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General Wellbeing

  • Heart Health

    Your heart is arguably the most important and busiest muscle in your body, pumping blood and oxygen to all your other organs none stop, 24-hours a day! With that in mind, it is extremely important to give it the care and attention it needs as when your heart gets out of shape, serious problems can develop.

    In July 2021, the British Heart Foundations statistics showed that there are 7.6 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK and that people with these diseases account for a quarter of all deaths annually. Additionally, the total cost of healthcare treating these diseases is £9 billion.

    The good news is that there are various ways in which we can help look after our hearts ourselves! Here are our top 5 tips to help in keeping your heart healthy…

    1. Smoking!  Try to avoid smoking or give up if you are a smoker. Smoke not only reduces the amount of oxygen your blood can carry around the body, but also oxidizes blood cholesterol which allows it to stick to the artery walls.  This can increase blood pressure and susceptibility to clotting.
    2. Lifestyle - stress can thicken the blood and increase blood pressure.  This means heart attacks and strokes are far more likely so learn to relax through anyway you can. Gentle exercise is great for reducing stress and being active can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Try and do 30 minutes of activity 5 times a week.
    3. Weight management is also key as it goes without saying that the larger you are, the harder the heart must work to pump more blood around the body. This in turn can cause an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure is also a common cause of heart attack.
    4. Maintain a healthy diet. Not only will this help you keep your weight under control, but it will also help your heart health. A heart friendly diet requires-
      • High fibre (at least 30g a day) It’s good to get your fibre from a variety of sources such as wholemeal bread, bran, oats, nuts & seeds, wholegrain cereals, potatoes with their skins on, and plenty of fruit and veg (see below).
      • Your 5 a day Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg each day. Approximately 80g of fresh, canned, or frozen fruit or vegetables, 30g of dried fruits or 150 ml of fresh fruit or vegetable juice (limit to 1 of these per day) count as a ‘portion’.
      • Low saturated fats Eating too many foods that are high in saturated fats can increase the level of cholesterol in your blood, which in turn, can increase your risk of heart disease.
      • Manage salt intake To help maintain healthy blood pressure be aware of the amount of salt you are having in your diet.  The NHS recommend that Adults should eat less than 6g of salt a day in total – that's about 1 teaspoon so be careful of the amount you are adding to your food and check food labels.
      • Eat fish Incorporate fish into your diet at least twice a week, including a portion of oily fish. Fish such as pilchards, sardines and salmon are a good source of omega-3 fats, which may help protect against heart disease.

    5. Supplementation is always an option for those that struggle to get the right nutrients through their diet alone and may need some extra help. Supplements can also be used to help manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Speak with your doctor to assess your health and lifestyle to see which supplements may be of benefit to you.

  • Case Study: Active at any Age!

    As we get older, we tend to stop being as active. This may be for a number of reasons but the most popular one is likely to be that our joints become ‘creaky’ and being active just isn’t fun anymore. It becomes an effort, and in some cases, a very painful effort.

    However, this doesn’t have to be the case as our 70-year-old surfer can prove! Eric is a true pioneer of living and maintaining an active lifestyle no matter how old you are and having been surfing for well over 50 years he only retired from competing in recent years. As well as his love of surfing he can also be found skiing, snowboarding, and climbing the odd mountain or two.

    So, what keeps Eric riding the waves? This constant crusade for such an active lifestyle will put a strain on your joints and bones and Eric is the first to admit that he has become “creaky” over the last 10 years. However, stopping is not an option for a chap such as Eric and he is determined to carry on with the active lifestyle he so enjoys. One of the key factors for Eric was his discovery of Glucosamine and other supplements, such as turmeric to keep him active and able to continue all the sports he loves.  He now refers to Glucosamine as his WD-40 for joints, he acknowledges that without it, he would have had to retire from the sports he loves so much.

    Glucosamine is probably one of the most widely taken supplements in the UK and is very common with folks who enjoy an active lifestyle. Glucosamine naturally occurs in the body where it is found in particularly high amounts in joint tissue. However, most foods contain very little Glucosamine so it's vital to top up your levels in your body by other methods, especially if you want to keep active.

