Category Archives: vitamin C

Vitamin C for a Healthy Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 sources of vitamin C

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

 

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

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National Cholesterol Week

This week is National Cholesterol Week, HEART UK’s annual event to raise awareness of the dangers of high cholesterol. Heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer, accounting for around a quarter of all deaths. The good news is that if you have raised cholesterol alongside other markers of heart disease, it can in almost every case be reversed through dietary and lifestyle measures.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance manufactured by the liver and it plays an important role in your body. It is a component in the membrane of every cell in your body. It is also involved in hormone production and helps the nervous system to function properly. When there is inflammation or damaged tissue in the body, cholesterol can accumulate in the areas in need of healing. This may be why raised cholesterol can signify damage in your arteries. LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol is a particular concern because this type of cholesterol can become oxidised, leading to tissue damage and hardening of the arteries.

There are three cholesterol readings that you can have. Total cholesterol, LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and HDL (‘good’) cholesterol. LDL transports cholesterol from the liver through the bloodstream to sites where it is needed. HDL then transports it back again, and so HDL removes unwanted or damaged cholesterol from your arteries. Ideally HDL should make up at least a third of your total cholesterol.

While cholesterol is used as a marker for heart disease, in order to get a clearer idea of your real risk, it’s important to consider this marker alongside other markers such as levels of triglycerides, blood pressure and homocysteine.

If you eat a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates and fried foods, and low in protective fruits and vegetables, then cholesterol is likely to become damaged by oxidation. This type of diet also provides very little soluble fibre which is essential in eliminating excess cholesterol. In general, the best diet for lowering LDL cholesterol is a low GI diet. This type of diet has been found to be particularly effective in reducing LDL and triglycerides and raising HDL (1). A huge benefit of a low GI diet is that it has greater levels of soluble fibre which helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the body. It also provides plenty of antioxidants, helping to combat oxidative damage.

Here are 10 simple ways to reduce your cholesterol level, improve your lipid profile and lower your overall risk of heart disease.

Lettuce
Leafy Greens boost magnesium, helping to relax your arteries.

1. Increase leafy greens and add raw nuts and seeds to your diet.
These boost magnesium, helping to relax your arteries.

2. Drink 8 glasses of water each day.
Proper hydration reduces blood pressure by lowering levels of sodium inside cells.

3. Reduce your salt intake.
Reducing sodium levels can help to relax the arteries.

4. Add plant sterols.
Plant sterols lower ‘bad’ cholesterol by blocking its absorption. They are present in soya beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

5. Increase low GI carbohydrates.
Soluble fibre, in oats, lentils, beans and vegetables, helps to reduce levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol. Beta-glucans in oats are particularly beneficial.

6. Add antioxidant-rich foods every day.
Antioxidants ‘mop up’ damage within the arteries. Try blueberries, strawberries, plums, tenderstem broccoli and spinach.

7. Boost your omega-3 intake with oily fish, flaxseed oil or omega-3 eggs.
Omega-3 fats help to lower triglycerides, lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and increase ‘good’ cholesterol.

8. Add garlic, ginger and turmeric to your cooking.
Garlic promotes healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Turmeric and ginger help to relax the arteries.

9. Consider supplementing Co-Q10 and Vitamin C.
These nutrients reduce damage in the arteries and lower blood pressure.

10. Boost your B Vitamins.
Homocysteine is actually one of the strongest predictors of heart disease (2), damaging the lining of the arteries, but B vitamins convert it into a harmless substance. If you have raised homocysteine levels, then supplementing with B Vitamins can help. Try foods rich in folic acid such as broccoli, asparagus and spinach.

References

1. Stroke Statistics. British Heart Foundation and The Stroke Association. 2009.

2. Jardine MJ et al (2012) The effect of folic acid based homocysteine lowering on cardiovascular events in people with kidney disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2012;344:e3533.

