Gut health link to healthy ageing

A potential link has been discovered between healthy ageing and a healthy gut, thanks to new research from Chinese and Canadian researchers. The researchers studied the gut bacteria in a group of more than 1,000 Chinese people aged from 3 to over 100, who were deemed extremely healthy with no known health issues and no family history of disease. The findings showed that the overall microbiota composition of the healthy elderly group was similar to that of people decades younger, and that there was little difference in the gut microbiota between individuals aged between 30 and over 100. Researchers from Western University, Lawson Health Research Institute collaborated with scientists from Tianyi Health Science Institute in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu to work on the study which was published in the journal mSphere.

“This demonstrates that maintaining diversity of your gut as you age is a biomarker of healthy ageing, just like low-cholesterol is a biomarker of a healthy circulatory system,” said Greg Gloor, PhD, the principal investigator on the study. The researchers suggest that resetting an elderly microbiota to that of a 30-year-old might help promote health.

A... is for antioxidants

“Antioxidants occur naturally in plant-based foods,” explains Mani Norland, principal and managing director of the School of Health www.schoolofhealth.com. “They are also abundant in brightly coloured (and dark green) fruits and vegetables, chocolate (flavanols), teas and even red wine (resveratrol). Daily intake is essential to protect the cells in your body from free radicals or oxidative stress. Put simply, this is the damage done to your cells every time you breathe, eat or exercise. We can add or reduce this load of oxidative stress through our lifestyle and food choices and by boosting our antioxidant intake. Amazingly, given the right nutrient balance, the body also makes its own antioxidants!”

The power of pomegranates

Research shows that pomegranate consumption has several health benefits. Pomegranates can help prevent or treat various disease risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, oxidative stress, hyperglycemia and inflammatory activities including inflammation in the gut. It has been demonstrated that certain components of pomegranate such as polyphenols, ellagitannins and hydrosable tannins have potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Pomegranate juice can reduce oxidative stress, free radicals and lipid peroxidation. Areas of health where pomegranate consumption may help include cardiovascular health, gut health and helping control metabolic syndrome and obesity.

Vitamin K link with heart health

Parents have been telling their children to eat up their greens since time began – and now US scientists have proved that they were right.

Researchers from Augusta University in Georgia carried out a study of 766 otherwise healthy teenagers. Their findings showed that those who consumed the least vitamin K1– found in spinach, cabbage, iceberg lettuce and olive oil – were at 3.3 times greater risk for an unhealthy enlargement of the major pumping chamber of their heart. Overall, about 10 per cent of the adolescents had some degree of this left ventricular hypertrophy.

Left ventricular changes are more typically associated with adults whose hearts have been working too hard, too long to get blood out to the body because of sustained, elevated blood pressure. Unlike other muscles, a larger heart can become inefficient and ineffective. While more work is needed, the researchers believe their findings suggest that early interventions to ensure young people are getting adequate vitamin K1 could improve cardiovascular development and reduce future disease risk. The study was published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Beetroot juice key to younger, healthier brains

The nitrate in beetroot juice can significantly improve the ability of ageing brains when it comes to learning new information, adapting to new experiences and creating new memories. That’s the conclusion reached in a new clinical study from Wake Forest University, published in the Journals of Gerontology. The researchers found that a group aged 65+, tested by walking on a treadmill, who had first consumed a shot of concentrated beetroot juice, showed such a dramatic memory improvement that they were “comparable to the younger control group (average age 26)”.

Prior studies have shown that concentrated beetroot juice “increases blood flow to the brain and enhances exercise performance”. In the new study, the researchers proved that not only can beetroot juice improve blood flow and blood pressure but that the combination of beetroot juice and exercise improved mental function as well.

Source: Beet It

Time to take a sauna?

Frequent saunas have been found to reduce the risk of elevated blood pressure, according to a study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland. The risk of developing elevated blood pressure was nearly 50 per cent lower among men who had a sauna four to seven times a week compared to men who had a sauna only once a week. These findings were published in the American Journal of Hypertension.

Whilst taking a sauna, the body’s temperature may rise by up to 2°C, causing vasodilation of the blood vessels. Regular saunas improve endothelial function, i.e. the function of the inside layer of blood vessels, which has beneficial effects on systemic blood pressure. Sweating, in turn, removes fluid from the body, which is a contributing factor to decreased blood pressure levels. Additionally, saunas may also lower systemic blood pressure due to overall relaxation of the body and mind.

Study backs benefits of multivitamins

Taking multivitamin and mineral supplements significantly increases nutrient intakes and decreases nutrient deficiencies, a new study has found.

The US study, which was published in Nutrients, found that people who took a multivitamin or mineral supplement for 21 or more days per month eliminated most nutrient inadequacies. The findings were particularly notable for ‘under-consumed’ nutrients such as vitamin A and iron.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service said: “This study is really important in setting the record straight on the value of multivitamins and minerals. We know these nutrients are key to our health and wellbeing and low levels have been shown to have negative health impacts.

Unfortunately, all too often it is said that you can get all the nutrition you need from a healthy, balanced diet. But this ignores how most people actually eat. A lot of people don’t consume the full-spectrum of micronutrients needed to support optimum health.”

She added: “Topping up the diet with a daily multivitamin and mineral plus an omega-3 supplement will help to counteract potential dietary shortfalls and assist people in reaching the recommended levels of key nutrients which we all need to support good health.”

Heart failure risk linked to vitamin D deficiency

New research has highlighted the need for the older generation to supplement with vitamin D, the so-called sunshine vitamin. A study published in European Journal of Heart Failure reported that the risk of heart failure was more than 12 times higher in elderly vitamin D deficient participants than those with an adequate level.

These results support findings from a previous study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which found an association between vitamin D supplementation and reducing the risk of heart failure. Deficiency can be corrected by using a simple daily vitamin D oral spray that bypasses the digestive system and guarantees absorption. Multiple trials have found that oral vitamin sprays elevate serum vitamin D levels on average 2.5 times more effectively than traditional tablets and capsules.

To find out how to check your vitamin D levels, visit www.betteryou.com/vitamin-d-testing-service

Asthma link to gum disease

Asthma sufferers have a higher risk of developing gum disease, according to new findings. The study, published in the Journal of Periodontology, examined a range of 21 papers published between 1979 and 2017, and analysed the relationship between asthma and oral health in more than 120,000 people. The results confirmed that people with asthma were almost one fifth (18.8 per cent) more likely to suffer from periodontitis. In response, the Oral Health Foundation is encouraging asthma sufferers to ensure they pay close attention to their oral health in order reduce their risk of developing gum disease.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation said: “We have known for some time that there are close links between oral health and systemic disease, such as heart disease and diabetes. This new study is hugely significant as it could help many millions of asthma sufferers from having to deal with further significant health problems. While gum disease can be treated very effectively, the best approach is certainly prevention and making sure we do not fall foul of it at all. We are encouraging anybody who suffers from asthma to be especially alert to the early signs of gum disease; which include red inflamed gums, bleeding when brushing your teeth and persistent bad breath, and ensure that you visit your dentist as soon as possible to get checked out and avoid any further problems.”

Did you know?

Pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A, so why not get into the Halloween spirit this October by making some pumpkin pie? Marry Cotter, a nutritional therapist with Nuffield Health explains: “Vitamin A is a key ingredient for healthy eyes, more specifically, the two specific carotenoid forms of vitamin A: lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids are found inside the retina of the human eye and help protect the retina and cornea, and defend against age-related eye disorders.”

Other good sources of vitamin A include spinach, kale, carrots, squash and Swiss chard.

Get active this autumn

The end of the summer holidays and gyms nationwide see a surge of ‘returnees’ heading back to the exercise room. But how can you ensure that you stick to a new regime? “Try a new class to re-vitalise your routine,” says Jennifer Saxon, Sr. Director of Corporate Marketing for MINDBODY.

“What about a Flying Fantastic workout: an aerial class to hone your circus skills? Or boxercise: exercises based on the training routines that boxers use to keep fit. Whatever you choose, make it fun, and it won’t feel like a chore. After a break from exercise, you may feel like your fitness levels are back to square one. Don’t feel discouraged. Take the opportunity to push yourself a little bit more – sign up for two classes a week instead of one. And finally, take a friend or family member. Having someone to go with, especially if they’re at the same fitness level, makes exercise more fun.”

In the pink

This October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the charity Breast Cancer Now is encouraging everyone to dress in pink as part of its annual fundraising campaign. Wear it Pink takes place on 20 October and encourages supporters to hold events in their homes, schools and workplaces and to make a donation to Breast Cancer Now.

TV star Lisa Riley, who is supporting the event, said: “I will be wearing pink this year for my beautiful mum who lost her life to breast cancer in 2012. I know the devastating effect this awful disease can have and I want to help raise vital funds for Breast Cancer Now’s research so we can create a future where women don’t have to live in fear of a diagnosis.”

To find out more visit www.wearitpink.org

Why beetroot is so unbeatable

Due to its rich nutrient and nitrate profile, beetroot has been linked to reduced blood pressure and improved sports performance when consumed after exercise, according to a new study published in Complete Nutrition. The study found that beetroot has an ‘ergogenic’ effect – meaning that it enhances physical performance – during shorter bouts of high intensity exercise. The study also revealed the link between beetroot consumption and improved muscle recovery after short bursts of physical exercise.

Dr Emma Derbyshire, a leading public health nutritionist who authored the Complete Nutrition paper said: “There is a wealth of studies which explore the staggering health properties associated with beetroots, and so much more research still needs to be done. Beetroots are becoming increasingly popular with health conscious consumers as they can be bought pre-cooked and with infused flavours, making them a simple snack after exercise.”

For more findings and tasty beetroot recipes, visit www.lovebeetroot.co.uk

Landmark vitamin B3 discovery

Australian researchers have made a major discovery that vitamin B3, also known as niacin, can help to prevent miscarriages and birth defects during pregnancy.

Vitamin B3 is required to make a vital molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide or NAD, which is one of the most important molecules in all living cells. NAD synthesis is essential for energy production, DNA repair and cell communication. Environmental and genetic factors can disrupt its production, which causes an NAD deficiency. The researchers, from Sydney’s Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, have found that this deficiency is particularly harmful during a pregnancy as it affects an embryo when it is forming.

Vitamin B3 is typically found in meats and green vegetables. However, a recent study found that despite taking vitamin supplements at least a third of pregnant women have low levels of vitamin B3 in their first trimester, which is the critical time in organ development. By the third trimester, vitamin B3 levels were low in 60 per cent of pregnant women. This indicates pregnant women may require more vitamin B3 than is currently available in most vitamin supplements.

Professor Sally Dunwoodie, who led the research, said: “The ramifications are likely to be huge. This has the potential to significantly reduce the number of miscarriages and birth defects around the world, and I do not use those words lightly.”

51%...

... of Brits struggle to nod off. This problem is made worse by 24/7 media, which has resulted in a nationwide difficulty in getting a full eight hours of sleep.
Source: The Dreams Sleep Matters Club

Go nuts for nuts!

GP, TV presenter and former Your Healthy Living cover star Dr Dawn Harper has launched a new campaign to educate parents on the benefits of giving children nuts as a snack. A new survey has identified that only 1 in 10 (14 per cent) of parents are aware of the high nutritional value of nuts. The study involved 1,000 parents with children aged between five and 12.

Dr Harper said: “Nuts are a great, tasty way of getting good fats, and key vitamins and minerals into the diet which can help children's growth, development and cognitive function.” Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and cashews are a natural source of protein and many other nutrients for muscle and bone development, aiding energy release and helping build a healthy immune system. The survey also showed that allergies are a concern – with a fifth (19 per cent) of parents giving it as a key reason not to give nuts to their children. While nut allergies can be very serious, they affect just 2 per cent of children, with most allergic to peanuts specifically. For safety, if you are giving your child nuts to eat outside of the home always check that they will not be in the company of anyone with a nut allergy.

Did you know?

During a 30-minute commute on a hot, stuffy, tube, train or bus, the average person can expect to sweat as much as 0.5 litres of water – that’s an entire litre a day. Dr Sarah Brewer recommends drinking fluids regularly throughout the day rather than just drinking when you feel thirsty. Carry a bottle of water with you and sip regularly. She says: “As up to 60 per cent of our body weight is water, it’s important to drink enough to maintain the body’s fluid balance and allow cells and organs to function properly. Another benefit includes plumper, more elastic and younger-looking skin.”
Source: Vita Coco Natural Coconut Water

Know your numbers!

From 18-24 September, charity Blood Pressure UK will be running its annual campaign, Know Your Numbers! Week. People are being encouraged to have their blood pressure measured at a local Pressure Station so they can take the steps needed to maintain a healthy blood pressure and reduce their risk of debilitating strokes and heart attacks.

Volunteers hosting the Pressure Stations will be providing information and advice on simple steps to keep blood pressure under control and will measure your blood pressure accurately. It is estimated that 1 in 3 adults (16 million people) in the UK are living with high blood pressure (the single biggest cause of death) and a further 5 million remain undiagnosed. Ways to maintain a healthy blood pressure include cutting down on salt, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, watching your weight, exercising regularly and drinking alcohol in moderation.

For further information about Know Your Numbers! Week and where to get tested, go to: www.bloodpressureuk.org

Airborne toxins linked to rheumatoid arthritis

New research from Sweden has suggested that workers who are exposed to airborne toxins may have an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. These include bricklayers, concrete workers, electricians and nurses, according to the findings, which were published in Arthritis Care & Research.

In order to reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, nutritionist Cassandra Barns recommends cutting out red meat, fried foods, coffee, fizzy drinks and sugary foods. She also advises against consuming high levels of wheat and dairy plus nightshade family vegetables, which include tomatoes, white potatoes, aubergine and peppers. All of the above-mentioned foods can exacerbate inflammation in the body, so are best avoided.

Shake up your school run!

The new school year is the perfect opportunity to change travel habits. Cycling, scooting or walking the school run is an easy way of building physical activity into the whole family’s daily routine. “Not only is it great for your physical health, it can also boost mental health and wellbeing1,” says Chris Bennett, Head of Behaviour Change at Sustrans, the UK walking and cycling charity.

“Physical activity can increase mental alertness, energy, positive mood and self-esteem, as well as reducing stress and anxiety, according to the Mental Health Foundation. Teachers also find that pupils who walk, cycle or scoot arrive at school more relaxed, alert and ready to start the day than those who travel by car2. Parents can benefit in the same way and burn some precious calories along the way – a 20-minute bike ride can use the same amount of calories as a cappuccino, a bar of chocolate or a 175ml glass of wine.”

1. World Health Organisation (2010) Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health
2. Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES - 2012) Evaluation of Sustrans' sustainable transport infrastructure work surrounding schools

Low vitamin D linked to child development problems

Children whose mothers were deficient in vitamin D during pregnancy may experience development problems during their early years of life, new research has shown. Scientists from the University of Surrey and the University of Bristol examined data from 7,000 mums and children. Their findings revealed that pregnant women who were deficient in vitamin D were more likely to have children with low scores in pre-school development tests such as assessments of their co-ordination, like kicking a ball, balancing and jumping, and their usage of fine muscles, including holding a pencil and building a tower with bricks.

Vitamin D insufficiency in pregnancy was also found to affect a child’s social development at the age of three and a half. The researchers believe that interactions between vitamin D and dopamine in the brain of the foetus may play a crucial role in the development of areas of the brain controlling motor and social development. Vitamin D is derived from sunlight and is also found in oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, mackerel and fresh tuna) and in small amounts of red meat, eggs, fortified fat spreads and some breakfast cereals.

Did you know?

It’s common knowledge that consuming too much sugar can lead to a multitude of health problems, but not all sugars are the same. For example, do you know the difference between ‘free’ sugars and ‘total’ sugars?

“Free sugars include those found naturally in fruit juices, honey and syrups plus sugars which are added to food and drink,” explains registered nutritionist Jenny Rosborough, Campaign Manager at Action on Sugar (www.actiononsugar.org).

“Sugars contained naturally within the cell structure of wholefoods, such as fruit, or lactose naturally present in milk and dairy products are not free sugars and therefore are not associated with the same health outcomes as free sugars, which include tooth decay and an increase in energy intake. Government guidelines recommend that adults reduce their consumption of ‘free’ sugars to less than 30g (that’s seven teaspoons) a day.”

Vitamin K2 could provide a boost for athletes

Vitamin K2 could be a useful supplement for competitive runners, cyclists and other athletes to take, new research suggests. A recent study demonstrated that supplementing with vitamin K2 over an eight-week period helped to boost the output of the heart by 12 per cent in aerobically trained males and females.

The study, which was published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, reports that: “Vitamin K1 and K2 are not typically common in a Western diet because they are found in a variety of fermented foods.” Although supplementation with vitamin K2 has previously been shown to improve cardiovascular function in diseased patients, the research team from the University of North Texas believes that this current study is the first to report its potential in active individuals.

Craving chocolate?

Many people find it difficult to resist the sugar hit from eating a bar of chocolate, but there could be another reason for our choc compulsion. “Cravings for specific foods could be an indication of a deficiency in a micro or macro nutrient,” explains Emily Whitehead, a nutritionist with supplement company BetterYou. “In particular, a craving for chocolate could highlight a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is an essential mineral and is required for over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. So, try eating a good quality dark chocolate bar (preferably organic and above 70 per cent cocoa) which is a rich source of magnesium.”

Alternatively, Emily suggests trying a magnesium supplement to see if your cravings subside. As well as building bones, magnesium is vital for proper working of nerves and muscles. It is essential for heart health and helps control blood pressure and blood sugar. Deficiency impacts the body’s ability to function properly, causing symptoms including migraine, irritability, anxiety, extreme fatigue, insomnia, irregular heartbeat and lack of concentration.

92%...

... of those who do physical activity believe it improves their mood, but the problem is that most of us struggle to fit it in. In response to this, ASICS has launched the #IMoveLondon campaign in a bid to inspire Londoners to trade their daily commute by switching their train tickets for trainers.

Find out more at www.asics.com/imovelondon

Tee time

New research suggests that golfers have a significantly reduced risk of developing some of Britain’s biggest diseases, including dementia. The research, carried out at Sheffield Hallam University, has established that regular golfers reduce their risk of dementia and coronary heart disease by 30 per cent. What’s more, dementia prevention accounts for nearly half (49 per cent) of the recorded health benefits of golf.

Battle junk food cravings with... sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep has been found to deter urges for junk food, according to findings published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The study, conducted by researchers at Michigan State University, also found that getting plenty of shut eye prevented participants from eating bigger portions of unhealthy food, especially after a stressful day of work, when usually after a poor sleep they would have given into their cravings.

Nutritionist Cassandra Barns comments: “It’s common to find it hard to get to sleep because we can’t wind down from a busy day – particularly if work or other activities took us later into the evening. This can keep our mind active and alert, preventing us from feeling tired enough to go to bed. At least an hour before bed, put together a ‘to do’ list. This can prevent you from worrying and thinking about tasks for the next day whilst trying to sleep.”

Tired all the time?

Research from the National Hydration Council has shown that one in five visits to a GP are due to patients feeling tired. “As a society we are sleeping less; the time we sleep each night has reduced from 9 hours to 7.5 hours since the 1900s,” explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, a leading nutritionist and author of Natural Solutions for Dementia and Alzheimer's (www.marilynglenville.com).

In order to enjoy a better night’s sleep, Dr Glenville recommends eating one to two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds a day as they are high in natural magnesium. She adds: “It is thought that magnesium has a role in the normal function of the pineal gland, which produces melatonin – a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and helps us to fall asleep.”

Love your liver

The British Liver Trust has recently launched its Love Your Liver campaign to raise awareness of the risk factors of liver disease. Liver disease is largely preventable and more than 90 per cent of cases are due to three main risk factors: alcohol, obesity and viral hepatitis. The campaign focuses on three simple steps:

• Drink within recommended limits and have three consecutive days off alcohol every week,

• Cut down on sugar, carbohydrates and fat and take more exercise, and

• Know the risk factors for viral hepatitis and get tested or vaccinated if at risk.

A Love Your Liver mobile screening and scanning unit will be visiting various places around the UK throughout the year. To find out more about the campaign and to take an online screening test, visit www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/screener

Not so sweet

The dangers of sugar to our health and waistlines have been highlighted frequently in recent times, but oral health campaigners are now urging people to think about the effects of sugar on our teeth.

New research by the Oral Health Foundation has discovered that British adults consume around four cups of tea and coffee per day, with one in seven adding at least two teaspoons of sugar to each cup. A teaspoon contains 4g of sugar, and advice from the NHS states that added sugars should not make up more than 5 per cent of total calorie intake – about 30g of sugar a day.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “Excessive consumption of added sugar is the sole reason why a third of British adults have signs of tooth decay, the most common chronic disease in the world, which in England last year resulted in around two million tooth extractions.”

The foundation is urging people to consider cutting out added sugar from hot drinks or at least reducing their daily consumption.

More reasons to meditate

Practices such as meditation and yoga can ‘reverse’ the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill health and depression, according to new findings from the universities of Coventry and Radboud.

The researchers found that people who practise activities such as yoga and meditation experience a decrease in production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB).

NF-kB translates stress by activating genes to produce proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation at a cellular level. This is known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ response and if it becomes persistent this can lead to a higher risk of cancer, accelerated ageing and psychiatric disorders like depression.

Lead investigator Ivana Buric said: “Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don’t realise is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business. These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.”

Are you up for the challenge?

Women across Europe are being encouraged to join the #MatchFitWoman 28-day challenge in a bid to improve their heart health. The challenge involves setting goals to get active for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and sharing these pledges on Facebook and Twitter.

The challenge and research are part of A Healthy Heart Your Goal, a joint campaign by WHF, UEFA, The Dutch Heart Foundation, the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) and the Healthy Stadia network, which aims to raise awareness of heart health and encourage women and children to be more physically active.

Sangeeta Bhagat from the World Heart Federation said: “It’s about making small changes that will see us in the game (of life), fit and healthy and there for our loved ones – for the long term.”

For more information and to join the challenge search #MatchFitWoman and follow @worldheartfed on Twitter.

Delaying meals could alleviate jetlag

Researchers from the University of Surrey have found that delaying meal times delays the circadian rhythm of sugar in the blood which could help to alleviate the symptoms of jet lag and shift work.

Circadian rhythms are approximate 24-hour changes governed by the body’s internal clocks and determine many physiological processes in the body.

The study involved 10 volunteers and the researchers discovered that postponing meal times by five hours delayed rhythms of blood sugar by the same time frame.

