Eating fish could prevent depression

Eating a lot of fish may help prevent depression, research suggests.

Eating a lot of fish may help prevent depression, research suggests.An analysis of 26 studies of more than 150,000 people in total indicated a 17% reduction in the risk of depression among those eating the most fish.

One potential reason given by the researchers was the fatty acids found in fish may be important in various aspects of brain activity.

Mind, the mental health charity, said the study supported other work showing links between diet and mood.

Writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the Chinese researchers said many studies had been done looking at fish consumption and depression, but the results had been mixed.

When they looked at different study types, they found that the apparent protective effect of eating lots of fish was specific to studies done in Europe and not those from other areas of the world.

To try to come to a conclusion on what they said had been a controversial issue, they collated the data from all the relevant studies they could find conducted since 2001.

Their calculation did show a significant link between the two, and it was true for men and women.

While the results could not point to any conclusions about cause and effect, there were interesting theories as to why fish may be good for mental health, the researchers said.

One possible explanation is that the omega-three fatty acids found in fish may be key in the activity of dopamine and serotonin – two signalling chemicals in the brain thought to be involved in depression.

Another possibility is that people who eat a lot of fish may have a healthier diet in general – which in turn could help their mental health.

Prof Dongfeng Zhang, from the Medical College of Qingdao University, said: “Higher fish consumption may be beneficial in the primary prevention of depression.

“Future studies are needed to further investigate whether this association varies according to the type of fish.”

Rachel Boyd, information manager at Mind, said they had recently published a guide, Food and Mood, which included advice on eating the “good fats” such as those found in fish.

“It is important not to oversimplify the results as there are lots of different factors in the development of depression,” she said.

“But we really agree that having these fatty acids in your diet can be helpful, and it’s something where people can make quite small changes that could have quite a big impact.”

She pointed out that for vegetarians or others who did not want to eat fish there were other sources of fatty acids, such as seeds and nuts, as well as supplements.

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Are fruit and vegetables less healthy than in the past?

Research from the New Scientist has suggested an increase in sweeter fruit and vegetables in recent years may be harming us.

Research from the New Scientist has suggested an increase in sweeter fruit and vegetables in recent years may be harming usAlthough breeding vegetables such as cabbages or Brussel sprouts to taste less bitter may convince children to eat them, scientists have warned that we are losing the aspect of the vegetable that makes them healthy in the first place.

Researchers said that according to research carried out in Florida 30 years ago, white grapefruit used to be significantly more popular than sweeter red and pink grapefruit. Today the latter is reported to be twice as popular – but it is nowhere near as healthy.

Red and pink grapefruit is more popular despite being less healthy.

White grapefruit contains 50 per cent more phytonutrients, bitter compounds which are linked to improving the cardiovascular system, than red and pink grapefruit.

Jed Fahey, a molecular scientist at Johns Hopkins University, told the New Scientist: “Eating fruits and vegetables without phytochemicals would in many ways be analagous to drinking the empty calories of a can of soda.

“Yes, you could survive on de-bittered fruits and vegetables, and they would help maintain life, but not good health.”

Fruit and vegetables are full of phytonutrients and the ones found in Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and kale have been found to have particularly powerful anti-cancer properties.

According to the Nutrient Rich Foods index, “dark green” vegetables are the most healthy for you, including leafy salads, chard, cabbage, spinach and broccoli.

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Vitamin D supplements should be taken by everyone.

Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements to counter the lack of sunshine in the UK, government experts are proposing.

Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements to counter the lack of sunshine in the UK, government experts are proposing The draft Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition guidelines suggest, from the age of one, 10 microgram pills be taken to ensure people get enough.

Current advice is only at risk groups – including pregnant women, under fives and over 65s – should take supplements.

But as there is no easy way of assessing who is getting enough vitamin D, SACN has proposed a blanket recommendation for everyone because of the benefits it would bring.

The risk of getting too much vitamin D is considered to be extremely low.

It comes after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which advises the NHS on treatments, has already suggested vitamin D should be given more widely to counter a hidden epidemics of deficiency.