    In addition to glucosamine, Turmeric is also a great supplement to keep your joints as healthy as possible and to help reduce any aches and pains that may come with aging. With its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, turmeric has proven to be a great ally in the fight against creaky and painful joints.

  • Natural Ways to Reduce Cholesterol

    Cholesterol definitely has a bad reputation, and most would think that it was the body’s most dangerous substance and that it should be lowered at all costs. However, the reality is not that straight forward.

    Cholesterol is a fatty acid that is essential to the functioning and the health of the body. It is needed to build and keep fluid in cellular membranes (this is important for communication), it also insulates nerves, produces vitamin D, hormones, and bile acid for digestion. So, if the body needs it why are approximately 12% of UK adults on medication to reduce their cholesterol?

    The reason is too much ‘bad’ cholesterol can lead to a number of health-related problems, including heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. What does that mean to the average person? Well, Cholesterol is carried around the bloodstream by fat/protein complexes called lipoproteins, which are divided into two types, LDL (short for low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (short for high-density lipoprotein). Because LDL carries cholesterol to the arteries and increases the risk of fatty deposits in the artery walls – LDL is called the ‘bad’ cholesterol, and because HDL carries cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver, HDL is called the ‘good’ cholesterol. Therefore, the higher a person’s HDL cholesterol compared with their LDL cholesterol, will determine if they need to control their cholesterol levels and bring it in line with the recommended healthy range of 4.9 to 5.4 mmol/l.

    If your GP has advised you to lower your cholesterol, here is a brief look on how you can do that naturally through diet, exercise, lifestyle and supplements if needed.

    Diet

    A balanced diet is essential to maintain the amount of fats entering the body.  As well as a sustained supply of vitamins, minerals, Omega Oils and antioxidants it is important to ensure that the right amount (and the right type) of fat is absorbed. Monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocados and unsalted nuts, have recently been shown to reduce LDL whilst raising HDL.

    Exercise

    There are many health and wellbeing benefits to exercise but remember you don’t need expensive gym memberships or equipment!  Walking briskly for 30 minutes 3-5 times a week can help to get the body active and burn a few calories and running, swimming and cycling are all great for the heart too. However, any increase in activity is great so don’t fret if you can’t do 30-mins, just be as active as you can.

    Managing Stress

    Tension, anxiety, anger and depression are all aspects of stress and trigger the release of chemicals within the body that constrict arteries, reduce blood flow and raise blood pressure. In times of stress, you are also less likely to want to exercise as the desire to ‘wind down’ with a brisk walk is replaced by the want to sit down and do nothing! Managing stress is essential and by maintaining a balanced diet as well as a regular exercise regime is not only effective for beating stress but also for a better peace of mind.

    Omega-3

    Found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, Omega 3 fatty acids may lower cholesterol by supporting your body with the ‘good’ fats needed for essential body maintenance.

    Vitamin E

    Studies show that Vitamin E may help to prevent the deposits of LDL building up inside the arteries. It is also a natural antioxidant which can help to remove free radicals from the blood.

    Garlic

    Allicin, found in garlic cloves, has been shown to help reduce LDL ‘bad’ levels and raise HDL ‘good’ levels.

    Red Rice Yeast

    Red rice extract (RYRE) is a traditional Chinese medicine that naturally contains several ingredients that may help control cholesterol levels.  These include a number of monacolins, most importantly monacolin K. It also contains sterols, isoflavones, and monounsaturated fatty acids, good fats.

    Fibre

    Vegetarians averagely have lower cholesterol than meat eaters, due to the fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans they consume. All of these contain a particular soluble fibre, pectin, which packs quite a cholesterol lowering punch! Not only this but it also helps to curb overeating by slowing the digestive process. High fibre foods include, wholegrain bread, bananas, raspberries, broccoli, chia seeds, lentils and parsnips.

  • Sleep: Why You Need It and What to Do if You Can't Get It

    During sleep our body goes through a sophisticated and organised programme necessary to undertake some major restoration and recuperation activity from the days ‘going-on’s’.