This discovery demonstrates that mealtimes synchronise internal clocks that control rhythms of blood sugar concentration. The researchers have suggested that people who struggle with circadian rhythm disorders, including shift workers and long haul flights, might consider timed meals to help resynchronise their body clocks.

Snack away the post-lunch slump

US researchers have found that eating almonds at lunchtime results in less memory decline in the afternoon. “When blood sugar levels dip below normal, cognitive function can decline,” explains Richard Mattes, PhD, RD, whose lab at Purdue University conducted the research.

“Almonds have been shown to moderate blood sugar levels after meals and when consumed as snacks, which may explain why the memory dip is improved when almonds are consumed at lunch.” The relatively high amounts of good fats (13g) and fibre (4g) found in every healthy 28g handful of almonds, coupled with their low carbohydrate content, may help steady blood sugar levels after meals by slowing digestion.

Eating almonds as part of a meal can reduce the glycaemic impact of carbohydrate, thereby helping to keep blood glucose concentrations at optimal levels for memory tasks.

Find out more at www.almonds.co.uk

Diet drinks linked to stroke risk

Fizzy diet drinks may be marketed as a healthier option, but new research has brought up some concerning statistics. Researchers from Boston University have shown that people who drink at least one can a day of artificially sweetened soft drink have a much higher risk of developing dementia or having a stroke. Their findings were published in Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association.

Meat is getting the chop

Meat is increasingly falling out of favour with British shoppers due to concerns about health. A new study, carried out by market analysts Clusters, has found that just over a quarter of people – the equivalent of 16 million of the UK population – have started to cut down on the amount of meat they eat.

The findings showed that people aged between 45 and 54 are particularly steering clear of red meat due to health concerns. From this group, 69 per cent noted health concerns to be a main motivator in their decision to cut back on meat and a further 37 per cent said they are worried that eating too much red meat will lead to diseases such as colon cancer.

The findings follow a number of high profile reports on the links between cancer and high meat consumption. At the end of 2015, the World Health Organization warned that there was ‘convincing evidence’ that processed meat such as sausages and ham caused colorectal cancer.

New hope for osteoarthritis prevention

Osteoarthritis may not necessarily be ‘part and parcel’ of getting older, as new research has shed light on how this debilitating condition can potentially be prevented.

Researchers from the University of Surrey have identified a crucial link between metabolism and osteoarthritis. Metabolic changes, caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, trigger the genetic reprogramming of cells in the body and joints. By identifying metabolic changes in cells, it is potentially possible to control or significantly slow down the symptoms of osteoarthritis, alleviating the suffering of millions of people.

Lead author Professor Ali Mobasheri, Professor of Musculoskeletal Physiology at the University of Surrey, said: “For too long osteoarthritis has been known as the ‘wear and tear disease’ and it has been assumed that it is part and parcel of getting older. However, this is not the case and what we have learnt is that we can control and prevent the onset of this painful condition. It is important never to underestimate the significance of a healthy diet and lifestyle as not only does it impact upon our general wellbeing but can alter the metabolic behaviour of our cells, tissues and organs leading to serious illnesses.” The findings were published in Nature Reviews Rheumatology.

Jeepers, creepers – how to look after those peepers!

It’s no surprise that loss of sight ranks highly in people’s personal fears. Our eyes are amazing, but we need to look after them. With National Glaucoma Awareness Week on the horizon (5-11 June) Fight for Sight, the UK’s leading eye research charity, shares some natural tips on keeping your peepers in top shape.

Feast your eyes
Fill up on green leafy vegetables, oily fish and citrus fruits. A diet rich in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E may help to prevent or delay age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

Have regular check-ups
Have your eyes tested every two years even if you think your vision is fine. An eye test can spot some eye conditions and even other illnesses not related to sight. Regular check-ups are vital as detecting conditions, such as glaucoma, as early as possible can save more of your sight.

Keep on moving
Maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure can help your eyes stay healthy, so a ‘feel good’ brisk walk or bike ride can bring added benefits for your sight. Being outside and away from artificial light and digital screens also gives eyes a fresh break, but always ensure you protect your eyes from glare and sunshine with good quality sunglasses that reduce exposure to damaging UVA and UVB rays.

For more eye health advice and information visit www.fightforsight.org.uk.

Trend alert: Napercise

“Power naps are one of the most powerful natural performance enhancers known to humankind,” says Dr Guy Meadows, sleep expert for Bensons for Beds and founder of the Sleep School. “They can be a brilliant way of boosting daytime performance and avoiding the typical afternoon slump.

When should I nap? “The ideal time to nap is between midday and 3pm,” says Dr Meadows, “as this is when the waking signal of the body clock naturally dips.”

What are the benefits? “The benefits include boosting energy and alertness levels, which results in improved cognitive processing such as learning, focus and concentration and decision making. Research suggests that power napping can also enhance creative problem solving.”

How long should I nap for? “The term ‘power nap’ refers to a short nap lasting between 10 and 30 minutes,” says Dr Meadows. “This is the ideal time because any longer and you end up in deep sleep and potential brain fog. Keeping it short and at the designated timing mentioned above also prevents reducing sleep drive for the night ahead.”

Practice makes perfect! “Napping is a skill and so the more you practise, the better at it you become. A pro napper can expect to fall to sleep within a minute and wake themselves up of their own accord after 10 minutes feeling refreshed and ready to go.”

Why you love... natural beauty

We love to hear from you. This month you tell us why natural beauty products get your vote.

“Cruelty-free, chemical-free, better for me and for the environment. And, most of all, they look and feel amazing!” Deborah, Birmingham

“I started using natural products over 30 years ago to avoid products that had been tested on animals. I also prefer to limit the number of chemicals I use on my skin.” Kerry-Ann, Bishops Stortford

“I choose natural beauty products because they are so unique in quality and price and second to none on the market place. Plus, I instantly feel like a million dollars when I’m wearing them,” Jaqueline, Bolton

Research shows many probiotics don’t deliver what’s on the label

A new report* claims that many probiotic supplements on the market are subject to poor quality control measures. The study, headed by the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, states that probiotics are frequently misidentified, contaminated or contain little to no viable bacteria.

“Probiotics produced under pharmaceutical control offer the most assurance for consumers,” says Frankie Brogan, a senior nutritionist with Pharma Nord (www.multivits.co.uk). “However, most probiotics are considered dietary supplements and need to comply with less stringent regulatory criteria. Pharmaceutical grade probiotics are available in health food stores alongside dietary grades, so checking the label will help identify them. Optional protective measures (such as hermetically sealed containers) help ensure product stability and bacteria viability.”

*journals.lww.com/jpgn/Abstract/publishahead/Commercial_probiotic_products___A_call_for.97192.aspx

Wake up to organic this month!

This month, independent retailers, delicatessens, farm shops and cafés across the country will celebrating all things organic as part of the Wake Up To Organic campaign. There will be plenty of fun and enticing activities taking place on 14 June including free organic mini breakfasts, cookery demos, talks from chefs and bloggers, free organic tastings and opportunities to meet local producers.

Organic farming works with the environment as it uses fewer pesticides. It’s a way of farming that protects and encourages wildlife whilst looking after the health of the soil. Organic standards insist that animals are given plenty of space and fresh air to thrive and grow more naturally.

It is hoped that the campaign will encourage more people to try organic and demonstrate just how simple it can be to make the switch to organic. From Edinburgh to Manchester, Norwich, London and Bristol there’ll be lots of chances to try a delicious organic breakfast.

To find out more, visit www.wakeuptoorganic.co.uk and share your favourite organic breakfast recipe on social media with #WakeUpToOrganic.

Ditch the plastic

This month, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is asking people to give up single-use plastics for a whole month as part of its annual Plastic Challenge. The challenge involves saying goodbye to conveniences like pre-packed sandwiches, ready meals and plastic-bottled drinks.

MCS says the amount of plastic litter on our beaches has increased by 180 per cent in the last 20 years and has become a massive threat to marine wildlife. Plastic bags, bottles and tiny plastic pieces are regularly found in the stomachs of turtles and other sea creatures, and in some cases have caused their death from starvation or choking.

Simon Reeve, TV presenter and ambassador for the challenge, says: “Our planet is becoming poisoned by plastic. The vast amount in our oceans has become an environmental emergency as a direct result of our throwaway society. Don’t just get depressed about plastic – stop using it!” Register to take part in the Plastic Challenge at www.mcsuk.org/plasticchallenge

Enjoy a green BBQ

Summer nights are perfect for barbecues, so make sure that yours is as environmentally friendly as possible. Go for charcoal as it is the most carbon neutral option. Always use good quality, British lump charcoal which is free from additives, by-products and chemical fillers.

Plant protein may protect against type 2 diabetes

Diets high in plant protein have been linked with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, whilst diets rich in meat have been associated with a higher risk, according to new findings.

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland analysed the diets of 2,332 men aged between 42 and 60, who did not have type 2 diabetes. During a follow-up study 19 years later, 432 of the men were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that the men with the highest intake of plant protein had a 35 per cent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with the men who consumed the lowest intake of plant protein. The men with a high intake of plant protein also had healthy lifestyle habits, but lifestyle habits alone did not explain their lower risk of diabetes.

The researchers also discovered that a high intake of meat was linked with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. The strongest association was seen in the consumption of meat in general, including processed and unprocessed red meat, white meat and variety meats.

Using a computational model, the researchers estimated that replacing approximately 5g of animal protein with plant protein daily would reduce the risk of diabetes by 18 per cent. The consumption of plant protein was also associated with lower blood glucose levels at the beginning of the study, which may explain the linkage of plant protein with reduced diabetes risk. The findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Time to get on your bike!

Cycling to work could reduce your risk of premature death, according to new research by the University of Glasgow. The findings showed that cycling to work is associated with a 45 per cent lower risk of developing cancer and a 46 per cent lower risk of heart disease, compared to a non-active commute.

Walking to work was associated with 27 per cent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 36 per cent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, but not cancer or premature death overall.

This study analysed data from 264,337 participants from UK Biobank who were asked questions about their usual mode of commuting to work and then followed up for five years.

The new cases of cancer, heart attacks and deaths in that five-year period were assessed and related to their mode of commuting. The researchers believe that their findings suggest that policies designed to make it easier for people to commute by bike may present major opportunities for public health improvement. The findings were published in the BMJ.

Research shows how to stay mentally healthy in older age

Stimulating the brain by taking on leadership roles at work or staying on in education help people stay mentally healthy in later life, according to new research.

The large-scale investigation published in the journal PLOS Medicine and led by the University of Exeter, used data from more than 2,000 mentally fit people over the age of 65. It examined the theory that experiences in early or mid-life which challenge the brain make people more resilient to changes resulting from age or illness – they have higher ‘cognitive reserve'. The analysis found that people with higher levels of reserve are more likely to stay mentally fit for longer, making the brain more resilient to illnesses such as dementia.

The research team analysed whether a healthy lifestyle was associated with better performance on a mental ability test. They found that a healthy diet, more physical activity, more social and mentally stimulating activity and moderate alcohol consumption all seemed to boost cognitive performance.

Fat burning benefits of matcha

New research from the University of Chichester has revealed that drinking organic matcha tea can significantly increase fat burning during exercise. The findings also showed that drinking matcha had no adverse physiological effects such as raised heart rate or blood pressure. Matcha green tea contains one of the highest concentrations of polyphenols and antioxidants, called catechins, in any commercially-grown food. EGCg, L-Theanine and natural caffeine are the active ingredients that deliver the weight loss benefits.

Mark Willems, Professor in Exercise Physiology at the University of Chichester, commented: “To be able to come out with these findings on fat oxidation and performance is just wonderful. I expect an increased interest to discover the additional potential of matcha intake in the world of diet and exercise.”

For more information on organic matcha tea, visit www.omgteas.co.uk

Improving coeliac awareness

This month marks Coeliac UK’s annual awareness campaign to improve our understanding and perception of this autoimmune disease.

Taking place from 8 to 14 May this year, the campaign will have a specific focus on eating out, and will be calling for better gluten-free options for those with coeliac disease. One in 100 people are thought to have the condition, which is caused by a reaction to gluten and results in symptoms ranging from bloating, diarrhoea and nausea to wind, constipation, tiredness and sudden or unexpected weight loss.

For more information on how to support the campaign, visit www.coeliac.org.uk.

Protecting natural and organic beauty

NATRUE, the International Natural & Organic Cosmetics Association, is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. This international non-profit association has promoted and protected authentic natural and organic cosmetics since October 2007 and 5,000 products worldwide now bear the NATRUE seal.

NATRUE-certified cosmetics are free from mineral oils, silicones, GMO ingredients, and artificial colours, fragrances or preservatives such as parabens. All certified products are listed on a public database, accessible at www.natrue.org, which can be used as a checklist if you want to confirm whether a product is natural or organic.

Vitamin C may help in the fight against cancer

Promising new research has shown that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can be used to target and kill cancer stem cells (CSCs), the cells responsible for feeding the growth of fatal tumours.

Dr Michael P. Lisanti, Professor of Translational Medicine at the University of Salford, said: “We have been looking at how to target cancer stem cells with a range of natural substances including silibinin (milk thistle) and CAPE, a honey-bee derivative, but by far the most exciting are the results with vitamin C. Vitamin C is cheap, natural, non-toxic and readily available so to have it as a potential weapon in the fight against cancer would be a significant step.”

Cancer stem-like cells are thought to be the root cause of chemotherapy resistance, leading to treatment failure in patients with advanced disease and the triggers of tumour recurrence and metastasis (regrowth).

Vitamin C has previously been shown to be effective as a non-toxic anti-cancer agent in studies by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling and was recently shown to reduce mortality by 25 per cent on breast cancer patients in Japan. However, its effects on CSC activity have not been previously evaluated and in this context, it behaves as an inhibitor of glycolysis, which fuels energy production in mitochondria, the ‘powerhouse’ of the cell.

Dr Gloria Bonuccelli, lead author and another member of the Salford team added: “This is further evidence that vitamin C and other non-toxic compounds may have a role to play in the fight against cancer. Our results indicate it is a promising agent for clinical trials, and as an add-on to more conventional therapies, to prevent tumour recurrence, further disease progression and metastasis.” The results were published in the journal Oncotarget.

Sitting too comfortably?

New research has revealed that Brits will spend more than 18 years of their adult lifetime sitting down.

The average person leads a very sedentary lifestyle, spending 51 hours and 44 minutes sitting during a typical week, according to the findings from vitamin experts Solgar UK. The study also found that many people sit watching television for 13.5 hours a week, and more than 2.5 hours while they commute. Furthermore, Brits spend only four hours a week exercising, and four hours a day on their feet – just over half the time they spend sitting down.

Solgar UK’s head of nutrition and education, Paul Chamberlain, said: “Our survey found that many Brits experience joint pain (particularly knee and back pain) that impacts their ability to stay active and exercise. Ironically inactivity is one of the major causative factors of joint pain. Sitting for long periods places pressure on the spine and joints. For some people years of inactivity can also lead to weight gain which increases stress on the joints, along with increasing inflammation which again can impact joint health.”

Author and TV Doctor Dr Ellie Cannon added: “I’ve noticed that stiffness, neck pain and general inflexibility are real issues so making sure you’re standing up and going for a walk around the office rather than being still all the time will help. The new Solgar 7 ‘your body is designed to move’ campaign is about encouraging Brits to be more active and offering extra daily joint support to help keep people moving.”

Vitamin D found to help prevent autism

New Zealand researchers have discovered that vitamin D plays an important role in the development – and prevention – of autism.

Researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of New Zealand found that giving vitamin D supplements to mice during pregnancy completely prevented autism traits in their offspring. Autism — or autism spectrum disorder — describes lifelong developmental disabilities including difficulty or inability to communicate with others and interact socially. Sun exposure is the major source of vitamin D – which skin cells manufacture in response to UV rays – but it is also found in some foods.

Dr Wei Luan, a postdoctoral researcher involved in the study, said vitamin D was crucial for maintaining healthy bones, but the active hormonal form of vitamin D cannot be given to pregnant women because it may affect the skeleton of the developing foetus. “Recent funding will now allow us to determine how much cholecalciferol – the supplement form that is safe for pregnant women – is needed to achieve the same levels of active hormonal vitamin D in the bloodstream,” said Dr Luan. “This new information will allow us to further investigate the ideal dose and timing of vitamin D supplementation for pregnant women. The findings were published in Molecular Autism.

Blueberry concentrate aids brain function in older people

New research from the University of Exeter has shown that drinking concentrated blueberry juice can improve brain function in older people.

The researchers found that a group of healthy people aged between 65 and 77, who drank concentrated blueberry juice every day, demonstrated improvements in brain function, blood flow to the brain and activation of the brain while carrying out cognitive tests. Evidence also suggested an improvement in working memory. Blueberries are rich in flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Dr Joanna Bowtell, head of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter, said: “Our cognitive function tends to decline as we get older, but previous research has shown that cognitive function is better preserved in healthy older adults with a diet rich in plant-based foods. In this study we have shown that with just 12 weeks of consuming 30ml of concentrated blueberry juice every day, brain blood flow, brain activation and some aspects of working memory were improved in this group of healthy older adults.”

The findings were published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

To find out more information on Blueberry concentrate, visit www.cherryactive.co.uk

Mediterranean diet could lower breast cancer risk

A major new study has found that the Mediterranean diet could help to lower the risk of one of the most aggressive types of breast cancer by 40 per cent.

The study, which was published in the International Journal of Cancer, and funded by the World Cancer Research Fund, monitored over 62,000 women during a 20-year period. The researchers found that those who adhered more closely to the Mediterranean diet had a 40 per cent reduced risk of oestrogen-receptor negative breast cancer – which usually has a worse outcome than other types of the disease.

The Mediterranean diet includes a high intake of plant-based proteins, such as nuts, lentils and beans, whole grains, fish and monounsaturated fats – also known as ‘good fats’ – such as olive oil. This diet also has a low intake of refined grains such as white bread or white rice, red meat and sweets. Although the traditional Mediterranean diet involves moderate consumption of alcohol, in this study alcohol was excluded from the criteria, as this is a known risk factor for breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK with over 53,000 new cases each year. Dr Panagiota Mitrou, director of research funding at the World Cancer Research Fund, said: “This important study showed that following a dietary pattern like the Mediterranean diet could help reduce breast cancer risk – particularly the subtype with a poorer prognosis. With breast cancer being so common in the UK, prevention is key if we want to see a decrease in the number of women developing the disease.”

Love your heart

Taking steps to keep your heart healthy is vital in order to prevent heart disease and starting this at a young age will lower risk later in life. Doctor, fitness blogger and personal trainer, Dr Hazel Wallace, has teamed up with Linwoods, producers of healthy milled super foods, to come up with five ways to help the health of your heart.

1. Eat more flaxseed
Flaxseed is a heart health superfood, full of fibre, which helps lower cholesterol, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help improve your good cholesterol.

2. Enjoy some chocolate
Cacao is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world because of its rich source of nutrients known as polyphenols. Cacao has also been shown to reduce the amount of both LDL (bad) and total cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease.

3. A sprinkle a day keeps the doctor away
Pack every meal full of heart-loving nutrition by adding a sprinkle of flaxseed and goji berries to your porridge which more than doubles your daily intake of omega-3.

4. Don’t miss out on magnesium
In a recent study, consuming the RDI (200mg) of dietary magnesium has been associated with a 22 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease. Just one sprinkle (30g) of shelled hemp provides 50 per cent of your recommended daily allowance (RDI).

5. Get moving
Just 30 minutes of moderate activity a day can reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure as well as reducing stress, tension, depression and anxiety.

Global study shows vitamin D protects against colds and flu

Researchers are calling for foods to be fortified with vitamin D after a major new study has found that the so-called ‘sunshine vitamin’ protects against acute respiratory infections including colds and flu.

The research, which was led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and published in the British Medical Journal, was based on a new analysis of raw data from around 11,000 participants in 25 clinical trials conducted in 14 countries.

Lead researcher Professor Adrian Martineau from QMUL said: “This major collaborative research effort has yielded the first definitive evidence that vitamin D really does protect against respiratory infections.

“The bottom line is that the protective effects of vitamin D supplementation are strongest in those who have the lowest vitamin D levels, and when supplementation is given daily or weekly rather than in more widely spaced doses."

Vitamin D – the ‘sunshine vitamin’ – is thought to protect against respiratory infections by boosting levels of antimicrobial peptides – natural antibiotic-like substances – in the lungs.

Professor Martineau added: "By demonstrating this new benefit of vitamin D, our study strengthens the case for introducing food fortification to improve vitamin D levels in countries such as the UK where profound vitamin D deficiency is common.”

Shoppers continue to choose organic

Sales of organic food and drink in the UK continue to grow according to new figures released by the Soil Association. The UK organic market is now worth £2.09 billion, indicating that increasing numbers of shoppers are choosing to go organic.

Recent research from England Marketing revealed that 39 per cent of shoppers buy organic food on a weekly basis while 80 per cent of all consumers have said that they have some knowledge about organic food.

Clare McDermott, Business Development Director at Soil Association Certification said: “It’s a positive time for organic as it ticks lots of boxes for consumers. Organic is extremely relevant for trends towards eating better food, knowing where your food comes from, avoiding pesticides or antibiotics and ‘free from’ diets. Increasingly, we’re seeing consumers choose organic as a shortcut to a healthy lifestyle and this will continue.”

Keep dementia away with your five-a-day

Eating the recommended five-a-day of fruit and vegetables could help prevent dementia in older adults according to the results of a new study.

Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong followed the cognitive status of 17,700 dementia-free older adults for six years. The objective was to investigate whether those consuming at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruits daily, in line with the World Health Organisation recommendation, had a lower risk of developing dementia.

The researchers found that inadequate fruit consumption was linked with a higher risk of dementia, even after taking into account factors such as age, education, major chronic diseases and health-related behaviours such as smoking.

The findings suggest that not only could fruits independently reduce dementia risk, but the addition of three servings of vegetables to a person’s daily diet could further reduce this risk.

One reason why fruits and vegetables might help reduce the risk of dementia is because they are rich sources of vitamin B, vitamin E, flavonoids and beta-carotenoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. As oxidative stress and inflammation are thought to be involved in the development and progression of dementia, not eating enough vegetables or fruits might decrease resilience against the neurodegenerative processes. The results were published in the journal Age & Ageing.

Pre-eclampsia increases risk of heart disease in later life

Women who suffered pre-eclampsia during pregnancy are four times more likely to have heart failure in later life according to research from Keele University. As a result, the researchers are calling for better education surrounding the risks and how to reduce these risks through diet and lifestyle changes.

