messengers such as serotonin. The brain requires an array of vitamins and minerals to support cell structure and enzyme processes, so it’s no surprise that nutrition has such a strong effect on mood.

For this reason, Igennus have formulated four targeted MindCare® supplements offering all-in-1 advanced brain nutrition to transform how you feel.

Key nutrients for enhancing mood

Omega-3 EPA and DHA

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are possibly the most well known and beneficial nutrients for supporting brain function and mood. A diet naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids from seafood effectively boosts mood and also correlates with reduced levels of bipolar disorder, helping to stabilise mood. (1)

A deficiency of omega-3 can result in an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, resulting in excess inflammation in the body. Low levels of omega-3 EPA not only induces a state of inflammation in the brain, but can also lead to destruction of serotonin (2), the chemical messenger in the brain responsible for giving us feelings of happiness. It is not surprising, then, that a state of chronic inflammation coupled with imbalanced omega fatty acids is associated with depression. (3,4)

It is important to note that not all omega-3 fatty acids are equal as they have very different roles in the brain: to improve your mood you should concentrate on the active omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA, in particular, plays a key role in controlling inflammation in the brain, protecting against damage and promoting transmission of messages in the brain, helping us to feel balanced and happy. Omega-3 DHA is required for structure of the brain due to its presence in cell membranes.

In an ideal world, we would all be eating plenty of oily fish, but this is certainly not the case. If oily fish is not regularly consumed in the diet, a concentrated EPA and DHA supplement may help to boost mood.

When it comes to choosing a fish oil, concentration and dose will determine how effective they are for supporting mood. A standard fish oil capsule, for example, only provides 30% of the active ingredients EPA and DHA, whereas ideally you want at least 70% concentration EPA and DHA to achieve full benefits of a therapeutic dose.

A supplement providing EPA and DHA at a ratio of 2:1, or over 60% EPA, is considered ideal for depression, as these levels have been shown to significantly reduce depressive symptoms. (5;6) For general mood support, look for a supplement providing at least 400mg EPA and 250mg DHA.

Antioxidants

Low mood is often a side effect of too much stress on the body, both mentally and physically; correct nutrition can help your body deal with stress efficiently, so look seriously at your diet. Antioxidants are found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and have the ability to mop up damaging free radicals, thereby protecting the brain against oxidative damage. Concentrate on vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium for their powerful antioxidant effects and ability to recycle other antioxidants in the body.

B vitamins

B vitamins are essential for the functioning of many enzyme processes in the body, particularly those required to produce brain chemical messengers. Feed your enzymes with B vitamins, particularly B6, and your production of serotonin may be improved, helping you to feel happier. Requirements for B vitamins are also increased when you are stressed as the body will be using up significant amounts. If stress is associated with your low mood, B vitamins may be very effective at helping to lift you out of it. B vitamin supplements have been shown to significantly improve dejected mood, reducing stress. (7)

Vitamin D3

We have all heard of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), or at least we can empathise with those who suffer from mild depression during the gloomy winter months. As we get most of our vitamin D from skin exposure to the sun, it is no surprise that vitamin D deficiency is associated with low mood and depression, with lowest vitamin D levels correlating with severe depression. (8) Consider supplementing with vitamin D, particularly in the months October to March.

5-HTP

If your nutrition is generally spot on, and your brain is functioning clearly, to really lift your mood, you could also try adding a 5-HTP supplement to your regime. 5-HTP converts directly to serotonin in the body, helping to boost your mood. A dose of 100mg is ideal for its effects.

References
  1. Noaghiul S, Hibbeln JR. Cross-national comparisons of seafood consumption and rates of bipolar disorders. Am J Psychiatry 2003 Dec; 160(12):2222-7.
  2. Wichers MC, Maes M. The role of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) in the pathophysiology of interferon-alpha-induced depression. J Psychiatry Neurosci 2004 Jan; 29(1):11-7.
  3. Conklin SM, Manuck SB, Yao JK, Flory JD, Hibbeln JR, Muldoon MF. High omega-6 and low omega-3 fatty acids are associated with depressive symptoms and neuroticism. Psychosom Med 2007 Dec; 69(9):932-4.
  4. Pottala JV, Talley JA, Churchill SW, Lynch DA, von SC, Harris WS. Red blood cell fatty acids are associated with depression in a case-control study of adolescents. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2012 Apr; 86(4-5):161-5.
  5. Rondanelli M, Giacosa A, Opizzi A, Pelucchi C, La VC, Montorfano G, et al. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on depressive symptoms and on health-related quality of life in the treatment of elderly women with depression: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. J Am Coll Nutr 2010 Feb; 29(1):55-64.
  6. Sublette ME, Ellis SP, Geant AL, Mann JJ. Meta-analysis of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in clinical trials in depression. J Clin Psychiatry 2011 Dec; 72(12):1577-84.
  7. Stough C, Scholey A, Lloyd J, Spong J, Myers S, Downey LA. The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Hum Psychopharmacol 2011 Oct; 26(7):470-6.
  8. Milaneschi Y, Hoogendijk W, Lips P, Heijboer AC, Schoevers R, van Hemert AM, et al. The association between low vitamin D and depressive disorders. Mol Psychiatry 2014 Apr; 19(4):444-51.
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Your Child’s Health Checklist