Official estimates suggest one in five adults and one in six children in England may have low levels.

People get most of their vitamin D from the action of sunlight on their skin. But the amount in food is small, unlike many other vitamins.

The low level of sunlight during winter months means people in the UK are at risk.

The NICE guidelines called for more free supplements and for supermarkets to sell low-cost tablets.

Deficiency can result in rickets and brittle bones.

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Health by stealth- how food manufacturers are disguising sugar

Food manufacturers are increasingly looking to make their products healthier, without consumers noticing a change in taste.

Food manufacturers are increasingly looking to make their products healthier, without consumers noticing a change in taste Under pressure to reduce levels of sugar, salt and saturated fat, manufacturers are increasingly turning to such people – selected for their heightened sense of taste – for help.

Government advisers recently suggested no more than 5% of daily calories should come from added sugar – half the level of the previous recommendation – while Tesco announced it would stop selling high-sugar drinks specifically aimed at children.

Reducing the cost of ingredients can also be a factor in companies choosing to use such laboratories.

Historically, if they wanted to take out sugar they had to use artificial sweeteners, now they have the option of using natural sweeteners too.

With something like salt, they may have reduced the levels of it a few years ago, but as our taste-buds acclimatise to less salt in our foods we can take it down a notch again.”

For Barbara Gallani, from the Food and Drink Federation, consumer demand is the greatest factor behind companies’ desire to make their products healthier.

But – perhaps surprisingly – companies are unwilling to inform the public of their products’ added nutritional benefit.

“Although ingredient changes will always be reflected in the ingredients list, it is not always desirable to actively promote them to consumers. This is because manufacturers don’t want to give the impression that they are compromising taste,” she explains.

“Maintaining consumer base and brand is very important.”

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Raspberries- why are they so good?

Raspberries- also known as Rubus idaeus, they belong to the same botanical family as the rose and the blackberry.

Raspberries- also known as Rubus idaeus, they belong to the same botanical family as the rose and the blackberry

Raspberries contain more vitamin C than oranges, are super high in fibre, low in calories and supply you with a good dose of folic acid.

Further to that, they are high in potassium, vitamin A and calcium. Who would have thought that you could find so much goodness in one humble berry?

They are thought to help pregnant women- it has been suggested that drinking raspberry leaf tea shortens the second stage of labour.

Scotland is famous for its raspberry growing. In the late 1950s, raspberries were brought down from Scotland to London on a steam train known as the Raspberry Special.

Raspberries are thought to been eaten since prehistoric times, but only began to be cultivated in England and France in about the 1600s.

They come in all sorts of colours- but raspberries can be red, purple, gold or black in colour. The gold ones are the sweetest variety, and very tasty.

To form new species, raspberries have been crossed with other berries. The loganberry is a cross between raspberries and blackberries; the boysenberry is a cross between red raspberries, blackberries and loganberries; the nessberry is a cross between a dewberry, raspberry and a blackberry.

Raspberries are deeply symbolic. In some kinds of Christian art, the raspberry is the symbol for kindness. The red juice was thought of as the blood running through the heart, where kindness originates.

In the Philippines, if you hang a raspberry cane from the outside of your house, evil spirits are supposed to be deterred.

In Germany, too, raspberry canes would be tied to the horse’s body in the belief that it would calm them down. So much power in one gentle cane!

They don’t continue to ripen when picked. Unlike many fruits, unripe raspberries do not ripen after they have been picked. There’s no softening up in the fruit bowl for the raspberry – once it’s picked, that’s your lot.

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Herbal food supplement labels may be misleading

Some herbal food supplements do not contain what they claim on the label according to new research.

Herbal food supplement labels may be misleadingThe BBC health series ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’ teamed up with experts from University College London to test a selection of products bought from high street shops or online retailers.

Of 30 ginkgo products tested, eight contained little or no ginkgo extract.  In one case of milk thistle, unidentified substances were present in place of milk thistle.