The findings involved an analysis of 22 studies and more than 6.5 million women and the results were published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. The research also found that expectant mothers with pre-eclampsia, which presents with high blood pressure and protein in the woman’s urine, have a two-fold increase risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and death due to cardiovascular disease in later life. Pre-eclampsia affects five to eight per cent of pregnancies and is the most common cause of severe ill-health during pregnancy which can, in extreme circumstances, lead to the death of the mother or baby.

Dr Pensee Wu, the first author of this publication and lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Keele University, said: “Doctors need to be aware of the importance of educating women about their increased level of cardiovascular risk and of advising women about the beneficial effects of changing their lifestyle, such as increasing their level of physical activity and not smoking.” Dr Wu added: “The study shows the risk is highest during the first 10 years after a pregnancy affected by pre-eclampsia, so it is important that women are regularly monitored during this period for cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.”

TV show highlights benefits of omega-3

The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids were recently highlighted in the BBC show, Trust Me, I’m a Doctor. The show, presented by Dr Michael Mosley, reported on an eight-week trial involving 60 participants who either ate two portions of oily fish a week, consumed an omega-3 supplement containing the same amount of fatty acids or took a placebo. At the end of the experiment both the omega-3 supplement group and the oily fish group experienced a marked improvement in their omega-3 levels. One of the main sources of omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish.

Findings from the UK National Diet and Nutritional Survey show that current oily fish intakes are just 13g to 29g per week for children and 54g to 84g per week for adults – drastically lower than the recommended one portion (140g) of oily fish per week. Low blood cell levels of these fats can be an indication of a higher than normal risk of cardiovascular disease.

When looking to buy an omega-3 supplement Dr Emma Derbyshire, a public health nutritionist from the Health Supplements Information Service (HSIS), notes: “It is important to look at the dose of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for the body.” European authorities advise that daily intakes of 250mg of EPA and DHA can help to maintain general cardiovascular health in healthy populations. However, intakes of up to 2g and 4g per day may be needed to help maintain normal blood pressure and triglyceride levels.

Personalised physical therapy brings relief for lower back pain

A new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows that a combination of manual therapy and exercise is an excellent way to combat movement control impairment in the lower back. Patients with movement control impairment have difficulties in controlling the position of their back when sitting down, standing or doing back bending. Impaired movement control is often caused by an earlier episode of back pain. The situation is problematic because patients don’t realise that their incorrect back position is provoking pain.

The combination of manual therapy and exercise reduced the disability experienced by patients and significantly improved their functional ability. The study found that a personally tailored exercise programme was more beneficial for patients than a generic one, and the treatment results also persisted at a 12-month follow-up. The findings were published in European Journal of Physiotherapy and BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.

Green swaps

The days are growing lighter and brighter now that spring is here and many of us will be in the mood for a spot of spring cleaning. However, conventional cleaning products tend to be full of harmful chemicals which can have an adverse effect on our health as well as the environment. With this in mind, here are our top tips for green and natural alternatives to the chemical nasties.

It makes perfect scents
Essential oils can be used as a great natural alternative to chemically-based air fresheners and will leave your house smelling wonderful. If you don’t have a diffuser you can simply boil up a pan of water, take it off the heat, and add a few drops of essential oil to the water. The scent will infuse the entire room. Look for fresh, uplifting scents such as grapefruit, lemon, bergamot or eucalyptus.

Soda solution
Bicarbonate of soda is a must-have ingredient in your natural cleaning kit. Ditch your toxic cleaning products and instead mix up half a cup of bicarbonate of soda in a bowl of warm water and use it to clean the kitchen surfaces. Add a dab of bicarbonate of soda to a moist cloth and rub gently on any stainless steel appliances. Polish with a clean, dry cloth and they will be gleaming!

Make an oil change
No need to use conventional floor polish when a cupboard staple like olive oil will do the trick just as well! This natural hero will leave wooden floors and furniture with a clean and shiny finish. Simply combine two cups of olive oil with one cup of lemon juice or vinegar and then work the mixture into the wood using a soft cloth.

Versatile vinegar
White vinegar is another versatile natural cleaner that most of us will already have in our kitchen cupboards. You can use it to descale the kettle, clean the floor or mix with bicarbonate of soda to make a natural toilet cleaner. For sparkling windows, mix up a solution of two tablespoons of vinegar to two pints of warm water and a dash of washing up liquid. Wash windows from the top to the bottom on the inside and from side to side on the outside. This will help you to see which side any smears are on.

Juicy good
The humble lemon is another fantastic natural cleaner to add to the list. Mix together some lemon juice and salt until you get a paste-like consistency and, hey presto, you have a great natural cleaner for your sink! Mix two teaspoons of cream of tartar with the juice of a lemon and apply to grout with a small cleaning brush. It will soon look as good as new!

For more top green swaps and the chance to win some great eco-friendly cleaning products, like the Your Healthy Living Facebook page: yourhealthylivingmagazine

Vitamin D deficiency may increase risk of chronic headaches

A new study from the University of Eastern Finland has found that vitamin D deficiency could increase the risk of chronic headaches.

The researchers analysed the serum vitamin D levels and occurrence of headaches in approximately 2,600 men aged between 42 and 60 between 1984 and 1989. In 68 per cent of these men, the serum vitamin D level was below 50 nmol/l, which is generally considered the threshold for vitamin D deficiency. Chronic headaches occurring at least on a weekly basis were reported by 250 men, and men reporting chronic headaches had lower serum vitamin D levels than others.

When the study population was divided into four groups based on their serum vitamin D levels, the group with the lowest levels had over a twofold risk of chronic headaches in comparison to the group with the highest levels. Chronic headaches were also more frequently reported by men who were examined outside the summer months of June through September. Thanks to UVB radiation from the sun, the average serum vitamin D levels are higher during the summer months.

The study adds to the accumulating body of evidence linking a low intake of vitamin D to an increased risk of chronic diseases. Low vitamin D levels have also been associated with the risk of headaches by some earlier, mainly considerably smaller studies. The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

Yoga could improve back pain

The ancient practice of yoga could help people suffering with back pain on a short-term basis, according to a review published by the Cochrane Library.

The researchers, from the University of Maryland in the US, examined the results from 12 clinical trials involving 1,080 people who attended professional yoga classes at least once a week. Within a 12-month period, the participants who practised yoga were twice as likely to have reduced chronic lower back pain compared to those who did only back exercises. The participants reported that they experienced a 26 per cent improvement in physical quality of life. The researchers have recommended that more studies are carried out over a longer term.

Want to be happier? Get active!

Physically active individuals enjoy a better overall state of wellbeing than their more sedentary counterparts, new research has revealed.

The Central YMCA study surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults from across the UK. The findings showed that being physically active causes a 13 per cent boost to wellbeing scores, while being less active depletes these scores by up to 19 per cent, revealing a 32 per cent divide between the most and least physically-active people in society.

The research revealed that those who lead physically active lifestyles attain the highest wellbeing scores – achieving 6.92 on an index of 10, against a national average wellbeing score of 6.13. In addition, almost half (44 per cent) of research respondents said they felt wellbeing at its highest when playing a sport or exercising.

Time to tackle snoring

As many as one in four people snore regularly in England. Snoring is not only a nightmare for partners but a symptom of a group of medical conditions called Sleep Disordered Breathing. The most serious form of this is called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, which increases the risk of heart diseases.

For most people, blood pressure falls at night but for people with Sleep Apnoea blood pressure increases due to lack of oxygen during sleep. This alerts the brain to send signals to the nervous system and puts extra stress on the heart. If left untreated Sleep Apnoea may increase your risk of having a heart attack and developing an irregular heartbeat.

To find out more about snoring relief, visit www.snoreeze.com

People with metabolic syndrome need more vitamin E

People with metabolic syndrome need increased amounts of vitamin E, new research has revealed. The study was carried out by researchers from Oregon State University and Ohio State University. The double-blind crossover clinical trial examined the levels of vitamin E in people with metabolic syndrome, a condition which is often linked to obesity.

The results showed that people with metabolic syndrome tend to need approximately 30-50 per cent more vitamin E than those who are deemed to be healthy. The researchers have stated that their findings clearly indicate that people with metabolic syndrome require a greater intake of vitamin E.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions which occur together and include high blood sugar, excess body fat around the middle, increased blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. The condition can increase an individual’s risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant which is important for cell protection. Dietary sources of vitamin E include almonds, wheat germ and various seeds and oils.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Time and motivation are the biggest barriers to working out

Time and motivation are the biggest deterrents for working out, according to the results of a new survey. The survey of 1,508 people was carried out by Freeletics, the creator of some of the world’s most popular fitness apps.

Although more than half (51 per cent) of respondents lost weight with their current fitness routine, two fifths (39 per cent) said the most common reason they skip a workout is due to a lack of motivation. A third (32 per cent) of respondents cited a lack of time as their top reason for missing a workout. However, research has revealed that shorter sessions of intensive exercise can improve one’s health and deliver many of the benefits of conventional exercise in a much shorter time.

Philipp Hagspiel, Head of Research & Development at Freeletics, comments: “Despite common myths, you don’t need to do an hour-long workout for it to be effective. In fact, just a 15-minute workout can often lead to better results than a 90-minute one. Short bursts of HIT (high intensity training) are a more efficient way to work out, as it takes minimal time and keeps burning energy and calories for up to 24 hours after you have finished your workout.”

App encourages women to go hormone- and chemical-free in 2017

Women who use hormonal contraception are being encouraged to go hormone- and chemical-free in 2017 by the makers of a fertility tracking app, in light of Danish research that has highlighted links between hormonal contraceptives and depression.

The 2016 University of Copenhagen study found that women who took the combined pill were 23 per cent more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant by their doctor. This was most likely to occur during the first six months after they had started taking the pill. Women taking a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone were found to be 34 per cent more likely to take antidepressants than those not taking hormonal contraception. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry.

The Natural Cycles app uses a smart algorithm to pinpoint fertility and a 2016 study showed that it was found to be as effective as The Pill. It works by recording your daily temperature and a smart algorithm then determines whether you are fertile on that day, letting you accurately know whether and when to have protected intercourse.

“Women in the UK and around the world are interested in exploring effective, non-hormonal contraception options like Natural Cycles,” says Dr Elina Berglund, CTO and co-founder of the app. “Choice is important; there are plenty of contraception options available, including IUDs and condoms, and women should never give up on contraception - if they are unhappy with the pill, they should look for alternatives.”

Get involved with the Big Pedal!

Double Olympic gold medallist cyclist Joanna Rowsell Shand (pictured right) is encouraging families across the UK to get involved in a national challenge to get more young people cycling and scooting to school.

The Big Pedal 2017, which runs from 20 to 31 March, is powered by national walking and cycling charity Sustrans. During the 10 days participating primary and secondary schools will compete with one another to make the most journeys by bike or scooter. This year’s theme is ‘Around the world in 10 days’, with pupils tracking their progress on a map of the world, learning about the countries and cities they pass through on their way. According to the Department for Transport’s National Travel Survey 2014, the proportion of children walking and cycling to school has been declining since 1995, with the number being driven to primary school increasing each year. Indeed, as many as one in four cars on the road during the morning peak are on the school run.

Joanna, who won gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, said: “Cycling is great for young people’s health, confidence and independence. The safer and more comfortable they feel on their bikes, the more they will enjoy cycling.”

For more information visit www.bigpedal.org.uk

Magnesium-rich diet could combat a range of diseases

A study by scientists at Zhejiang University in China has claimed that eating a magnesium-rich Mediterranean diet could combat a range of diseases linked to magnesium deficiency, such as strokes, diabetes and heart disease.

The findings showed that a magnesium-rich diet resulted in a 10 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease, a 12 per cent lower risk of stroke and a 26 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. However, the researchers also explained that the daily requirement for magnesium is difficult to achieve through a single serving of any one food item.

Andrew Thomas, founder and managing director of BetterYou commented: “In today’s modern environment the excess of processed foods, bad fats and sugars are decreasing our magnesium levels, resulting in a population deficient in the mineral. A government-funded report by Professor David Thomas reported that, due to a change in farming methods and food processing, the level of magnesium within our diet has declined by 21 per cent since 1940! Therefore, it’s highly recommended that magnesium supplementation is introduced into your daily routine to help keep your levels optimum and replenish lost magnesium.”

Eating nuts can reduce disease risk, study shows

Eating a handful of nuts a day can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer, a new study has shown.

The study, which was carried out by researchers from Imperial College London and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, also found a link between consuming nuts and a lowered risk of developing diabetes as well as a reduced risk of dying from respiratory disease.

The researchers analysed a series of studies involving more than 800,000 participants from around the world. Their findings showed that eating at least 20g of nuts a day can reduce risk of heart disease by nearly 30 per cent and cancer by 15 per cent as well as bring about an almost 40 per cent reduction in diabetes and half the number of deaths from respiratory disease. The results were published in the journal BMC Medicine.

Nutritionalist and author Juliette Bryant commented: “Since prehistoric times nuts have been widely eaten as a storable source of essential fats and protein. In recent years some people have avoided these amazing foods due to the fear that their fat content will increase weight. If eaten roasted and salted the delicate fats can actually be changed into something harmful, and lead to storage of fat in the body. However, if eaten raw the body easily processes the essential fats, which support overall health. Eating over 20g of nuts per day doesn't have to be boring and there are many raw recipes that use the goodness of nuts in delicious ways.”

Middle age signals start of sleepless nights

New research from The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has found that 87 per cent of middle aged people wake up with back or neck pain. As a result, the BCA is now urging people to pay attention to their sleeping habits. The research into this age group (45-54) found that over half (58 per cent) admit pain keeps them from sleeping. The BCA offers these tips for those who struggle to sleep:

  • Update your mattress: Chiropractors recommend buying a new mattress at least every 10 years. Mattresses lose their support over time, so if you can feel the springs through your mattress, or the mattress is no longer level, your mattress is no longer providing the support you need.
  • Buy the right mattress: Ensure your mattress is supportive for you. If you share a bed with your partner, it’s a good idea to look for two single mattresses which can be joined together, to ensure you both get the support you need.
  • Start your day right: Getting up out of bed too quickly in the morning could lead to injury. When you first wake up, try doing some gentle stretches and avoid doing anything too strenuous or making any sudden movements.
  • Get moving: Activities such as yoga, which can improve posture, are recommended for people in the 45-54 age group. Other exercise which helps build your abdominal muscles could also help to protect your back. When exercising, warming up and warming down is essential to ensure that your joints and muscles don’t get a shock.
  • Straighten up: The BCA’s Straighten Up UK programme offers a series of daily exercise videos to help build muscle tone and improve posture. Try these videos for free online. The BCA advises that, if you are experiencing pain for more than a few days, then you should seek professional help, as an undiagnosed problem could lead to longer-term problems if left untreated. To find out where your local chiropractor is, please visit www.chiropractic-uk.co.uk and search for a chiropractor.

Grow, learn and be inspired

The Grow Club Discovery Box is a new monthly subscription service for those who want to grow fresh food and flowers at home – even in small urban spaces. Launched by Seed Pantry, the service is designed to inspire growers with beautifully curated monthly boxes and easy to follow grow guides. Each month, you can make six choices, from a wider list, to grow your own food and flowers. Deliveries of food and flower seeds, bulbs or plants will be sent to your home at the right time for planting.

Find out more at www.seedpantry.co.uk

Workplace dehydration becoming a problem

A new survey has revealed that dehydration in the workplace is becoming a problem for many workers. The study by the Natural Hydration Council found that a fifth of those surveyed reported rarely or never drinking water at work, with 13 per cent saying this leaves them feeling dehydrated. Over 2,000 people were interviewed for the survey.

Dr Emma Derbyshire, public health nutritionist and adviser to the Natural Hydration Council, said: “The research is especially concerning as it highlights how many people find it difficult to stay hydrated at work. Research has shown that even a reduction in dehydration levels of as little as as two per cent of body weight can influence mood, lead to greater feelings of fatigue and reduced levels of alertness.”

Dr Derbyshire recommends starting the day with a glass of water. If you feel tired, have a headache or are experiencing any other signs of dehydration, take a break and try having a glass of water, as a first step. Also, remember that foods with a high water content such as melons, soups, stews, fruit and vegetables, will make the greatest contribution to your daily water intake.

3 ways to raise eco-conscious kids

Start early by teaching youngsters about how to live a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle and you’ll be raising a new generation of eco warriors! Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Teach them about recycling
Give your children responsibilities such as sorting and rinsing items for recycling, placing them in the correct bins and taking the containers out to the kerb for collection. Make things more creative by getting them to help decorate your recycling box with your house number and road name.

2. Start a wormery
Young children – boys in particular – love playing with worms, so this is sure to be a fun activity for them. A wormery will recycle your food waste to make fertiliser for plants and vegetables. What’s more, they are ideal for small spaces and make compost quicker than normal composters. There are plenty of guides for how to build one online.

3. Grow a vegetable garden
Getting children involved in creating a vegetable garden is a great way of teaching them about nature as well as giving them responsibilities. Vegetables that are fun and easy to grow include carrots, tomatoes, beetroots and peas.

Why women should lift weights

There are lots of misconceptions around about women lifting heavy weights. However, Laura Harman, a leading physiotherapist at London’s Boost Physio (www.boostphysio.com), believes that weight training is essential to women’s physical and psychological wellbeing. Here are her top reasons why:

Psychological wellbeing: Weight training is a fantastic way to improve your confidence and self-esteem. It can also help improve your mood and manage symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Blood pressure: A study at the Appalachian State University found that weight training can be used to help lower blood pressure in addition to improving cardiovascular health.

Belly fat: A University of Alabama study found that women who lifted weights lost more intra-abdominal fat (deep belly fat) than those who just did cardio. Weight lifting will improve your posture, strengthen your core and help with balance.

Muscle mass: A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found weight training to be effective in increasing muscle mass and strength in addition to improving bone density.

Improved sleep: Recent research by Appalachian State University has shown that weight training can help improve your sleep and can have the same effect as a warm bath before bed.

Vitamin D may help children with autism

Symptoms of autism in children, including hyperactivity and social withdrawal, were shown to improve after supplementation with vitamin D3, according to the results of a recent study.

The researchers conducted a double-blind, randomised clinical trial (RCT) on 109 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The group consisted of 85 boys and 24 girls aged between three and 10. Over a period of four months, the children either received a daily dose of 300 IU vitamin D3/kg/day (with a maximum of 5,000 IU/day) or a placebo. The severity of their autism and social maturity was measured.

The results showed that the vitamin D supplementation was “well tolerated” by the children and that autism symptoms “improved significantly” in the group who took the daily dose of vitamin D3, but not in the placebo group.

Study author Khaled Saad said: “This study is the first double-blinded RCT proving the efficacy of vitamin D3 in ASD patients. Depending on the parameters measured in the study, oral vitamin D supplementation may safely improve signs and symptoms of ASD and could be recommended for children with ASD. At this stage, this study is a single RCT with a small number of patients, and a great deal of additional wide-scale studies are needed to critically validate the efficacy of vitamin D in ASD.” The results were published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

A tired nation

A new study has revealed that a third of Brits (37 per cent) feel that they do not get enough sleep. Furthermore, of the 13 countries surveyed, those living in Britain were found to be the most exhausted. The results also showed that 44 per cent of British adults feel too tired to exercise, with women being more affected by this than men. The survey was conducted by insurance company Aviva.

VeggieWorld comes to London

VeggieWorld, an established European vegan event, will be coming to the UK for the first time in 2017. VeggieWorld London will take place on 8 and 9 April at Kensington Town Hall and promises to include a packed programme of talks and cookery demonstrations as well as around 70 stalls showcasing vegan foods, make-up, beauty products, fashion and more. There will also be a food court offering a wide range of vegan caterers and a charity marketplace, where visitors can find and discuss opportunities to volunteer or work within the sector.

VeggieWorld is the oldest and largest exhibition of the vegan lifestyle in Europe, attracting on average 8,000 visitors at each of its events in countries ranging from Germany and the Netherlands to France and Spain. 2017 will be the year that the UK becomes part of this major international community.

Visit www.veggieworld.de/en/event/london-en for more information.

Maternal deficiency in vitamin B12 linked to risk of diabetes in children

Children of mums-to-be who are deficient in vitamin B12 whilst pregnant may go on to develop health problems such as type 2 diabetes, according to new research. The findings were presented at the UK Society for Endocrinology Annual Conference in Brighton.

Researchers from the University of Warwick discovered that babies born to mothers who were deficient in vitamin B12 had higher-than-normal levels of leptin, a hormone which controls feelings of hunger and satiety. High levels of this hormone have previously been found in individuals who are obese. This can lead to leptin resistance, persistent overeating and an increased risk of insulin resistance, which in turn can develop into type 2 diabetes.

Senior author Ponusammy Saravanan, PhD, FRCP, has stated that the findings signify the importance of good nutrition before and during pregnancy.

Four steps to a more sustainable Christmas

TV presenter and upcycling expert Max McMurdo offers some tips for how to achieve a more sustainable Christmas.

1) Stock up on rechargeable batteries for Christmas toys rather than throwing away alternatives. This is much more sustainable and will save you money in the long run.

2) Rather than buying each other unnecessary gifts, my assistant and I are buying sleeping bags for the homeless this Christmas. While not a creative sustainable tip, it is something very close to our hearts and avoids those gifts that get put to the back of the cupboard. As well as this we will be visiting our local Emmaus branch for an upcycling workshop rather than having a Christmas party… of course, we will be taking a turkey too!

3) Try making your own decorations. They will be treasured for years and will create a homely Christmas atmosphere. Old light bulbs make a great upcycled bauble alternative. Winter forest walks also provide great found materials which can be transformed with simple craft techniques such as spray-painting. Add metallic accents of coppers and golds for an on trend Christmas feel.

4) If you’ve replaced your Christmas jumper, use your old one to create a festive cushion cover with simple sewing techniques.

Max McMurdo’s book ‘Upcycling’ is available now at www.amazon.co.uk. Follow Max on twitter at @maxreestore

Did you know?

If a family of four were to turn off the tap whilst brushing their teeth this could help to save the equivalent of a bath full of water each day.

How to breathe correctly

Breathing relies on the big, powerful muscles of the diaphragm, the abdomen and the intercostal muscles that lie between the ribs. It is helped along by the smaller secondary muscles of the neck, shoulders and upper ribs. When you are upset, anxious or stressed, the abdomen tenses and prevents the big primary muscles from working. Instead, they begin tugging against each other, leaving the secondary muscles to do all the work.

