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Researchers from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) have released a crucial report which shines a light on the role of vitamin D and unveils shocking levels of deficiency in older people in Ireland. The team, based at Trinity College in Dublin, concluded that Vitamin D supplementation was necessary for those over the age of 50 and those currently shielding. They also highlighted a range of studies showing vitamin D plays a role in the prevention of respiratory infections, boosting the immune system response to infections and reducing the need for antibiotic use. 

The study, titled Vitamin D deficiency in Ireland – implications for COVID-19, used data from wave 1 of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), which started back in 2009. This was a prospective study of 8,172 adults aged 50 years and older in Ireland living in the community – not in care homes or hospitals. The participants were personally interviewed and their answers on their socio-demographic status, physical, mental and behavioural health recorded. 72% of the participants consented to a health assessment and of those, 91% submitted a blood sample for vitamin D level assessment (5,382 people). 

The data revealed that of those aged 55+ years in the Republic of Ireland, 1 in 5 are vitamin D deficient during the winter and 1 in 12 during the summer. This rises to nearly 30% of those aged 70+ and 47% of those aged 85+. These are the age groups considered to be ‘extremely medically vulnerable’ to adverse health outcomes of COVID-19 and have been advised to participate in ‘cocooning’ (known as ‘shielding’ in the UK) during the pandemic.

The researchers also considered the findings of a range of medical studies into the role of Vitamin D in immune function and immune response to infection. One such study in 2017 carried out by Vanherwegen AS, Gysemans C, Mathieu looked at regulation of immune function by vitamin D and its use in diseases of immunity.

Principal Investigator of TILDA Rose Anne Kenny comments:

“We have evidence to support a role for Vitamin D in the prevention of chest infections, particularly in older adults who have low levels. In one study Vitamin D reduced the risk of chest infections to half in people who took supplements. Though we do not know specifically of the role of Vitamin D in COVID infections, given its wider implications for improving immune responses and clear evidence for bone and muscle health, those cocooning and other at-risk cohorts should ensure they have an adequate intake of Vitamin D.”

The researchers concluded that adults aged over 50 should take Vitamin D supplements, and not just in winter, but all year round if they don’t get enough sun.


Altruvita’s high quality Vitamin D supplement is from cholecalciferol and provides around 500% of the adult daily requirement for health.

As governments around the world battle the COVID-19 pandemic, public health measures that can reduce the risk of infection and death in addition to lockdowns and social distancing are desperately needed. Here at Altruvita we’re constantly reading about the latest clinical trials and studies looking at the impact of micronutrients, nutrition and vitamin deficiencies on health.

An article published by a team based in the US and Hungary reviewed the roles of vitamin D in reducing the risk of respiratory tract infections, knowledge about the epidemiology of influenza and COVID-19 and how vitamin D supplementation might be a useful measure to reduce risk. 

Vitamin D is already known to reduce risk of infections through several mechanisms. Those mechanisms include lowering viral replication rates and reducing concentrations of pro-inflammatory chemicals that produce the inflammation that injures the lining of the lungs, leading to pneumonia.

Evidence supporting the role of vitamin D blood levels in reducing risk of COVID-19 infection includes that fact that the outbreak occurred in winter, a time when vitamin D concentrations are lowest. Note that the number of cases now in the southern hemisphere near the end of their summer are low (for example in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa). Cases have been higher than in areas which are most likely to have vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency has been found to contribute to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS); and that case-fatality rates increase with age and with chronic disease comorbidity, both of which are associated with lower 25(OH)D concentration. 

According to national surveys in the UK, across the population approximately 1 in 5 people are thought to have low vitamin D levels and are deficient (defined as serum levels below 25 nmol/L). Patients with levels 25 nmol/L to 50 nmol/L are classed as insufficient.

The UK has been lucky to enjoy sunny weather since the start of the lockdown, an end to the heavy rain of the winter just gone. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to get out in our gardens or take a daily walk outside are now getting an opportunity to soak up some sunshine. Between late March/early April and September, the majority of people aged 5 years and above will probably obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunlight when they are outdoors, alongside foods that naturally contain or are fortified with vitamin D.

