Category Archives: vitamin A

Choosing the Best Supplements: Part One

Choosing the right kind of supplement is extremely important, and yet the choice available can create lots of confusion. I am frequently asked about how to select the most suitable type of supplement. Will the supplement be absorbed properly, and is a ‘natural’ form always better than a synthetic form? Are capsules better than tablets? Which brand is best? Some simple pointers can help you to choose the right supplement for you.

Is Natural better than Synthetic?

Many people prefer to take vitamins in their natural form as they believe that nutrients derived from plants and other natural materials are more effective. Although this is not always the case, there are certainly instances where this belief holds up. Vitamin E, for example, is almost 40% more potent in its natural form that in its synthetic form. The natural form of Vitamin E is called d-alpha-tocopherol and this natural form, usually derived from wheat germ or soya oil, is undoubtedly superior.

Likewise, the natural form of Vitamin D, cholecalciferol or D3, has a more sustained effect on Vitamin D levels in the body than its synthetic counterpart Vitamin D2.

Generally, however, the natural and synthetic forms of most vitamins and minerals tend to behave in similar ways. Synthetic forms of some nutrients, such as Vitamin C, can in fact work out cheaper and can be more concentrated.

Perhaps the most important consideration is that vitamin supplements derived from natural sources may well contain as yet unknown nutrients that help increase their effectiveness. Vitamin C, for example, is more effective when taken alongside bioflavonoids, and these nutrients are almost always found together in nature. Supplement manufacturers can utilise this natural Vitamin C ‘boost’ by combining a potent synthetic Vitamin C supplement with additional bioflavonoids. By replicating this natural combination manufacturers can improve the supplement’s potency.

Improving supplement absorption

Getting the best out of your supplements also means making sure that you are taking them correctly. There are a number of lifestyle and dietary factors that can affect supplement absorption. Supplements should always be taken separately from alcohol, especially if the supplements contain magnesium or B vitamins. Alcohol lowers levels of digestive enzymes from the pancreas, meaning that supplements may not be broken down and digested (1). Alcohol also damages the cells lining the stomach and intestines, impairing absorption (2).

Cal-mag
Calcium and magnesium are better absorbed alongside proteins

As smoking influences the absorption of minerals such as calcium, it is not recommended to smoke during meal times, especially if you are taking your supplements with a meal.

Stress is another lifestyle factor that can hinder supplement absorption. As stress can effectively shut down digestion, it would be wise to try to take your supplements after a leisurely meal rather than on the run during a busy day.

To ensure maximum absorption, most vitamin and mineral supplements are best taken immediately after a meal. Calcium and magnesium are better absorbed alongside proteins. Vitamins A, E and D are all fat-soluble, and so are best taken alongside a meal containing fats or oils.

Other important factors when choosing a nutritional supplement include bioavailability, the form of delivery (tablet or capsule) and the manufacturing standards of the supplement company.

References

(1) Korsten, M.A. Alcoholism and pancreatitis: Does nutrition play a role? Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):232-237, 1989. 

(2) Feinman, L. Absorption and utilization of nutrients in alcoholism. Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):207-210, 1989. 

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Sun Chlorella Smoothie Recipes

Healthy eating is one of the most important parts of healthy living. We all try to eat the best quality and the freshest food that we can, but even with our best efforts, sometimes we need to adjust our diets to include supplements.

Introducing Sun Chlorella – once a secret of The Far East, chlorella is now becoming revered in The West as a natural wholefood supplement – good for maintaining optimum health. Simply, Sun Chlorella  supplies your body with some of the important nutrition that your body may be lacking.

Chlorella is rich in a variety of nutrients including:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin A
  • Iron

Amongst many benefits, they can help to:

  • Fight fatigue/combat tiredness
  • Maintain a healthy immune system
  • Chlorella is also known to help maintain a normal colonic function

Mix up your smoothies and try blending Sun Chlorella into your favourite smoothie. Add fruits such as a kiwi or fresh mango to give sweetness or even tomato for a more savoury flavour. Just remember – all ingredients should be fresh and raw for maximum nutrients! Here are two fantastic smoothie recipes to get you started:

Savoury Smoothie Recipe No 1:

Sun Chlorella Green Smoothie
Sun Chlorella Green Savoury Smoothie

Ingredients:

300ml water, 80g cucumber, 80g spinach, 40g rocket, 15 Sun Chlorella tablets, 20–40g avocado (optional), a pinch of salt (optional), half a clove of garlic (optional), 1–2 teaspoons of lemon juice (optional).