But the secondary muscles are only designed to shoulder 20 per cent of the burden, so they become stressed. If this continues, it can lead to chronic tension in the shoulders and neck, to headaches and fatigue, and to increasingly shallower breathing.

To breathe correctly, all you need to do is set your breath free. Mindfully submit to its natural rhythm. Feel the air as it flows in and out of your body. Allow yourself to relax into the breath’s fluidity. Feel your shoulders loosen and unfurl. Close your eyes (if you want to) and feel the ground beneath your feet. If you feel anxious, distressed, unhappy or exhausted, then begin to consciously breathe in and out.

Take a long, deep breath while counting slowly to 5 in your mind. Pause for a moment. Then breathe out while counting to 7. You can alter the speed of the counting to reflect the unique rhythm of your breath. Try not to rush things. Repeat this 5/7 breathing until you feel more solid, whole and in control. You can come back to it as often as you like.

Extracted from The Art of Breathing by Dr Danny Penman, published by HQ HarperCollins and available in paperback and ebook.

Feeling good

Positive new research amongst UK women aged 40+ reveals a third feel 10 to 20 years younger than their years, and one in three state they are fitter and healthier now compared to when they were younger. Many of the survey respondents reported that staying on top of health checks was important. Three quarters reported that they visit their optician and dentist for regular check-ups and almost two thirds have their blood pressure tested at least once a year, while two in five have their cholesterol tested annually.

The survey was carried out by high street hearing specialists Hidden Hearing.

3 apps to support your mind

Remente (www.remente.com) focuses on helping you exercise your mind and manage day-to-day tasks by first assessing how happy you are with life, identifying the areas that you want to improve, and setting manageable tasks. The app also lets you track your mood and provides you with insightful courses on different areas of life. Available on iOS and Android. Premium Membership is also available for £4.17 per month.

Pacifica (www.thinkpacifica.com) is good if you struggle with anxiety. This app tracks your mood on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and provides you with breathing and meditation exercises to help you work through an anxiety episode. Interestingly, the app also provides you with little experiments that challenge your anxiety, with the aim of gradually reducing its levels, as well as a diary to help you keep track of your thoughts. Available on iOS and Android. Full access is available at £4.49 per month.

Sleepio (www.sleepio.com) When it comes to mental health, sleep is essential. In fact, not getting enough sleep has been linked to developing depression and increasing anxiety levels. Sleepio can help you fall asleep faster, improve the overall quality of your sleep and know what lifestyle changes you should make to sleep better. Available on iOS. Full access is £200 per year.

Are you healthily hydrated?

Research has shown that even a two per cent drop in hydration levels can influence mood, making people less alert and more tired. Studies into the effects of mild dehydration on cognitive function suggest that men and women who are dehydrated are more likely to feel fatigued and to have diminished cognitive performance, specifically vigilance.

Dr Emma Derbyshire, adviser to the Natural Hydration Council and Public Health Nutritionist, recommends starting your day with a glass of water to ensure that you are well hydrated and to drink water at regular intervals throughout the day. She adds: “Foods can also contribute to your daily water intake. Those with a high water content; for example, melon, soups, stews, fruit and vegetables, will make the greatest contribution.”

3 ways to enjoy an eco-friendly holiday

By Kerry Law, editor of eco travel blog Goodtrippers (www.goodtrippers.co.uk)

It’s the journey, not just the destination
Eco-friendly holidays aren’t just about where you go and what you do when you get there. How you get there is just as important. Transport options that produce lower carbon emissions than flying – such as trains and boats – can transform what can often be a stressful or humdrum travel experience into something wonderful and eye-opening. Whizzing through the countryside on a train can reveal sights and scenery you would miss if you were flying above the clouds (taking the railway through mountainous or coastal regions is particularly awe-inspiring). Take a ferry, ship or boat and your spell at sea will add a whole new, adventurous dimension to your holiday – and remind you of how our ancestors used to travel in the past.

Respect local people and wildlife
Responsible tourism helps communities thrive, which can also help preserve indigenous wildlife and environments. Spend your money with good, local businesses instead of large global organisations, and that small, family-run restaurant or local guide will benefit directly. Choose activities with tour operators and businesses that are run responsibly – ask questions and check their websites for more on how they protect or support local communities and wildlife. If something looks dodgy, such as wild animal ‘petting’ or animal-derived souvenirs, stay away!

Slow down!
We could all do with putting on the brakes now and then, particularly for a holiday. But an eco-friendly holiday means embracing an altogether slower, more natural pace of life. Take your time and explore your new surroundings by bicycle or by foot. Linger over freshly-cooked meals and don’t be in a hurry to squeeze in too many sights or activities. So savour your eco holiday – by taking only memories and leaving only footprints, you really can return home destressed and rejuvenated!

More reasons to follow the Meditteranean diet

The benefits of following the Mediterranean diet are well known, particularly in terms of improving heart health and reducing the risk of cancer, but new research has found that it could be beneficial for our eye health too.

Researchers from the University of Coimbra in Portugal have found that people who closely follow the Mediterranean diet, especially by eating fruit, may be more than a third less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, (AMD), which is a leading cause of blindness.

The Mediterranean diet is based on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, healthy fats and fish, and limiting red meat and butter.

The researchers studied 883 people aged 55 and over between 2013 and 2015. Of those, 449 had AMD in its early stages before vision loss, and 434 did not have AMD. The participants’ diets were assessed based on a questionnaire asking how often they ate foods associated with the Mediterranean diet. Their findings revealed a significant reduction in AMD risk in those who ate a Mediterranean diet most frequently, and particularly among those who consumed more fruit and caffeine.

The researchers chose to look at caffeine because it is a powerful antioxidant that is known to be protective against other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Rufino Silva, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study, said: “This research adds to the evidence that a healthy, fruit-rich diet is important to health, including helping to protect against macular degeneration. We also think this work is a stepping stone towards effective preventive medicine in AMD.”

Vitamin D spray helps resolve deficiency in athletes

Even athletes who spend an above average amount of time outside are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, a new study has found. The randomised placebo-controlled trial was carried out by Ulster University in conjunction with health pioneers BetterYou and looked at the effect of vitamin D on 35 healthy Gaelic footballers.

The findings showed that 72 per cent of participants were vitamin D insufficient at the start of the trial. However, after 12 weeks of supplementation with BetterYou’s DLux3000 vitamin D oral spray, the athletes with a deficiency had boosted their vitamin D levels to ‘adequate’. Vitamin D is often referred to as the 'sunshine vitamin' because our bodies produce it through exposure to the sun.

The results revealed that the group who exercised regularly experienced small improvements in their thinking skills compared to the group who did not do the regular exercise. Notably, six months after the exercise group ceased exercising regularly their cognitive functions were found to be no different than those who did not exercise. The findings were published in the journal Neurology.

Get your beauty sleep!

If you are struggling to lose those extra pounds, your lack of shut-eye may be the problem. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep may cause us to eat 300-400 more calories the next day. And in order to keep energy levels high we tend to choose sugary or starchy quick fixes. “Just one extra hour of sleep each night can increase leptin, the hormone which suppresses appetite,” says Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.

Regular exercise could benefit those with dementia

Canadian researchers have found that exercise may benefit elderly people with dementia – but the exercise needs to be kept up in order for the benefits to last.

A team from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver carried out the study on a group of 70 individuals with an average age of 74. Half of the group exercised for an hour three times a week over a period of six months, while the other half of the group did not exercise but ate a healthy diet. All participants were tested on their cognitive skills both before the study and after it finished, six months later.

Vitamin D could prevent asthma attacks

New research has shown that vitamin D can offer protection against severe asthma attacks according to a major review of research surrounding the effects of the vitamin on the condition.

Low blood levels of vitamin D have been linked to an increased risk of asthma attacks in children and adults with asthma. Several clinical trials have been carried out to determine whether vitamin D might prevent asthma attacks and improve control of asthma symptoms in children and adults. However results from studies with the most scientifically sound designs have not previously been evaluated as a group.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London carried out a review for the Cochrane Library, in which they evaluated seven trials involving 435 children and two trials involving 658 adults. The majority of those taking part had mild or moderate asthma and all of the studies compared vitamin D with placebo.

The researchers found that people given vitamin D experienced fewer asthma attacks requiring treatment with oral steroids. The average number of attacks per person per year reduced from 0.44 to 0.28 with vitamin D. Vitamin D also reduced the risk of attending hospital with an acute asthma attack from 6 per 100 to around 3 per 100. The researchers have called for further trials focusing on children and people who experience frequent severe asthma attacks before definitive clinical recommendations can be made.

Selenium linked to decreased risk of liver cancer

German researchers have found that high blood selenium levels are linked with a decreased risk of developing liver cancer.

Selenium is a trace element which is found in foods such as seafood, Brazil nuts, organ meats, milk and eggs. A team of researchers led by Professor Lutz Schomburg of the Institute of Experimental Endocrinology in Berlin examined data from 477,000 adults and selected individuals who had developed hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) during a 10-year follow up.

Blood samples were also chosen from healthy participants and subsequently analysed to determine their selenium status.

“We have been able to show that selenium deficiency is a major risk factor for liver cancer,” said Professor Schomburg, adding: “According to our data, the third of the population with lowest selenium status have a five- to ten-fold increased risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma – also known as liver cancer.” The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Did you know?

If each of the UK’s 10 million office workers used one less staple a day, that could save 120 tons of steel a year. You can even fold over the corners of the pages to secure them, or use a paperclip if necessary.
Source: Friends of the Earth.

Family fun galore at VegFestUK

A weekend of family fun is promised at this year’s VegfestUK London event on 22 and 23 October at Olympia London. This celebration of veganism will feature plenty of activities for youngsters to enjoy, as well as informative events for the adults. Kids’ entertainer Captain James Tea Cook, Pirate of the Carob Bean, will head up a series of entertaining cookery classes to get the kids busy whilst learning about the basics of veganism.

There will also be a number of family-friendly book reading sessions, magic shows and poetry readings. For older children the Teen Zone will play host to fun workshops, games and competitions. Meanwhile adults will be able to visit the many stalls showcasing hundreds of vegan products, take part in talks and yoga sessions, enjoy stand-up comedy and music plus much more!

For more info, visit www.london.vegfest.co.uk

Poor prenatal diet linked to ADHD

Researchers have found links between a diet that is high in fat and sugar during pregnancy and symptoms of ADHD in children with behavioural problems early in life.

Scientists from King’s College London and the University of Bristol conducted a study involving participants from the Bristol-based ‘Children of the 90s’ cohort. A total of 83 children with early-onset conduct problems were compared with 81 children who had low levels of conduct problems. The researchers examined how the mothers’ diet affected epigenetic changes (or DNA methylation) of IGF2, which is a gene involved in foetal development and the brain development of areas involved in ADHD – the cerebellum and hippocampus.

The researchers discovered that a diet high in fat, sugar, processed food and confectionery during pregnancy was linked with higher IGF2 methylation in children with early onset conduct problems and those with low conduct problems.

Higher IGF2 methylation was also associated with higher ADHD symptoms between the ages of seven and 13, but only for children who showed an early onset of conduct problems.

Dr Edward Barker from King’s College London said: “These results suggest that promoting a healthy prenatal diet may ultimately lower ADHD symptoms and conduct problems in children. This is encouraging given that nutritional and epigenetic risk factors can be altered.”

The findings were published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

It’s good to go organic!

This month marks the return of the Soil Association’s Organic September campaign, which is a month-long celebration of all things organic. Here are five reasons why you should get involved:

1. Reduce your exposure to potentially harmful pesticides
Over 320 pesticides can be routinely used in non-organic farming and these are often present in non-organic food.

2. It’s naturally different
How we farm really does affect the quality of the food we eat. Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition found significant nutritional differences between organic and non-organic farming.

3. It’s better for the planet
If all UK farmland was converted to organic farming at least 3.2 million tonnes of carbon would be taken up by the soil each year – the equivalent of taking nearly 1 million cars off the road.

4. Help protect our wildlife
75 per cent of UK wildlife is in decline. Organic farms use fewer pesticides and provide homes for bees, birds and butterflies – there is up to 50 per cent more wildlife!

5. Higher standards of animal welfare
Organic animals are truly free range. This means healthy, happy animals that are reared without the routine use of antibiotics which is common in intensive livestock farming.

To find out more about the Organic September campaign, visit www.soilassociation.org/organicseptember

Healthy living helps women ‘take control’ of breast cancer

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month approaches, thousands of women are facing a life-changing diagnosis and often gruelling rounds of treatment. Survival rates are improving but it’s still an incredibly frightening time which leaves women overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness. For many, adopting a healthy lifestyle is a way of taking back control.

“The moment you get your diagnosis, you do feel very alone,” says Nina Barough, who has had breast cancer and is founder of the grant-making breast cancer charity Walk the Walk. “I felt I needed to do little things that gave me a sense of having control. I had healing, massages, ate only organic foods, got heavily into juicing and walked for miles. Power Walking for me was huge – I consciously decided the fitter I was before surgery, the quicker I would heal and for me it worked.”

Research has since borne Nina’s theory out, showing that doing weight-bearing exercise like walking helps both physically and emotionally – although each individual case differs. Holistic treatments are also gaining some traction. “Twenty years ago acupuncture was not accepted in hospitals,” says Nina. “Now there are lots of charities working within hospitals using massage, nutrition and acupuncture to help people on their journey – it can’t be underestimated how important this is, alongside conventional treatment.”

Two decades on, Nina is an expert in Power Walking and organises The MoonWalk – night-time walking marathons in London, Edinburgh and Iceland which raise money for breast cancer causes – from conventional treatments to holistic care. She’s also still a big fan of juicing and a committed vitamin-taker.

To sign up for The MoonWalk London 2017 go to www.walkthewalk.org

A celebration of veganism

Delicious vegan food from around the world will be on the menu at VegfestUK, which takes place on 22 and 23 October at Olympia London.

From falafels and baklavas to sushi rolls, Chinese stir-fries and Caribbean callaloos, visitors will be able to sample a range of delicious vegan dishes which can be washed down with vegan draught beers, juices and smoothies.

Around 12,000 visitors are expected to attend the event, which is also set to feature around 250 stalls showcasing all manner of vegan products from food and drink to bodycare, fashion, magazines and much more.

Those looking for culinary tips will not want to miss the cookery demos and living raw food demos laden with easy-to-follow techniques on getting the best out of your vegan ingredients.

Families with children will enjoy the cookery classes, smoothie bikes, magic shows and games in the Kids Area, whereas elsewhere in the venue there will be a programme of entertainment from stand-up comedians and acoustic musicians as well as a bodybuilding contest. Those wishing to learn more about the vegan ethos can attend the dozens of talks, workshops and panel discussions, which cover areas as diverse as health, nutrition, activism and more.

• Tickets are priced at £12 for adults and £8 for students/claimants/OAPs (plus a small booking fee) in advance.

Visit www.london.vegfest.co.uk/ticket-info

Join the D-list

Public Health England (PHE) has issued new recommendations that everyone should take 10mcg of vitamin D each day to maintain healthy bones, teeth and muscles. This advice is based on the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which carried out a review of the evidence on vitamin D and health.

Vitamin D is produced in the skin through exposure to sunlight. It regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, both of which are needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. It is found naturally in a small number of foods including oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks and in fortified food like breakfast cereals and fat spreads.

PHE advises that in spring and summer most people get sufficient vitamin D through sunlight on the skin as well as a healthy, balanced diet. However, during autumn and winter, people need to rely on dietary sources of vitamin D. Since it is difficult for people to meet the 10mcg recommendation through their diets, it is advised that they should consider taking a daily supplement during autumn and winter.

Natural health company BetterYou have welcomed the recommendations but are keen to emphasise that even during summer months in the UK, we simply are not getting enough vitamin D. BetterYou have always recommended year-round supplementation and developed a vitamin D Oral Spray range (DLux) to ensure optimum delivery and guarantee absorption levels all year round.

Andrew Thomas, founder and managing director at BetterYou, said: “We’ve been waiting a long time for the SACN report to be published as the government’s current advice is that only at-risk groups should take a daily vitamin D supplement, yet due to the lack of sunshine in the UK and cloudy conditions more and more of us are depleted in this essential vitamin which can lead to numerous health risks. As Vitamin D Awareness Week looms (24 to 30 October) it is our aim to educate the nation as to the dangers of vitamin D deficiency and spread the message of not only the importance of supplementation but also how easy it is to rectify this situation.”

The super spice!

According to new research published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, cinnamon could improve your ability to learn.

Researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago discovered that the popular spice can reverse biochemical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of those with poor learning by stimulating the hippocampus, a small part in the brain that generates, organises and stores memory.

Cinnamon may also help with sugar cravings, when sprinkled on foods such as natural yogurt and porridge. Leading nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville says: “A few studies suggest that adding cinnamon to food might help better control blood sugar, by lowering post-meal blood-sugar spikes.”

The power of pomegranates

Swiss scientists have found evidence that could suggest that pomegranates hold the key to longevity.

A study published in Natural Medicine journal found that pomegranates contain a substance called urolithin A, which is responsible for a process known as mitophagy. This is a process whereby the body's mitochondria (the energy factories of the cells) are recycled into new mitochondria after they become worn down and less efficient.

In laboratory studies when urolithin A was given to worms and mice, the animals were found to live longer and ran further. Clinical trials are underway at present to see whether the effect can be replicated in future.

Reading and diet boosts brain power

A new report has found that a combination of reading and following the right diet can boost brain power and behaviour at the beginning of life. These were the findings of the report, Something fishy about reading, published by Equazen, manufacturers of evidence-based omega fatty acid supplements.

As part of the report, Philip Calder, professor of nutritional immunology at the University of Southampton and independent dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton, reviewed recent studies of the impact of long chain omega-3 fatty acid supplements on learning and cognition in healthy children. They found that seven out of nine clinical trials showed that youngsters benefited in some way from taking a top-up.

The report also showed that reading boosts academic achievement, increases our emotional intelligence, reduces depression and stalls dementia. Scans have even shown that our brains work differently when we concentrate on a good novel and reading produces lasting changes in the way our brains work.

Compelling evidence of the importance of omega-3 for reading comes from the DHA Oxford Learning and Behaviour (DOLAB) study — a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of seven to nine-year-olds which found that a daily dose of 600mg of long chain omega-3 fatty acids produced “significant” improvements in reading in children who had previously underperformed in reading tests.

Professor Calder says it’s hardly surprising that omega-3 appears to be so important for cognition as up to 40 per cent of the grey matter in the human brain is fat, and around half of it is the long chain omega-3, DHA. “DHA is essential for normal brain function, while another long chain omega-3, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) has been shown to influence mood and behaviour,” he says.

The impact of pollution

According to a new report by the Royal College of Physicians, each year in the UK around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution.

The report, which is titled Every breath we take: The lifelong impact of air pollution states that air pollution has been linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes linked to dementia. It also reveals that the health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution in the UK add up to more than £20 billion every year.

A vision of the future

A new report by a young conservationists group is urging the government to offer greater protection to wildlife and the environment.

The Vision for Nature report, which was produced by the organisation A Focus on Nature, calls for the UK Government to bring out a 250-year plan which sets out how nature will be maintained for generations to come.

Other recommendations in the report include that 20 per cent of lesson time throughout primary schools should be spent outdoors in quality green space, with half of this spent learning about and interacting with the natural world.

It also calls for a joint government, business and third sector programme to create 10 city national parks across the UK and to develop urban nature reserves and wildlife gardens in the most deprived communities in the UK.

Wholegrains linked to reduction in heart disease

Eating at least three portions of wholegrains a day has been found to be linked with a lower risk of death from heart and circulatory disease and cancer. The findings came about as a result of a review carried out by the American Heart Association (AHA). The association examined 12 studies which focused on the association between a diet rich in wholegrains with lower risk of death from heart and circulatory disease and cancer.

The review of the combined studies, which was published in the AHA’s journal Circulation, involved 786,076 people in the US, Scandinavia and the UK.

Victoria Taylor, a senior dietitian with the British Heart Foundation, said: “Eating more wholegrains is a simple change we can make to improve our diet and help lower our risk of heart and circulatory disease.

Choosing brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, wholemeal or granary bread instead of white and swapping to wholegrain breakfast cereals like porridge are all simple ways to help us up our fibre and wholegrain intake.”

Coffee found to play a role in good liver health

A report launched by the British Liver Trust supports the role of coffee in good liver health. It is the first time that the entire body of current research and evidence has been reviewed and compiled into a single report.

The report, entitled Coffee consumption and the liver – the potential health benefits, provides evidence that regularly drinking moderate amounts of coffee may prevent liver cancer – the World Health Organisation recently confirmed this reduced risk after reviewing more than 1,000 studies.

It also reveals that coffee lowers the risk of other liver conditions including fibrosis (scar tissue that builds up within the liver) and cirrhosis. Other findings include the fact that drinking coffee can slow the progression of liver disease in some patients and that beneficial effects have been found no matter how the coffee is prepared – filtered, instant and espresso. As a result, the British Liver Trust is calling for more clinical research relating to coffee and the liver.

For more information, visit www.loveyourliver.org.uk

15 minutes of exercise a day could reduce risk of death

Just 15 minutes of exercise per day has been linked with a 22 per cent lower risk of death, according to a new French study.

Researchers from University Hospital of Saint-Etienne monitored the exercise habits of a group of 1,011 people aged 65 in 2001 for a 12-year period. They also studied an international group of 122, 417 people aged 60 for 10 years.

The researchers discovered that individuals who took part in the recommended weekly level of exercise achieved a 28 per cent lower risk of death. Participants who engaged in around 15 minutes of exercise each day still achieved a 22 per cent reduced risk. The health benefits generally came from a reduced risk of dying from heart disease or a stroke.

The researchers concluded that 15 minutes of exercise a day was a ‘reasonable target dose’ for those aged over 60. The findings were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Survey links stress to digestive distress

According to research carried out by Potter’s Herbals, a producer of licensed herbal medicines, 21 per cent of respondents cited stress as a key trigger of digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Furthermore, 78 per cent of respondents admitted to suffering with stress once a week or more, with nearly a quarter (23 per cent) suffering stress every day.

One in five people stated that their stress was work-related whereas one in six said that their workloads meant that they don’t have regular meals and almost as many (13 per cent) said they often ate on the go at work giving their digestive systems no time to digest their food.