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Back to School: Immune-boosting tips for kids

The start of the new school year is upon us, and this can cause worry for some parents whose children seem particularly vulnerable to illness. Coughs, colds, ear and chest infections are commonplace in schools, with the average child catching between 8 and 12 colds or flu viruses each year. This is not surprising when we consider that the school environment is the perfect breeding ground for infection – up to 90% of children with a cold are carrying the virus on their hands, and germs can survive up to three days on surfaces.

Fortunately there are some simple measures that can help support your child’s immune system, helping to lessen the duration of an infection or even avoid illness altogether.

A good night’s sleep
Children need more sleep than adults, with primary school children needing at least 9 hours each night. Any less than this can compromise the immune system. Sleep deprived children have lower levels of germ-fighting T-cells, leaving them vulnerable to infection (1). Tips to improve sleep include keeping a regular bedtime routine, ensuring that televisions are kept out of the bedroom and reducing sources of caffeine such as chocolate and sodas.

Immune-boosting antioxidants
Another way to help support your child’s health is to ensure that his or her diet provides plenty of immune-boosting antioxidants. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C boost production of interferon, helping to prevent infection from taking hold (2). Vitamin E and carotenoids help to increase production of natural killer cells, B cells and T cells, increasing antibodies against specific germs (3).

Fruit-Bowl
Kiwi fruit and strawberries can provide a welcome vitamin C boost.

Finally, nutrients called bioflavonoids actually work to block cell receptors so that germs cannot get access to cells. Present in whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains, flavonoids have been shown to exert both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity (4). Flavonoids are not easily absorbed from foods we eat. For the best sources of well-absorbed flavonoids, make sure your child eats plenty of blue and purple fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and red grapes.

If infection has already taken hold, then steps to reduce the length of an infection can be helpful. During an active infection, the body’s requirement for Vitamin C is increased dramatically. A fruit salad made with oranges, kiwi fruit and strawberries can provide a welcome vitamin C boost. During an active infection, taking a vitamin C supplement 3-4 times daily can also be a helpful measure to speed up recovery.

Protective probiotics
Probiotic supplementation offers a further protective measure for children who suffer with repeated infections. Probiotics reduce the risk of allergies, tummy upsets and diarrhoea, and have recently been found to prevent the common cold (5). They give the immune system a boost by increasing natural killer cell activity and phagocytosis, both important mechanisms for protecting against infection. In children in particular, probiotics work to ramp up levels of mucosal immunoglobulin A, the first line of defence against harmful pathogens that enter the body (6).

Probiotic supplements designed especially for children offer a safe way to support your child’s immune system. Adding some probiotic yoghurt to fruit salad or breakfast muesli can help keep your child’s levels of immune-boosting bacteria topped up.

While children can’t be shielded from every bug in the classroom, these simple measures can help ensure that your child building blocks of a strong immune system and feels fit for the new school year.

References

1. Diwakar Balachandran, MD,  director, Sleep Center, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

2. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold (Review) Hemilä H, Chalker E, Douglas B. Cochrane Review. 2010. Issue 3.

3. Hughes DA: Antioxidant vitamins and immune function; in Calder PC, Field CJ, Gill HS (eds): Nutrition and Immune Function. Wallingford, CAB International, 2002, pp 171–191.

4. Middleton E (1998) Effect of Plant Flavonoids on Immune and Inflammatory Cell Function. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Volume 439, pp 175-182.

5. En-Jin Kang et al (2013) The Effect of Probiotics on Prevention of Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trial Studies. Korean J Fam Med. 2013 January; 34(1): 2–10.

6. Lomax & Calder (2009) Probiotics, immune function, infection and inflammation: a review of the evidence from studies conducted in humans. Curr Pharm Des. 15(13):1428-518.

7. Image courtesy of vanillaechoes.

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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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Natural Immune Support for Children

Children frequently pick up and pass on common bacterial and viral infections, often through interaction with others at school which can manifest into sore throats, colds, flu, sinusitis and more. Unfortunately large numbers of these children are prescribed antibiotics repeatedly. With the current concern over antibiotic resistance, it is natural to want to avoid having your child take antibiotics if possible.