Can also add other greens such as fennel bulb, parsley, pak choi, basil, kale, etc.

Directions:

1. Place water in blender (liquidiser)
2. Chop all ingredients
3. Add all ingredients and blend until smooth
4. Divide smoothie in to two portions (each portion is about 300mls)
5. Consume half before breakfast and second portion refrigerated or placed in a cold thermos flask to be consumed before lunch

 

Sun Chlorella Sweet Smoothie
Sun Chlorella Sweet Smoothie

Sweet Smoothie Recipe No 2:

Ingredients:

300ml water,80g cucumber, 40g spinach, 80g banana, 40–80g strawberries, 20–40g raspberries, 20–40g blueberries, 15 Sun Chlorella tablets.

Directions:

1. Place water in blender (liquidiser)
2. Chop all ingredients
3. Add all ingredients and blend until smooth
4. Consume as part of breakfast and a portion can be refrigerated or placed in a cold thermos flask to be consumed at lunch

 

References

Content, recipes & images courtesy of the team at Sun Chlorella.

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UK Falls Short on Vitamin Intake

It is 100 years since the discovery of vitamins by Polish scientist Casimir Funk. A century later, are we managing to meet our recommended intake of these vital nutrients? A study published last month in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests that we are not (1).

The study, a review of national dietary surveys, has highlighted shortfalls in the Western diet, with adults in the UK likely to be deficient in critical nutrients such as Vitamins D and E.

The researchers reviewed the diets of adults in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA, and compared them with national recommendations. Data was taken from the more recent national dietary intake surveys from each country as a basis for the analysis.

Of the countries studies, the Netherlands appeared healthiest, with fewer significant vitamin shortfalls compared with the rest of Europe and the US. Data from the UK and the USA showed similar patterns and levels of deficiencies, perhaps reflecting similar dietary habits and lifestyles.

Data from the UK included dietary information for both men and women between the ages of 19 and 49 years old. The results showed that more than 75% of men and women in the UK are deficient in Vitamins D and E, Furthermore, between 50-75% of UK adults are deficient in Vitamin A. Up to 50% of UK women were also found to fall short of the recommended dietary intake of certain B Vitamins such as folic acid and riboflavin.

Fruit Bowl
Fruit can help to maintain your vitamin levels.

The researchers concede that “a gap exists between vitamin intakes and requirements for a significant proportion of the population, even though diverse foods are available.” Increases in the consumption of fast food with low nutritional value probably accounts for this ‘gap’. A diet based on nutrient-dense, organic, whole foods is the best way to meet your nutritional requirements. A healthy diet should also be free from added sugar, refined grains and alcohol which ‘rob’ the body of nutrients.

Dr Manfred Eggersdorfer, DSM Senior Vice-President for Nutrition and Science Advocacy, and one of the study’s authors, concludes that action is needed to ensure that we are getting the vitamins we need for optimal health.  “This research highlights that 100 years after the discovery [of vitamins], there are still major gaps that urgently need closing – to improve people’s long term health and to drive down healthcare costs.”

Failing to meet the recommended levels of vitamins can leave individuals vulnerable to a host of chronic, diet-related diseases. In the UK in particular,  the recent study shows that many are failing to obtain adequate levels of Vitamins A, C and E in our diets. As these vitamins are major antioxidant nutrients, then, this could mean that a large number of the UK population are vulnerable to oxidative damage which is linked to the progression of a huge range of conditions from accelerated ageing and inflammation to cataracts, hypertension and diabetes.

