Category Archives: vitamin

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.

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


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


Supplements in Sport

Success in sport depends on many factors, but when everything else is equal, nutrition can make the difference between winning and losing.

A large majority of sports supplements have traditionally been used by elite athletes, body builders and sports enthusiasts, with a heavy emphasis being placed on protein powders and performance enhancers. Although useful, these supplements only scratch the surface of sports nutrition. In fact, by delving a little deeper into nutritional science, a number of seemingly non-sports orientated supplements, including fish oils and probiotics, can be found predominantly placed in the supplement protocol of any physically active individual.

It is all too common for people to consume less than sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals within the diet, which can lead to poor health, impaired recovery and under-performance. This is where supplements can play an important role.

Whatever level at which people participate in their chosen physical activity, it is now widely accepted that the addition of key nutritional supplements to any exercise regime can be beneficial to health. Much of today’s use of nutritional supplements is aimed at not only ensuring that any dietary deficiencies are corrected, but that recovery from training, competition or injury is accelerated, and that the immune system remains uncompromised so that individuals can continue to perform at the highest level.

Some nutrients have undoubted benefits and have been proven in clinical trials to improve performance and recovery. However, the ‘normal balanced diet’ may not provide these nutrients in sufficient quantities, and extra demand on the body through training and competing can deplete them even faster. Athletes and physically active individuals would therefore obtain the greatest benefit from taking high quality supplements, backed by scientific credibility. Incorporating these principles can often provide that extra edge, which is so important when the margins set between winning and losing are so small.

BioCare® has made innovative steps in sports supplementation by gaining Informed-Sport accreditation
BioCare® has made innovative steps in sports supplementation by gaining Informed-Sport accreditation


Purity is one of the most essential considerations when choosing supplements for sport. Informed-Sport accreditation allows athletes and those involved in sport to choose products that are rigorously tested, batch-by-batch, for contaminants and WADA banned substances to ensure that they are safe to use. Testing is carried out by HFL Sport Science, an internationally recognised and accredited laboratory, supported by UK Sport.

BioCare® has made innovative steps in sports supplementation by gaining Informed-Sport accreditation for products which truly support the foundations of health – One A Day Vitamins & Minerals, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Bio Acidophilus Forte and Vitamin C 1000. These supplements do not necessarily correlate with stereotypical sports supplementation, but this holistic and innovative approach represents the future of sports nutrition.


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).

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.


(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. 


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


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



Eating food rich in vitamins and minerals may impact perceived hunger levels

In September I wrote about the importance of eating a high-quality, healthy, nutrient dense diet when attempting to lose weight or restrict calorie intakes.  Now a new study (1) has indicated that eating such a nutrient dense diet, rich in vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) may influence hunger and satiety.

The study (1) was set up in order to analyse the changes in experience and perception of hunger before and after individuals changed from their usual diet to a high nutrient density diet.

The study is important since hunger can cause people to overeat and consume more calories than their bodies require, hence leading to overweight and obesity over time. 


The research involved over 700 participants who had changed their dietary habits from a low micronutrient diet i.e. one that was low in vitamins and minerals, to a high micronutrient diet.  Participants completed a survey rating various dimensions of hunger (physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, and location) when on their previous usual diet versus the high micronutrient density diet.   Highly significant differences were found between the two diets in relation to all physical and emotional symptoms as well as the location of hunger (1). Hunger was not an unpleasant experience while on the high nutrient density diet, was well tolerated and occurred with less frequency even when meals were skipped. Nearly 80% of respondents reported that their experience of hunger had changed since starting the high nutrient density diet, with 51% reporting a dramatic or complete change in their experience of hunger.


The authors of the study conclude that

A high micronutrient density diet mitigates the unpleasant aspects of the experience of hunger even though it is lower in calories. Hunger is one of the major impediments to successful weight loss. Our findings suggest that it is not simply the caloric content, but more importantly, the micronutrient density of a diet that influences the experience of hunger. It appears that a high nutrient density diet, after an initial phase of adjustment during which a person experiences “toxic hunger” due to withdrawal from pro-inflammatory foods, can result in a sustainable eating pattern that leads to weight loss and improved health. A high nutrient density diet provides benefits for long-term health as well as weight loss. Because our findings have important implications in the global effort to control rates of obesity and related chronic diseases, further studies are needed to confirm these preliminary results”.

