Vitamin Supplements

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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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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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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Food allergies may be linked to chemicals in tap water

New research suggests that chemicals in tap water are linked to the huge rise in food allergies.Food allergies may be linked to chemicals in tap waterFood allergies have risen sharply over the past 20 years, with 1-2 per cent of adults and 4-6 per cent of children thought to be affected. The number of children admitted to hospital for food-related anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction) has risen seven-fold since 1990 – but no one quite knows why.

The latest theory Food Allergies? Pesticides in Tap Water Might be to Blame, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, suggests that chemicals called dichlorophenols could be to blame.

US researchers who looked at food allergies in more than 2,000 people found that those with the highest levels of dichlorophenols in their urine had an 80 per cent higher risk of having a food allergy.

Their theory is that dichlorophenols, which they say are found in purified tap water and in pesticides and disinfectants, have anti-bacterial properties that could affect the microflora in the gut that are thought to protect against food allergies.

Dichlorophenols are also by-products of a common antibacterial and antifungal agent called triclosan (used in many consumer products, including toothpaste) and in the UK are more likely to be found in household cleaning products, kitchen utensils and containers and pesticide residues than in water.

Although little research has been done on UK exposure levels, the Chemicals Regulation Directorate says dichlorophenols “have not been identified as a cause of concern”.

The reason behind the rise in food and other allergies remains a mystery.

One well-known theory is the hygiene hypothesis – that as we become increasingly obsessed with cleanliness, our children are not exposed to the bugs that help the immune system develop properly. Another unproven theory is that the rise in allergies may be due to basic changes in Western diets, with processed foods becoming more common and fresh fruit and veg less so.

Some experts now think that government guidelines introduced in the Nineties may have contributed to the explosion in food allergies. “Parents were advised to avoid giving peanuts to young infants on the grounds that early consumption of potential allergens could affect underdeveloped immune systems, resulting in allergy – when the opposite seems to be the case,” says Prof Brostoff.

The guidelines were quietly withdrawn in 2009 after a large study the previous year showed that Jewish children living in the UK were almost 10 times more likely to develop a peanut allergy than those living in Israel, where peanut protein – often in the form of Bamba, a popular snack – is commonly given to infants in the first year of life.

Prof Brostoff says the best thing parents can do to reduce the risk of food allergy in their children is to gradually introduce potential allergens – not just peanuts, but cow’s milk, eggs and fish – at an early age.

“The lining of the gut membrane is the most powerful immune organ in the body,” he says. “The advice I always give is that it is better to introduce foods when the gut is more plastic and able to adapt. Giving a food early in a baby’s life can help make the gut more tolerant, and numerically this effect is more important than the presence in the environment of any chemicals.”

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Britain’s bad summer will see epidemic of vitamin D deficiency

Britain faces an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency which can cause rickets and is linked to cancer and other diseases because of the poor summer, a leading expert has warned.Britain's bad summer will see epidemic of vitamin D deficiencyProf Norman Ratcliffe, from Swansea University, said the dull summer will lead to high levels of deficiency in the sunshine vitamin.

Other experts said vitamin D deficiency was a ‘major public health concern’ and Britain was heading back to the 1920s when large numbers of children suffered bone pain and bowed legs from the effects of rickets.

The combination of a 21st Century childhood of not playing outside, being driven to school and constantly wearing high factor sunscreen will be compounded by the poor weather this summer, they said.

Most doctors have yet to ‘wake-up’ to the problem, it was argued.

Prof Ratcliffe said that because 2012 was one of the dullest summers on record, vitamin D stores have not been replenished in time for winter, when light levels in most of the UK are insufficient to make vitamin D.

Figures from the Met Office show that hours of sunshine in the summer of 2012 were 18 per cent lower than the average over the last 30 years and lower than at least any of the last ten summers.

Prof Ratcliffe said parts of northern England recorded sunshine hours in summer similar to late winter.

He said: “Unfortunately, the dull summer of 2012 will probably result in a record number of people with vitamin D deficiency.

“The situation in 2012 is probably much more serious than normal with the dull summer leading to even more people with vitamin D deficiency.

“This deficiency may be present almost continuously throughout 2012, commencing during the summer months rather than, as in previous years, in the winter and spring.

“Thus, vitamin D inadequacy may stretch over much of the period from June 2012 until the spring/summer of 2013.

“The effects of low vitamin D levels in the body are very serious as adequate levels may be necessary to prevent common cancers, heart and autoimmune diseases, rickets, osteomalacia (bone pain and muscle weakness), diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and depression.”