However, the authors of the review suggest that the goal should be to raise 25(OH)D concentrations above 100-150 nmol/L, which is way higher than just obtaining sufficient levels (anything over 50 nmol/L). The only way to achieve this fast enough during the peak of the this pandemic is to do everything – get out in the sun, eat vitamin D rich foods and take a supplement.

Some studies have reported that vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of influenza, whereas others studies did not. To reduce the risk of infection, the authors of this paper advised that people at risk of influenza and/or COVID-19 consider taking 10,000 IU/d of vitamin D3 for a few weeks to rapidly raise 25(OH)D concentrations, followed by 5000 IU/d. For treatment of people who become infected with COVID-19, higher vitamin D3 doses might be useful. Randomised controlled trials and large population studies should be conducted to evaluate these recommendations.

Vitamin D supports the immune system.* Explore Altruvita’s Vitamin D supplement and the rest of our Immune Support range – just click hereOur Vitamin D is from cholecalciferol and provides around 500% of the adult daily requirement for health.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Reference:

Grant WB, Lahore H, McDonnell SL et al. Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths. Nutrients. 2020 Apr 2;12(4). pii: E988. doi: 10.3390/nu12040988.

After a bright and sunny Easter weekend there’s no doubt that, even in these restricted times, many BBQs will have been lit for the first time this year. For those of us lucky enough to have private gardens and outdoor spaces, a BBQ will have been welcome light relief from the time spent stuck inside. When you think of having a BBQ, do you automatically go for the classic BBQ foods – steak, sausages and burgers? But is that a healthy meal for us to be so excited about throughout spring and summer? We’ve all seen the headlines about red meat, and they can leave people confused about what’s safe to eat.

Is red meat really that bad? 

Red meat is full of vitamins and minerals, including selenium which supports the immune system*, plus essential amino acids from protein. But are there any downsides to eating red meat?

A large Swedish study published in 2014 examined the combined association of processed and non-processed meat consumption with survival in Sweden. The cohort included 40,089 Swedish men and 34,556 women. Red meat consumption was assessed through a self-administered questionnaire over a 15 year period. 

One of the most interesting findings was that high and moderate intakes of non-processed red meat were associated with shorter survival only when accompanied by a high intake of processed red meat.

Does this mean our steak is fine but our sausages and burgers are not?

In terms of general health, The World Cancer Research Fund state that we should not exceed 500g cooked weight red meat a week and that we should avoid processed read meat. This is because, when people consumer more than this, the rates of bowel cancer increase. 

The UK government states on the NHS website that both red meat and processed meat should not be consumed in amounts of over 490g a week, and you can save this up for intake on just 1 or 2 days if you want. It’s worth noting that burgers are only classed as ‘processed’ if they have added salt or other preservatives. Perhaps you could make your own burgers from lean steak mince and herbs if you’re hooked on the BBQ burger? Sausages and bacon are always classed as processed meat.

Is there any risk in barbequing meat?

It appears that cooking red meat at high temperatures may lead to the formation of mutagenic and carcinogenic heterocyclic amines. This happens through the interaction of muscle creatinine with amino acids, as well as the formation of N-nitroso compounds from the heam in red meat. All rather complicated language but in short, it’s the very high temperatures you need to be careful about.

Barbequing, frying, grilling, or broiling can potentially induce these changes. The aim is to not overcook red meat on the barbeque! If you burn processed meat (those sausages again…) or heat them to a very high temperature, you may be in for double trouble from a health perspective.

What can we eat?

A little red or processed meat can be incorporated safely into a plant based or traditional Mediterranean-style diet. Enjoy up to 500g non-processed red meat per week, don’t overcook and serve with plenty of colourful salad vegetables, beans and wholegrains! Why not consider a piece of marinated chicken or salmon for your BBQ every now and then? Plus, remember to get sufficient vitamin C from eating fruit and veg, which will help support the immune system*. Take a look at the Altruvita range, carefully formulated to support your health whatever the weather!

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

At a time when it’s crucial to have a healthy immune system, both to help prevent infections and support our body in recovering when we do get ill, we wanted to share some facts and important information with you about vitamin D. 