The survey was carried out among 2,000 UK adults aged between 25 and 65. Stress management advice from The Henry Potter Advisory Committee includes staying well hydrated by drinking herbal tea to maintain digestive health, consuming meals and snacks on a regular schedule, eating a minimum of five-a-day fruit and vegetables, limiting fat and sugar intake and exercising regularly.

For more information, visit www.pottersherbals.co.uk

Blackcurrant extract could help cardiovascular function

Athletes who were given a supplement of New Zealand blackcurrant extract were found to experience improved cardiovascular responses according to a study by the University of Chichester.

Fifteen male cyclists were supplemented with New Zealand blackcurrant extract for seven days, at doses of 300mg, 600mg and 900mg. Their cardiovascular function was tested over 20 minutes, while lying down. The results showed that short-duration supplementation with the blackcurrant extract increased blood volume pumped by 27.5 per cent and boosted circulation by 20.2 per cent.

Mark Willems, Professor of Exercise Physiology at the University of Chichester said: “Our findings indicate a clear application for athletes recovering from exercise. If you can enhance blood flow to muscles that were active following exercise then that is beneficial for recovery.” Blackcurrant compounds relax blood vessels, meaning they reduce the tension in blood vessel walls, causing the diameter of the blood vessel to widen, resulting in enhanced blood flow.

A vegan diet could reverse diabetes

Following a vegan diet can prevent, treat and even reverse type 2 diabetes, claims a leading expert. Diet and lifestyle have long been regarded as the main causes of type 2 diabetes. Now research suggests that those following a vegan diet reduce their risk of diabetes by 78 per cent compared with people who eat meat on a daily basis.

“Type 2 diabetes is almost always preventable, often treatable, and sometimes reversible through diet and lifestyle changes,” writes Dr Michael Greger, internationally-renowned physician, in his best-selling book How Not To Die. “People who eat a plant-based diet have just a small fraction of the rates of diabetes seen in those who regularly eat meat. By switching to a healthy diet, you can start improving your health within a matter of hours.”

This is partly because vegans are better able to control their weight. Carrying excess body fat is the number one risk factor of type 2 diabetes, with around 90 per cent of those who develop the disease being overweight. Vegans, however, have lower levels of obesity on average than any other dietary group.

It is also because, Dr Greger explains, the saturated fats found in animal products contribute to insulin resistance – the cause of type 2 diabetes – whereas monosaturated fats found in nuts and avocados may actually protect against the detrimental effects of saturated fats.

As a result, people eating plant-based diets appear to have better insulin sensitivity, better blood sugar levels and better levels of insulin, which enables blood sugar to enter your cells.

For more information on following a vegan diet, visit www.vegansociety.com

Festival time: Staying healthy, naturally

With festival season upon us, and Glastonbury medics treating 600 daily in recent years, it’s worth some careful planning to make sure you’re in the dance tents rather than stuck at first aid. Here, Chloe Lyons a nutritional therapist working with OptiBac Probiotics, offers her top three natural health tips for the festival season:

  • Healthy snacks: These are key to your success. You don’t want to be caught out and have to live on your friends’ instant noodles all weekend. Pack a cool bag full of healthy nibbles. A few oatcakes will go a long way, and hydrating vegetables such as cucumber, celery and sugar snap peas will be a god-send for your hangover!

  • Tummy love: Festivals can play havoc with your digestive system, with all the fatty foods and dubious hygiene. And, knowing the loos, festivals are the last place you need to be stuck with a dodgy tummy. The peculiarly named Saccharomyces boulardii is the perfect festival probiotic. A natural way to eliminate the runs, it binds to toxins, sorts out an upset tummy quickly, and will help limit time in the portaloos.

  • Sunburn isn’t sexy: Stay beautiful with a natural, organic suncream and don’t forget to pack your hat.

Healthy hydration

Next time you head to the gym, make sure you pack a bottle of coconut water in your kit bag. As a natural form of electrolytes, it’s the ideal choice to rehydrate the body. “If you exercise intensely for longer than an hour you are likely to lose some electrolytes,” says Carly Tierney, a personal trainer and nutritionist with DW Fitness.

“Electrolytes are minerals that, amongst other things, regulate the level of water in your body. Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chlorides, phosphates and iron. These are usually maintained by a healthy diet of proteins, fruits and veggies but can be lost through excessive sweat. Coconut water can help to redress the balance.”

Vitamin D deficiency linked to diabetic retinopathy

Scientists have discovered a link between vitamin D deficiency (VDD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR), which is one of the world’s leading causes of blindness. The researchers reached their conclusion based on an examination of data from 13 studies involving over 9,000 participants. The results were presented at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) 25th Annual Scientific & Clinical Congress.

Dr Anawin Sanguankeo, one of the study’s authors, said: “Although the role of vitamin D in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy has been, and remains, an area of debate, our meta-analysis of current evidence shows a statistically significant connection between VDD and DR and suggests people with low vitamin D levels should be screened for diabetic retinopathy.”

The researchers have suggested that more research should be conducted into the possibility of using vitamin D supplementation as a means of halting the development of DR.

Technology predicted to boost the nation’s fitness

A new report has predicted that technology, which is often blamed for the increase in childhood obesity, will encourage children to become fitter and healthier. With the rise in wearable tech, fitness apps, heart rate monitors and trackers, the Future of Play report suggests that new fitness technologies and developments are set to enhance the nation’s fitness levels.

The report predicts that new gadgets such as activity-tracking jewellery, drones which can play ‘hide and seek’ or shoot jets of water will encourage kids towards physical activity. Perhaps the most exciting change predicted for the next decade will be augmented reality video games where gamers play outdoors instead of being confined to a computer screen or console.

New generation, super-accurate satellite locating will also increase the popularity of Geocaching, a modern-day treasure hunt where people find hidden boxes using their phone location. The report was commissioned by Soreen in partnership with national charity the Youth Sport Trust, which encourages children and families to become more active together.

3 podcasts for better wellbeing

We pick three top health and wellbeing podcasts from Acast, the free-to-use podcasting platform downloadable from the App store and Google play.

The Daily Meditation: Spare 20 minutes of your day and this podcast will help you regain balance and go about your day in a calm and happy manner. It will inspire you to better manage your stress, deal with feelings of anger, manage anxiety and increase confidence. www.acast.com/thedailymeditationpodcast

Ordinary Vegan: The vegan trend is not going anywhere for a while so tune in to this podcast and learn everything about a vegan diet plan. It discusses how to become vegan and shares ideas on food, nutrition, recipes and cooking: www.acast.com/ordinaryveganpodcast

Food for Fitness: This is the perfect health and fitness podcast to get you feeling motivated to work out, build muscles and continue on your health journey. Full of good advice and useful tips. www.acast.com/foodforfitness

3 apps to support your health and wellbeing

Shoptimix is an innovative shopping list app that features grocery recommendations from nutritional and lifestyle experts. Available to download for free through iOS and Android, the app caters for lots of different health and dietary needs from weight loss to vegan diets and even improved fertility.

Yin yoga is a new app based on the book Serenity yoga by Magdalena Mecweld. Priced at £3.99, the app contains 30 Yin yoga sequences, tailored to specific situations and problems, as well as all-round sequences. It is optimised for all mobiles and tablets.

Dario is an app which enables users to track their blood glucose levels and record them in a logbook. Compatible with iOS and Android, the app is designed to be used with the Dario Smart Glucose Meter, and records your entire diabetes history to indicate how your sugars change. Users can also count their carbs, log their meals and keep a food database.

Save our bees!

Friends of the Earth has launched its annual Great British Bee Count which takes place throughout June. Backed by TV presenter Michaela Strachan, the aim of the initiative is to help people recognise common species of bees, learn about the diversity of bee species in Britain (there are over 250) and to gain an understanding of the threats that bees face and what we can do to help.

To take part, you simply need to download a free app which can be used to record the different types of bees you spot in your gardens, parks, schools and countryside. Over 100,000 individual bee sightings were recorded in 2015.

For more information visit www.foe.co.uk

3 easy steps towards an eco-friendly garden

In an age where you must take steps to look after the environment, you can make a significant contribution without making too much effort, and it all happens in your garden. Being eco-friendly means being resourceful, minimising waste, and harvesting your own crops; these three steps will allow you to easily achieve all of those things.

1. Composting
They say that one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure, and in this case that actually holds an element of truth. You can turn your household and garden waste into rich compost that can be used to nourish your soil and aid the growth of your plants and flowers.

2. Grow your own food
Growing your own food is by no means as complicated as it is made out. All you need is the right cultivation techniques, a bit of luck with the weather, and some good-quality seeds — Wyevale Garden Centres has a great selection of growing guides on its website, which will guide you through planting and nourishing most common plants and vegetables.

3. Recycling unwanted items
Instead of going out and buying new planters for your flowers, try using unwanted items such as empty drawers, old wellington boots or even a flat tyre!

Tips provided by Wyevale Garden Centres: www.wyevalegardencentres.co.uk

Eco retreat

Secluded in the woodlands of northern France, La Clairière is a truly eco-friendly fitness retreat. 100 per cent of the retreat’s electricity is powered from renewable energy sources while all cleaning products are eco-friendly and the detoxifying organic cuisine is locally sourced and caters to the seasons.

Reconnect with yourself and nature during forest yoga and meditation classes, or rejuvenate with holistic spa therapies. For more information, visit Health and Fitness Travel: www.healthandfitnesstravel.com

Horatio's Garden awarded 4 stars at Chelsea Flower Show

Healthcare product manufacturer Nelsons is celebrating great news from the Chelsea Flower Show for the second year running, with a prestigious 4 stars in the trade stand competition.

This year Nelsons is sponsoring Horatio's Garden – EA514 on Eastern Avenue – to raise awareness of the charity Horatio's Garden, which builds beautiful outdoor spaces at NHS spinal injury centres, giving patients a stress-free place to recover amongst nature.

Evidence shows that gardens and gardening can have a positive effect on a person’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and having an inspiring outdoor haven is particularly crucial for people impacted by spinal injuries.

There are currently gardens at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre at Salisbury District Hospital and Scotland’s National Spinal Unit in Glasgow and they were designed by Cleve West and RHS judge James Alexander-Sinclair respectively. Their next garden will be at The National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and will be designed by Joe Swift, an RHS Gold medal winner and presenter of BBC Gardeners’ World.

Nelsons is also raising funds for their next garden through exclusive merchandise, including a stunning porcelain pestle and mortar by sculptor John Julian. The stand is staffed by volunteers and former patients of the spinal centre at Salisbury Hospital who will be able to give first hand accounts of the benefits of Horatio’s Gardens.

Is it coeliac disease?

The charity Coeliac UK is launching an awareness campaign called “Is it coeliac disease?” which takes place from 9 to 15 May in a bid to highlight the range of symptoms associated with this autoimmune condition. One in 100 people in the UK suffer with the disease, whereby the body’s immune system damages the lining of the small bowel when gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, is eaten.

There is no cure and no medication; the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet for life. Key symptoms include: frequent bouts of diarrhoea, stomach pain and cramping, regular mouth ulcers, on-going fatigue, lots of gas and bloating, nausea and vomiting, and unexplained anaemia. Earlier this year the charity launched an online assessment whereby participants answer a series of questions then receive an email indicating whether their symptoms are potentially linked to coeliac disease.

For more details visit www.isitcoeliacdisease.org.uk

Jessica is our fitspiration!

Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill has been voted the number one most inspirational female celebrity in a poll of British women.

The research, carried out by natural sports nutrition company, PhD woman, also found that six in 10 women are now cutting out junk food and eating more clean, natural food to make them feel as good as they can about themselves. To mark the launch of its new Natural Protein powder, the company interviewed 1,000 women aged between 18 and 45 about their health and fitness habits.

The results also found that six in 10 women say that feeling fit helps them feel good about themselves – placing it above their relationships and career when it comes to making them feel happy. What’s more, the rise in clean eating means that for four in 10 women, natural produce is at the top of their shopping lists, above low fat and low calorie foods.

A nation of insomniacs

The UK public is sleep-deprived to such an extent that we are losing an entire night’s sleep over the course of a week, according to research from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

A poll of 2,000 UK adults revealed that on average we sleep for 6.8 hours a night, which falls short of the average 7.7 hours people feel they need. More than half (54 per cent) of respondents said they felt stressed as a result of poor sleep and almost four in 10 (37 per cent) have fallen asleep on public transport.

Martina Della Vedova, a nutritionist with Nature's Plus UK (www.naturesplus.co.uk), suggests supplementing with the mineral magnesium to improve your sleep quality. “It has been scientifically proven that magnesium helps us to not only initially get to sleep, but to stay asleep,” she says. “This is due to magnesium improving the hormonal and neurotransmitters’ balance in the brain.”

Camping out for nature

The RSPB is calling upon adults and children to spend a night under the stars as part of its annual Big Wild Sleepout. Taking place from 29 to 31 July, the idea behind the campaign is for families to sleep out in their own gardens or outdoor spaces to get close to nature and discover which creatures they share their homes with.

Organised events will also be taking place at RSPB nature reserves across the country as well as partner sites, with activities including stargazing, bushcraft, fireside cooking and stories round the campfire. Those taking part can choose to donate money to the charity. The Big Wild Sleepout is part of the RSPB’s ‘Giving Nature a Home’ campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife.

Sign up for a Big Wild Sleepout pack and register to take part at www.rspb.org.uk/sleepout.

Our survey says!

A survey of London commuters has revealed that those who take the Northern line are less likely to experience health problems such as back ache, gastrological issues and colds. The poll, carried out by HCA at The Shard, a new outpatient and diagnostics centre, surveyed 1,000 of the capital’s commuters to find out their key health issues. The findings also revealed that just 16 per cent of Circle line commuters managed to avoid back pain during the past 12 months while only 10 per cent of Bakerloo line travellers had not suffered a cold in the past 12 months. The majority of Central line commuters admitted to only exercising twice a week and eating just two portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

Eco retreat

Situated on the shores of Lake Garda, Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda is an eco-friendly health retreat which values the connection between personal and environmental wellness.

From the local natural materials used in the eco-designed architecture, to the use of renewable alternative energies, Lefay actively promotes eco-sustainability.

Activities at the resort include personal training, Pilates, Tai Qi, yoga and fitball.

For more information visit www.healthandfitnesstravel.com

5 apps to improve your health

We take a look at some of our favourite health and wellbeing apps.

Remente
(www.remente.com)
The Remente app combines psychology with brain training, to help its users reach their goals and lead a healthier, happier lifestyle. You can track your mood and personal progress, as well as read insightful articles. Free to download; premium version available.

Lifesum
(www.lifesum.com)
Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or just be healthier, Lifesum shows how changing your small, everyday habits can transform your life. Users can track calories, log their meals, set goals and even monitor their water intake. Free to download; gold membership available for a fee.

Yoga Studio
(yogastudioapp.com)
This handy app boasts up to 65 different yoga and meditation classes ranging from 10 minutes long to an hour. Each comes with instructive videos. Create your own classes, monitor your progress and schedule reminders for your workouts. Download fee is £3.99.

Acast
(www.acast.com)
The Acast podcasting platform plays host to numerous podcasts dedicated to mindfulness, wellbeing and inducing a feeling of calm. The Radio Headspace podcast includes step-by-step instructions, guiding you through daily meditations. Free to download.

Buddhify
(buddhify.com)
Whether you are travelling to work, at home, getting to sleep or taking a walk, this app has over 80 meditations perfect for any situation, helping you find a calm haven amidst bustling activity. Download fee is £3.99 on iOS and £1.99 for Android.

Celebrating vegetarianism

Suma is pleased to be supporting the Vegetarian Society’s National Vegetarian Week again this year, from 16 to 22 May (www.vegsoc.org).

The annual event celebrates the vegetarian lifestyle and showcases some amazing, tasty vegetarian foods which can help when people are thinking about making the switch to a meat-free lifestyle. Animal welfare, health benefits and environmental concerns are some of the many reasons people choose to follow a vegetarian diet.

The campaign is a great opportunity to find out more about vegetarianism, and if you are wondering where you can find a huge selection of veggie alternatives then check out Suma’s website: www.sumawholesale.coop, or call 01422 313845 for your nearest stockist.

5 ways to make your home more eco-friendly

A leader in smart homes, Loxone (www.loxone.com) believes that making your home ‘smart’ can play a key role in reducing your carbon footprint and living an ‘eco’ life. With Loxone in your home you can control lighting, heating, security, audio and blinds. Below are Loxone’s top five tips for how you can make your home eco-friendly using technology.

1. Zoned heating
Add ‘zoned heating’ so you can choose which room you would like to heat and when. You can set separate ‘comfort’ temperatures for each room at specific times and dates – all from a mobile app that can be used in the home and remotely! This means you won’t be wasting energy by heating your entire house for longer than you need to.

2. Smart lighting
Controlling the lighting of a home with smart technology means that if you leave the house and accidentally leave any lights on you can easily switch them off, either through an app or a touch pad at the front of the house.

3. Solar panels
Installing solar panels will give you a completely renewable energy source and guarantee no harmful chemicals or gasses are released into the environment. You can even sell back the electricity you don’t use to the National Grid.

4. Automatic switch off
The average household wastes £50 to £80 leaving appliances on standby. Turn them off or, even better, use self-produced solar electricity to run your appliances, then at night all devices left on standby are automatically switched off.

5. Electricity consumption monitoring
Gas companies are now providing homes with a system to monitor the consumption of household electricity, something that smart home technology is taking to the next level by allowing you to monitor this on your mobile. Keeping track of what you use is a good way of putting your energy habits into perspective.

Keep Britain buzzing!

Our bees, pollinators and other wildlife are under threat, with numbers declining across the UK. There is strong evidence that this is a result of the use of neonicotinoids in farming, and that their use is also having an impact on other species such as birds, worms and aquatic insects. So what can we do?

Buy organic – We can make a stand against the use of these chemicals by supporting wildlife-friendly organic food and farming through our everyday shopping choices.

Encourage bees into your garden – Bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen. We can encourage them by planting clumps of bee-friendly flowering plants in sunny places, by not using pesticides in our gardens, and by providing nest sites such as bamboo canes or ready-made bumblebee nest boxes (available from garden centres).

Join the Soil Association – They are lobbying the EU to prevent the ban on neonicotinoids being overturned, and your support and membership fees can help them do this.

For more information visit www.soilassociation.org/keepbritainbuzzing

Victory for sugar tax campaigners

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has announced new tax and spending measures in the 2016 budget, including a two-part levy on soft drinks companies. One part of the mechanism will tax total sugar content above 5g per 100ml and the second will affect drinks with over 8g per 100ml, excluding pure fruit juice and milk. The government has pledged to use the £520 million raised through the tax for sports and extended school days.

Campaigners who have lobbied for this tax on sugary foods and drinks, including chef Jamie Oliver, have been celebrating this as a victory for healthy eating.

Top three perks of protein

We hear a lot about protein-rich foods, but many of us are unsure why we should be eating more of them. We asked some top nutritionists to explain the benefits of eating plenty of protein:

1. Shed those extra pounds
The one goal that many of us strive towards is that leaner, healthier, more athletic physique, and protein is often the favoured ingredient in many dietary regimes centred on this personal objective. “The reason it has such success and is continuously recommended by nutritionists, health trainers and other healthcare professionals is due to its effects on appetite control,” explains Shona Wilkinson, Head Nutritionist at the NutriCentre. “High protein diets have been shown to reduce the amount of excess calories we eat from snacking and from sugary foods, since it also helps balance our blood sugar.”

“Protein slows down the rate your stomach processes food and slows the passage of the carbohydrates with it. As soon as you add a protein (be it animal or vegetable) to a carbohydrate, you change it into a slower-releasing carbohydrate, which is a very good thing,” explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of The Natural Health Bible for Women.

2. Flash those pearly whites
To help get your smile reaching from ear to ear, make sure you’re eating enough protein.

“Proteins are broken down in the body to make amino acids and these are then used to make neurotransmitters, which are responsible for keeping our mind and mood balanced,” says Shona. “Try adding the likes of nuts, seeds, meat, fish, bean and lentils, whey protein and eggs to your diet.”

3. Exercise essential
After any type of exercise that stresses our muscles, we should try to include protein as a recovery agent. “You should try and eat protein after any exercise, from your weekly spin class to your regimented resistance training programme,” says Shona. “This is crucial so that we can repair our bodies in the fastest way and we can develop our muscles to become stronger, more efficient and more responsive during our training sessions. The need for protein after exercise is far more important than before exercise. Before we exercise the requirement for protein is not there since we are not stressing our bodies and it does not need to be consciously consumed in the belief it will help you become stronger during your session, or help you recover. We need to ingest protein after exercise as this is where we have damaged our muscle fibres through our hard training efforts, and the cells in the muscle itself are far more responsive to taking on board protein to start the repair and adaptation process.”

Want a green pet?

We’re not suggesting you buy a lizard, or a tropical parakeet. But there are ways to ensure that your pet isn’t a drain on your eco lifestyle:

Use a poo bag
Scooping up your dog’s waste in biodegradable poo bags will mean it’s not sitting in a plastic bag in a landfill for hundreds of years. Also, don’t use clumping clay cat litter; it contains fairly toxic chemicals including silica dust and sodium bentonite. Opt for an eco-friendly variety instead.

Adopt from a rescue home
Some pet breeders are guilty of overbreeding, inbreeding, poor food and living conditions and culling of unwanted animals. You can avoid this by getting a pet from a trusted source or from a rescue centre.

Use natural, organic pet food
Most conventional pet food brands consist of reconstituted animal by-products from unsustainable sources. Natural and organic varieties use meats raised in humane ways without added drugs or hormones.

Supermarkets commit to cutting food waste

Britain’s major supermarkets are backing a voluntary agreement produced by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The charity estimates that the agreement, called the Courtauld Commitment 2025, will save the UK economy around £20 billion and put the country on track to meet the UN’s sustainable Development Goal to halve food waste by retailers and consumers by 2030.

The plan has also been backed by local authorities and major brands such as Coca Cola. It aims to reduce food and drink waste by 20 per cent over the next 10 years. The agreement also hopes to reduce water use in the food and drink industry’s supply chains, and cut greenhouse gas emissions created by the food industry by 20 per cent.

Going organic is good for your health

New research from Newcastle University has found that organic meat contains around 50 per cent more omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic, as well as having several other slight nutritional advantages.

Professor Carlo Liefert explained: “Several of these differences stem from organic livestock production and are brought about by differences in production intensity, with outdoor-reared, grass-fed animals producing milk and meat that is consistently higher in desirable fatty acids such as the omega-3s, and lower in fatty acids that can promote heart disease and other chronic diseases.”