    Your brain cycles through two different stages, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. REM sleep happens intermittently throughout the night and is associated with dreaming where as non-REM sleep has more levels including deep sleep. During the REM stage the brain is thought to ‘back up’ all its information on to a hard drive, getting rid of information it doesn’t need and restoring what it does. Links are built across the brain to do so. It is thought that during this deep sleep or non-REM sleep that most of the restorative work around the rest of the body happens.

    So what happens when you don’t get the quality of sleep needed to complete these stages?
    Insomnia is a disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep or both. It can leave you drained the following day. Insomnia can deplete not only your energy and mood but also affect your health, work performance and quality of life.

    The amount of sleep you need is very individual and is often relative to age and activity. For example a teenager during the ‘growing years’ may need to sleep a lot where as someone in the latter part of their lifespan may need considerably less. Insomnia actually becomes more common with age. As you get older, changes to activity, medication, health problems become more pronounced and therefore make you more susceptible to poor quality sleep. Most adults need seven to eight hours but no matter how much sleep we get it is the quality of the sleep not the quantity. Anxiety, stress, and depression, eating late and fatty foods, drinking and sleeping environment can all disrupt the quality of your sleep.

    You can get away with the odd night of poor-quality sleep but after a while the accumulation can start to affect you physically and mentally. Your body quite simply isn’t getting the chance to rejuvenate and repair. Cognitive abilities like memory, mental performance, mood and coordination can become significantly compromised. It can increase the risk of getting drowsy during the day in high-risk situations such as driving or reduce your competence at work or school for example. You may feel anxious about this and the cycle of poor sleep may be perpetuated. Or you may rely too heavily on poor nutrient foods such as caffeine or sugary foods simply to ‘get you through the day’. On a physiological level the immune system is suppressed with a lack of quality sleep, and eating nutrient poor foods only increases your vulnerability to infections and slowing down recovery.

    What causes it?
    This is varied and individual but with most cases of sleep concerns, it is due to mental concerns such as worry or depression or a diet rich in fatty foods or stimulants and low foods that promote serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone produced in the body and is involved in inducing sleep by enhancing the production of melatonin. Melatonin is triggered through periods of darkness or reduced sunshine (hence feeling a little more sluggish in the winter). The balance of these two hormones is essential for anyone on shift work where their circadian rhythm can be disrupted making it harder to gain quality sleep.

    Snoring can the result of a diet high in fats, and affects nearly half of the adult population, where as alcohol intake in the evening may make you drowsy but it can prevent you from falling into a deep, quality sleep.

    Waking up early and not being able to get back to sleep can be sign of mental concern such as anxiety of depression. Chemical imbalances in the brain can make falling asleep or staying asleep much harder as well as finding it difficult to relax.

    What can you do about it?
    Eat a small snack a couple of hours before going to bed. A late evening snack of whole-grains, bananas or nuts and seeds may help to raise serotonin and melatonin levels. Ideally don’t eat a large meal or drink stimulants such as caffeine, sugary drinks or alcohol within 2 hours before going to bed.

    Don’t eat a big meal late at night. This can put extra strain on the digestive system and make you feel more physically uncomfortable or vulnerable to heart burn when lying down.

    Avoid spicy, rich, fatty foods. This too can make you feel uncomfortable if eaten late at night but fatty foods may also encourage the chances of snoring.

    Don’t drink too much liquid just before bed. This will get your bladder bursting to be emptied during the night. If this is a concern of yours, drink small amounts throughout the evening, stopping at least an hour before bed. Alcohol is a diuretic so avoid this too at least 2 hours prior to going to bed.

    Avoid caffeine or sugary foods. These are stimulants to the nervous system and can make it harder to relax. Alcohol is also high in sugar and can cause you to wake in the middle of the night.