How do our bodies get vitamin D?

In humans, around 90% of the vitamin D we need is synthesised in the skin when we are exposed to sunlight and the other 10% is obtained from certain foods. The former is why it is sometimes referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’! The amount of vitamin D that we produce is influenced by the latitude we live at, the time of year it is, the time of day we tend to venture outside, whether we are wearing sunscreen and the natural pigmentation of our skin. 

For example, during the winter months in the UK (and anywhere else above the northerly latitude of 35 degrees) the UVB rays from the sun don’t penetrate all the way down to our skin, so we can’t make vitamin D. That’s why Public Health England recommends that all adults and children (over the age of 1) should take a vitamin D supplement throughout autumn and winter.

Why is vitamin D so important?

When our bodies get vitamin D (from either the skin’s exposure to sunlight or food) they turn it into a hormone called activated vitamin D or calciferol. This works to help to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphorus in our bodies for healthy bones, muscles and teeth. 

Did you know that even if you get plenty of calcium in your diet (from sources such as milk and leafy green vegetables), your body can’t absorb it unless you have enough vitamin D?  That means that a lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and a bone condition called osteomalacia in adults. 

Activated vitamin D also contributes to the normal function of the immune system and the process of cell division. If you are keen to support your immune system function at this time, it’s worth considering if you are likely to be getting enough vitamin D. 

Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency?

  • People who are unable to go out much during the daytime in those all-important spring and summer months, such as office workers, the housebound, and night shift or factory workers. 
  • People who cover most of their skin with clothing when they go outside, even during the warmer weather.
  • People over 65, because their skin is not as good at making vitamin D. 
  • Now that self-isolation and social distancing measures are part of our day-to-day life, we all need to keep an eye on the amount of sunlight we get.   

Which foods can we get Vitamin D from?

As mentioned above, the best source of vitamin D is when our bodies are exposed to sunlight and make it for us, but we can get a small amount by eating certain foods as well. 

The most common food sources of vitamin D include: 

  • Oily fish such as sardines, salmon, pilchards, trout, herring and kippers.
  • Eggs – mainly from the yolk, so be careful if you’re keen on egg white omelette! 
  • Red meat, though this will vary depending on what kind of meat and the time of year it is produced. 
  • Milk – again, it can depend on the time of year
  • Fortified products such as cereals, some dairy products and soy milk.

Altruvita’s high-strength vitamin D supplement

Along with vitamin C and selenium, vitamin D helps to support a healthy immune system, along with the other important roles it plays in our body. Shop Altruvita’s high-quality cholecalciferol vitamin D supplement here

There has never been a more important time to be proactive with our nutrition, with the aim of supporting the very best immune system defence.

Our immune systems play a role not only in fighting off infections, but also in promoting tissue repair to recovery. To function properly, our immune system requires plenty of both macro and micronutrients.

To help support your health over the next few months, we’ve put together a few diet and lifestyle pointers to keep you going in this worrying time.

Avoid strenuous exercise

Moderate-intensity exercise can be protective against illness by boosting the immune system, whereas high-intensity sessions actually compromise the immune system. Our immune system takes a hit for up to 72 hours following high-intensity training, making this a key time for susceptibility. This is especially important to note if you exercise in a class with others, where you’re more likely to pick up bacteria and viruses.

Let yourself sleep, rest and recover

Rest and recovery are key to prevent getting ill and further unwanted illness. If you’re always on the go with minimal rest, your immune system can be compromised long term. Poor sleep can affect the immune system and make you more susceptible to infection or illness. Sometimes it’s hard to stop, particularly when the future feels so uncertain, but don’t ever underestimate the importance of rest and relaxation! Run a hot bath, read a book, get a massage or listen to relaxing music every now and again.

Don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol

Excessive chronic intake of alcohol can decrease the number of a few white blood cells types, which means that your immune system will not be as able to fight off any bugs. Keeping within the alcohol guidelines will help, which in the UK is currently set at 14 units per week. That’s 6 pints of beer or 6 glasses of wine if that’s your preferred tipple. If you do prefer to round off the week with a few drinks you could pick drinks with healthy, vitamin-packed mixers such as orange, tomato or pineapple juice.