There are a number of natural ways to reduce the risk of your children picking up illnesses. The very best insurance to help prevent you and your children getting ill is to support the immune system through diet, nutrients and lifestyle.

Here are 5 ways to boost children’s immunity naturally:

1. Wash hands but don’t be a germaphobe: Good hygiene at school and at home is important to help reduce the spread of germs. Washing hands is particularly easy and effective. However, extreme hygiene practices may have a negative effect on your child’s maturing immunity.

Strawberry's, melons and berries are all high in Vitamin C
Strawberries, melons and berries are all high in Vitamin C

2. Eat foods packed with immune-boosting nutrients: Serve nutrient-dense foods to help boost your children’s immunity. A few nutrients can be essential to supporting a balanced immune system. Vitamin C can be found not only in citrus fruits, but also in broccoli, kale, green beans, berries, cantaloupe, strawberries, melons and zinc, which supports immune cell function. Foods such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and seafood are all rich in zinc. Probiotic foods such as natural organic yogurt balance gut flora and are essential to a well functioning immune system.

3. Reduce refined carbohydrates and sugary foods: Refined carbohydrates like pasta, bread, biscuits and cakes and sugary foods like soda and candy can seriously tax the immune system. They feed bacterial growth and contribute to inflammation, which depletes and exhausts immune function.

4. Exercise: Research has shown that moderate exercise improves immune function for all ages. Turning off the TV, limiting the video games and getting the kids outdoors are great ways to boost children’s immunity naturally.

5. Try natural immune support nutrients and supplements: Bee Propolis is an immune boosting plant-based nutrient that is safe and effective for children. This resin is collected by bees, from tree and plant buds and has natural antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Olive leaf extract and black elderberry are also full of antimicrobial nutrients and are also safe for all ages. Bee Prepared Immune Support Daily Defence combines these ingredients and other equally beneficial nutrients which support immune health. Capsules may be swallowed or broken open and put into juices, smoothies or yogurt.

A practical, delicious and child-friendly way to include a few of these recommendations into your daily routine is with an immune boosting smoothie.

Immunity Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 1 apple, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 1 orange, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 cup filtered water or organic apple juice
  • 1/2 cup natural yogurt
  • 2 tsp manuka honey
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seed butter *optional
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger root, peeled
  • 1 capsule Bee Prepared Daily Defence (open capsule and use the powder)

Combine all of these ingredients in a blender, serve and enjoy!

References:
1. Image courtesy of Roger Kirby.

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Alpha-lipoic acid improves blood sugar control in diabetics

A new double-blind controlled study suggests that alpha lipoic acid supplementation may benefit patients with type 2 diabetes (1). Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of the condition, accounting for around 90% of diabetes sufferers.

Researchers investigated the effect of alpha lipoic acid supplements on glycemic control and oxidative status of 38 diabetic patients over a period of 6 months.

Alpha Lipoic Acid may help combat type 2 diabetes.
Alpha Lipoic Acid can help increase levels of antioxidants

Alpha-lipoic acid is a naturally occurring antioxidant that is present in every cell in the body. Its function is to help turn glucose into energy. It can help to increase insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake. In fact, previous clinical studies in humans have demonstrated improvement in insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes after supplementation with alpha lipoic acid (2).

Another benefit of alpha lipoic acid is that it can help to increase or maintain levels of other antioxidants including COQ 10, vitamin C, vitamin E and glutathione. This may be of benefit to diabetic patients because this condition leads to increased need for antioxidant protection. Even when diabetes sufferers are able to control their blood sugar well, they are still at risk of other complications as a result of raised levels of free radicals. Complications can include peripheral neuropathy, scar tissue formation and inflammation.

For these reasons, the researchers believe that the antioxidant properties of alpha lipoic acid may offer an additional benefit to diabetes patients.

The thirty-eight volunteers were randomly assigned to receive an alpha lipoic acid supplement (in doses of 300, 600, 900 or 1200 mg/day) or a placebo for 6 months. Each patient was instructed to take their supplement 30 minutes before meals.