Speaking about the research, Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association, said: “This research confirms what many people have always thought was true – what you feed farm animals and how you treat them affects the quality of the food – whether it’s milk, cheese or a cut of meat. These scientists have shown that all the hard work organic farmers put into caring for their animals pays off in the quality of the food they produce – giving real value for money.”

Microbeads update

At Your Healthy Living we’ve previously covered the scandal of microbeads, which are used in many facial washes, shower gels and toothpastes, and the terrible toll they are taking on our planet’s oceans.

The tiny beads of plastic form what has been described as ‘plastic soup’ and are a threat to organic sea life, as well as absorbing pollutants. The good news is that the world is finally waking up to this issue; in the US, the House of Representatives has approved a bill to prohibit the manufacture and sale of products containing microbeads, and there are campaigns underway to achieve similar changes in the law in the UK and the rest of Europe.

Cosmetics Europe says it is recommending its members discontinue the use of microbeads from 2020. Natural beauty and skincare products don’t contain plastic microbeads. Instead they use alternatives such as apricot kernels or fruit seeds to achieve the grainy texture and exfoliating effect.

Sleep solutions

March is National Bed Month, so follow our tips to guarantee a good night’s sleep!

1. Have a bath or shower: Sleep expert James Wilson says: “A great way to help your body start its melatonin production is to take a bath or shower. Melatonin is a hormone made naturally by our bodies which helps create the urge to fall asleep and is key in regulating your body’s internal clock. The fall in body temperature we experience when we get out of the bath or shower is a signal to the body to start producing melatonin. You can supercharge this process by adding BetterYou Goodnight Spray after your bath or shower. Magnesium helps the body relax by ensuring the GABA receptors in our brain and nervous system are working as efficiently as possible. GABA receptors help the brain switch off and without it our brains would continue to race.”

2. Don’t eat late at night: It’s recently been reported that fasting for 12 hours during the night is an effective way of sleeping better and losing weight. One reason for this is that melatonin, which is released by the pineal gland in hours of darkness, is broken down by sugar; hence why it’s important not to eat too close to bedtime! It is also broken down by alcohol, which is why having a few drinks can often leave you tossing and turning at night.

3. Wind down: James Wilson says: “The hour and a half before you go to bed should be seen as a ‘golden time’ to ensure that you get the sleep you need. Make sure you turn off all your devices that emit blue light, such as your phone, tablet or e-reader. The blue light tells your brain that it is still daytime and inhibits the production of melatonin.”

4. Damage limitation: If you do have a bad night’s sleep, it can have an effect on how you feel the next day. So how can you stop the cycle? Clare Daley, in-house nutritionist at Nature’s Own, says: “The National Sleep Foundation links persistent lack of sleep to a number of health conditions including an increased risk of heart disease and obesity. Have you noticed that you are hungrier and crave carbohydrates after a poor night’s sleep? This is because lack of sleep disrupts normal levels of our hunger hormones. We may then snack on sugary foods during the day thinking they will help boost our energy levels – ironically this is likely to lead to poorer quality sleep and frequent waking due to blood sugar imbalances. If you have had a poor night’s sleep choose a high protein breakfast, and if you need a snack choose nuts rather than sugary foods.”

Visit a bluebell wood this spring

Visiting a bluebell wood is one of the UK’s great seasonal highlights, but it can be tricky to work out when the best time is, as bluebells blossom at different times each year depending on a range of factors including temperature and hours of sunlight.

The Woodland Trust has a Nature Calendar on its website where you can track the blossoming of these beautiful flowers – along with other natural events – to ensure you don’t miss it.

Visit www.naturescalendar.org.uk to get started.

The trust also has a hotlist of the best places in the UK to see bluebells, at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk.

High blood sugar could lead to heart complications

Foods high in sugar could affect the heart’s recovery from a heart attack, according to a study at the University of Leicester. Scientists demonstrated for the first time the mechanism by which the level of sugar in your blood can affect the contraction of blood vessels, with potentially dangerous effects on the heart and blood pressure.

Dr Richard Rainbow, lecturer in Cardiovascular Cell Physiology, said: “We have shown that the amount of sugar, or glucose, in the blood changes the behaviour of blood vessels, making them contract more than normal. This could result in higher blood pressure, or could reduce the amount of blood that flows through vital organs.”

The research comes as MPs and health experts debate proposals for a ‘sugar tax’ and highlights the potential health risks of consuming large amounts of rich, sugary foods regularly in your diet. With healthy eating among the most common New Year’s resolutions, it adds another incentive to reduce our intake of these foods all year round.

Fair-trade fortnight 2016

This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight takes place between 29 February and 13 March. The event will feature a Big Fairtrade Breakfast to inspire the UK public to sit down for breakfast in support of the farmers who grow the food we have every morning, such as coffee, tea, cocoa and bananas.

Despite millions of farmers and workers in developing countries working hard every day to grow the food we eat, many don’t earn enough to know where their next meal is coming from. One in nine people go to bed hungry each night (795 million people), and half of the world’s hungry people are estimated to live on small farms.

Shoppers in the West can change this by harnessing the power of a Fairtrade breakfast – so that farmers and workers behind our products can feel secure, knowing they can feed their families, all year round.

Nilufar Verjee, Public Engagement Director for the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “This Fairtrade Fortnight, make your breakfast count with Fairtrade – use the power of your shopping to help ensure food security for the world’s most vulnerable farmers and workers.” Campaigners up and down the country will hold hundreds of breakfast events as part of Fairtrade Fortnight 2016 and the #YouEatTheyEat hashtag will be used to spread the word on social media.

For more information, visit www.fairtrade.org.uk/breakfast

Vitamin D enhances elderly mobility

Research has suggested that taking vitamin D supplements makes the elderly feel more active. The findings, carried out by University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, mirror the UK Department of Health guidelines, which deem those over the age of 65 as an ‘at risk group’ for vitamin D deficiency, and recommend regular supplementation. Diseases related to vitamin D deficiency, including Multiple Sclerosis, Type 2 Diabetes, bone diseases such as osteoporosis and a growing number of internal cancers, are believed to cost the UK taxpayer £29 billion annually – more than a quarter of the NHS budget.

BetterYou make a simple, affordable and accurate home-testing kit so that everyone can take control of their own vitamin D requirements. Testing is carried out by City Assays, part of Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, who use liquid chromatography mass spectrometry to measure the vitamin D level in the blood. A clear interpretation of the vitamin D level is then sent to the customer.

Andrew Thomas, founder and managing director of BetterYou, said: “The estimations as to how many of us are deficient are growing daily. In the 900 tests we’ve carried out with the NHS we found 75 per cent of subjects to have insufficient levels, some severely so.”

For more information about the home-testing kit visit www.betteryou.com

Meat-free motivation

If you’re considering going veggie but need an extra push, why not sign up to Animal Aid’s Big Veg Pledge this March?

Pledge to give meat the elbow for a month and you’ll get free recipes to see you through the month, nutrition advice, shopping tips, an agony aunt service, access to a chat forum and much more besides.

Visit www.animalaid.org.uk for more info or to sign up. And if you need veggie inspiration, you could join a vegetarian cookery course at Demuth’s Cookery School in Bath, run by veggie chef Rachel Demuth.

For more information visit www.demuths.co.uk

Be sugar smart

Public Health England has launched an app which works by scanning barcodes and revealing the total amount of sugar in cubes or grams. Officials hope that the Sugar Smart app will help combat tooth decay, obesity and type two diabetes and encourage families to choose healthier alternatives.

PHE says young children are eating three times more than the sugar limit and suggests that, on average, children aged four to 10 years old are consuming 22kg of added sugar a year. That's about 5,500 sugar cubes – more than the weight of an average five-year-old child.

The app has been developed to raise awareness of how much sugar is contained in everyday food and drink. It works on more than 75,000 products, offering a quick guide to help parents to assess potential purchases that may harm their children's health.

Make looking after your back your New Year’s resolution

Instead of joining the gym or starting the 5:2 diet this January, why not perfect your posture instead? You could find that you not only look slimmer and more youthful, you’ll feel better too.

That’s the advice from Chiropractors of the Year, Arif Soomro and Melanie Cutting, who are also the founders of Cliffs Chiropractic Clinic in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex.

“We know that most New Year resolutions rarely last more than a week or two,” say Arif and Melanie, “but with so many of us spending hours at a time hunched over our computers or mobile phones, we’d like to suggest a New Year’s resolution with a difference: ‘Don’t look down.’

No, this has nothing to do with scaling the heights or overcoming vertigo; it’s an antidote to our sedentary lifestyles.

Sitting down for hours at a time, at work or home, then whiling away our leisure time on social media, has resulted in many of us developing posture problems that only used to affect the elderly. We’re stooping and slouching more often and this is putting undue pressure on our spines, which can lead to early wear-and-tear and spinal degeneration. The good news is that we can do something about it and it’s never too early to start.

They continue: “If you work in an office, and you’re desk bound, you need to adopt the correct posture to maintain the normal curves in your back, lessen compression in your spine and maintain a good open posture so you don’t compress your ribs or the bowel that affects your digestion, and you don’t restrict your breathing. When you’re walking, try adopting the stance of walking tall and pinching your shoulder blades together whilst looking ahead and not down at your feet – that way you’ll prevent stooping from getting worse. The added benefit is that holding yourself better gives you more energy, plus it takes years off how you feel and how you look!”

For more information on Cliffs Chiropractic Clinic, www.cliffschiropractorsouthend.co.uk

2016: the year of the Flexitarian

Flexitarianism is set be the next mega food trend over the coming year with sales of vegetarian foods in the UK predicted to grow by 10 per cent in 2016, and 35 per cent of Brits choosing to call themselves flexitarians.

However, it’s hardly surprising with meat now part of fewer meals – one in six Brits now claim they are eating more non-animal sources of protein. Flexitarianism is defined as a semi-vegetarian diet that’s plant-based with the occasional inclusion of animal products.

But why is this lifestyle trend on the rise? Mintel’s research reveals that almost half of Brits see meat-free products as environmentally-friendly and 52 per cent see them as healthy.

Shake up your make-up with the benecos lipstick amnesty

benecos, a range of certified natural and organic cosmetics, skincare and brushes, is introducing a ‘Lipstick Amnesty’ throughout January 2016 allowing customers to trade in their ‘conventional’ lipsticks to receive 50 per cent off a benecos natural lipstick of their choice.

The award-winning lipsticks are infused with organic jojoba and sunflower oil to ensure that your lips are cared for and are hydrated throughout the day.

To find your local participating store head over to www.benecos.uk

A good night’s sleep is a dream for many

According to the findings of a new study, the average Briton sleeps for an average of six and a half hours each night, with the majority of respondents admitting they don’t get enough sleep.

Londoners emerged as the UK’s earliest risers, typically waking at 5.30am, with North Easterners the biggest night owls, staying up until 12.30am. The average British adult goes to bed at 10.30pm each night, rises at 6.45am and wakes up twice during the night, according to new research by Web-Blinds.com.

When asked if they ever struggle to sleep after going to bed, 62 per cent of respondents confessed this happens to them at least once a week, with 16 per cent saying they struggle to sleep every night.

Kirsty Martin, spokesperson for Web-Blinds.com, said: “It looks like the widely accepted ideal of getting eight hours’ sleep a night is just a dream for most people. More than a third of those polled in the study blame worry and stress as the main reason behind their difficulty to sleep at night. Of course, the issue can easily snowball as having trouble sleeping can in turn cause an increase in worry and stress.”

A woman exercising

Active women may have an iron deficiency

A study published in Network Health Dietitians found that 35 per cent of female athletes had low ferritin levels (this is an intracellular protein that stores iron and releases it in a controlled fashion). Low levels of this protein can leave an individual vulnerable to anaemia.

The study also showed that 60 per cent were found to have depleted iron levels.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, author of the study and member of the Meat Advisory Panel, said: “Our research suggests that lack of iron is probably undermining the performance and potential of thousands of everyday exercise enthusiasts. At a minimum, athletes should ensure their diets contain at least the reference nutrient intake for iron. The simplest way to achieve this is to eat red meat, as the haem iron in meat is more available to the body and readily absorbed compared with non-haem iron from fortified foods and plant foods.”

Are you sick of cuddling your pet?

It’s what many of us look forward to after a long day at work – cuddling our pet. Snuggling up with our furry friends can have a beneficial effect, including lowering our blood pressure and even helping to prevent heart disease. But for some this close contact can also cause unpleasant allergic symptoms, known as pet allergies.

Airborne allergens expert, Max Wiseberg, provides some useful information and tips to help:

  • Pet allergy is an allergic reaction to tiny particles shed by your pet which become airborne (known as ‘dander’). Cat owners generally get more grief than dog owners as cats groom more often and their dander is smaller, becoming airborne more easily and for longer. And if you get a pet such as a cat as an adult, for the first time, this can really spell trouble. This is because people who have had a cat in childhood have a much smaller risk of becoming sensitised to it than those who are new cat owners.
  • Keep pets off sofas and beds, and out of the bedroom altogether if possible, to reduce exposure. Wash your dog or cat’s bedding and basket regularly. And wash and groom pets regularly too; according to leading UK allergy charity, Allergy UK, bathing a cat once or twice a week can reduce cat allergens in the home by 90 per cent.
  • Dust surfaces with a damp cloth, and vacuum regularly, to minimise the amount of allergens in the house and keep cuddly toys and blankets in a cupboard to prevent the build-up of pet dander on them.
  • Using an allergen barrier balm such as HayMax can reduce the amount of allergen entering the body through the nose.

Stress playing havoc with Britain's fertilty

Recent statistics have revealed that up to half a million people in the UK have work-related stress, often resulting in illness. It is widely considered to be one of the main causes of ‘unexplained’ infertility.

With one in six couples in the UK experiencing fertility difficulties, stress needs to be taken seriously urges Dr Geetha Venkat, director of Harley Street Fertility Clinic. “Stress seriously hampers ovulation and no amount of sperm will make a difference if the woman’s body hasn't released an egg waiting to be fertilised,” she says.

Stress has also been shown to significantly lower semen quality. A recent study by The American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that men who experienced two or more stressful life events in the past year had a lower percentage of sperm motility and a lower percentage of sperm of normal morphology, compared with men who did not experience any stressful life events.

Dr Venkat urges couples who are suffering with stress to find the root cause of the problem and adopt personalised strategies to help tackle the issue such as exercising, meditation and enjoying hobbies. Stress can have a domino effect by causing people to turn to unhealthy lifestyle habits such as drinking, smoking and eating poorly which goes on to make matters worse. Adopting regular exercise and a healthy diet can have a significant impact on your general health and emotional wellbeing.

A woman holding a glass of water

Hydration and hangovers

Christmas is prime time for overindulgence and, as a result, prime time for hangovers. Although the symptoms of hangovers such as headaches, nausea and tiredness are well known, the causes are not. In the past, dehydration was thought to be the main cause of hangover symptoms. Scientists now also believe that alcohol withdrawal and chemicals formed in the body when our liver breaks down alcohol contribute to those unpleasant symptoms.

Professor Tom Sanders, Professor emeritus of Nutrition and Dietetics, King’s College London and advisor to the Natural Hydration Council offers these tips to get through the party season unscathed:

1. Don’t drink alcohol when you feel thirsty! Quench your thirst with a refreshing glass of water.

2. If you’re hosting a party, provide plenty of healthy and interesting soft drink options for guests; to encourage your guests to drink water include ice cubes with festive berries frozen inside.

3. Avoid drinking from large wine glasses as this may lead you to underestimate how much alcohol you have consumed.

4. Try to alternate any alcoholic drinks with a glass of water and keep a bottle or glass of water by your bedside during the night to drink whenever you feel thirsty.

5. The darker the alcohol, the more likely it is to cause a hangover. This is because of the phenolic antioxidant compounds found in darker alcoholic liquids, which are thought to cause dilation of blood vessels in the brain. Swapping red wine for white and brandy for vodka can help reduce hangover symptoms.

6. Excess alcohol intake causes dehydration, which can result in headaches the next day, which are also caused by acute increases of blood pressure following the withdrawal of alcohol. Drinking plenty of water is the best remedy.

7. A glass of orange juice in the morning can pick up blood sugar levels, which are often low after excess alcohol.

8. Avoid eating greasy foods such as fry ups in the morning as these can make you feel worse. Instead, opt for carbohydrate-rich foods such as breakfast cereals or toast and marmalade and continue to drink water throughout the day.

Whole grains of great benefit to health

A new review of 49 previous studies has revealed that higher intakes of whole grain and dietary fibre were associated with a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, abdominal obesity and certain cancers. The review, by Dr Carrie Ruxton and Dr Emma Derbyshire, found in particular that three or more portions of whole grain cereals daily is associated with a 20 to 30 per cent reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Unfortunately, the UK has no whole grain recommendation, which leads to a lack of understanding of the benefits among the public and also among health professionals.

A woman biting into a chilli pepper

Will you keep your New Year’s resolution?

New Year's resolutions date back to Babylonian and Roman times.

At the beginning of the year, the Babylonians pledged to their gods that they would pay their debts whilst the Romans made promises to the god Janus, who the month of January is named after. In a study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol on 3,000 people, 88 per cent of those who set New Year resolutions failed despite 52 per cent being confident of success at the beginning. Women succeeded 10 per cent more when they shared their resolution with others and got support from their friends.

One third of Britons name losing weight as their most common New Year’s resolution. An International Journal of Obesity study has found that chillies and green tea (the active ingredients in Chilliburner food supplement) have been proposed as strategies for weight loss and weight maintenance as they may have a threefold effect by increasing energy expenditure and the feeling of fullness that helps control food cravings. They may even counteract the decrease in metabolic rate that often occurs during weight loss. The same study reported that green tea may help prevent weight regain.

Chilliburner tablets are 100 per cent natural, gluten-free, lactose-free, GMO-free and suitable for vegetarians.

Step away from the sugar

Sugar is often reported as one of the substances we need to limit if we are to live healthier lives and reduce our risk of disease. One in three of us has high blood sugar and hidden sugars are found in many of the foods and drinks we consume. Nutritionist and Pharma Nord expert Babi Chana offers some tips to help us control our sugar intake and feel re-energised.

  • Hidden sugars are found in many of the foods we eat so it's time to start looking at labels. The NHS considers any food item with a total sugar content over 22.5g per 100g to be high in sugar.
  • If you have a sweet tooth, and crave sugar between meals, consider small nutritional changes like starting the day with porridge oats, natural yogurt (topped with nuts or seeds) or wholegrain toast with some eggs. Whole grains help us to feel more energised and fuller for longer.
  • High blood sugar has been linked to chromium deficiency. Supplements that combine this important trace mineral with maqui berry extract can regulate blood sugar and help the body's cells to use glucose more efficiently. This reduces the urge to snack and the sugar highs and lows that can leave us feeling tired and drained.

Gluco Control from Pharma Nord is a double-action supplement which helps our bodies to process sugars more efficiently, meaning fewer cravings and energy dips throughout the day. For more information visit www.pharmanord.co.uk

A plastic bag in the sea

Plastic bags: where is your 5p going?

The plastic bag charge, which was introduced in Wales in 2011, Northern Ireland in 2013 and Scotland in 2014, came into effect in England in October this year. One of the questions that’s been raised by the charge is where the extra money is going to go.

Tesco, which is expected to raise up to £30 million, has elected to donate the money to environmental improvement projects, and in Scotland and Wales has so far used the tax to support Keep Wales Tidy, Keep Scotland Beautiful and the RSPB.

Customers in England will be asked to vote for charities that the supermarket should support.

A bowl of almonds

Almonds and men's health

Recent studies have shown that almonds are a booster for male fertility, and it's recommended that men eat two handfuls a day to notice the benefits. But do you know why?

Here are the top reasons why men should be eating more almonds:

1. Almonds contain high levels of D-aspartic acid. The 2011 Testosterone Booster Recommendation Report, found that subjects who had taken D-aspartic acid found their testosterone levels increase by 42% 1

2. D-aspartic acid is also helpful for men doing heavy resistance based training and is sometimes used by athletes to support their performance

3. A handful of almonds supplies around 28% of the daily magnesium recommended for a woman and around a quarter of the recommendation for a man, which helps improve the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients around the body

4. Almonds contain half the fat of peanuts and cashews

5. A study has also showed improvement in erectile dysfunction among men given 5 grams of L-Arginine per day, which can be found in almonds 2

6. Furthermore, almonds are also an incredible source of minerals such as manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium

For more information, visit www.bluediamondalmonds.co.uk

References:
1.
www.academia.edu/1603035/Testosterone_Booster_Recommendation_Report

2.
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15005641

A woman doing yoga

Feeling the strain of a long-haul flight?

Gatwick Airport has opened up a yoga room to help passengers stretch out in preparation for sitting for a long period in the same position on long flights.

Yoga expert and personal trainer Shona Vertue has developed a bespoke ‘floga’ routine too – a unique 20-minute pre-flight yoga class designed to help combat the body stress that can come with a long flight.

A photo of almonds and almond milk

Milk it

Research has shown that the composition of milk, with its balance of protein, carbohydrates, minerals and water, is a perfect post-workout drink, with benefits that far outweigh those of so-called ‘fitness drinks’.

But what if you’re lactose intolerant? The good news is that almond milk will be helpful if your main aim is weight loss, as it contains fewer calories than cows’ milk. But, if adding muscle is what you’re trying to do, you can boost the power of your almond milk by making it into a smoothie with banana, protein powder and flax seeds.

You can even add peanut butter for an added calorie and protein boost.

A pregnant woman holding an ultrasound scan picture

Unborn babies’ brains need fats from fish oil

A study from the University of California, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, has identified how a deficiency of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) can cause molecular changes in the developing brain.

The researchers looked at African claw frogs, whose embryos are translucent and develop outside the mother. This enabled them to see how developing brain tissue which did not have enough DHA had poorly developed neurons and limited numbers of synapses, which are the paths through which brain cells communicate with each other.

They could also see that when the diets of the mother frogs were improved with added DHA, the neurons and synapses flourished and returned to normal in the following generation of tadpoles.

Read our feature article on Essential Fatty Acids here

A handful of prunes a day could help prevent fractures

A scientific study from Florida State University has found that beyond the well-documented positive effect of prunes on digestive wellbeing, there could also be a link to bone health. The findings indicate that a simple daily helping of around 8-12 California prunes could help maintain healthy bones and may even contribute to maximising bone potential.

Bone health specialist Dr Bahram Arjmandi said: “I have tested numerous fruits including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to having the effect on bone density as prunes.”