It’s not the time to diet

If you are unlucky enough to pick up an infection, you will need plenty of energy to fight it off. That means that it might not be the wisest time to start a calorie reduced diet – unless of course you have a pressing health issue that means you need to lose weight urgently. Low intakes of carbohydrates such as bread, rice and potatoes, which end up as glucose in the blood, can be a contributing factor to impaired immunity.

Keep well hydrated

Unfortunately, being dehydrated can also contribute to a compromised immune system. Still at this time of year when there’s still a bit of a nip on the air, it’s easy to forget to drink. One of the front-line defences in our immune systems are the immune proteins in our saliva. When we’re dehydrated, the levels of these proteins decreases, meaning our initial defence to bugs entering through the mouth is also decreased. Make sure you don’t wait to feel thirsty before you drink up, carry a water bottle with you (everywhere!) and keep sipping throughout the day.

Taste the Rainbow

Fruit and vegetables contain a wide range of different micronutrients with varying roles within the body. Many of these nutrients are involved in immune function such as iron, vitamins C and D, selenium and zinc. Anyone with even mild deficiencies in any of these micronutrients can have an altered immune response.

The easiest way to ensure you’re getting enough micronutrients and other phytochemicals is to consume a wide variety of different fruit and vegetables. Taste the rainbow- choose different coloured and textured fruit and veg every single day!

Vitamin Supplements

Vitamin C, vitamin D and selenium all help to support a healthy immune system. Not everyone can eat enough to get these micronutrients (or get enough sun in a UK winter), so consider taking a food supplement if you are lacking some antioxidant or immune protection. Contrary to popular belief, huge doses of vitamin C are not required in winter. At doses of say 400-500mg a day, the excess vitamin C is simply excreted in urine, making it literally money down the toilet!

In summary: consume enough antioxidants to support your immune system, sleep well, drink plenty (but not too many drinks of the alcoholic kind), avoid strenuous activity and wash your hands before eating to stay well.

Both in the UK and across the Western world veganism is rapidly growing in popularity.  The number of people who signed up to take part in ‘veganuary’ between from 2014 to this January is an excellent demonstration of just how quickly dipping a toe in veganism is gaining in popularity:

2014 – 3,300

2015 – 12,800

2016 – 23,000

2017 – 59,500

2018 – 168,500

2019 – 250,000

2020 – 400,000

Even if you’re only trying out veganism for a short time, it’s still important to ensure you are getting a balanced diet. We sat down with Altruvita’s nutrition team to talk about the 3 questions about vegan nutrition that they get asked most often and make sure you have all the answers you need.

Can I get enough protein in my diet if I am a vegan?

Of the eight essential amino acids our body needs, two – lysine and methionine – are given special attention in vegetarian and vegan diets. This is because, compared with foods of animal origin like eggs, milk and cheese, various plants have an imbalance of either lysine or methionine. This includes cereals, such as wheat, oats and rice, and legumes; beans, peas and lentils.  Wheat and rice proteins are comparatively low in lysine but better sources of methionine whereas beans and peas are relatively high in lysine yet in lower methionine. This has naturally led to the idea of cereals and legumes as ‘complementary’ proteins. In practice this means that meals that combine for example rice with beans or hummus with bread will provide a biologically ‘complete’ protein intake.   

As the body does not readily store amino acids try to combine ‘complementary proteins’ at each meal as it has some advantages and seems a sensible way to approach a varied and complete diet. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do this for every single meal you consume, however.

I’ve heard vitamin B12 is important – how do I ensure I’m getting enough B12? 

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in brain and heart health, nerve cells and red blood cell function. The most bioavailable form of B12 is unique to animal sources, with top sources including shellfish, lamb and beef. You may have good bodily stores of B12 when you begin a vegan diet which can keep you going for several months before they drop, and you start to notice symptoms like tiredness, brain fog, and poor memory. Vegans need to ensure they are consuming reliable sources of vitamin B-12, such as fortified foods or B12 supplements to keep adequate body stores and blood levels. 