    Certain herbal and nutrient supplements have also been shown to be especially effective. Valerian, hops and lemon balm have shown to relax the nervous system and induce sleep naturally, avoiding the drowsy feeling the next day associated with prescription sleeping pills. The minerals calcium and magnesium help the muscles to relax. Digestive enzymes can support the breakdown of rich and fatty foods thereby reducing the potential to snore. Rhodiola is a wonderful all round herb that is used for the relief of symptoms associated with stress such as anxiety, fatigue or exhaustion and is therefore a great choice if it is worry that is keeping you awake. 5 HTP is a natural amino acid that stimulates the production of melatonin.

    Remember too to make sure your bedroom is low in geopathic stress such as televisions, computers, digital clocks, mobile’s. Have these as far away from your bed as possible and keep a window open to let in some fresh air. And don’t forget the relaxing wonders of lavender, a hot bath and some relaxing music.

    Remember that even if you can only achieve 3 hours sleep at a time at the beginning it is indeed progress and you will get there with the right approach.

  • Should I take Acai?

    What is Acai?

    The acai berry is an inch-long reddish, purple fruit . It comes from the acai palm tree (Euterpe oleracea) native to tropical Central and South America and has been a traditional food of the native people of the Amazon for hundreds of years. Acai derives from a word of indigenous peoples of South America meaning "fruit that cries." The fruit is used as a natural ink or dye and the wood is used in house construction (palm thatched roofs). Ethnobotanists have recorded no less than 22 different uses for all parts of the Acai tree. Due to what is being called the 'acai craze' in the United States, one proposed project in Brazil has called for the planting of five billion acai trees in the next 10 years.

    How does it work?

    The acai berry has been shown to contain a number of antioxidants (3) , including anthocyanins (4) which may boost the skin's ability to prevent oxidants from harming connective tissues. It also contains phytosterols which may protect epidermal collagen, and flavonoids, which may exert anti-inflammatory properties.  omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, which are vital to proper cell contraction and regeneration; monounsaturated oleic acid, which may help the body to absorb omega-3 oil through the cell membrane more effectively; as well as phytonutrients and minerals such as potassium, iron, phosphorus and calcium. Acai berry purportedly posseses more proteins than an egg, and the vitamins B1, B2, B3, C and E. The oleic acid content of açaí has been reported to be the same as in olive oil.

    What do we use it for?

    In recent times, research on acai fruit has been centered on its potential antioxidant properties. Acai fruit has also shown anticancer (1) and anti-inflammatory activity (2)diseases casued by oxidative damage such as heart disease. It has also been used as immune stimulant, energy enhancer. Anthocyanins and flavonoids found in Acai fruit are powerful antioxidants that help defend the body against life's stressors. They also play a role in the body's cell protection system. Free radicals are harmful byproducts produced by the body. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants may interfere with aging and the disease process by neutralizing free radicals. By lessening the destructive power of free radicals, antioxidants may help reduce the risk of some diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Some studies state that the antioxidant capability of the acai fruit is even greater than that of cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or blueberry. It has been reported that the antioxidant properties of Acai berries may also be effective at promoting weight loss although further research is still needed to confirm this.

    How should we take it?

    No typical dose has been set for acai berry as yet but effective doses appear to be 2000mg of whole acai berry. No contraindications are known.

    Refs:

    1. Pozo-Insfran, D., Percival, S. S., and Talcott, S. T. Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) polyphenolics in their glycoside and aglycone forms induce apoptosis of HL-60 leukemia cells. J Agric.Food Chem 2-22-2006;54(4):1222-1229.
    2. Schauss, A. G., Wu, X., Prior, R. L., Ou, B., Huang, D., Owens, J., Agarwal, A., Jensen, G. S., Hart, A. N., and Shanbrom, E. Antioxidant capacity and other bioactivities of the freeze-dried Amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleraceae mart. (acai). J Agric.Food Chem 11-1-2006;54(22):8604-8610.
    3. Jensen, G. S., Wu, X., Patterson, K. M., Barnes, J., Carter, S. G., Scherwitz, L., Beaman, R., Endres, J. R., and Schauss, A. G. In vitro and in vivo antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities of an antioxidant-rich fruit and berry juice blend. Results of a pilot and randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover study. J.Agric.Food Chem. 9-24-2008;56(18):8326-8333.
    4. Rodrigues, R. B., Lichtenthaler, R., Zimmermann, B. F., Papagiannopoulos, M., Fabricius, H., Marx, F., Maia, J. G., and Almeida, O. Total oxidant scavenging capacity of Euterpe oleracea Mart. (acai) seeds and identification of their polyphenolic compounds. J.Agric.Food Chem. 6-14-2006;54(12):4162-4167.
  • The benefits of odourless Garlic capsules