The UCL team tested around 70 products overall, using two methods – nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and high performance thin layer chromatography – to study their composition.

Herbal products can be sold either as food supplements, or as Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) remedies.

In every THR tested, the product contained what was claimed on the label- however the food supplements showed a wide range of quality.

Whilst many food supplements contained high amounts of the herbal ingredient as claimed, several had none at all.

The manufacture of THRs falls under regulation by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), but herbal food supplements come under the remit of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Trading Standards at local authority level. Their manufacture is not regulated.

Head of the UCL research team Professor Michael Heinrich said: “I think some of the suppliers of food supplements are lying. In other cases I think they don’t know what they’re doing. Many of the botanical drugs come from rare or increasingly rare species, so it makes perfect sense to get something cheaper…which helps to you get a better price at a lower cost.”

He warned consumers that a high price tag was no guarantee of quality.

A spokesman for the Food standards Agency said: “The FSA champions the rights of consumers and misleading them in this way is unacceptable.”

He said a herbal food supplement would be investigated if a complaint was made about a specific product, if members of the public were to fall ill as a result of taking these products, or if evidence of mislabelling were provided.

The results of the BBC/UCL tests have been passed on to the FSA’s Food Crimes Unit.

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Call for better regulation of caffeine diet pills

Caffeine supplements labelled as diet pills should be better regulated according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Caffeine supplements branded as diet pills should be better regulated according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

It follows the death of Chris Wilcock from Darwen, Lancashire, who died on the day that he took the tablets- which were the equivalent to 300 cups of coffee.

A coroner ruled his death in April was due to caffeine toxicity. At least four deaths in the UK have been linked to caffeine pills in the past year.

Neal Patel, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said regulation was a “problem”.

“Unfortunately it does seem to fall between the Food Standards Agency and the medicine agencies and, in fact, it tends to be left to Trading Standards locally to pick out the products and see what’s in them.

“That doesn’t seem good enough given the number of deaths we’ve seen this year.”

Mr Patel added: “There is really flimsy evidence at best that caffeine can help reduce weight.”

Mr Wilcock, who was a pub landlord, died after taking a supplement known as T5, which contained caffeine equivalent to 300 cups of coffee.

T5 is a generic name for products that are often marketed as slimming aids. They are classified as food supplements instead of medicines, are legal and widely available.

Mr Wilcock’s fiancée Heather Thompson said she “tried to talk him out of” taking the pills.

“He just got told to take one a day and avoid alcohol with them – that was it. He didn’t get told of the side effects, he didn’t get told anything. It didn’t even say it on the actual bottle.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society said caffeine overdose could lead to symptoms including palpitations, high blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, convulsions and, in some cases, death.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency added: “There is a variety of different ingredients used in the various products with high levels of caffeine being one of the most popular ingredients.

“Such products are typically regarded to be food supplements rather than medicines. In instances where slimming products contain ingredients that are regarded to be medicinal the MHRA will investigate whether there is a breach of human medicines regulations and take action accordingly.”

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Chokeberries may help cancer therapies

Chokeberries may have a role in helping cancer therapies- according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Pathology.

Chokeberries may have a role in helping cancer therapies- according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Pathology.Scientists suggest chokeberries could work in combination with conventional drugs to kill more cancer cells, but the UK research is at an early stage, with experiments carried out only on cancer cells in laboratories.

Researchers from the University of Southampton and King’s College Hospital London, tested a berry extract on pancreatic cancer samples.

Pancreatic cancer is particularly hard to treat and has an average survival period of just six months after diagnosis.

The study found that when the berry extract was used, together with a conventional chemotherapy drug called gemcitabine, more cancer cells died than when the drug was used alone.

But the scientists say the chokeberry had no effect on normal body cells tested in this way.

They believe compounds known as polyphenols in the chokeberries may reduce the number of harmful cells.

And the team previously carried out similar early work on brain cancer cells.

Henry Scowcroft, at the charity Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s far too early to say from this small laboratory study whether chemicals extracted from chokeberries have any effect on pancreatic cancer in patients.”