Beware! Spirulina and other edible cyanobacteria (commonly called blue-green algae) contain a poorly bioavailable B12 which isn’t converted to B12 in humans.  We can’t absorb it, so consider using a B12 supplement if you plan to be wholly plant-based for more than a few months.

Can my dog become vegan too?

Dogs, like most canines, are naturally omnivores which means they eat both meat and plant-based foods. Some people who choose a vegan diet want to feed their pet one too. The reasons for feeding your dog a vegan diet might include the welfare of farmed animals being killed to feed our pets, as well as health, animal testing and the impact of meat on the environment. With a balanced variation in plant products, dogs can get all the nutrients they require from plants.

Pet food manufacturers have the option to declare ingredients by using ‘meat and animal derivatives’, which could include animals you don’t find acceptable, such as horses and body parts such as sheep intestines and rabbit ears. Parts of animals which are surplus to human consumption or are not normally consumed by people in the UK are classified as ‘animal by-products’.

There are now a number of vegan approved pet food brands certified by the Vegetarian society. 

Be aware of feeding fruit and vegetables known to be toxic to dogs.

For more vegan nutrition advice, why not take a look at our blog, Weighing up Veganuary?

Winter is always a tough time of year for older people, especially those suffering from poor health. The lack of sunlight inhibits our body’s production of Vitamin D, an essential micronutrient for immune system function as well as bone and muscle health. The cold and damp weather can exacerbate join stiffness (though, interestingly, the reasons why this is the case are still being researched) and leave us susceptible to respiratory disease. 

The UK has an aging population, and the associated strain on healthcare and other support service could be problematic, so what can we do to mitigate the impact on society? A healthy and balanced diet plays an integral part in the prevention of age-related diseases, but research shows that older adults aren’t necessarily getting all the nutrients they need.

From data gathered in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) 2008–2014, older adults in Britain are currently not meeting important dietary recommendations for their age group:

  • Over 65’s do not get the minimum five portions per day of fruit and vegetables (80 grams is one portion), most do not get the 18 grams a day of fibre either which may be related to this, but also can also be sourced from wholegrains.
  • Over 65’s should have 140 grams of oily fish per week but they are not getting this. 
  • Men aged 65 years and over are likely to exceed the 70 grams per day (on average) of red and processed meat.

Dietary intake in older adults is influenced by an array of factors including wealth, kitchen facilities, cooking skills, mood, strength to cut up food and the help or company that is available. 

Dental status is potentially an important factor. Older adults are susceptible to tooth loss and a large number are missing teeth or have dentures which can impair chewing ability. Consequently, reduced chewing ability may impact dietary eating habits, such as avoiding tough foods that are high in fibre including fruit, vegetables and nuts. That means they may miss out on key nutrients for optimal health in older age. 

Further analysis of the NDNS found that people with dentures have significantly lower levels of average daily intakes of omega 3 fatty acids, fibre, β-carotene, folate, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium, and had lower blood levels of vitamin B6, vitamin C and β-carotene concentrations. People with dentures were more likely to report difficulty eating apples, raw carrots, lettuce, nuts, well-cooked steak and crusty bread too.

Perhaps you are worried that your diet might be lacking some key nutrients? Here are some meal and snack ideas which could be really helpful:

Fruits

Fruit such as apple, pear, kiwi and melon should be ripe and finely cut. Stewed apple, rhubarb, plums and cherries can be served as desserts. All of these contain high amounts of vitamin C, potassium and fibre. Bananas and raspberries also contain magnesium.

Vegetables

Vegetables should be soft enough and easy to chew and are best left steaming for a bit longer than normal. Try mashing carrot, sweet potato, parsnip or swede into mashed potato. Stewing vegetables in with meat and gravy or tomato-based sauces will deliver an easy to eat, tasty and nutrient-rich meal. Easily to mash pieces of roasted butternut squash pack in potassium, fibre and beta carotene. Peas are well liked as they are soft, naturally sweet and contain folate, vitamin C, fibre and potassium.