    People taking garlic supplements acquire significantly fewer colds than people taking a placebo. Garlic has been used for millennia as both a food and medicine. Although most studies of garlic's benefits involve raw or powdered garlic, odourless garlic products now dominate the supplement industry as equally healthy alternatives to their pungent-smelling counterparts. If you are interested in using odourless garlic supplements for any purpose, consult your health care provider about the possible benefits and risks.

     Fewer Side Effects

    According to the National Institutes of Health, bad breath and body odour are the most common side effects associated with garlic supplements. Although odourless forms of garlic still contain trace amounts of malodorous sulfur compounds, these processed products generally cause fewer side effects than conventional forms of the supplement. Odourless garlic is less likely to cause halitosis, or bad breath. It is also less likely to cause the pungent, sulfurous body odour classically associated with garlic. However, there is no evidence to suggest that garlic's other side effects, such as headache and dizziness, can be prevented through the use of odourless supplements.

     Cardiovascular Health

    Garlic works in a variety of ways to promote overall heart health, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC. Compounds in garlic supplements help to prevent platelet aggregation, or the clumping of blood cells. They may also cause modest reductions in total and low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol levels. Additionally, the UMMC notes that garlic can help to reduce blood pressure. Although the American Heart Association acknowledges garlic's potential as a preventative in regard to cardiovascular disease, the association also notes a lack of consistent evidence regarding the relative efficacy of varying preparations. No well-designed studies have compared odourless garlic's benefits to those associated with other varieties.

    Common Cold

    Odourless garlic supplements may play a role in the prevention and treatment of the common cold, according to the UMMC. People taking garlic supplements acquire significantly fewer colds than people taking a placebo. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health report that garlic may help to reduce the severity of upper-respiratory infections, including coughs and colds. These findings are encouraging, but it is important to note that there is no cure for any viral infection. Unless otherwise directed by a qualified practitioner, do not rely upon garlic alone as a treatment for any disease or condition.

     Cancer Prevention

    Daily supplementation with odourless garlic may help to prevent several common forms of cancer. According to the UMMC, people who consume garlic regularly have lower rates of stomach and colorectal cancers. Limited evidence also suggests that garlic can help to prevent cancers of the breast, throat and prostate. The UMMC attributes these benefits to garlic's potent antioxidant activity and its ability to stimulate immune function. These findings are promising; however, it is important to note that most studies have involved raw or fresh garlic as part of a diet. No large-scale trials have investigated the use of aged, odourless garlic supplements for cancer prevention.

  • Could chocolate actually improve your health?

    Mounting research on the health benefits of cocoa suggests that this culinary luxury could become a dietary staple. Sadly the health properties of cocoa do not span across all its products, certainly not all chocolate products can be presumed to be healthy. Large amounts of sugar and saturated fat are used to make the chocolate that most are familiar with, heat and processing methods required to produce chocolate also destroy the antioxidant-like, health promoting compounds called flavanols (a member of the flavanoid family).

     

    So what are the effects?

    Flavanols are easily found in the western diet – wine, apples and grapes to name a few – the exact mixture of flavanols found in each food is unique and distinct to that food.

    Circulation:
    The flavanol rich cocoa bean has demonstrated an ability to improve endothelial dysfunction, a state in which blood vessels are not working as effectively as they should (a common sign of atherosclerosis). The flavanols have the ability to increase a compound called Nitric Oxide that is responsible for improving the widening of blood vessels and thereby improving blood flow and circulation .

