Posts Tagged ‘Natural Supplements’

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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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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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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Seven a day- new healthy eating guidelines

A recent study has suggested that we should significantly increase the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat from five a day to at least seven.

Seven a day- new healthy eating guidelinesWe have known for a long time that eating more fruit and vegetables is likely to be good for us, and the famous five a day campaign was always intended as a recommendation aimed at promoting the minimum we should eat, rather than a maximum.

What this study adds to things we had previously known is that eating vegetables is better for us than eating fruit (probably because fruit has far more sugar in it) and that eating tinned fruit seems to be positively bad for us (again, probably because it is often in a syrup).

On the basis of this study, you should aim to eat at least four portions of vegetables a day and around three portions of fruit. Importantly, you should eat them, not drink them. The study found no real benefit from drinking fruit juice.

So how do you reach your seven-a-day? If you’re feeling continental, you might start the day with an omelette containing a decent handful of spinach. The protein in the eggs will keep you full for longer and spinach is rich in folate and betaine – vitamins that help regulate homocysteine (high levels of which are associated with heart disease).

Alternatively you could add a handful of strawberries or blueberries to your cereal, or wolf down an orange

For lunch and your evening meal you are going to be eating vegetables, with fruit as a dessert. But which vegetables? Again, the recommendations are that you add as much colour as possible to your diet. The different colours of different plants represent some of the thousands of different bioactive compounds, known as phytochemicals, which keep plants alive and healthy.

Eat them raw or lightly steamed rather than boiled to death.

So-called “leafy greens”, which include spinach, chard, lettuce and kale, are a good source of minerals like magnesium, manganese and potassium.

Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and other members of the brassicas family contain sulphur and organosulphur compounds. Sulphur is essential for the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant, as well as amino acids like methionine and taurine.

Fruit and vegetables with yellow or orange in them are rich in carotenoids. Foods rich in carotenoids include, not surprisingly, carrots. The type of carotenoid you find in carrots can be converted to retinol, an active form of vitamin A. As vitamin A is important for healthy eyesight, this may explain why carrots are supposed to help you see in the dark. Vitamin A also plays an important role in bone growth and regulating our immune system. As well as carrots you will also find carotenoids in melons, tomatoes, peppers and squash.

Another class of carotenoids that produces the colour red are called the lycopenes. You’ll find lots of lycopene in rich, red tomatoes. Oddly enough cooking tomatoes actually boosts the levels of lycopene. The reason is that heat helps break down the plant’s thick cell walls, making the nutrient more available.

Blue and purple foods get their colouring from a group of flavonoids called anthocyanins. You’ll find decent levels of these particular flavonoids in blackberries, blueberries, purple carrots and red cabbage. There is some evidence that anthocyanin – rich blueberries may improve memory and cognitive function in people as they get older. White

Examples include garlic, white onions, shallots and leeks. These are rich in alliums and allyl sulphur compounds. Although there is no compelling proof that garlic will ward off vampires, it does appear to be quite good at killing microorganisms.

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Body clocks- peak “rush hours” discovered

A pair of “rush hours” every day rapidly change the way tissues throughout the body work, scientists have discovered.

Body clocks- peak rush hours discoveredThe animal study, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, monitored the function of cells, in 12 tissues, through the day.

It found large shifts in activity just before dawn and dusk.

Experts said the findings could help time medication to hit sweet-spots in the body clock.

The body’s internal clock is known to drive huge changes – it alters alertness, mood, physical strength and even the risk of a heart attack in a daily rhythm.

A team at the University of Pennsylvania investigated the impact of the time of day on the way DNA functions in experiments on mice.

Every two hours they looked at samples from the kidney, liver, lung, adrenal gland, aorta, brainstem, cerebellum, brown fat, white fat, heart, hypothalamus, lung and skeletal muscle.

They showed that 43% of genes, sections of DNA, involved in protein manufacture altered their activity throughout the day.