Meat

Tender low-fat meats such as chicken or turkey from a whole bird are usually best tolerated and can be served with a cheese sauce or as a well-thought-out roast dinner. Chicken and turkey are also rich in vitamin B6, essential for protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism

Shepherds/cottage pie: Use quorn, beef or lamb mince with gravy, onion and carrots topped with mashed potato, delivering protein, fibre, beta carotene and potassium. Or even mince in a wholemeal shortcrust pastry topped pie, brushed with egg yolk and served with soft cauliflower cheese always goes down well, packing in potassium, fibre and vitamin C.

Fish

Seafood pies with creamy white wine sauces and peas can form a potato topped pie or mix with tagliatelle – they’re both rich in key nutrients B6, omega 3, folate and vitamin C and potassium. A tender salmon steak served with peas and dauphinoise potatoes is rich in B6, omega 3, vitamin C, fibre and folate. A salmon and broccoli quiche packs in magnesium, omega 3, B6. fibre, potassium, folate and beta carotene. 

Salads

Side salads could include guacamole which includes finely chopped red pepper. This packs in magnesium, fibre, potassium, folate and beta carotene. Roast pieces of butternut squash, peeled cucumber with coriander or mint and mixed into cous cous or rice salads add extra potassium, fibre and beta carotene.

Snacks

Make your own soft red pepper and tomato bread and serve with hummus, this provides vitamin C, potassium, fibre and beta carotene. Or buy a soft wholemeal roll and serve with homemade red pepper hummus for added vitamin B6, beta carotene, magnesium and folate.

Between 2015 and 2017 there were 26,265 premature deaths due to liver disease in England, a rate of 18.5 per 100,000 population under the age of 75. Liver disease includes cirrhosis, which is the scarring and hardening of liver tissue in response to damage. The causes of cirrhosis include drinking lots of alcohol for many years, hepatitis C infection and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Cirrhosis can’t be cured, so treatment is focused on managing symptoms and complications, whilst preventing the condition worsening. 

Researchers have explored the food supplement curcumin for its beneficial effects supporting patients suffering from other liver diseases, but it is only recently that studies have focused on cirrhosis. Curcumin is a yellow polyphenol isolated from the rhizome of Curcuma longa, more commonly known as turmeric, a characteristic plant of tropical and subtropical regions. Turmeric has been used as a spice and traditional medicine in Asia for centuries, and it’s now a popular food supplement in the West.

The new study aimed to investigate the effects of curcumin supplementation in patients suffering from liver cirrhosis. In this clinical trial, 70 patients with liver cirrhosis aged 20-70 years were randomly divided into two groups to receive 1,000 mg/day curcumin or placebo for 3 months. End-stage liver disease scores were used to assess the severity of their cirrhosis. 

60 patients (29 in the curcumin group and 31 in the placebo group) completed the study.  End-stage liver disease scores decreased (improved) significantly in the curcumin group after a 3-month intervention, whereas they increased (got worse) significantly in the placebo group. Significant differences were only observed between the two groups after a time frame of 3-months.  Similar doses are used in other liver diseases such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is exciting news for medical professionals looking for ways to support people suffering from liver disease.

If you would like to explore the powerful anti-inflammatory support of curcumin for yourself, why not take a closer look at our curcumin food supplement? 

Altruvita Curcumin+ comes in 250mg capsules and is the most absorbable form on the market.

At the moment we are all keen to maintain good health and do our best to support our immune systems. There’s adhering to lockdown rules, washing our hands, not touching our faces and getting plenty of sleep. But what are the nutrients and vitamins hidden in our food which enable our bodies to effectively fight bacteria and viruses if we get exposed to them? You’ve probably heard of vitamin C in relation to immunity; perhaps vitamin D too… but what about selenium? Is this lesser-known micronutrient something you need to be aware of in these challenging times?

What is selenium and which foods is it found in?

Selenium is an essential trace element with a number of biological functions. Selenium levels affect the ability of the body to repair DNA by protecting cells from oxidative stress. Selenium is also heavily involved in the endocrine (e.g. thyroid function) and immune systems. Selenium occurs in organic and inorganic forms. The organic form is found predominantly in grains, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products and enters the food chain via plant consumption.