     

    Blood Pressure
    This effect will also have a significant impact on blood pressure. Recent research has shown that cocoa reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure, while also increasing blood flow. Several other studies have shown that cocoa has a role in reducing the risk of stroke (by 20%), coronary heart disease (by 10%) and all-cause mortality (by 8%) .

     

    Cholesterol
    In 2011 a meta-analyses on cocoa concluded that dark chocolate and cocoa products significantly reduced low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and total cholesterol . Even more encouraging than that was the discovery that this effect seemed to be even greater in those participants who were at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. This effect however was seen in the dark chocolate rather than other cocoa products. This questions whether the health benefits of dark chocolate are simply down to its cocoa content and if, in fact, the stearic acid found in cocoa butter also plays a beneficial role as a “cholesterol-neutral fat”. Fibre and other minerals present may also play a part.

     

    Cognitive function and mood
    Theobromine, a methylxanthine and metabolite of caffeine, is found in higher amounts in chocolate than any other known food source. A study published in 2004 , assessed mood and cognitive performance in two study arms. In the first arm, participants were supplemented with placebo, cocoa powder, or a capsule containing caffeine and theobromine in amounts identical to the cocoa powder. In the second arm, participants supplemented with one or three chocolate chocolate bars representing white chocolate (no methylxanthines), milk chocolate (a small amount of methylxanthines), or dark chocolate (high level of methylxanthines). The chocolate with the methylxanthines brought about improvements in cognitive and mood scores. It was also noted that the higher the methylxanthine content (ie in dark chocolate), the greater the benefit.

     

    Exercise Performance
    Whilst caffeine is already a recognized thermogenic, theobromine is also receiving focus on its fat-burning capabilities. A further look at theobromine hints at its potential to support the vagus nerve, a brain nerve linked to gut health, heart rate and breathing control. Continuing research on the link between support of the vagus nerve and reduced inflammation and improved recovery, post exercise .

    So it seems that cocoa is one of the richest flavanoid containing foods available but it is also a good source of minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, and potassium as well as the vitamins A, B1,B2,B3,B5, C and E. Sadly however this is not the green light to dive into the nearest shop for chocolate. The evidence clearly demonstrates that the health promoting properties only relate to the high cocoa content chocolate, that is 70% and above. The darker the better.

    References

    H Schroeter et al. “(-)-Epicatechin mediates beneficial effects of flavanol ri8ch cocoa on vascular function in humans.” PNAS, vol 103, no.4 (Jan 24.2006):1024-1029

    [1] D Taubert et al. “Effect of cocoa and tea intake on blood pressure: a meta-analysis.” Archives of Internal Medicine, vol 167. No 7 (April 9, 20070: 626-634.

    [1] Jia L et al., “short-term effect of cocoa product consumption on lipid profile: a meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol.92 no.1 (July 2010); 218-225

    [1] HJ Smit et al. “Methylxanthines are the psycho-pharmacologically active constituents of chocolate.” Psychopharmacology, vol 176. No3-4 (November 2004): 412-419

    [1] P Terziotti et al. “Post-exercise recovery of autonomic cardiovascular control: A study by spectrum and cross-spectrum analysis in humans.” European Journal of Applied Physiology. Vol.84 no.3 (March 2001):187-194

  • The Lowdown on Collagen

    Your body needs collagen. It makes the connective tissue in our skin, keeping you looking youthful; the ligaments, cartilage and muscles, keeping us agile; and the bones and teeth giving us structure. In essence it works like glue, supporting, shaping and bulking. Your body is constantly manufacturing collagen to maintain and repair connective tissues lots to daily wear and tear.

     

    Its own structure is similar to that of three thick chains twisted around each-other into a triple helix. This helix is made up of other nutrients called amino acids (found in protein foods). You may not know this but there are in fact over fourteen types of collagen but the most common ones are those who have probably heard of already:

    • Type 1: This type of collagen makes up the fibres in the connective tissues of the skin, bone, teeth, tendons, ligaments.
    • Type 2: Type 2 collagen forms the fibres found in cartilage.
    • Type 3: This form also makes up the connective tissue but this time to give strength and structure to organs such as heart, liver and the kidneys.
    • Type 4: Collagen type 4 forms the sheets that lie between the layers of blood vessels, muscle and the eyes.