Different genes had different activity patterns in different tissues so the research team conservatively estimate that more than half of genes would show daily fluctuations if every tissues type was sampled.

The liver was the most dynamic with 3,186 genes showing a daily pattern compared with just 642 in the hypothalamus.

It is already known that some drugs work better at certain times of the day.

Heart disease is driven by artery-clogging cholesterol, which is mostly made in the liver at night. Taking statins in the evening makes them more effective.

The researchers said 56 of the top 100 selling drugs and nearly half of the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines acted on genes which were now known to have this daily oscillations.

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Spices- are they good for your health?

Spices have been revered for their health benefits throughout history- but are they really good for your health?Spices- are they good for your health?According to Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient belief system in Hinduism, spices can be warming or cooling and are used to affect the balance of the digestive system.

“They act as a stimulus to the digestive system, relieve digestive disorders and some spices are of antiseptic value,” explains Dr Krishnapura Srinivasan, a scientist at the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore, India.

It is not surprising that spices have become associated with dieting. As far back as 2500 years ago, the Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius recommended eating ginger at every meal to improve digestion. But there is still no scientific consensus on how spices affect our health.

“There’s a perception that spices are good for dieting as this is often covered in the media; women will often latch on to anything that sounds as though it’s an easy way to lose weight,” explains Azmina Govindji, an award-winning dietician from the British Dietetic Association.

Scientists at the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University, North Carolina, US, recently studied whether culinary doses of red pepper and turmeric would reduce chronic inflammation in overweight females aged 40-72.

They hypothesised that inflammation in overweight people could be caused by oxidative stress. This is a process when chemically reactive molecules known as free radicals trigger physiological events or damage tissues.

But the results of the month-long clinical trial were negative. No evidence was found to suggest that red pepper or turmeric alters inflammation by influencing oxidative stress.

This could point to the need for higher doses and longer testing periods, scientists say. Or that the spices simply have no effect.

Cayenne pepper is another spice touted as a weight loss solution. You might have added it to poached eggs or corn on the cob, but how about eating it with maple syrup? Deep fried calamari with garlic and lemon mayonnaise Crispy calamari deep fried with cayenne pepper, salt and paprika

The cayenne pepper and maple syrup diet made headlines in 2007, when US singer Beyonce Knowles reported losing 20lb (9kg) after following it for two weeks.

So why is the spice hotly tipped as a solution to weight loss?

“There have been suggestions that red cayenne pepper may be a useful aid to weight management, especially in people who don’t normally eat chilli peppers,” says Ms Govindji.  “But this remains to be confirmed.”

The effect of red pepper on thermogenesis, a process which affects metabolism and appetite, was studied by scientists at Purdue University, Indiana in the US.

The study found that as body temperature increased, metabolic rate increased, and the desire to eat fatty foods was decreased in participants who ate red pepper as part of a meal compared to those who didn’t.

Another study by researchers at Kyoto University, Japan found that males in the country who consumed a normal diet along with a red pepper extract known as “CH19-Sweet” experienced slightly decreased body fat and weight loss after two weeks.

But can we draw any real conclusions from studies such as these?  Whether you’re taking a leaf out of the Hairy Dieters book and roasting some cumin-crusted vegetables, or cooking up a spiced apple and raisin crumble, ultimately it is not the spices alone that help you lose weight but how you cook with them.

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Cannabis can make patients less bothered by pain

Cannabis makes pain more bearable rather than actually reducing it, a study from the University of Oxford suggests.Cannabis can make patients less bothered by painUsing brain imaging, researchers found that the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis reduced activity in a part of the brain linked to emotional aspects of pain.

But the effect on the pain experienced varied greatly, they said.

The researchers’ findings Amygdala activity contributes to the dissociative effect of cannabis on pain perception are published in the journal Pain.

The Oxford researchers recruited 12 healthy men to take part in their small study.

Participants were given either a 15mg tablet of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) – the ingredient that is responsible for the high – or a placebo.