What happens if you are deficient in selenium? 

Selenium deficiency has also been associated with increased incidence, severity (virulence) and/or progression of viral infections such as influenza (flu), HIV and Coxsackie virus. For example, flu infections are known to cause significantly greater lung problems in selenium‐deficient mice compared with selenium adequate mice. Another study found the amount of inflammation and severity of illness was significantly higher in selenium deficient mice.

It has been suggested that increased severity of viral infections in selenium‐deficient mice could be the result of increased oxidative stress caused by impaired antioxidant enzyme activity. Excessive inflammation may be the result of viral‐induced tissue damage and an increased expression of NF‐kB, which controls inflammatory responses, because of increased oxidative stress.

What can you do to help ensure optimum selenium levels? 

Selenium deficiency, or simply having low levels, can affect health. For that reason, it’s essential to eat a balanced diet so that you are giving your body the best chance of getting all the nutrients it needs. If you are concerned that you don’t eat enough of the foods listed above, perhaps because you are adhering to a strict vegan diet, it could be worth exploring a selenium supplement. 

Altruvita's selenium supplement

Selenium deficiency, or simply having low levels, can affect health. Altruvita’s selenium is from selenomethionine (a naturally occurring amino acid) and provides over 180% of the adult daily requirement for health (nutrient reference value). We are also vegan and vegetarian approved by the Vegetarian Society, so this is the perfect selenium supplement for those sticking to a plant-based diet.

Do you feel a little gloomy and run down in the winter? It might interest you to know that the lack of sunshine during those colder months of the year doesn’t just impact our mood, it actually can impact on our physical health too. Direct sunlight acting on the skin provides the majority of our vitamin D requirement, so when there’s less sun, we make less of this essential nutrient.  

The link between certain health problems and a Vitamin D deficiency has been noted through comparisons between regions with relatively low levels of sunlight, and those that enjoy more hours of sunshine. Incidence of various cancers, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease have all been linked to low exposure to sunlight and a reduction in the potential of vitamin D production.

You might be deficient in vitamin D if you cover your skin, or if you spend the daylight hours indoors. For individuals living above the north latitude of 35 degrees (which is all of the United Kingdom!), the sun cannot not reach the necessary angle for UVB penetration for all of the winter months. That means that for UK residents there is no opportunity for winter vitamin D production, unless you head to warmer climes for a holiday! 

Vitamin D levels are also strongly linked to mental illness, with a Swedish study showing 58 percent of people who had attempted suicide were vitamin D deficient. They concluded that testing vitamin D levels in mental health care is of vital importance.

Thankfully, vitamin D can also be consumed through dietary sources! There are certain foods that are very rich in vitamin D. Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna are not only excellent sources of vitamin D, they also contain omega-3 fats that deliver benefits to the cardiovascular system. Among the other foods that can boost your daily vitamin D intake are fortified milk, mushrooms, egg yolks, liver and fortified breakfast cereals. 

Sunlight is our main provider of vitamin D, so over the winter months especially, vitamin D supplementation is recommended for adults and children in the UK.

Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash

2020’s Veganuary is set to be the biggest yet. This initiative aims to inspire people to go vegan for the first month of each year, spreading the word about veganism and educating people on plant-based ingredients and recipes. But is going vegan actually good for our health? Let’s take a closer look by weighing up Veganuary…

Done badly, a vegan diet is the same as any other poor diet. Technically someone who is following a vegan diet could live on crisps!

The good bits

People who decide to try a new diet at the beginning of the year are often trying to improve their health and or lose weight. Whilst it is important to know that one month of adhering to a strict vegan diet (or even a lifetime of veganism!) isn’t a cure for every known health issue, vegetarians and vegans are at lower risk of a range of health conditions. These include obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and some cancers. 

Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, soya products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fibre and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels and improve serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease.

The not so good bits

Despite what some press might suggest around the carbon footprint of meat versus plant-based diets, a vegan diet is not the answer to our environmental and food sustainability issues. Some ingredients loved by vegetarians and vegans have a hefty carbon footprint of their own, but a sustainable and locally sourced diet (meat or plant based) can ease the pressure on the environment.