“And the findings certainly don’t suggest that the berries themselves should be taken alongside conventional chemotherapy. But innovative approaches are urgently needed to improve treatment for people with pancreatic cancer – a disease for which there has been precious little progress over recent decades.”

Chokeberries grow on the eastern side of North America in wetlands and swamp areas.

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Curry spice may boost and repair brains

A spice commonly found in curries may boost the brain’s ability to heal itself, according to a report in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy.

Curry spice may boost and repair brainsThe German study suggests a compound found in turmeric could encourage the growth of nerve cells thought to be part of the brain’s repair kit.

Scientists say this work- based in rats, may pave the way for future drugs for strokes and Alzheimer’s disease, but they say more trials are needed to see whether this applies to humans.

Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich, Germany, studied the effects of aromatic-turmerone – a compound found naturally in turmeric.

Rats were injected with the compound and their brains were then scanned.

Particular parts of the brain, known to be involved in nerve cell growth, were seen to be more active after the aromatic turmerone infusion.

Scientists say the compound may encourage a proliferation of brain cells.

In a separate part of the trial, researchers bathed rodent neural stem cells (NSCs) in different concentrations of aromatic tumerone extract.

NSCs have the ability to transform into any type of brain cell and scientists suggest they could have a role in repair after damage or disease.

Dr Maria Adele Rueger, who was part of the research team, said: “In humans and higher developed animals their abilities do not seem to be sufficient to repair the brain but in fish and smaller animals they seem to work well.”

The research found the higher the concentration of aromatic turmerone, the greater the growth of the NSCs.

And the cells bathed in the turmeric compound seemed to specialise into certain types of brain cells more rapidly too.

Dr Rueger added: “It is interesting that it might be possible to boost the effectiveness of the stem cells with aromatic-turmerone. And it is possible this in turn can help boost repair in the brain.”

She is now considering whether human trials may be feasible.

Aromatic turmerone is the lesser studied of two major compounds in turmeric that may have an effect on the human body.

Previous studies suggest the other compound, curcumin, could reduce inflammation in the body and have anti cancer benefits.

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Vitamin D- NICE advice to take supplements

People should be given vitamin D supplements according to the UK’s official health watchdog NICE.

People should be given vitamin D supplements according to the UK's official health watchdog NICE.The NHS advisory body, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), says 10 million people across England could be deficient, and many are unaware.

Its report says children should get free supplements and calls for supermarkets to sell low cost tablets.

NICE focused on groups most at risk of having low levels of the vitamin.

The chief medical officer in England has already urged doctors to prescribe tablets to these populations, and similar advice has been issued in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

But experts are concerned many are still not getting the Vitamin D they need. Official estimates suggest one in five adults and one in six children in England may have low levels.

People get most of their vitamin D from the action of sunlight on their skin. But the amount in food is small, unlike many other vitamins.

The low level of sunlight during winter months means people in the UK must rely on stores built up during the summer.

Professor Mike Kelly, who was involved in producing the NICE guidelines, said: “Around 10 million people in England may have low vitamin D status and so could be at risk of health problems – and they may not know it.

“People with darker skin are particularly at risk – during winter months nearly 75% of adults from Asian or African and Caribbean backgrounds may have low vitamin D levels.”

People at risk include of Vitamin D deficiencies:
  • Children and babies
  • Pregnant women
  • People with darker skin, including many people from African, Caribbean and Asian backgrounds
  • Over-65s
  • People who don’t get much exposure to the sun, such as those who cover up their skin for most of the year
  • People who are housebound.

The NICE report sets out a number of measures, including encouraging local authorities to provide tablets free of charge to children.

The advisory body also urges manufacturers to ensure supplements are sold at the recommended dose – 10 micrograms a day for adults.

And NICE recommends supermarkets stock low-cost vitamin D tablets and promote them to those at risk.

Doctors and other health workers are encouraged to take every opportunity to discuss and record vitamin D intake with any patients who are at risk.

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