Satiety and hunger are influenced by many different factors.  In terms of nutrition and satiety I have previously written about the effect of fibre, prebiotics, probiotics, cinnamon, omega 3 fatty acids and low GI foods and their impact on satiety.

The nutrient quality of the food we eat is very important since a high quality diet will provide the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (bioactive plant nutrients) that are essential for our health and wellbeing.   Vitamins and minerals are essential for the efficient functioning of the body, including the brain.  Eating enough vegetables, fruits, beans/pulses, wholegrains, unprocessed meats/fish, nuts and seeds is a good way to ensure adequate intakes of vitamins and minerals.  These kinds of foods are nutrient dense. 

Supplements should never be considered as an alternative to a healthy diet, however if you are not regularly consuming vegetables, fruits and other nutrient dense foods you might want to check with your doctor about the suitability of a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, together with an omega 3 fatty acid supplement, to provide for any shortfalls. 

(1)Joel Fuhrman  J et al.  2010.  Changing perceptions of hunger on a high nutrient density diet.  Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:51doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-51.  Published 7th November 2010.

Written by Ani Kowal


Study finds that a dietary supplement may help reduce the symptom severity of the common cold

Many people are experiencing the symptoms of the common cold this winter, sniffles, runny nose, sore throat, stuffy ears.  I have previously written about diet and dietary supplements for the prevention of the common cold however, investigations with supplements are, as yet, inconclusive and results inconsistent.  Having a healthy diet which provides the body with abundant nutrients may be helpful in the prevention of the cold since a good diet helps keep the immune system functioning effectively.

The common cold is the most frequent acute illness in industrialised societies (1).  It is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract, caused by a variety of viruses.  The leading symptoms include sneezing, runny or congested nose, sore throat, headache and coughing, typically lasting for about 5–10 d.  On average, adults experience two to four colds per year.  Frequency of common cold infections increases in the UK in the autumn and winter (1).

Since there is no causal treatment for the common cold, therapy focuses on symptom relief. In addition, preventive strategies for the common cold include lifestyle measures such as avoiding infected people and regular hand washing during the winter. As mentioned above dietary supplements including herbs and vitamins have been suggested in the prevention of the common cold, but previous investigations have proven inconclusive.

A recently published study(1) was designed to determine the preventative effect of a dietary supplement made from a concentration of fruits and vegetables on common cold symptoms.  The study was well designed, a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.  It involved over 500 healthcare professionals, mainly nursing staff aged 18–65 years, from a university hospital in Berlin, Germany.  The individuals involved in the trial received the supplement or a matching placebo daily for 8 months.  The number of days with moderate or severe common cold symptoms within 6 months was assessed by diary self-reports.

Results (1) found that the average number of days with moderate or severe common cold symptoms was reduced in the supplement group compared to the placebo group, intake of the dietary supplement was associated with a 20 % reduction of moderate or severe common cold symptom days.  This is significant since the individuals involved in the study were healthcare professionals who were particularly exposed colds through patient contact.  It is important to note, however that the average number of total days with any common cold symptoms was similar in both groups. 

The results are interesting since the supplement helped to reduce the severity of the cold symptoms, even though the total number of days with symptoms was not reduced.  Reducing the severity of symptoms is important since it may mean that individuals don’t take time off work and can carry on with their days as normal.  Although colds are not really serious conditions, they are a leading cause of absence from work and doctor visits (1).   In the current study the group taking the dietary supplement had fewer days with intake of common cold medication and a trend towards fewer days absent from work due to the common cold.

The authors of the study write “ To our knowledge, it is the first randomised investigation focusing on the benefits of juice powder concentrate in subjects particularly exposed to patient contact. The confirmation of the present findings in other populations could contribute to the growing scientific basis of assessing the clinical importance of dietary supplements from fruits and vegetables. In conclusion, intake of Juice Plus þ w was associated with fewer number of days with at least moderate common cold symptoms. Whether long-term intake of Juice Plus þ w could further reduce severity or even the frequency of common cold symptoms and the possible underlying mechanisms should be assessed in future studies

Many supplements made from concentrated fruit and vegetables are now available.   Such supplements may be considered as a short term measure especially if your diet is consistently falling short of fruits and vegetables.  Supplements, however, can never be seen as an alternative to a healthy diet and it is always best to check with your medical doctor prior to starting a new supplement regimen.   Eating a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains will help to provide vitamins, minerals and flavonoids that may help to keep the immune system functioning optimally.