Changing lifestyles mean that, even with the best of intentions, we do not always have the time or opportunity to ensure that we are getting all the nutrients we need from our diet. Processed convenience foods are all too readily available. Furthermore, unavoidable factors such as stress and pollution increase our nutrient needs. Small dietary changes can help to redress the balance. Regular consumption of oily fish, eggs and brightly coloured vegetables will help deliver a balanced of Vitamin A and its precursor beta-carotene, while regular snacks of fresh fruit and raw nuts and seeds will provide Vitamins C and E. For those in need of additional support, a good quality multi-vitamin or antioxidant supplement will help close the gap between vitamin intakes and recommendations.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. Troesch et al (2012) Dietary surveys indicate vitamin intakes below recommendations are common in representative Western countries. Brit J Nutr 108:4, pp. 692-698.

2. Image courtesy of  lynnc

 

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Recent evidence suggests women in the UK might need a little more vitamin A

Research scientists from the University of Newcastle (1) have found that up to about 50% of women in the UK might be suffering from a lack of vitamin A.  This huge lack of this vital vitamin appears to be due to a genetic issue.  It seems that about half of the women in the UK may suffer from a genetic variation which reduces their ability to produce enough vitamin A from beta-carotene.  In the past it has been assumed that the body can convert beta-carotene into plentiful amounts of vitamin A, but this study indicates that this conventional wisdom may be misplaced.



Vitamin A is sometimes called retinol.  It is an essential nutrient, a vital vitamin that is important for a strong and healthy immune system – important to help protect against common infections, colds and flu.  Vitamin A is also crucial for healthy skin and mucous lined membranes in the nose, lungs and eyes.



In the past women were told to be careful not to consume too much vitamin A because in pregnancy too much of this vitamin seems to be associated with some birth defects.  To prevent the problem of intoxication with vitamin A pregnant women were told to avoid vitamin A rich foods and to consume beta-carotene instead.  Beta carotene is found in dark green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, asparagus, watercress and spinach as well as orange vegetables, especially carrots, sweet potatoes and squash and orange fruits such as papaya, mangoes, cantaloupe melons, peaches, apricots.  The thinking behind this was that the body would convert as much beta-carotene as it needed into vitamin A.  This recent research (1) suggests, however, that for many women beta-carotene is not an effective substitute for vitamin A.



In a press release one of the research scientists commented (2)Vitamin A is incredibly important -particularly at this time of year when we are all trying to fight off the winter colds and flu”. “It boosts our immune system and reduces the risk of inflammation such as that associated with chest infections”.”What our research shows is that many women are simply not getting enough of this vital nutrient because their bodies are not able to convert the beta-carotene.”



Further research is certainly needed as this was only a small and preliminary study.  What the research showed (1) was that 47% of women in a volunteer group carried a genetic variation which prevented them from being able to effectively convert beta-carotene into vitamin A.  The study scientists also found that all the volunteers only consumed about one third of the recommended intake of (preformed) vitamin A.  Vitamin A is found ‘preformed’ in foods such as eggs, milk, liver, cheddar cheese, cod liver oil, salmon and mackerel.



This is a worrying statistic since many women may well be lacking enough vitamin A in their diet to reach optimal levels for body function, especially immune function.  The authors explain (2): “Worryingly, younger women are at particular risk,” “The older generations tend to eat more eggs, milk and liver which are naturally rich in vitamin A whereas the health-conscious youngsters on low-fat diets are relying heavily on the beta-carotene form of the nutrient.”



The authors comment that they need to carry out larger studies that involve both men and women.  In order to keep the immune system healthy this winter you may want to try and make sure you eat enough sources of preformed vitamin A, as well as including plenty of beta-carotene in the diet.  Taking a low dose, food-state, multi-vitamin and mineral supplement could also help by preventing any shortfalls in the diet (but a supplement should never be seen as an alternative to a healthy diet).  Until there is further evidence I don’t think it is necessary to supplement specifically with vitamin A.  Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and it is possible to take too much, so taking a low-dose multi-nutrient supplement is more advisable.  If you are pregnant always check with your doctor before taking any kind of supplement.



(1)Leung WC et al.  2009.  Two common single nucleotide polymorphisms in the gene encoding β-carotene 15,15′-monoxygenase alter β-carotene metabolism in female volunteers.   The FASEB Journal. 23:1041-1053
(2)Press release.  Newcastle University (2009, November 18). UK women at risk from vitamin A deficiency. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 19, 2009, from
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091118072051.htm
Written by Ani Kowal

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