Some young women in a kitchen

Know a keen junior cook?

Backed by BBC 1’s Celebrity Masterchef finalists, Andi Peters and Liz McClarnon, the RSPCA’s Junior Compassionate Cook competition aims to help children make the connection between the food they eat and the animals that produce it, in a fun and engaging way.

Andi Peters, one of the judges, says: “I’m passionate about food and showing kids how much fun it is to cook is a great way of giving them important skills for life.”

To find out more about the competition, including how to enter, visit www.rspcaassured.org.uk. Entries close on 20 January 2016, and judging takes place on 4 March 2016.

A man having his back examined by a doctor

Vitamin B3 may lower skin cancer risk

Australian researchers have discovered that an active form of vitamin B3 may lower the risk of skin cancer in certain high risk patients.

Scientists from the University of Sydney found that a high dose of the vitamin B derivative nicotinamide can prevent up to 25 per cent of non-melanoma skin cancers.

The 12-month clinical trial involved over 380 participants who had all had two or more non-melanoma skin cancers over the past five years. Half of the group were given a high dose of nicotinamide while the other half were given placebos. All were given regular skin checks and at the end of the trial period the nicotinamide group were found to have 25 per cent fewer skin cancers than the placebo group.

The results of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A photo of a woman blowing her nose

Allergy symptoms can worsen in autumn

The arrival of cooler autumn weather and darker evenings means we tend to start to spend much more time indoors – resulting in greater exposure to house dust allergens. And with symptoms similar to the common cold, many people don’t treat the symptoms properly. “The symptoms of indoor allergies caused by dust can be very similar to cold-like symptoms,” explains allergens expert Max Wiseberg, “such as a runny nose, sneezing, coughing and sinus pain. In fact, many people think they have a caught a cold. In reality, their symptoms are the result of spending more time indoors amongst dust allergens. All homes in the UK have dust mites, and due to their tiny size (around ¼ mm) and translucent bodies, they are almost invisible to the naked eye.”

Try these tips to avoid symptoms:

  • Use allergy-friendly mattress covers and bedding – Allergy UK has a good range.
  • Vacuum under beds daily, and try not to keep lots of things under beds as these will collect lots of house dust mite allergens. And vacuum mattresses and pillows regularly.
  • Dust with a damp cloth and get to all those easily forgotten places like the tops of picture frames and door frames.
  • Avoid drying clothes inside over a radiator – this increases the humidity in your home and can result in mould, which releases tiny spores into the air that you breathe.
  • An allergen barrier balm like HayMax can be used to help trap the allergens before they enter the body, reducing or helping to prevent symptoms. Applying the balm around the nostrils and/or the bones of the eyes can help reduce or prevent the symptoms of dust allergy.
A photo of a woman at a computer

Stand, don’t sit!

Did you know that too much sitting can be bad for you? A study earlier this year in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who spent the most time sitting (11 hours or more a day) had a 27 per cent higher chance of dying of heart disease and a 21 per cent higher chance of cancer than those who sat for four hours or less each day.

Yet another good reason to get up and be more active!

A photo of some bananas

Five fantastic fruity facts!

Fruit gets a bit of a bad rep these days – with everyone trying to cut down on sugar, a lot of people are reducing the amount of fruit in their diet. But fruit is an important part of your daily food intake for lots of reasons. Here are some fun fruit facts you probably didn’t know!

  • Apples give you more energy than coffee. Due to their perfect combination of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, they are the perfect food for a mid-afternoon energy boost.
  • Watermelons can keep you hydrated. They have thick skin and are 92 per cent water, making them the perfect food for picnics or for after exercise.
  • The skin is the best bit! In many fruits, such as apples and cucumbers, the skin is packed with extra nutrients including fibre – so don’t peel!
  • Bananas are a natural antacid - scientists are unsure why this is though. In addition, they can help with diarrhoea, as they contain pectin, a soluble fibre that absorbs fluid in the gut.
  • Kiwi fruits contain twice as much vitamin C as oranges.

And finally – it may come as a shock to discover that one of Britain’s favourite fruits, the strawberry, isn’t a fruit at all! Technically, a fruit has its seeds on the inside, so the edible part of the strawberry is a ‘false fruit’ while the seeds are the real fruit!

A carrier bag

Bag it up

From 5 October onwards, new government legislation means that you will be charged 5p for a plastic bag in all English retail outlets. And there are lots of reasons why this is a good idea:

  • The move is intended to cut back on the estimated eight billion single-use carrier bags used across the UK every year. This works out at nearly 130 bags per person and is the equivalent of 57,000 tonnes of plastic waste.
  • Plastic bags don’t just cause unnecessary litter and fill up landfill sites: they also consume resources, including the oil that is used in their production.
  • In Wales, where a similar 5p charge has been in force for four years, stores have seen a 71 per cent fall in the number of bags used by shoppers.
  • In Scotland, where the charge was introduced 12 months ago, the fall has been even bigger, at 80 per cent.

So don’t forget to take along your reusable shopping bags or baskets when you head to the shops this month – or it will cost you!

Checking ingredients on a carton

Sugar claims cause confusion

Consumer groups have raised concerns over confusing food labelling and the danger that this causes to shoppers. While there are guidelines about ‘nutritional information’ charts that are quite clear, other claims on labels can be misleading. The main culprit here is the claim of ‘no added sugar’. This can be used on foods such as fruit juices when no extra sugar has been added as an ingredient, but does not take into account the sugar that can already be naturally occurring in the product. For example a 330ml serving of orange juice can contain eight teaspoons of naturally-occurring sugar in the form of fructose.

One way of satisfying your sweet tooth can be to look for drinks with natural sweeteners such as Stur, which is made from real fruit and yet has zero sugar, as it is sweetened with natural stevia, and also has 80mg of vitamin C in every serving.

A photo of a couple running in a wood

Let’s go outside!

It’s not long until the clocks change, making it much harder to fit in outdoor exercise before it gets dark. But it’s worth making the extra effort, as al fresco workouts have lots of added benefits:

  • You’ll work harder. Research has shown that if you run outdoors, you expend more energy (and burn more calories) than if you run indoors. This is because of wind resistance, and the subtle changes in terrain that you experience even if you run on the pavement.
  • You’ll use different muscles. If you’re cycling or running outdoors, you’re more likely to experience downhill stretches than if you were on a treadmill or exercise bike. This will help you to use a bigger range of muscles than you would if you were just exercising on the flat or on uphill stretches.
  • You’ll exercise more often. Studies have shown that exercising outdoors is much more enjoyable than indoors, due to the variety of sights and sounds, the feel of being in the fresh air and the changing terrain. This means that those who exercise outdoors are more likely to come back for more, and stick to their routine than those who only work out in the gym.
  • It can help with stress. All exercise can help us feel calmer and more relaxed, but studies have shown that people who exercised outdoors had lower levels of cortisol – a stress hormone – in their blood, which may be due to being in the sunlight, or just the feeling of freedom and escape.
A photo of some plants being tended

Edible playgrounds sprouting across the UK

A partnership between charities Trees for Cities, School Food Matters and Chefs Adopt a School – with additional funding by the Postcode Lottery – has raised money to transform underused areas of school playgrounds into vibrant outdoor spaces that excite and teach children about growing and eating healthy food.

The group has developed more than 25 edible playgrounds across the UK, benefiting more than 10,000 students, and three new ones are currently being planned at Palmer Primary Academy in Reading, Baguley Hall Primary School in Manchester, with the third to be shared by Croydon’s Meridian High School and Fairchildes Primary School. The scheme aims to help tackle obesity, food poverty and lack of access to nature, as well as providing a platform for fun and engaging lessons that support the school curriculum.

A photo of elderberries

Coughs, cold and 'flu - studies show elderberry works

It's back to school time and with winter just round the corner, coughs colds and 'flu aren't far behind.

Having a safe, natural and non-pharmaceutical way to bolster kids' immunity is a bonus - schools are places where bacteria and viruses thrive.

Two key pieces of research examined the effects of elderberry on both 'flu viruses and bacteria. An in vitro study conducted in 2010, followed by a human study in July this year showed that elderberry is effective.

Dr Christian Kravitz and his team at the University of Geissen, Germany, tested the two major 'flu viruses, Influenza A and B, as well as on four bacteria known to cause upper respiratory infections. The authors concluded that "elderberry liquid extract is active against human pathogenic bacteria as wel as influenza viruses."

The dark red-black pigment of the berry comes from an abundance of anthocyanins which are powerful antioxidants. Elderberry is thought to deactivate the glycoprotein spikes (haemagglutinin) on the surface of viruses. This prevents the virus from attaching itself to the cell membrane and makes it impossible for the virus to enter the cell.

Elderberry research has also shown it to bolster immunity by increasing production of vital proteins (cytokines and chemokines) in immune cells. When our bodies go under attack one immune cell releases its cytokines and another immune cell receives them. This exchange enables a co-ordinated response against the oncoming illness.

Read our back to school health feature Term-time Health Tips here

A photo of some cherries

8 things you didn't know about cherries!

British cherries are the ultimate rare treat - a plump, indulgent snack that offers a wealth of health benefits:

  • They reduce inflammation: A powerful antioxidant, anthocyanins are found in pigment - and cherries are pigment-rich fruits. These compounds are crammed with anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-cancer properties.
  • They're a great source of fibre: About 10 cherries will provide the body with 1.4g of fibre, which is nearly 10 per cent of an adult's RDA.
  • They support the health of your heart, because they are high in potassium, which regulates heart rate and blood pressure.
  • They are packed full of antioxidants: Cherries are exceptionally rich in antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene, which act as scavengers against free radicals that play a role in ageing, cancers and various diseases.
  • They help us sleep: Cherries are a rich food source of melatonin, which promotes healthy circadian rhythm and sleep patterns.
  • They're packed with multivitamins: One cup of cherries provides 10.8mg of vitamin C - 18 per cent of an adult's RDA - alongside beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin K.
  • They help reduce cholesterol: Phytosterols, also known as plant sterols, occur naturally in cherries. These help to reduce 'bad' cholesterol levels (LDL) to lower the risk of cancer, and stimulate the immune system.
  • They increase bone health: Cherries contain boron which increases bone health, formation and recuperation and reduces bone inflammation.

One in six UK primary schools now serving sustainable fish

More than 500 schools have become Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified in the past year - an 18 per cent rise in the number of schools serving sustainably sourced fish. This is due to the new School Food Standards which were implemented in January this year.

Toby Middleton, regional Program Director at the MSC said: "We've seen a significant increase in schools serving MSC-certified fish and a renewed interest in oily fish. Under the School Food Standards, schools are required to serve oily fish every three weeks, and they recommend MSC-certified fish."

A photo of a woman doing yoga

The OM Yoga Show is back!

Taking place at its new home of Alexandra Palace in London, the OM Yoga Show is an experience like no other.

It's a unique weekend that allows visitors to immerse themselves in a yogic paradise for three days. This year it takes place on 23, 24 and 25 October.

Register for your free show guide and get more information, including ticket prices, at www.omyogashow.com

A sausage on a fork

Leading dietician comments on the good and bad of fats

Researchers at Canada's McMaster University have found no link between the amounts of saturated fat people ate in products such as butter, egg yolks and cow's milk and their risk of death from heart disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes. This is in contrast to guidelines published in 1983 advising Britons to cut their fat intake to 30 per cent a day.

Current UK health guidelines recommend that:

  • The average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day
  • The average woman should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day

Robyn Coetzee, specialist dietician at London Bridge Hospital explains: "Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, pies, cakes and biscuits, sausages, bacon, cheese and cream. Although there is a debate around them, there are healthier alternatives for people, which they could consume. For example, lean cuts of meat and trim away any visible fat, and choose lower fat alternatives to whole milk, cheese and cream. You should also have a diet high in dark-fleshed or oily fish. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering the production of blood cholesterol and other blood fats, and help to prevent blood-clotting and reduce triglyceride levels".

A hand holding an echinacea flower

Echinacea reduces risk of pneumonia

New research has shown that echinacea reduces the risk of pneumonia and other secondary complications following a cold or the flu, and reduces the likelihood of reinfection. The meta-analysis included six clinical trials with 2,458 participants, and found that 65 per cent of infections leading to pneumonia could be prevented by using echinacea, whilst reinfections were reduced by 58 per cent.

The study examined A.Vogel's latest product in its highly popular echinacea range, Echinaforce Hot Drink, which combines the well-researched immune-boosting benefits of fresh echinacea extract with black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.

Dr Peter Fisher of the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, said: "Neuraminidase inhibitors such as Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) are the current 'gold standard' for flu treatment, but they have significant limitations and side effects.

"We found Echinaforce Hot Drink to be as effective as Oseltamivir, in terms of shortening the duration of flu and reducing complications. Despite different modes of action, both block the dissemination and development of the viruses. Echinaforce Hot Drink was associated with fewer side effects, particularly gastrointestinal, although the difference was borderline statistically significant."

Screening for diabetes

For people with diabetes, one of the most important annual health checks is retinal screening. Photographs are taken of the backs of the eyes with a non-contact retinal camera, which usually takes a matter of minutes once the patient’s eyes have been suitably dilated with eyedrops. The photographs are assessed by trained graders, using specialist software, and results are sent out within a fortnight.

Retinal screening establishes whether or not there are signs of diabetic retinopathy (damage to retinal blood vessels) and what further management each individual would benefit from – whether it’s further assessment by an eye unit, or nothing at all (except to attend screening again in a year).

Prior to the national roll-out of screening programmes, diabetic retinopathy was the leading cause of blindness amongst working-age adults in the UK. It is still a leading cause but is no longer the forerunner, thanks to the establishment and maintenance of successful screening.

Currently, 10 per cent of the NHS budget is being spent on diabetes and the majority of this spend is on the complications resulting from diabetes. The aim is to reduce that number by utilising the best safeguard for sight that we have – screening.

• For more information, visit www.uhs.nhs.uk/diabetic-eye-screening

Experts recommend halving sugar in diet

An independent body of expert nutritionists has advised the government to halve the recommended intake of free sugars in a bid to address the rise of obesity and diabetes and cut the risk of tooth decay. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) made the recommendations in its report, Carbohydrates and Health.

Free sugars are those added to food, for example sucrose (table sugar) and glucose, or those naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices, but exclude lactose in milk and milk products.

SACN has recommended that free sugars account for no more than five per cent of daily energy intake. This is the equivalent of 19g or five sugar cubes for children aged four to six, 24g or six sugar cubes for children aged seven to 10 and 30g or seven sugar cubes for children aged 11 and over, based on average population diets.

SACN were asked by the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency to examine the latest evidence on the links between consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, starch and fibre and a range of health outcomes – such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bowel health and tooth decay – to ensure the government’s position on consumption was up to date.

Professor Ian Macdonald, chair of the SACN Carbohydrates and Health working group, said: “The evidence is stark – too much sugar is harmful to health and we all need to cut back. The clear and consistent link between a high-sugar diet and conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes is the wake-up call we need to rethink our diet.”

Link between prunes and healthy bones

Two studies presented at the International Symposium on Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis highlight the positive effects of prunes. Osteoporosis continues to be a growing health concern and according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF): one in three women and up to at least one in five men will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.

Currently 22 million women and 5.5 million men are estimated to have osteoporosis in the EU; thus increasing their risk for broken bones, causing an estimated 3.5 million breaks a year. This new research presented in June this year suggests that a simple daily helping of California prunes could help support the maintenance of healthy bones and may even contribute to maximising bone mass potential.

“I’m thrilled to learn more about the research involving prunes and how they help support healthy bones. The more effective strategies for minimising bone loss we can share with the public, the better,” said ISNAO Symposium Director Connie Weaver, PhD, distinguished professor and nutrition sciences department head at Purdue University.

The new research, which supports the US National Osteoporosis Foundation’s (NOF) decision to include prunes on its “Good For Your Bones” food list, was conducted in the US and commissioned by the California Prune Board as part of its long-term commitment to nutritional research, which has already resulted in an EU health claim – recognising prunes as the only whole dried fruit to benefit digestive health, if 100g prunes is eaten daily.

A photo of the app on a mobile phone

New app rewards health and fitness

Being fit and healthy is its own reward, but now there’s an app that helps you earn wellness rewards for being active. So being healthy and taking care of yourself gets you even more healthy goodies in return! With Earthmiles you can earn a single virtual currency for all your fitness activities.

The points are called earthmiles, and all you do is link up your preferred tracker when you sign up and you automatically start clocking up earthmiles for doing what you love doing! You can also add friends regardless of which tracker they might be using. You can then redeem your earthmiles for a whole host of incredible rewards from the best wellness, fitness and health brands, ranging from free trials or free classes to an exclusive discount you can only ‘earn’ by working hard.

Find famous brands you already love or be adventurous and discover something new – you’ll find only delightfully trendy stuff in there.

• The app is free to use – give it a try at: www.earthmiles.co.uk

A woman blowing her nose

Elderberry helps manage coughs, colds and flu

In-vitro studies have shown evidence that elderberry – one of Europe`s oldest traditional remedies for treating coughs, colds and flu – could be effective in managing those regular sniffles, and now a human study is underway.

Iprona AG, an Italian specialist in red fruit extraction and Europe's largest processor of elderberry, funded an in-vitro clinical trial to examine the effect of elderberry on both flu viruses and bacteria. The study was conducted and published by Dr Christian Kravitz at the University of Giessen in Germany. Tests were conducted on the two major flu viruses, Influenza A and B, as well as on four bacteria known to cause upper respiratory infections. The authors concluded that: “Elderberry liquid extract is active against human pathogenic bacteria as well as influenza viruses.”

Iprona technical director, Anthony Jacobs, said the results were sufficiently encouraging for the company to fund the largest ever human study on the effectiveness of elderberry to reduce upper respiratory infections during and after long-haul flights. “If it works on a plane, it works in schools, offices, metros and every other place, where people come together and ‘share’ their bugs,” he said. The results of this new long-haul flight study are planned to be completed and made public next month at a medical conference in Melbourne.

A photo of a group of dryathletes

Bin the booze in September and help beat cancer

Cancer Research UK is offering a new twist to its hugely successful Dryathlon® fundraising challenge, offering people the chance to go "dry" to help beat cancer the challenge in September as well as January.

Since 2013, 140,000 Dryathletes™ have raised £15 million for Cancer Research UK; now men and women who think they've got the willpower to go dry for September can sign up to become a Dryathlete™ at dryathlon.org. Dryathletes™ will be encouraged to persuade friends, family and work colleagues to sponsor them to stay dry for a whole month, or alternatively pledge the pounds they've saved from not picking up that pint.

Anthony Newman, brand, marketing and communications director, and chief Dryathlete™-in-training at Cancer Research UK said: "Dryathlon is back! We are so excited to be bringing our Dryathlon® campaign to the nation this September. A summer of holidays, festivals and weddings can mean that we all feel we have overindulged a little with the drinking, so September is the perfect time to bin the booze. We know it's a tough challenge to commit to a month on the wagon but we have faith in the willpower of the British public. We are asking all those who think they have got what it takes to put down their pint or prosecco and join our team. Every pound raised by Dryathletes™ will help fund life-saving research into beating cancer. So sign up today!"

Sarah Williams, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "Alcohol is linked to seven different types of cancer, including breast and mouth cancers - the less alcohol you drink the lower the risk.

"To make a difference to your risk of cancer and other diseases, it's your long term behaviour that really counts. But challenges like Dryathlon might help give you a kick start - half of our 2014 Dryathletes said they were drinking less after taking part in Dryathlon."

Knowledge of safe herbal remedies dangerously sparse

We might be a nation of green-fingered gardeners, but we are surprisingly green when it comes to recognising popular health-enhancing herbs and plants, a new survey has revealed.

According to Potter’s Herbals, nine out of 10 people (87 per cent) believe we are a nation of gardeners, yet only one in six (17 per cent) Brits could recognise echinacea – also known as coneflower – the plant which has been scientifically proven to help combat coughs and colds. We believe in the healing power of plants – we spend £485 million a year on herbal remedies – yet only 13 per cent of consumers can recognise the Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) logo, which guarantees the purity and safety of herbal medicines.

Medical herbalist Dr Chris Etheridge, from the Henry Potter Advisory Committee (HPAC), notes: “We have used medicinal herbs for centuries and many modern-day medicines, including aspirin and digitalis, are derived from plants. Many plants contain phytochemicals with proven and often potent medical activity.”

The Organic Trade Board launches #ThriftyOrganic Challenge

The Organic Trade Board (OTB) has launched their #ThriftyOrganic Challenge this summer. The challenge aims to highlight to consumers how simple it can be to eat organic and be thrifty too.

It will be led by food blogger Deliciously Ella, alongside top parenting blogger English Mum, and will encourage consumers to make the transition to eating organic food for one week on a normal couple or family’s food budget. To inspire consumers to get involved in the challenge, the OTB has created a selection of money-saving tips to help make the transition to thrifty organic eating, alongside some delicious, budget-friendly meal suggestions.

Consumer research commissioned by the OTB in March highlighted price as one of the barriers to shopping organically, with over 40 per cent of those surveyed limiting the amount of organic food they bought due to the increased cost. Catherine Fookes, Campaign Manager at the Organic Trade Board said: “The #ThriftyOrganic Challenge aims to convey the value of organic products to shoppers and break down the misconception that organic food is out of reach for most people.”

The #ThriftyOrganic Challenge will run from June until March 2016 and will feature recipe inspiration, thrifty tips, blog posts and social media content.

A photo of a pregnant woman

Organic milk not a health risk to pregnant women

There have been various stories in the media in recent weeks suggesting that pregnant women should avoid drinking organic milk. In response, the Soil Association has released a statement saying that such reports are inaccurate and scaremongering.

Helen Browning, chief executive at the Soil Association commented: “Pregnant women should not stop drinking organic milk in response to this research, which repeats findings from a study published in 2013. This research is incomplete and to draw these conclusions is incredibly irresponsible. There are scientifically proven health and environmental benefits of organic milk which are valuable as part of a balanced and healthy diet. Studies show that organic whole and semi-skimmed milk has more beneficial omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin E and beta-carotene than non-organic milk, and studies by Glasgow and Liverpool Universities found that UK organic milk has 68 per cent higher levels of the essential fatty acid than non-organic milk.

“Research in the Netherlands found that infants fed on organic dairy products and whose mothers also consumed organic dairy products have a 36 per cent lower incidence of eczema than children who consume conventional dairy products, and that higher levels of beneficial conjugated linoleic acids are found in the breast milk of women consuming organic milk. Any switch from organic milk risks losing all these substantial health benefits.”

