Posts Tagged ‘Calcium Supplements’

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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Eating yoghurt cuts risk of high blood pressure

Eating a small pot of yoghurt a day can cut the chance of having high blood pressure by a third.Eating yoghurt cuts risk of high blood pressureNaturally occurring calcium can make blood vessels more supple, enabling them to expand slightly and keep pressure low say dietitians.

American researchers who looked at the diets of some 2,000 volunteers, found those who regularly ate a little yoghurt were less likely to develop high blood pressure.

Specifically, those who took two per cent of their calories from yoghurt were 31 per cent less likely to develop high blood pressure over a 15 year period, than those who did not.

That equates to about 40 or 50 calories from yoghurt daily, or about half a typical 4.3oz (120g) individual pot.

Huifen Wang, a public health specialist at Minnesota University, presented the research Yogurt consumption, blood pressure, and incident hypertension: A longitudinal study in the Framingham Heart Study at an American Heart Association meeting about high blood pressure.

Calcium from dairy products like yoghurt and milk was particularly good for this, he said.

But taking too much calcium in pill form could have the opposite effect, he cautioned.

Studies indicate it can then be deposited on artery walls, leading to hardening of the arteries.

More than 8.5 million people are registered as having high blood pressure.

People with the condition are three times more likely to develop heart disease and suffer strokes as people with normal blood pressure and twice as likely to die from these.

Patients are often put on drugs to lower their blood pressure, such as beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.

In 2008, the NHS in England spent £83 million on beta-blockers alone.

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Dentists’ warning on smoothies and juices- popular drinks are more acidic than vinegar

Health conscious parents are “misguidedly” letting their children’s teeth rot by giving them too many fruit smoothies and juice drinks, senior dentists have warned.Dentists' warning on smoothies and juices- popular drinks are more acidic than vinegarThe concerns were raised as official figures disclosed that dental problems have become the third most common reason for children to be admitted to hospital.

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph reveals the acid levels of popular juice drinks consumed by millions of households – including one found to be more acidic than vinegar.

Dr Kathy Harley, dean of the dental faculty at the Royal College of Surgeons, said many parents encouraged their children to drink smoothies and juices every day, unaware that the combination of high acid levels and sugar content can destroy young teeth.

Instead of giving children the apparently healthy snack of fruit juice and a box of raisins, it would be better for their teeth if they were given a glass of water and a handful of chocolate buttons, she said.

Manufacturers are required to publish information about the nutritional content of drinks on the label – but not their levels of acid, which can erode the surface of teeth, making decay more likely.

Dr Harley said 50 per cent of five year olds now have signs of damage to their tooth enamel caused by excess acid in their diet.

She said that while health conscious parents had the best of intentions in trying to follow the Government’s “five a day” advice for feeding their children fruit and vegetables, in fact the combination of acid and sugar in juice drinks meant they should be restricted to a “once a week treat”.

Tooth enamel begins to be destroyed when acid levels in the mouth drop below 5.5 on the pH scale, which has 7 as neutral and 1 as strong acid.

While water has a pH of 7, and milk is just below at 6.8, our investigation found that a soft drink called This Water with lemons and limes, which describes itself as a “juice drink blended with pure squeezed juices and pure spring water”, had a level of 2.7 – making it more acidic than cider vinegar, which had a level of 2.9.

This Water also contains 9.5 teaspoons of sugar in a 420ml (14.7 fl oz) bottle. In 2008, the company, which is part of Innocent Drinks founder Richard Reed’s empire, had an advertisement campaign banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for failing to inform consumers about the sugar content of its juice drinks.

The products were advertised with the strapline: “Simple, natural, refreshment” in posters which stated that the drink was made from water and fruit but made no mention of added sugar.

The other fruit drinks tested, including Tropicana orange juice, Copella apple juice, Innocent smoothies, Capri Sun orange drink and Robinsons Fruit Shoot apple and blackcurrant low sugar drink all had acid levels ranging between 3.3 and 3.8.

The most acidic beverage tested was Coca Cola, with a pH level of 2.5 and 12.5 teaspoons of sugar in a 500ml (17.5 fluid ounces) bottle.

Dentists said that rather than consuming fruit or fruit juices as a snack, they were better consumed at meal times or accompanied with something containing calcium, such as cheese, which neutralises acid.

Children should be encouraged to drink water afterwards to wash away some of the acid, but not to brush their teeth until at least an hour afterwards, as teeth are weakened by exposure to acid, they said. Saliva also helps to restore the balance.

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Dentists-warning-on-smoothies-and-juices-popular-drinks-more-acidic-than-vinegar

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Calcium supplements- the benefits and the risks

What are the benefits of taking calcium supplements?Calcium supplements- the benefits and the risksNew research recently published by the British Medical Journal of the study of more than 40,000 older women found calcium was the only supplement to reduce the risk of dying early.

However also taking multivitamins, iron, vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, copper and zinc all increased the risk.

The study has its weaknesses – it’s possible that women were taking supplements because they had illnesses that caused them to die early – but it does highlight the scarcity of research into dietary supplements.

Supplements that are now taken daily by about one third of the UK population.

Calcium supplements seem especially popular, often being prescribed (along with vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium) for the estimated 3 million people with osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) as well as being taken by healthy women who wish to keep their bones strong.

Yet research published in the BMJ this year came up with rather different results from last week’s study.

The BMJ analysis, which involved nearly 17,000 women, found that taking daily calcium supplements of 1g (plus vitamin D) increases the risk of heart attacks by 20 per cent.

Whilst that may sound dramatic- when looked at another way, the supplements would cause an extra six heart attacks or strokes for every 1,000 women taking them for five years.

Researchers aren’t sure why calcium supplements might increase the risk of a heart attack, but it’s possible that they contribute to hardening of the arteries, or encourage blood clots.

According to Dr Claire Bowring, of the National Osteoporosis Society, the jury is still out on the safety of calcium supplements, with studies giving different results. She questions whether most women need calcium supplements, arguing that diet is usually adequate.

“Supplementation may be warranted for people who can’t get enough calcium from the diet,” she said. “And people with osteoporosis are at increased risk of painful and debilitating fractures, so this needs to be considered alongside any risks.”

But more calcium is not necessarily the answer. Another BMJ study of 60,000 women found that just 700mg of calcium a day – the level recommended for adults and slightly over the amount in a pint of milk – was enough to protect them from bone loss. Boosting calcium beyond this level had no extra benefit.

Ursula Arens, from the British Dietetic Association, argues that calcium supplements taken in later years may not have much effect.

“Most of the deposition of calcium in the bones happens during the teenage years so it’s important to get enough calcium when you’re young. For women, whose bones weaken after the menopause, increasing your consumption of calcium after this point is pretty much leaving it too late.”

While 700mg of calcium is enough for adults, this rises to 800 milligrams per day for teenage boys, and 1,000 for teenage girls.

Low fat milk and cheese are good sources, as are leafy green vegetables, nuts, sardines and pilchards. Adequate vitamin D intake – mainly triggered by sunlight on the skin but also found in oily fish – is also crucial for healthy bones, as is physical activity.

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