All of the patients were receiving standard medical care for their condition, and were either taking prescribed drugs for diabetes, or following a prescribed diet.

After the 6-month period, all patients underwent blood tests to assess glucose levels and signs of oxidation.

The results showed that fasting blood glucose levels were lower in patients who had received alpha lipoic acid. Levels of substances called PGF2α-Isoprostanes, a product of oxidative stress, were also measured. These levels were lower in the alpha lipoic acid group, suggesting that this group also had lower levels of oxidative damage.

The supplements were monitored for safety, and were found to be well tolerated. The researchers state however that a larger test group may be needed to clarify the study’s results.

In the UK, numbers of people diagnosed with diabetes have doubled in the last ten years, and these figures continue to rise (3). Hopefully this study will pave the way for further research into natural adjuncts to standard treatment, to help improve quality of life for those affected.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

1.Porasuphatana S, Suddee S, Nartnampong A, Konsil J, Harnwong B, Santaweesuk A. Glycemic and oxidative status of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus following oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid: a randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled study. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2012;21(1):12-21.

2.Kamenova P. Improvement of insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus after oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid. Hormones (Athens). 2006;5:251-8.

3.Diabetes UK. Diabetes in the UK 2012: Key statistics on diabetes.

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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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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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Back to the Daily Grind. Can diet and supplements relieve the pressure?

I recently offered some nutrition tips for kids as they prepare for the new academic year. However, September is not only ‘back to school’ for kids, but it can also mean ‘back to the daily grind’ for busy parents and teachers too. The return to work after a summer break can be quite stressful for many. Fortunately a few nutritional strategies may help to cushion the blow.

A recent Health and Safety Executive report states that stress is one of the most common types of work-related illness, with teachers, healthcare workers and social workers most commonly affected (1).

There are in fact numerous nutritional strategies that can help support stressed workers. For example, choosing foods and adopting eating patterns to keep blood sugar levels stable can help to manage mood and anxiety levels. Below is a quick guide to some of the most effective nutritional strategies for dealing with work-related stress.

Healthy Snack
Healthy Snacks such as fruit and nuts can help maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Foods to include:
Including protein with each meal will go a long way towards helping your body cope with the demands of work stresses. In fact, starting your day with a protein-rich breakfast such as eggs or yoghurt can actually help control your blood sugar levels for the rest of the day, helping to keep you mood and energy levels more stable.

Keeping healthy snacks at hand – fruit, nuts or even protein shakes are easy to store at the office – will also help to manage your blood sugar levels as well as providing nutrients such as zinc and vitamin C which are in great demand at times of stress.

Finally, keep hydrated with plenty of water, herbal teas and decaffeinated teas throughout the day. Dehydration can affect mood and concentration, making it more difficult to cope with the everyday demands of the office.

Foods to avoid:
Alcohol is used by many as a stress reliever, and a couple of glasses of wine in the evening seems harmless enough after a hard day at work. Unfortunately, alcohol can in fact deplete levels of vitamins and minerals that are needed in times of stress, and over time it alters levels of stress hormones such as cortisol (2).

Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause irritability. Many office workers habitually turn to caffeine for a mid-afternoon boost when energy is flagging. Unfortunately stimulants such as caffeine place additional pressure on the adrenal glands, important bodily organs which we rely on in times of stress.

Sugar can impair the function of out ‘stress buffers’, the adrenal glands. Eating sugary foods means that the adrenals must work harder to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Nutrients for stress: B, C and Omega-3
Nutritional therapists often recommend B Vitamins alongside Vitamin C in order to help the body to cope with stress. In fact a recent study has found that a simple B Vitamin supplement may provide welcome relief to stressed workers (3).

The study was a double-blind, placebo controlled trial. To determine whether a high dose B vitamin supplement could improve mood and psychological wellbeing linked with chronic work stress, researchers supplemented 60 men and women with a high dose B Vitamin or placebo for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, those who had taken the B Vitamins reported significantly lower levels of stress symptoms such as depressed mood, confusion and personal strain.