Britons missing out on essential nutrients

Many of us are missing out on essential nutrients at key milestones in our lives, according to a survey conducted by the Health Supplements Information Service. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that only one in six adults takes a regular top-up of vitamin D, but the data suggests that one in five adults aged 19 to 64 are so deficient in vitamin D that they are at increased risk of weakened bones. Shockingly, more than half (57 per cent) thought children should not take supplements, contrary to emphatic guidance from the Chief Medical Officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Independent dietitian and advisor to the Health Supplements Information Service (HSIS) Dr Carrie Ruxton says: “It is really important to drive home the message that nutritional deficiencies can lead to serious health problems. Taking a multivitamin, or topping up on specific nutrients for a milestone moment such as pregnancy, or to address a particular health issue or concern, is simply common sense.”

A photo of some lemons

Did you know?

Fatigue, muscle weakness, joint and muscle aches, bleeding gums and leg rashes can all be symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency.

This vital vitamin, which is also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant. It serves many important functions in the body including helping to repair and regenerate tissues, protecting against heart disease, supporting the immune system, aiding with the absorption of iron and reducing total and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and triglycerides.

Its antioxidant capacity means that it may help to guard against various cancers by combating damaging free radicals.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily intake for adults is 90 mg per day for men and 75 mg per day for women.

Chief medical officer raises rickets concerns

Britain’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has expressed concerns again at the alarming rise of rickets among the UK’s children. Rickets occurs due to a lack of vitamin D which reduces the body’s ability to absorb calcium into the bone, causing brittle or weak bones and leading to deformity if untreated.

It was prevalent in the 19th century as families left the country to take advantage of the growth of factory employment, but improvements in nutrition and our understanding of vitamin D dramatically reduced the number of cases until it was virtually eradicated after World War Two. However, according to a survey commissioned by public health campaigners Vitamin D Mission in October 2014, there were 4,635 children admitted to hospital with the condition in 2013/14, a fourfold increase in four years.

Andrew Thomas, founder and managing director at BetterYou, said: “We have been aware for a long time that cases of rickets and other bone diseases are on the rise, particularly in the under-five-year-olds and primarily those with darker skin pigmentation. Vitamin D deficiency is so easily corrected by supplementation and simple lifestyle changes. By taking a daily dose and spending more time outdoors, many health conditions and diseases could be avoided.”

A hurrying businesswoman

Meal skipping becoming more common

A new survey has revealed that the average Briton skips five meals a week. Breakfast was the most likely meal to be skipped, in spite of it being arguably the most important meal of the day.

Two thirds of those who skip meals did so because they ‘don’t have time to eat’.

The survey was conducted by Huel (www.huel.me) a nutritionally-complete powdered food product, as part of their research into consumer habits and attitudes towards nutrition in the UK. 2,829 British adults took part in the survey, all of whom were aged 18 years old or older. All participants were in full-time employment at the time of the survey.

All relevant respondents who stated they’d missed at least one meal per week were then asked to reveal all the reasons why. The most common answers were given as follows:

1. I don’t have time to eat – 82 per cent
2. I forget to eat meals – 73 per cent
3. I can’t be bothered to cook/prepare food – 68 per cent
4. I am not very good at cooking/preparing food – 56 per cent
5. I prefer to snack rather than eat meals – 41 per cent

Julian Hearn, founder of Huel, commented: “Food is a great thing which many of us enjoy – but in our everyday routines, we can’t always set aside time, attention and energy to dedicate to our mealtimes. On a typical weekday, it’s not unusual to just grab a coffee while dashing out the door or work through lunch without even realising. Our busy lifestyles, however, are not good for us. If we skip meals we often end up over-compensating later with sugary foods as our energy levels sag.”

A photo of some seaweed

Learn about seaweed

It’s becoming more and more well known that seaweed is great for our health in many different ways. If you’d like to find out more, why not visit the annual Seaweed for Health event this September, in the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh? The event takes place on 5 and 6 September between midday and 4pm, and features talks, exhibits, demonstrations and lots more.

This is the third year of this event and attendance has grown every year. Last year there were almost 1,000 visitors to the exhibition and talks and, believe it or not, this is now by far the leading national public Seaweed Event in the British Isles!

• For more information, visit www.rbge.org.uk/whats-on

A photo of a smiling woman

Five reasons why probiotics could help you have a healthier holiday

As much as we love our holidays, they’re not always entirely beneficial for our health. Sun damage, a few too many drinks and foreign bugs can all negatively impact our wellbeing, but here’s the good news: taking a probiotic can help protect you. Probiotics are the ‘friendly’ bacteria that balance out the bad bugs in your gut. Digestive healthcare experts, Renew Life (www.renewlife.co.uk) have teamed up with nutritionist Kim Pearson, to offer five reasons why probiotics could make you feel good this summer and keep your holiday healthy.

1. Prevent holiday illness
Stay healthy on holiday by boosting your beneficial bacteria. The immune system within out gut accounts for 70-80% of the body's immune cells and so optimising our gut health is essential in maintaining a healthy immunity to infection. Probiotics help protect against infections, resulting in fewer health problems.

2. Protect from sun damage
We all know that we should wear and regularly re-apply a high factor SPF to protect from sun damage, but did you know that probiotics could help protect your skin from sun damage from within? Studies have demonstrated that certain probiotics can help modulate the skin’s immune system and may be useful for helping to prevent UV-induced damage. However – you should still always wear your sunscreen!

3. Moderate the effects of alcohol consumption
Many of us indulge in a little more alcohol than usual whilst on holiday. We know that too much booze isn’t good for our liver but did you know that it can also affect your gut? Alcohol can promote increased permeability of the gut lining and changes to the microflora present in the gut. Probiotics can help protect from the negative effects of alcohol by replenishing beneficial bacteria and promoting a healthy gut lining.

4. Help beat the post-holiday blues
We are all familiar with the post-holiday blues, but optimising your gut bacteria may help to boost your mood. We are learning more and more about the link between the gut and the brain, known as the ‘gut-brain axis’. We now know that bacteria in the gut are capable of producing and delivering substances such as our ‘happy hormone’ serotonin – in fact, the gut contains approximately 90% of the entire body’s serotonin. Taking a probiotic regularly helps to maintain a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria within the gut.

5. Keep and maintain a healthy weight
We all know that holiday is a time where you sit back and relax and let yourself indulge in all the ‘naughty’ foods, yet according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, taking certain probiotics may actually help you lose weight (and keep it off too!) Additional research suggests that the gut flora in those that are overweight, in comparison to those that are of a healthy weight, is different, which explains why this might be the case.

To re-establish good bacteria and help achieve that healthy holiday feeling, try Renew Life's Ultimate Flora Critical Care (RRP £36.99 – Vegetarian Society Approved) a unique one-a-day probiotic containing 50 billion live cultures and 10 beneficial strains of probiotic. Each capsule has an enteric water-based coating to ensure the live bacteria survive the harsh, acidic environment of the stomach and is delivered to the intestines. Ultimate Flora Critical Care is available at various health food stores across the UK.

Shop local with handy app

Local food and drink website BigBarn has just unveiled a brand new, free app designed to help people avoid the supermarket and shop locally and seasonally, all at the touch of their smartphone.

The aim of the new BigBarn App, which is now available free through the app store, is to allow people to connect with local producers and shops in their area and build a stronger local industry. The app includes information on local food producers, retailers and suppliers online.

It also provides information about what's in season, recipe ideas and special offers and allows consumers to gain a better understanding of food and seasonality.

To find out more, visit www.bigbarn.co.uk, or download the app from the app store.

Put ethics on the menu!

A survey by Ethical Consumer has revealed that the UK’s fast food and restaurant chains are not offering customers an ethically responsible menu. The organisation surveyed 22 of the UK’s leading restaurant chains for their provision of ethically-sourced food including Fairtrade, free-range, organic and sustainable fish.

The survey found that 64 per cent of restaurant chains don’t offer any organic options, 77 per cent don’t offer any Fairtrade options, 41 per cent don’t offer any free-range options and 85 per cent don’t offer any sustainably-sourced fish.

Tim Hunt, editor of Ethical Consumer's product guide to fast food and restaurant chains said: “Our survey shows that high street fast food and restaurant chains are largely ethical-free zones. This is extremely disappointing given that both Fairtrade and organic food and drink are now mainstream items and are regularly bought by large numbers of people. The country’s fast food and restaurant chains need to wake up and provide their customers with what they want.”

A photo of a young woman exercising with free weights

The 'myth' of obesity and physical activity

Exercise has a role to play in weight loss, but has to be accompanied by changes in diet. That's the verdict in a recent editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which says that public health messages aimed at tackling obesity need to focus on unhealthy eating, rather than just physical activity.

The article commented that members of the public were "drowned by an unhelpful message about maintaining a 'healthy weight' through calorie counting" and that many people wrongly believe that obesity is entirely due to lack of exercise.

"What exercise (increased activity) does," the article continued  "in association with appropriate dietary intervention, is to promote weight loss maintenance once weight has been lost, but it is a poor contributory factor to promoting weight loss."

Mediterranean diet shown – again! – to be most beneficial to health

A study by scientists at Harokopio University in Athens has found that adopting a Mediterranean diet is good for your health. Filling up on oily fish, nuts, whole grains and fruit and vegetables – and even the odd glass of red wine – could cut your risk of developing heart disease by almost half over a 10-year period. More than 2,500 Greek adults, aged 18 to 89, provided researchers with details about their health each year from 2001 to 2012. The participants also completed comprehensive surveys about their medical records, lifestyle and dietary habits three times throughout the study: at the start, after five years and after 10 years.

Overall, those who stuck most closely to a Mediterranean-style diet (participants who scored in the top third on the scale) were found to be 47 per cent less likely to develop heart disease than those who did not (participants who scored in the bottom third on the scale). This figure was the same regardless of other risk factors such as age, gender, family history and smoking habits, all of which the researchers accounted for. Ekavi Georgousopoulou, who conducted the study along with Professor Demosthenes B Panagiotakos, said: “Our study shows that the Mediterranean diet is a beneficial intervention for all types of people – in both genders, in all age groups, and in both healthy people and those with health conditions.”

Pomegranates and dates can protect against heart disease

A study by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has found that daily consumption of pomegranate juice and dates drastically slows down the build-up of fatty substances in the arteries – atherosclerosis – which can cause a stroke or heart attack.

It is thought that this is the result of the high levels of antioxidants in the two fruits which, when combined, provide the perfect mix to help fight heart disease. The team recommend that people consume half a glass of pomegranate juice and three dates a day to get the benefits.

However, some of the most powerful antioxidants are found in the stone of the dates, so it’s recommended that you grind up the stones and eat those too!

Frequent sauna use protects men against cardiac death

Frequent – even daily – saunas can reduce the risk of cardiac death, according to a recent study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland, published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The 20-year follow-up study discovered that men taking a sauna four to seven times a week were 63 per cent less likely to experience a sudden cardiac death than those taking a sauna once a week.

Furthermore, the occurrence of death due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events, as well as overall mortality, was less frequent in the group taking saunas several times a week.

According to Jari A. Laukkanen, the study leader, the mechanisms of why taking a sauna protects the heart are not yet fully understood, and further research is still required. However, taking a sauna may reduce blood pressure and maintain blood vessel elasticity.

Combating menopausal body odour

Personal care, particularly in relation to intimate body odour, is especially pertinent during the menopause, during which time falling oestrogen levels can affect the production of mucus in the vagina, causing dryness, irritation and sometimes infection. The lack of mucus, which is slightly acidic to deter infection, can also affect the balance of friendly bacteria in the vagina, leading to odour.

There are a number of steps you can take to minimise this unpleasant symptom. If you are not on any hormonal contraception or HRT you could try a fermented soya supplement to gently raise and balance oestrogen levels, thereby increasing vaginal mucus. You could also take a daily sea buckthorn oil supplement to counter dryness. A probiotic can be helpful, especially in the weeks following antibiotic use, which often affects the vaginal balance of friendly bacteria. Shower gels and soaps can contain chemicals which irritate your sensitive, intimate areas – so swap to organic and natural alternatives. To avoid possible fungal infections and chafing in the groin area, make sure you wear cotton underwear which will allow your skin to breathe and reduce sweating. Finally, to inhibit odour, consider using a natural deodorant, like the Salt of the Earth Deodorant Spray. Gentle enough to use on sensitive areas, potassium alum-based deodorants work by leaving a thin layer of odour-inhibiting mineral salts on the skin which provide long-lasting protection but importantly do not stop the skin from breathing.

The ice bucket challenge lives on!

We all remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, the charity social media fad that took the world by storm last summer.

Now a range of xylitol chips has been launched that aims to continue the charitable work achieved by the challenge. Ice Bucket® 100% Xylitol Chips are healthy and completely sugar free, but the best part is that half of the profits from every Ice Bucket® will be donated to charities, and not just the original ALS charity that benefited from the challenge.

The brand will be looking for suggestions from their customers for the best charities to benefit from the funds. To find out more, or suggest a charity, contact andy@v-tality.be

App could predict your risk of heart attack

The NHS has launched a new online app that predicts your chances of a heart attack. The online tool guides individuals through a range of lifestyle questions, such as age, height, weight, smoking history and family and personal medical history, in order to determine their chances of a heart attack.

Medical professionals hope the calculator, developed with NHS Choices, Public Heath England and the British Heart Foundation, will become a useful method to prompt individuals into changing unhealthy lifestyles by highlighting how many years they have before a heart attack. Professor John Deanfield, an NHS cardiologist who helped develop the app, said it could be a ‘real wake-up call’ for people to change their lifestyles. “It can be that all-important nudge to take action and make lifestyle changes to improve your heart health,” he added.

The app, which can only be completed by those born before 1985, asks individuals whether they know their cholesterol and blood pressure levels, as well as listing if they have diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease or atrial fibrillation. But some researchers have cautioned that the blunt tool generalises and will distress many with dire predictions on results (such as family history) outside their control. They also caution the app may push thousands into taking medication out of fear.

Changes in diet are saving lives

A study at the University of Liverpool has suggested that healthy eating offers more protection against heart disease than drugs. The research showed that more than 20,000 lives were saved in seven years by big falls in the nation's blood pressure and cholesterol, with about half this fall the result of eating less salt. Heart deaths have fallen by more than half, with two thirds of this attributable to changes in the way we live, and the other third to improvement in treatments.

Martin O'Flaherty, a senior lecturer in public health at the University of Liverpool and the lead author of the study, said: "It's mainly diet. It's salt for blood pressure and particularly saturated fat and sugar for cholesterol. Obesity also has a role. For blood pressure it's the other things, not pills, which are driving massive reductions in mortality."

The war on sugar is not yet won

The public health campaign group Action on Sugar have criticised the government for failing to take action on food manufacturers who are failing to reduce sugar in their products. They tested 50 of the nation's favourite breakfast cereals, and found that some of the most popular contained more sugar than they did in 2012. 14 out of 40 contained more than 33.3g, or eight teaspoons, per 100g of cereal.

Kawther Asham from Action on Sugar said: "You wouldn't give your child chocolate biscuits for breakfast, but certain manufacturers are effectively doing that for us."

Fizzy drinks can cause early puberty

A Harvard Medical School study, published in the journal Human Reproduction of 5,583 girls between nine and 14 has found that those who drank more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks a day had their first period 2.7 months earlier than those who drank two or fewer drinks a week.

Drinks with added sugar are said to increase the concentration of insulin in the body, which in turn results in higher concentrations of sex hormones, normally associated with periods starting earlier.

Associate Professor Karin Michels said: "Our study adds to increasing concern about the widespread consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks among children and adolescents. The main concern is about childhood obesity, but our study suggests that age of first menstruation (menarche) occurred earlier, independently of body mass index, among girls with the highest consumption."

One reason that this is worrying is that a one-year decrease in age at menarche is estimated to increase the risk of breast cancer by five per cent, so, a 2.7 month-decrease in age at menarche is likely to have a modest impact on breast cancer risk.

Black tea could cut diabetes risk

A recent review of studies has found that consumption of black tea is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes. Dr Catherine Hood from the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) authored the review, and looked at 12 different studies from around the world. 11 of these showed a positive effect of tea consumption on reducing the risk of diabetes.

"Overall these studies indicate a very promising association between tea consumption and diabetes which, if confirmed in further studies, indicates health benefits for tea beyond the well-established cardiovascular benefit," said Dr Tim Bond from TAP.

Are you a conscientious carnivore?

Consumption of meat and livestock production make a huge contribution to climate change and health concerns, and there's a growing movement in countries that consume a lot of meat - including the UK - to encourage 'less and better' meat consumption. A 2014 YouGov survey found that in the past year a quarter of the British public have cut back on the amount of meat they eat.

Even more, one in three of us said we would consider eating less meat, with the need to save money among the key reasons given. But despite our squeezed budgets, around half of us reported that we would be willing to pay more for 'better' meat - meat that tastes better, is healthier, and is produced to higher animal welfare and environmental standards.

But Rob Percival from The Soil Association believes we need 'more than just a shift in attitude.' Belief needs to translate into action - so, if you haven't already, why not take up Meat Free Monday? Cutting out meat one day a week is not only good for the planet, but it means that you will be able to afford 'better' meat on the days you do eat it. It's a win-win situation!

Life satisfaction has beneficial effects on bone health

Women aged 60 to 70 who are satisfied with their lives have a higher bone density and they suffer from osteoporosis less frequently than their unsatisfied peers, according to a recent study completed at the University of Eastern Finland and published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

The study participants responded to mail surveys and took part in bone density measurements. 2,167 women underwent bone density measurements in 1999, and out of these women, 1,147 took part in follow-up measurements 10 years later, in 2009. Life satisfaction was assessed by four questions relating to the study participants' interest in and easiness of life, happiness and loneliness.

Based on the answers, the study participants were divided into three groups: the satisfied, the middle group and the unsatisfied. During the 10-year follow-up, the difference between the satisfied and the unsatisfied was as much as 52 per cent. In persons whose life satisfaction deteriorated, the bone density weakened by 85 per cent in comparison to persons whose life satisfaction improved.

A photo of actress June Brown

Polka Dot-ty Days in June

A campaign to raise awareness of Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is being run throughout the month with the theme Polka Dot-ty Days in June.

The campaign is a tribute to the Lewy Body Society's Patron, Miss June Brown MBE, known to television viewers as Eastenders' Dot Branning. Miss Brown's late husband, Robert Arnold had dementia with Lewy bodies when he died in 2003.

The Polka Dot-ty challenge is for people to wear the charity's distinctive branding of white spots on dark blue and then post pictures of themselves and/or friends wearing the polka dots on social media -their own as well as the Lewy Body Society's Twitter feed, Facebook page and website. Postings to YouTube and Instagram are also encouraged.

Lewy body dementia is the second most common form of age-related dementia, accounting for approximately 15% of all cases of dementia. Having motor and cognitive symptoms similar to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases it is often misdiagnosed, but unlike people with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, people with DLB experience hallucinations and dramatic swings in state of consciousness.

Robin Williams' tragic death in 2014 brought the condition to the attention of many people for the first time but many people still think that all dementia is Alzheimer's.

"Just as every vacuum cleaner is not a Hoover or every tissue a Kleenex, not all dementias are Alzheimer's" said the Lewy Body Society's founder and Chair, Ashley Bayston.

Founded in 2006 and run entirely by volunteers, the Lewy Body Society (charity number 1114579) is the only organisation in Europe dedicated exclusively to Lewy body dementia. The Society's mission is to raise awareness of and support research in Lewy body dementia.

www.lewybody.org @lbsorg #LewyBodySociety #PolkaDottyDays

Men’s Health Week

Men’s Health Week 2015 is from the 15th to 21st June and will focus on healthy living for men.

Read our Men's Health feature here...

Get on your bike!

Bike Week 2015 takes place between 13 and 21 June. The organisers aim to promote cycling and how it can easily be a part of everyday life. This year one of the big focuses of the event is cycling to work.

The YHL team are lucky enough to work in a beautiful Cambridgeshire village, and several members of our team cycle to work every day; Marketing Manager Natalie Morris says: “One good way to get people into cycling in your workplace is to sign up to the National Cycle challenge. Businesses, organisations and even whole cities can sign up, and will win points for each minute that any member of the team spends on a bike. It’s not about how many miles you clock up, but about how many people you encourage to get on a bike!”

To sign up for the National Cycle Challenge, visit www.lovetoride.net.

And to find out more about Bike Week and find events near you, go to www.bikeweek.org.uk.

Read our feature “On your bike” here...

Caroline Quentin announced as patron of Coeliac UK

Actress and TV personality, Caroline Quentin, has been announced as the new patron of Coeliac UK, the national charity for people with coeliac disease. She will support their campaign to improve diagnosis rates which is launched at the start of Coeliac Awareness Week on 11 May 2015.

Caroline’s involvement comes at a time when she is close to completing her own diagnosis journey, after an initial positive blood test two years ago and, more recently, a genetic test. One in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease. However, current statistics show that only 24 per cent of those with the condition are diagnosed. “Coeliac UK’s campaign resonates with me because I struggled for years with constant stomach pains, vomiting and total exhaustion. I’m delighted to become the charity’s patron and to help those, like myself, who have been in the dark too long about the cause of their pain and discomfort,” Caroline said.

A new website, www.isitcoeliacdisease.org.uk, will provide information and advice for the general public and healthcare professionals on the symptoms and risk factors associated with undiagnosed coeliac disease.

A young woman with a bar of chocolate

Give chocolate the finger with DECHOX™

This March, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) launches the UK's first ever DECHOX™, a nationwide sponsored challenge calling on all chocolate lovers to give up their favourite sweet treat to help raise money for lifesaving heart research. For many of us, giving up chocolate for a whole month could feel as much of a challenge as running a marathon!

Dechoxers are encouraged to raise money throughout the month by asking friends, family and colleagues to sponsor them to take on the challenge. They can also donate the money they've saved from ditching that cheeky chocolate bar at work or a naughty dessert after a meal out. Anyone can take part by signing up for free at bhf.org.uk/dechox. The DECHOX™ microsite will also be full of tools and ideas, from freebie downloads, a Survival Kit with food swaps and videos, to the chocolate cheat fine, social newsfeeds and more.

One in four of the UK population is lost to heart and circulatory disease each year and there are currently seven million people in the UK living with heart and circulatory disease. By taking part in DECHOX™ and raising funds for the BHF, Dechoxers will be joining the fight for every heartbeat, helping the BHF continue its life-saving work.

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