He said widespread fortification of foods with vitamin D and use of supplements was the only way to combat the problem, however pregnant women are not routinely informed that they should be taking vitamin D and vitamins for children under the Healthy Start programme are not promoted, Prof Clarke said.

Pregnant women, children under five, over 65s and people with dark skin are particularly vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency.

The vitamin is present in some foods but most is made by the body when exposed to sunlight and stored.

Prof Clarke said Kellogg’s have now added vitamin D to cornflakes and some other food manufacturers are beginning to talk about it.

Earlier this year Prof Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, highlighted the problem and said up to one in four people have low levels of vitamin D.

She said: “A significant proportion of people in the UK probably have inadequate levels of vitamin D in their blood.

“People at risk of vitamin D deficiency, including pregnant women and children under five, are already advised to take daily supplements.

“Our experts are clear – low levels of vitamin D can increase the risk of poor bone health, including rickets in young children.”

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Low vitamin D levels need preventative action

There is growing awareness about the importance of the “sunshine vitamin” – vitamin D – for you health.Low vitamin D levels need preventative actionBut Professor Mitch Blair, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, says more action is needed – potentially including fortifying more foods and even cutting the cost of the vitamin to make it more easily available,

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that contributes to healthy, strong bones and helps to control the amount of calcium in the blood.

Unlike many other vitamins, getting your recommended daily amount of vitamin D is not that easy.

The main source is sunlight; but with short days, long nights and limited sunlight even during the summer, it’s not easy to get your fix that way.

Vitamin D can be found in some foods such as oily fish, eggs and mushrooms – but only 10% of a person’s recommended daily amount is found naturally in food.

Put bluntly, eating more fish and getting out in the sun a bit more won’t make much of a difference to your vitamin D levels.

Unfortunately, there is limited national research on the true extent of vitamin D deficiency in the UK population.

But we do know that there has been a four-fold increase in admissions to hospital with rickets in the last 15 years and that some groups are more ‘at risk’ than others – namely children, pregnant women and certain ethnic minority groups.

Pilot studies and regional monitoring suggests that vitamin D deficiency is likely to affect at least half the UK’s white population, up to 90% of the multi-ethnic population and a quarter of all children living in Britain.

A recent study in Australia revealed that a third of under-25% are vitamin D deficient – perhaps surprising in a country blessed with plenty of sunshine.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a range of debilitating diseases in children and adults – including diabetes, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis and rickets, a bone disease associated with poor children in Victorian England.

Lack of vitamin D is often cited as a contributory factor in broken bones and fractures, with obvious implications for some child protection cases.

Even the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends supplements for pregnant or breastfeeding women and their children from six months to four years.

The Chief Medical Officer recommends supplements for children up to the age of five and the government’s Healthy Start programme provides vitamins free for people on income support.

Currently, many brands of cereal and orange juice contain added vitamin D which helps boost daily intake.

In the USA most milk is supplemented with vitamin D, which has helped reduce deficiency, particularly in children. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition is currently looking into this.

We also need to make sure healthcare professionals – including GPs, paediatricians, doctors and nurses – know the signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, but more importantly give appropriate advice to patients who are ‘at risk’ to prevent problems developing.

And it’s important that the public are aware of the implications of vitamin D deficiency, where they can get supplements and how they can boost their intake.

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Green tea extract eradicates cancer tumours

New anti cancer drugs based on green tea could soon be developed after scientists found an extract could make almost half of tumours vanish.Green tea extract eradicates cancer tumoursThe University of Strathclyde team made 40 per cent of human skin cancer tumours disappear using the compound, in a laboratory study.

Green tea has long been suspected of having anti-cancer properties and the extract, called epigallocatechin gallate, has been investigated before. However, this is the first time researchers have managed to make it effective at shrinking tumours.

Previous attempts to capitalise on its cancer fighting properties have failed because scientists used intravenous drips, which failed to deliver enough of the extract to the tumours themselves.

So, the Strathclyde team devised a “targeted delivery system”, piggy-backing the extract on proteins that carry iron molecules, which cancer tumours vacuum up.

The lab test on one type of human skin cancer showed 40 per cent of tumours disappeared after a month of treatment, while an additional 30 per cent shrank.

Dr Christine Dufès, a senior lecturer at the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, who led the research, said: “These are very encouraging results which we hope could pave the way for new and effective cancer treatments.

“When we used our method, the green tea extract reduced the size of many of the tumours every day, in some cases removing them altogether.