    As mentioned previously, your system can produce its own supply of collagen. However, as you age our production decreases beyond the age of 30, by 1.5% in fact. To add to this, exposure to environmental damage such as sunbathing, pollution and poor diet increase free radical damage and raises your body’s requirement for collagen. Eating a diet that includes daily amounts of good quality protein such as fish, eggs, pulses and poultry can supply the amino acids needed to make it but often demand can still outweigh supply. Supplementing the diet with Collagen can be an effective way to bridge this gap if you feel you need extra support. Research has shown that taking it in supplement form is well tolerate and digested as well as supporting some health conditions.

    Vitamin C, lysine, Vitamin B3, iron and copper are key nutrients required for the production of collagen. Vitamin C combines with the amino acids to form pro-collagen which then goes on to form collagen in tissues around the body. Without sufficient Vitamin C production of collagen is reduced and a catalogue of health conditions can begin. So where do you benefit the most from Collagen?

     

    The Joints and Bones
    According to statistics over six million people suffer from osteoarthritis and half a million suffer from rheumatoid arthritis in the UK. Osteoarthritis is where the wear and tear of every day living has worn away the cartilage in the joints, leaving bone grinding against bone. This causes great pain, inflammation and most commonly restricted movement. Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is a chronic inflammatory disorder typically affecting the small joints in the hand and feet. Unlike the wear and tear in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.

    Studies have shown that collagen is essential for optimum joint health. It keeps bones strong and cushions the ends of the joint to prevent bone rubbing against bone. Research has shown that collagen taken orally accumulates in cartilage, assisting in stability, repair and regeneration of vital tissue around the joints. In essence your joints need it to work smoothly and for you to feel comfortable and mobile.

     

    Skin

    The top layer of the skin, the epidermis, is the first line of protection against the environment. Collagen is found in the thickest layer of the skin below this known as the dermis. The dermis regulated temperature and supplies the epidermis with nutrients and a healthy blood supply. Collagen provides this layer with the strength and resilience it needs to support the epidermis and its protective effects against damage. It aids repair if damage occurs and supports elasticity. It is this layer that gives you that ‘youthful’ appearance of healthy skin.

    With a healthy supply of collagen the skin remain solid and intact but with age, free radical damage from a poor diet or sun exposure, the skin begins to lose its strength and stability. Where young skin quickly heals, older skin (above 30 !) is not as resilient and can appear wrinkled or saggy. The collagen that once plumped up the skin is in low supply and lines can form. Supporting the supply can encourage the skins flexibility, smooth appearance and even moisturise dry skin.

  • Anti-Ageing

    Every day our body is experiencing the cycle of natural ‘wear and tear’. Cells and tissue are being broken down and regenerated all the time. Bone is re-absorbed into the body and then renewed, cartilage in joints experiences are worn and then repaired, membranes of nerve and other cells are broken down and replaced. This all happens in fine balance and without us even knowing. Or does it?

    The rate at which this happens however largely depends on two factors: Age and Lifestyle. Given the right nutrition and lifestyle our bodies have amazing natural ability to repair and regenerate.

    For the first 20 years of life the rate at which our body breaks down ‘worn’ tissue and cells is far exceeded by the rate at which it regenerates. Therefore, for most of us, this mechanism is happening whilst we are blissfully unaware and in perfect harmony.