(1) Stephanie Roll S et al.  2011.   Reduction of common cold symptoms by encapsulated juice powder concentrate of fruits and vegetables: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.  British Journal of Nutrition (2011), 105: 118-122


Written by Ani Kowal


Nutrient supplements might impact brain function

 Nutrition impacts all aspects of health and the body.  What we eat can impact brain function and our mood and new research is constantly being released which indicates that having a good diet and a good supply of nutrients can impact our mental state.

Recently a double-blind placebo-controlled study (1) was conducted to investigate the effect of a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement on cognitive (brain) function and fatigue in over 200 healthy female individuals aged between 25 and 50 years old.  The participants were tested before and 9 weeks after starting the multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.  The tests that the women underwent included brain function tests and tasks related to mood and fatigue.   The group taking the multi-vitamin and mineral supplement had improved multi-tasking performance and better accuracy across the tasks compared to the placebo group.  The women taking the supplements also did better in terms of their mood and fatigue levels after performing the brain function tests.  The authors conclude that “These findings suggest that healthy members of the general population may benefit from augmented levels of vitamins/minerals via direct dietary supplementation”.

Another recent study (2) looked at the cognitive and mood effects of a high dose B-vitamin and mineral supplement in 215 men aged 30-55 years old.  The men completed assessments and tests prior to and on the last day of a 33-day supplement period.   Those men taking the supplement, compared to those taking the inactive placebo, had significant improvements in ratings on the stress test and the general health questionnaire as well as certain aspects of the mood test.  The men taking the supplement also rated themselves as less ‘mentally tired’ both before and after completing a cognitive (brain function) test.  The authors of this test conclude “Healthy members of the general population may benefit from augmented levels of vitamins/minerals via direct dietary supplementation. Specifically, supplementation led to improved ratings of stress, mental health and vigour and improved cognitive performance during intense mental processing”.

The authors of this study also write “Taken together with previous results showing beneficial effects of vitamin/mineral supplementation in healthy children and adults, these findings further suggest that augmenting vitamin/mineral levels in healthy, normal populations may provide beneficial effects in terms of brain function. It is unclear whether these effects represent a an offset of impairment due to marginal deficiencies or an improvement due to sub-optimal levels that would not, under current guidelines, be classed as deficiency. However, given that a large section of the population are unable or unwilling to eat the adequately balanced diet that would satisfy their micronutrient requirements, it seems that supplementation with multi-vitamins/minerals may be a useful and possibly necessary option for this portion of the population

This research is certainly interesting but further larger trials are be needed before making any recommendations for nutrient supplementation in order to enhance brain function and mood.  Always check with your medical doctor prior to taking any supplements.  Supplements should never be seen as an alternative to a healthy, balanced diet, however they can be useful to cover any shortfalls.  This research certainly highlights how nutrition can impact the brain and mood states.  Optimum functioning of the brain is dependent on a wide range nutrients and as the authors state, many people do not eat healthy balanced diets and may therefore be lacking in vitamins and minerals. Eating a nutrient dense diet which is rich in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed meat and fish, especially oily fish, nuts/seeds, beans and unprocessed wholegrains is a great way to ensure a plentiful supply of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids to the body and brain.


(1)Haskell CF et al.  2010.  Effects of a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement on cognitive function and fatigue during extended multi-tasking.  Hum Psychopharmacol. 25(6):448-61.

(2) Kennedy DO et al.  2010.  Effects of high-dose B vitamin complex with vitamin C and minerals on subjective mood and performance in healthy males. Psychopharmacology (Berl).   211(1):55-68.



Written by Ani Kowal


Sun protection through nutrition

Summer seems to have come to an end here in the UK but many people escape the autumn and winter months by going away to hotter, sunnier climbs for a holiday.  In 2008 I wrote two blog posts about being safe in the sun and how nutrition can help.  In those posts I mention antioxidant nutrients and omega 3 fats from oily fish.