“By contrast, the extract had no effect at all when it was delivered by other means, as every one of these tumours continued to grow.  This research could open doors to new treatments for what is still one of the biggest killer diseases in many countries.”

She added: “I was expecting good results, but not as strong as these.”

Dr Dufès said population studies had previously indicated that green tea had anti cancer properties, and scientists had since identified the active compound as epigallocatechin gallate.

But the Strathclyde researchers were the first to delivery it in high enough doses to tumours to have an effect.

She explained: “The problems with this extract is that when it’s administered intravenously, it goes everywhere in the body, so when it gets to the tumours it’s too diluted.

“With the targeted delivery system, it’s taken straight to the tumours without any effect on normal tissue.”

Cancer scientists are increasingly using targeted delivery to improve results, relying on the many different ‘receptors’ that tumours have for different biological substances.

In this instance, the scientists used the fact that tumours have receptors for transferrin, a plasma protein which transports iron through the blood.

The results have been published in the journal Nanomedicine.

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Diet high in fish and nuts could cut pancreatic cancer risk

Eating a diet rich in fish, nuts and vegetables could reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by up to two thirds new research finds.Diet high in fish and nuts could cut pancreatic cancer riskResearchers from the University of East Anglia found that people who ate large amounts of vitamins C and E and the mineral Selenium were 67 per cent less likely to develop the condition than people who consumed lower quantities.

If further studies prove that the antioxidants were causing the added protection, the finding could prevent one in 12 cases of pancreatic cancer, the researchers suggested.

The disease is diagnosed in 7,500 people each year and has the worst prognosis of any cancer, with only three per cent of patients surviving for more than five years after diagnosis.

The study, published in the Gut journal- the International Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, used data on almost 24,000 men and women aged 40 to 74, taking into account all the food they ate during a week and how it was prepared.

Results showed that the 25 per cent of people who took in the most selenium – a mineral found in nuts, fish and cereals, had half the risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared with those whose intake was in the bottom 25 per cent.

Those who were in the top quartile for consumption of vitamins C, E and selenium together were at 67 per cent lower risk of the disease compared to the bottom quartile.

However, in the cases of vitamins C and E, the people consuming the highest amounts were taking in as much as 16 times the recommended daily allowance stipulated by the NHS.

Vitamin C is found in fruit and vegetables, while vitamin E is in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, margarines and egg yolk.

The authors wrote: “If a causal association is confirmed by reporting consistent findings from other epidemiological studies, then population based dietary recommendations may help to prevent pancreatic cancer.”

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Alzheimer’s- diet can stop brain shrinking

A diet rich in vitamins and fish may protect the brain from Alzheimers and ageing while junk food has the opposite effect new research suggests.Alzheimer's- diet can stop brain shrinkingElderly people with high blood levels of vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids had less brain shrinkage and better mental performance, a Neurology study found.

Trans fats found in fast foods were linked to lower scores in tests and more shrinkage typical of Alzheimer’s. They are common in processed foods, including cakes, biscuits and fried foods.

The best current advice is to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, not smoke, take regular exercise and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check, said Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The research looked at nutrients in blood, rather than relying on questionnaires to assess a person’s diet.  US experts analysed blood samples from 104 healthy people with an average age of 87 who had few known risk factors for Alzheimer’s.

They found those who had more vitamin B, C, D and E in their blood performed better in tests of memory and thinking skills. People with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids – found mainly in fish – also had high scores. The poorest scores were found in people who had more trans fats in their blood.

The researchers, from Oregon Health and Science University, Portland; Portland VA Medical Center; and Oregon State University, Corvallis, then carried out brain scans on 42 of the participants.

They found individuals with high levels of vitamins and omega 3 in their blood were more likely to have a large brain volume; while those with high levels of trans fat had a smaller total brain volume.

Study author Gene Bowman of Oregon Health and Science University said: “These results need to be confirmed, but obviously it is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet.”

Co-author Maret Traber of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University said: “The vitamins and nutrients you get from eating a wide range of fruits, vegetables and fish can be measured in blood biomarkers.

Commenting on the study, Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:  “One strength of this research is that it looked at nutrients in people’s blood, rather than relying on answers to a questionnaire.”

“It’s important to note that this study looked at a small group of people with few risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, and did not investigate whether they went on to develop Alzheimer’s at a later stage.”

“There is a clear need for conclusive evidence about the effect of diet on our risk of Alzheimer’s, which can only come from large-scale, long-term studies.”

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16344228

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