The volunteers then had a cream rubbed into the skin of one leg to induce pain, which was either a dummy cream or a cream that contained chilli – which caused a burning and painful sensation.

Each participant had four MRI scans which revealed how their brain activity changed when their perception of the pain reduced.

Dr Michael Lee, lead study author from Oxford University’s Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, said: “We found that with THC, on average people didn’t report any change in the burn, but the pain bothered them less.”

MRI brain imaging showed reduced activity in key areas of the brain that explained the pain relief which the study participants experienced.

Dr Lee suggested that the findings could help predict who would benefit from taking cannabis for pain relief – because not everyone does.

“We may in future be able to predict who will respond to cannabis, but we would need to do studies in patients with chronic pain over longer time periods.”

He added: “Cannabis does not seem to act like a conventional pain medicine. Some people respond really well, others not at all, or even poorly.

“Brain imaging shows little reduction in the brain regions that code for the sensation of pain, which is what we tend to see with drugs like opiates.

“Instead cannabis appears to mainly affect the emotional reaction to pain in a highly variable way.”

The study was funded by the UK Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.

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Eating grapefruits can trigger drug overdoses in dozens of medicines researchers warn

Millions of people taking medicines for high cholesterol, cancer and to prevent heart attacks are at risk of potentially life threatening side effects if they eat grapefruits, doctors have warned.Eating grapefruits can trigger drug overdoses in dozens of medicines researchers warnA study has listed 43 major drugs which are affected by eating grapefruits or drinking the juice and experts have warned there needs to be more awareness of the risks.

The number of drugs that interact with grapefruit increased from 17 in 2000 to 43 in 2008, researchers in Canada found.

Eating one grapefruit a day or drinking 200ml of juice was enough to trigger significant side effects in some of the patients.

Elderly patients were at particular risk because they are more likely to eat grapefruit and be on the medicines that interact with it, while their bodies are less able to cope with the effects of an overdose, the researchers said.

Grapefruits and some other citrus fruits, contain specific chemicals that affects an enzyme in the gut which can lead to a greater proportion of the drug being absorbed into the body.

This can result in massive overdoses causing serious side effects ranging from hallucinations, low blood pressure, to kidney poisoning, muscle damage, high heart rate and breathing problems.

The findings were published Grapefruit-medication interactions: Forbidden fruit or avoidable consequences? in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Some people have died following the interaction and experts said doctors and pharmacists needed to be more aware of the problem.

The study, conducted by Dr David Bailey, of the Lawson Health Research Institute, in London, Ontario, listed several examples of interactions including one patient who suffered a potentially life threatening increase in heart rate while on the heart disease drug aimodarone and drinking between one and 1.5 litres of grapefruit juice a day.

Another one atorvastatin for high cholesterol suffered serious muscle damage after drinking freshly squeezed grapefruit juice daily for five days and one who developed a blood clot while on Ethinylestradiol, a form of hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms who had eaten a whole grapefruit at breakfast for three days.

Popular drugs affected in this way include simvastatin, taken for high cholesterol, clopidogrel to thin the blood, Tyverb for breast cancer, domperidone for sickness and powerful painkillers Fentanyl, Oxycodone and Ketamine.

One drug, dextromethorphan, is an anti-cough preparation used in over-the-counter products and other drugs that interact with grapefruit are some antibiotics, some anti-HIV drugs, quinine that is in tonic water and has been used against malaria, heart rhythm medicines, and anti-rejection drugs used following organ transplants.

For some drugs drinking 200ml of juice daily was enough to deliver three to six times the normal dose.

Dr Bailey said: “Many of the drugs that interact with grapefruit are highly prescribed and are essential for the treatment of important or common medical conditions.

“Unless health care professionals are aware of the possibility that the adverse event they are seeing might have an origin in the recent addition of grapefruit to the patient’s diet, it is very unlikely that they will investigate it.

“In addition, the patient may not volunteer this information. Thus, we contend that there remains a lack of knowledge about this interaction in the general healthcare community.”

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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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