The B vitamins are needed in higher amounts when the body is under stress, as the adrenal glands require these nutrients to function effectively. B vitamins are also involved in the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and acetylcholine which help to ward off feelings of anxiety.

A recent review of functional foods in the management of psychological stress concluded that the most promising nutritional intervention in relieving stress is high dose Vitamin C with omega-3 fish oils (4). Well-controlled human trials have found that high dose sustained-release vitamin C can lower the effect of stress on blood pressure and improve recovery time after stressful periods (5). Omega-3 supplementation has also been found in several human studies to lower the stress response and decrease levels of stress hormones (6,7).

Many of us have suffered with work-related stress at one time or another, and this type of ongoing stress has a serious effect on wellbeing and quality of life. Returning to long days at the office after the summer holidays can be a daunting prospect for the best of us. Choosing the correct nutrition might just help make that transition a little easier.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References
1. HSE (2011) Stress and Psychological Disorders. www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/index.htm

2. Badrick et al (2008) The Relationship between Alcohol Consumption and Cortisol Secretion in an Aging Cohort. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 March; 93(3): 750–757.

3. Stough C et al (2011) The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Hum Psychopharmacol 26:7 470-476

4.Hamer et al (2005) The role of functional foods in the psychobiology of health and disease. Nutr Res Rev 18, 77–88.

5. Brody et al (2002) A randomized controlled trial of high dose ascorbic acid for reduction of blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective responses to psychological stress. Psychopharmacology 159, 319–324.

5. Sawazaki et al (1999) The effect of docosahexaenoic acid on plasma catecholamine concentrations and glucose tolerance during long-lasting psychological stress: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology (Tokyo) 45, 655–665.

7. Delarue et al (2003) Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited
by mental stress in healthy men. Diab & Metab 29,289–295.

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10 Tips for Hay Fever Sufferers

10 Tips for Hay Fever Sufferers

If you missed last week’s bodykind newsletter about Hay Fever and some effective and natural ways to manage the symptoms, you may be interested in the “10 Top Tips” that bodykind’s Nutritional Therapist Nadia Mason came up with below:

Blueberries, Blackberries and Elderberries are good for Hay Fever symptoms
Fruits such as Blueberries, Blackberries and Elderberries are good for managing Hay Fever symptoms
  1. Reduce histamine levels by eating plenty of magnesium and methionine-rich foods. Good sources are sunflower seeds, nuts, oats and leafy greens.
  2. Try to eat cabbage, onions and apples regularly. These foods are good sources of quercetin, a natural antihistamine.
  3. Eat plenty of purple berries,  such as blueberries, blackberries and elderberries,  for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Try making a refreshing fruit smoothie with frozen blueberries, or add a spoonful of elderberry jam onto your morning cereal.
  4. Drink peppermint tea. Peppermint contains a substance called rosmarinic acid, a powerful antioxidant that blocks production of allergy-producing leukotrienes.
  5.  Ensure you’re getting plenty of immune-boosting nutrients. Vitamin B6 and zinc play an important role in balancing histamine levels and supporting the immune system.
  6. Increased sunlight in the summer results in higher levels of pollution in urban areas, causing the immune system to react. A good all-round antioxidant supplement can increase your resistance. Try one that includes vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc.
  7. For stubborn symptoms, the amino acid methionine, in combination with calcium, can act as an effective anti-histamine. Try taking 500mg l-methionine and 400g calcium twice daily.
  8. Food intolerances can sometimes make symptoms worse. Try limiting common culprits such as wheat and dairy products for a couple of weeks to see if symptoms begin to improve.
  9. Omega-3 oils are one of nature’s best anti-inflammatory nutrients. Include oily fish in your diet at least twice weekly, and supplement with a good quality fish oil or flaxseed oil.
  10. Anti-inflammatory bromelain, a nutrient found in pineapple, is thought to be helpful for hayfever sufferers.  Try fresh pineapple, but be sure to eat the core too, as this part is highest in bromelain. Bromelain is available in supplement form. For best results, I often recommend taking bromelain alongside quercetin.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

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