It can be difficult getting your kid’s into a back to school mind-set after the summer holidays, so why not prepare them in advance by boosting the mental and physical performance of your little one with a diet packed with vitamins and nutrients and regular exercise over the next 6 weeks.

Follow our checklist to help you give your child a head start of their next school year:

  • Its summer so make sure your little one gets a small dose of vitamin D courtesy of the sun (all fair-skinned people need is a few minutes of sun on their hands, arms and face every day). However, if the sun isn’t shining, then be sure to include it in their diet through fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, and egg yolks.
  • Children need calcium to make strong bones, but they can only deposit this calcium until their early 20s. Make sure yours get their three servings a day – a serve is a 250ml glass of milk, a 200g tub of yoghurt or two slice of cheese (40g).
  • Poor concentration, failing memory, hyperactivity and mood swings can also be an indication of omega 3 (EPA and DHA) deficiency. Our brains need these long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for brain structure and function. Try supplementing your child’s diet with a kid friendly omega 3 supplement.
  • Iodine deficiency is the world’s most prevalent, yet preventable cause of brain damage and lower IQs according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Make sure your child gets between 90mcg and 120mcg a day. Yoghurt, cow’s milk, eggs, mozzarella cheese and strawberries are excellent sources of iodine.
  • Magnesium de¬ficiency has been linked with learning difficulties, hyperactivity and insomnia and it’s believed three quarters of children don’t consume enough of this mineral. A half-cup of cooked frozen spinach provides 75mg. You should aim to include 130mg a day.

More Top Tips

  • Exercise, chill time, and regular, nourishing meals and snacks enhance concentration by banishing energy wobbles.
  • Friendly foods include fresh fish, vegetables, pulses, whole grain carbohydrates, nuts, and seeds. Water helps too!
  • Cerebral zappers include sugar, caffeine, soft drinks, junk food, processed foods, excess salt, meat and dairy, and refined or hydrogenated fats and oils (be sure to read the labels!).
  • We all need sleep to function properly, but while adults need eight hours, children need a minimum of 10 hours shut-eye every night. Encourage regular exercise during the day, and participation in age appropriate extracurricular activities after school which will both result in adequate sleep at night.
  • Make sure your child is protected against colds with a drink of Manuka Honey and fresh lemon juice in hot water. Echinacea will also support the immune system, prevent infections, and minimise the risk of bronchitis and sinusitis.
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Fertility and Pregnancy Support – From Conception to Birth

Conception

Making the decision to have children may sometimes be easier than getting pregnant. There are many potential causes of infertility, with fertility problems affecting either the man or the woman. Common causes of infertility in women include lack of regular ovulation and endometriosis, and in men the most common cause is poor quality of semen.

Optimum nutrition is absolutely vital for conception and food supplements are useful where an additional intake of specific nutrients is required. AnteNatal Forte provides a combination of nutrients designed to support a woman throughout conception and pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. It is free from vitamin A for those wishing to avoid it, but supplies beta carotene which the body can convert to vitamin A as required. It contains zinc to support normal fertility and reproduction, vitamin B6 which contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity, and folic acid which contributes to normal maternal tissue growth during pregnancy.

ASC Plus provides a combination of synergistic nutrients to support male fertility, including L-arginine, vitamin E, L-taurine, L-Carnitine, zinc and selenium. Zinc supports normal fertility and reproduction, whilst selenium contributes to normal spermatogenesis – the process in which sperm is produced.

Pregnancy

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Pregnancy and omega-3 – a clever combination for baby’s brain

Assuming normal fertility, the next challenge is pregnancy, where there are significant biological changes which occur including an increased demand for nutrients such as vitamin D, B12, folic acid, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

A healthy baby begins with a healthy mum – eating a well-balanced and varied diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses and fish will help to provide the nutrients that you and your baby need. Where an additional intake of nutrients is required, a specific pregnancy supplement can be useful. Pregnancy & Lactation Formula is designed to offer comprehensive nutritional support to women during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It includes folic acid at recommended levels along with vitamin B12, iron, zinc and vitamin A at a level considered safe in pregnancy. It’s also important to avoid harmful habits such as smoking and excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption to help reduce the risk of any pregnancy complications.