UV light can damage skin cell DNA via production of destructive ‘free-radical’ molecules.  Antioxidants may help to ‘quench’ the destructive free radical molecules and therefore protect against photo-damage.  A diet rich in colourful fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds will provide plentiful amounts of antioxidants.  UV light can cause damage to the skin and contribute to photo-ageing through the initiation of inflammation.  The long chain omega 3 fatty acids EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) found in oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel  are used by the body for the production of potent anti-inflammatory chemicals.  Including these omega 3 fatty acids in the diet may help to reduce sun induced inflammation, UVB skin sensitivity and may also help in the prevention of sunburn.

A review paper (1) has now been published which emphasises the importance of antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids for the protection against sun damage to the skin.  The author of the paper, Dr Niva Shapira writes about how in Mediterranean regions the rate of melanoma skin cancers are low even though the solar radiation is high, Dr Shapira speculates that much of the protection against sun damage comes from the diet.  She writes that “The increasing incidence of skin cancer despite the use of externally applied sun protection strategies, alongside research showing that nutrients reduce photo-oxidative damage, suggest nutritional approaches could play a beneficial role in skin cancer prevention”.  She suggests that more studies need to look at “dietary/nutritional  supplementation for lifelong internal support of sun-protection mechanisms, which could complement external strategies

The paper concentrates on the traditional Greek-style Mediterranean diet which is rich in fish, wholegrains, beans/pulses, vegetables, fruits and olive oil and how this, coupled with regular application of sunscreen and appropriate body coverings such as hats and clothing could be really useful in preventing skin cancers.

Dietary antioxidant and fish oil supplements might be useful but they cannot be viewed as an alternative to a healthy diet, they should be viewed only as a potentially useful adjunct.  It is always best to check with your medical doctor prior to taking any nutritional supplements.  Diet is highly important since nutrients in foods work together ‘synergistically’.  Dr Shapira says “In foods, many vitamins and various antioxidants and bioactive ingredients work to support one another and the body’s natural protective mechanisms. Synergies between the nutrients in your food, which make a significant contribution to health, may contrast with the relative isolation of a vitamin supplement.” (2)  If you do decide to take a supplement then it might be worth considering a low dose, broad spectrum multivitamin and mineral (which will provide many nutrients that work together) supplement together with a fish oil supplement to provide omega 3 fats, rather than single nutrient supplements. 

The research is getting attention, and for the first time, the Israeli Cancer Association has included the nutritional information as part of their “Smart in the Sun” advisories (2).

(1)Shapira N.  2010.  Nutritional approach to sun protection: a suggested complement to external strategies.  Nutrition Reviews.  68:75-86

(2)Press release American Friends of Tel Aviv University (2010, August 16). SPF on your plate: Researcher connects the Mediterranean diet with skin cancer prevention. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 17, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/08/100816122206.htm

Written by Ani Kowal


Study finds that dieting individuals might need to watch their vitamin and mineral intakes


A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1) has found that weight loss diets that focus on the amount of food consumed and the proportions of proteins, fats and carbohydrates (the so called macronutrients) might be lacking in essential minerals and vitamins

The study researchers wanted to look at the intakes of vitamins and minerals (the micronutrients) of 4 popular diets being undertaken by overweight or obese women.  They note in their study that information on the micronutrient quality of weight loss diets is very limited and this is worrying considering the importance of vitamins and minerals for health.  Dietary data was collected from women following the Atkins diet, the Zone diet, LEARN (Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships, Nutrition), and the Ornish diet.  There were about 70 women following each diet plan for 8 weeks.  After 8 weeks there were significant differences observed between groups for all macronutrients and for many micronutrients.  Energy (calorie) intakes decreased from baseline in all 4 groups but was similar between groups.  After 8 weeks a significant proportion of individuals in all groups shifted to micronutrient intakes associated with risk of inadequacy:

*In the Atkins group for thiamine, folic acid, vitamin C, iron, and magnesium

*In the LEARN group for vitamin E, thiamine, and magnesium

*In the Ornish group for vitamins E and B-12 and zinc

*In the Zone group for vitamins A, E, K, and C

The authors conclude that “Weight-loss diets that focus on macronutrient composition should attend to the overall quality of the diet, including the adequacy of micronutrient intakes”.