    As we reach 25-50 this fine tuned balance begins to shift slightly. This stage is arguably the most influenced by lifestyle and diet. For those of us with a healthy lifestyle and diet we may remain unaware of the hard work the body undertakes to keep the balance. For those without, the symptoms of this changing balance may begin to show. Wrinkles may begin to develop, joints may begin to ‘twinge’ and energy may be on a slippery slope to nowhere.
    The ‘over 50’ stage of life is a period when wear exceeds repair. Symptoms of degenerative disease appear and we begin to age - sometimes rapidly. It is usually at this stage that we realize the need to take responsibility for our health.
    There is much that we can do to slow this process but the most effective work happens in the preventative stage.
    So what can we do?
    Of course, genetic factors influence longevity and the likelihood of disease, but whatever your genetic inheritance, there is strong evidence that your risk can be cut through a nutritious diet and lifestyle. Adopting a nutritious diet can support blood sugar levels and the body’s defence against the key factors involved in ageing and associated degenerative diseases. These key factors are free radical damage and inflammation.
    Free radical damage
    Free radicals are unstable elements in the body that can be produced through natural metabolic processes, and by stress and pollution. Excess free radicals are damaging to body cells and are thought to be a prime cause of ageing. They can damage artery linings and therefore become a causative factor in heart disease, and are implicated in diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia.
    Antioxidants
    These can help protect you against free radical damage. Powerful antioxidants include vitamin E, beta carotene or vitamin A, vitamin C, flavonoids (in fruits and vegetables and green tea extract), lycopene (extracted from tomatoes), lutein, Co-Enzyme Q10, and antioxidant mineral co-factors like selenium, copper, manganese and zinc.
    Inflammation
    This key factor is involved in many degenerative conditions including arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and again, in Alzheimer's. Anti-inflammatory nutrients include flavonoids from fruits and vegetables (some of the most potent being the curcuminoids from turmeric, the yellow spice in curry) and Omega 3 oils.
    A nutritious diet which includes health-supporting nutrients as listed above can be defined as the so-called Mediterranean Diet. With olive oil and essential fats from oily fish and seeds as the principal fats, plenty of seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain cereals, pulses, limited red meat and two glasses of red wine a day your body will thank you for it.
    If this sounds an unrealistic target for you then do not forget the virtues of food supplements. These can correct the nutrient shortfalls and help the ‘prime’ of your life to be as creak and disease free as possible.

  • Can Taking Vitamin D & Calcium Help You Live Longer?

    Older people who take vitamin D supplements along with calcium may live longer than others, according to a new review of previous studies.

    The researchers looked at data regarding the vitamin D intake of more than 70,000 adults in their 60s and 70s. They found that people who took vitamin D, along with calcium supplements, were 9 percent less likely to die over a three-year period, compared with people who took neither supplement.

    However, they found that taking vitamin D alone had no effect on mortality rates.

    For every 151 people who took with daily vitamin D and calcium for three years, one life would be spared, according to the researchers' calculations.

    The finding comes on the heels of several studies with conflicting results about the health benefits of vitamin D, including its possible effects on longevity. The new review is the largest of its kind, and included eight randomized controlled trials, said study leader Lars Rejnmark, of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark. Such trials are considered the strongest type of scientific evidence.

    The study confirms researchers' suspicions that vitamin D may increase longevity, said Dr. Philippe Autier of the International Prevention Research Institute, who was not involved in the review.

    Study participants were generally older people with health conditions, and possibly had inadequate nutrition. Therefore, it’s “not guaranteed that anyone in good health who takes these vitamins would increase life expectancy,” Autier said.

    In the review, the researchers found that 5.5 percent of the 35,412 people who didn't take vitamin D or calcium died during the study period, whereas 5.3 percent of the 35,116 people who took vitamin D died.

    Taking vitamin D, with or without calcium, had a significant effect on mortality rates only after three years; mortality rates were not significantly different among those taking the vitamin after one or two years, according to the study.

    Vitamin D and Calcium are important throughout life, because of their role in bone health, Rejnmark said. But he recommends people start paying particular attention to their intake "around menopause for women, and around the age of 50 for men."

    While the review was based on studies of people who took supplements, Rejnmark said he does not believe the benefits would be any different for people who get the nutrients through food.

    Autier noted that the greatest source of vitamin D is what the skin makes naturally when it is exposed to sunlight. People with darker skin tones, who are less able to produce vitamin D in response to sunlight, should consider supplements as a viable option, he said.

    A total of 87 percent of the studies' participants were female, but Rejnmark said this had no bearing on the results, and vitamin D and calcium are equally beneficial to both sexes in terms of preserving longevity.

     

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