Pregnancy and omega-3 – a clever combination for baby’s brain…

NHS recommendations suggest that eating fish during pregnancy is beneficial to your health as well as the development of your baby. However it is suggested that you should avoid consuming more than 2 portions of oily fish per week as it may contain pollutants. Omega-3 fatty acids provide EPA and DHA – maternal intake of DHA has been shown to contribute to normal brain and eye development of the foetus and breastfed infants, making its intake rather important.

Mega EPA is a naturally concentrated fish oil of outstanding quality and high potency. Each capsule provides omega-3 fatty acids in a natural triglyceride form, perfect for everyday use. It is of outstanding purity and free from detectable contaminants, so can safely be used during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.

Arrival of the newborn

Some expectant mothers choose to take probiotics throughout their pregnancy, as well as give them to their newborn baby. AnteNatal BioFlora is a clinically proven probiotic for pregnant women containing LAB4B – a specific and clinically proven blend of probiotic bacteria. It has been designed to be used particularly during the last trimester of pregnancy, and provides a guaranteed 10 billion live bacteria per daily intake. Baby BioFlora is an easy-to-use powder and contains the same specialist blend of LAB4B probiotics as AnteNatal BioFlora with the addition of G.O.S (galactooligosaccharide) which is found in high concentrations within breast milk. It is suitable to be given to babies from birth and can be used to help establish intestinal microflora in newborns up to 12 months.

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Supportive Supplements for High Blood Pressure

In England, 32 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women have high blood pressure. Unfortunately, many people simply do not know their blood pressure level, despite the fact that measuring blood pressure is quick, easy, cheap and painless.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force that blood puts on the walls of your arteries when it is pumped around your body by your heart. It is measured with two readings – when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and when it relaxes (diastolic pressure). Essentially, your blood pressure provides an indication of your risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke. It is not something to be ignored. Over time, high blood pressure can not only lead to a heart attack or stroke, but it can also damage the kidneys and even cause blindness.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when blood becomes too ‘thick’ or when arteries become blocked or inflexible. Hypertension can also be caused by changes during pregnancy or by another underlying condition. For the majority however, hypertension is a ‘lifestyle disease’, caused by poor dietary and lifestyle choices that take their toll over time.

Diet and Lifestyle

The first line of treatment in hypertension is often dietary and lifestyle changes. Being overweight, lack of exercise, drinking alcohol and smoking are often the first issues to address. Simple changes include reducing alcohol consumption to 7 units or fewer each week for women or fewer than 14 units for men. Maintaining a healthy weight and following the DASH diet, which emphasises wholegrains alongside 8-10 servings of fruit and vegetables each day, is also recommended.

The importance of sleep is often overlooked in addressing hypertension, yet it is an important consideration. Lack of sleep activates the central nervous system, raising blood pressure. As a result, those of us who are sleep deprived tend to have higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those who make sure to get the recommended 8 hours (1).

Stress management is another essential element in guarding against high blood pressure. Unmanaged stress raises levels of corticosteroids which increase blood pressure. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and progressive muscle relaxation can reduce hypertension when practiced consistently (2).

Supportive Supplements

Most of us are aware of the link between salt intake and high blood pressure. This is because excess sodium can increase the constriction of the muscles surrounding the arteries. Magnesium, on the other hand, works to relax these muscles. Magnesium intake is therefore an important factor in managing blood pressure. There is a strong link between magnesium deficiency and heart disease. In fact magnesium supplementation has been found to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (3). Many of us fail to achieve the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which is 300mg for men and 270mg for women. Cutting down on tea, coffee, sugar and alcohol can help your body to retain magnesium, while increasing magnesium-rich foods such as wholegrains, nuts and seeds, beans and pulses is recommended.

Increasing intake of omega-3, either by eating more oily fish or by taking an omega-3 supplement, is also a sensible measure. Omega-3 helps to reduce the viscosity of blood and also lowers levels of inflammation, potentially helping to protect arterial walls and prevent blood clots.

Finally, a small but promising trial published just last month found that a daily glass of beetroot juice lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (4). Beetroot juice provides a helpful dose of nitrate which appears to lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels. Those who don’t like beetroot should try to include other nitrate-rich vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli.

Nutritional strategies are especially helpful in the early stages of high blood pressure, and can enable those affected to make positive changes to restore optimal health. Keeping an eye on blood pressure levels with regular checks is therefore a worthwhile task for all of us.