The results of the study indicate a need for dieters to really attend to the quality of their food intakes and not just the quantity in order to get enough vitamins and minerals daily.  Eating enough vegetables, fruits, beans/pulses, wholegrains, unprocessed meats/fish, nuts and seeds is a good way to ensure adequate intakes of vitamins and minerals.  These kinds of foods are nutrient dense.  Vitamins and minerals are essential for the efficient functioning of the body.  Only one of the diets, the Atkins diet, recommended that participants take a vitamin and mineral supplement, though only 3 women in the study followed the advice.  Supplements should never be considered as an alternative to a healthy diet, however if you are following a diet at the moment and are not regularly consuming vegetables, fruits and the other foods listed above you might want to check with your doctor about the suitability of a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement to provide any shortfalls.

(1)Christopher D Gardner CD et al.  2010.  Micronutrient quality of weight-loss diets that focus on macronutrients: results from the A TO Z study. Am J Clin Nutr.  E-Pub (June 23, 2010). doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29468


Written by Ani Kowal


Low levels of vitamins and minerals may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease

From the 16th-19th June 2010 the World Congress of Cardiology Scientific Sessions were held in Neijing, China .  New data presented there (1) and released to the press via the World Heart Federation has demonstrated that multiple micronutrient levels can predict the risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke).

The World Congress of Cardiology Scientific Sessions is the official congress of the World Heart Federation and is held every two years. Through the Congress the World Heart Federation offers an international stage for the latest developments in science and public outreach in the field of cardiovascular health. The World Congress of Cardiology places emphasis on the complementary nature of science and public outreach and strives to spread the message that through individual, community and patient-care interventions, the growing epidemic of cardiovascular diseases can be prevented(1)

The data (1) showed that reduced multiple micronutrient, vitamin and mineral, intakes were associated with a 1.4 times higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in White Americans, 1.3 times higher risk in African Americans and 1.6 times higher risk in Mexican Americans.  The study involved over 9, 400 participants aged 45 and older.  Dr. Longjian Liu, MD, PhD, FAHA, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, USA said: “This study is the first to demonstrate that multiple micronutrients have significant predicting effects on the risk of CVD and all-cause mortality among White Americans and minority populations,”, he went on to add that “These data suggest that people should ensure that they are maintaining healthy micronutrient levels to help reduce their future risk of CVD.”  (1)

Vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) are vital for health and are involved in the efficient functioning of all body processes, including heart function.  Inflammation plays a major role in cardiovascular diseases and it seems that a good micronutrient status is important in keeping inflammation in the body low, probably by reducing oxidative stress  in the body.  Eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains daily is important since they contain a huge array of vitamins, minerals and bioflavonoids (bioactive plant chemicals).  Many of the vitamins and bioflavonoids found in these foods act as antioxidants in the body and this may be one way that that prevent disease.  Antioxidants protect the body from attack by destructive molecules known as ‘free radicals’, they protect against ‘oxidative stress’ in the body.  It has been noted in previous studies (e.g. 2)Healthy subjects of any age with a high daily intake of fruits and vegetables have higher antioxidant levels, lower levels of biomarkers of oxidative stress, and better cognitive performance than healthy subjects of any age consuming low amounts of fruits and vegetables. Modification of nutritional habits aimed at increasing intake of fruits and vegetables should be encouraged to lower prevalence of cognitive impairment in later life(2)

Eating a healthful, balanced diet is important for the prevention of many conditions.  Providing the body with good, nutrient rich, food will help to ensure that all the nutrients needed for its efficient functioning are present.  Supplements can never be seen as an alternative to healthy eating but if you feel that your diet consistently falls short of nutrients you might wish to consider taking a high quality, low dose multivitamin and mineral supplement.  It is always best to check with a medical doctor prior to starting any supplementation regimen.  

About the World Heart Federation:
The World Heart Federation is dedicated to leading the global fight against heart disease and stroke with a focus on low- and middle-income countries via a united community of more than 200 member organizations. With its members, the World Heart Federation works to build global commitment to addressing cardiovascular health at the policy level, generates and exchanges ideas, shares best practice, advances scientific knowledge and promotes knowledge transfer to tackle cardiovascular disease – the world’s number one killer. It is a growing membership organization that brings together the strength of medical societies and heart foundations from more than 100 countries. Through our collective efforts we can help people all over the world to lead longer and better heart-healthy lives. For more information, please visit


(2) Polidori MC et al. 2009.  High fruit and vegetable intake is positively correlated with antioxidant status and cognitive performance in healthy subjects. J Alzheimers Dis. 17:4

Written by Ani Kowal