References.

1. Knutson et al (2009). Association Between Sleep and Blood Pressure in Midlife: The CARDIA Sleep Study. Archives of Internal Medicine 169 (11): 1055.

2. Schneider et al (1995) A Randomized Controlled Trial of Stress Reduction for Hypertension in Older African Americans. Hypertension. 26: 820-827.

3. Sun Ha Gee et al (2002) The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Am J Hypertension 15 (8): 691-696.

4. Ghosh SM, Kapil V, Fuentes-Calvo I, et al. Enhanced Vasodilator Activity of Nitrite in Hypertension – Critical Role for Erythrocytic Xanthine Oxidoreductase and Translational Potential. Hypertension. Published online April 15 2013.

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Plant-sourced omega-3s

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 being the strongest source

By now it is well known that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for health; however, it is important to know that not all omega-3s are the same. The various chemical structures of different types of omega-3 fatty acids exert varying effects on health.

The science of fatty acids

So a bit about the science: ‘short-chain’ fatty acids are those found in plant oils and as the name suggests, they are made up of a smaller number of carbon atoms, therefore making the chain short in length. ‘Long-chain’ fatty acids, such as omega-3 EPA and DHA found in fish, are those with more carbon atoms, and are longer in length. The longer chain fatty acids are those that produce the anti-inflammatory effects in the body by producing hormone-like substances called eicosanoids.

Vegetarian plant source

If you are vegetarian or vegan, you may be wondering how you can achieve this anti-inflammatory effect without eating fish. Fortunately, the body is adept at converting fatty acids (to a certain extent), so that when we eat ‘short-chain’ fatty acids such as echium seed oil, the body can metabolise these fats into the same chemical structure as the ‘long-chain’ omega-3 EPA found in fish. In this process, only a certain amount of short-chain fatty acids are converted to long-chain fatty acids, depending on both the type of fat consumed and the presence of other vitamins and minerals which are required for enzymes to work properly.

Echium seed oil

Echium seed oil is one of the finest oils of choice for vegetarians, as it naturally contains an optimal balance of omegas 3, 6 and 9. Unique to echium seed oil is its rich source of the specific omega-3 fatty acid SDA, which is the direct precursor to omega-3 EPA, meaning that it is very easily converted to EPA in the body, with usually around 25-30% conversion. This makes echium seed oil one of the best plant-sourced oils to consume for reducing inflammation; it may therefore help to reduce symptoms for conditions such as arthritis and inflammatory skin disorders. EPA is also required for synthesising neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, so echium seed oil may help to enhance mood.

Echium seed oil also contains the omega-6 fatty acid GLA, which is great for skin health and hormone balancing. Omega-9 oleic acid, also in echium seed oil, is high in a Mediterranean-type diet and is otherwise found in olive oil. Echium seed oil contains twice as much omega-3 compared to its omega-6 and omega-9 content, therefore is considered to be anti-inflammatory, and can help to balance the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.

Linseed oil

Linseeds are often the omega-3 of choice for vegetarians as they are the richest source of the short-chain fatty ALA, although in reality only around 5-8% of this is converted to EPA, so for vegetarians, you would have to consume huge amounts of linseed oil to obtain the anti-inflammatory effects. It is important to stress that it’s healthy to continue to include these fatty acids in your diet as the fibre and vitamins & minerals found in linseeds are particularly beneficial to health, so keep up with the ground linseeds sprinkled over your breakfast, but don’t rely on the oil to reduce inflammation in the body.

Algae oil

Algae oil is another interesting oil of choice for vegetarians, as algae are a direct source of food for fish. Algae oil contains the long-chain omega-3 DHA, and a very small amount of EPA. The high DHA to EPA ratio does not give great support for controlling inflammation in the body, as it is EPA required at the higher dose, and EPA and DHA also compete for enzymes in the body. High DHA from algae is, however, beneficial during pregnancy, as DHA is required for making the brain structure of an unborn foetus.

Other plant-source oils

Omega-3 can also be found in other plant oils such as hemp seed oil, chia seed oil and pumpkin seed oil; however, all of these oils contain the short-chain fatty acid ALA, which is therefore not converted as readily as the fatty acid SDA found in echium seed oil. Hemp, chia and pumpkin oil are also much higher in omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega 3, so the ratio is not as anti- inflammatory in the body.

For vegetarians and vegans, choosing an oil high in omega-3 SDA such as echium seed oil is likely to do wonders for your health, so consider this an option over other oils which may be more difficult to convert to EPA in the body.

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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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