People may not find a vegan diet easy to follow if it’s not what they have been brought up on. It can be especially complicated if you have a dislike of vegetables and pulses! Thankfully the rise in popularity of vegan diets means there are plenty of recipes and ideas online to help participants decide what to cook.  

There are certain nutrients that a wholly plant-based diet will struggle to provide. That means if you follow a vegan diet it’s important to consider supplementation to prevent any deficiencies.  Remember that some deficiencies can take months, even years to present with symptoms so don’t wait until you have an issue to take action. Let’s take a look at them:

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a good example of this.  You may have good bodily stores of B12 when you begin a vegan diet, and these stores can keep you going for several months before they drop and you start to notice symptoms like tiredness, brain fog, and poor memory. The most bioavailable form of B12 is unique to animal sources.  It plays an important role in brain and heart health, nerve cells, and red blood cell function. Top sources include shellfish, lamb, and beef. 

Vegans need reliable sources of vitamin B-12, such as fortified foods or supplements. Spirulina and other edible cyanobacteria (commonly called blue-green algaes) contain a poorly bioavailable B12 which isn’t converted to B12 in humans.  We can’t absorb it, so consider using a B12 supplement if you plan to be wholly plant-based for more than a few months.

Omega-3 oils

Vegetarian and vegan diets tend to have plenty of omega-6 oils, but struggle to provide adequate with omega-3.  Nuts and seeds provide what is known as the ‘parent’ omega 3 fat, Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA).  This needs to go through several conversion steps before it becomes EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid). DHA and EPA are the omega-3 fats we use in the brain and heart. They are ready formed in fish oils. The conversion steps rely on co-factor nutrients like magnesium, B-vitamins, zinc, and vitamin C, and a lot of ALA gets lost during the process.  It is therefore important that vegans include walnuts, flaxseed oil, and/or pumpkinseed oil every day for their rich ALA content, and to enjoy plenty of food sources of the co-factor nutrients too;

– Magnesium: almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, dark green leafy vegetables

– Zinc: nuts & seeds

– B-vitamins, excluding B12: sweet potatoes, brown rice, avocadoes, nuts, seeds, and dark green leafy veggies are especially useful.

– Vitamin C: peppers, broccoli, berries, kiwi, papaya, peas, watercress

Iron

Iron deficiency is a particular issue for pre-menopausal female vegans due to regular monthly iron loss from periods.  Haem iron in animal products is much better absorbed than non-haem iron from plant sources so if you are relying on non-haem iron, make sure you include sources of vitamin C too, as this helps the absorption of plant-sourced iron.

Vitamin D

If you’re doing Veganuary, you’re starting it in the middle of winter when light levels are poor. Many of us, whether vegan or not, are low in vitamin D simply because we don’t get enough regular sunshine here in the northern hemisphere. Unfortunately for vegans, the optimum dietary sources of vitamin D3 (the most active usable form) are eggs, liver and butter, with plant sources like mushrooms providing a little D2 which has to be converted. It is advisable for everyone to take a vitamin D supplement during winter months (October to April) and vegans may need to continue it all year round.  

If you’re experimenting with Veganuary this year, this blog should have helped give you a steer on the nutrients that may be missing form your day to day diet. Nutrition is a complex subject but if you’re up to the challenge, enjoy a plant-based start to 2020! 

If you’ve made a commitment to kick off the brand-new decade with focus on a healthy diet and more exercise, this blog will certainly be of interest! You’ve probably heard of green tea and know that it’s good for you, but do you know why? Altruvita’s expert nutritional team takes a look at how adding a green tea extract to your routine can deliver a range of additional benefits and what they are. 

What is green tea? 

Green tea is made from unoxidized tea leaves from the Camilla Sinesis bush (whereas black teas are made from totally oxidized tea leaves from various plants) and it has been enjoyed as a drink for centuries. Green tea is widely believed to have a variety of health benefits, so where do they come from? Polyphenol antioxidants called catechins comprise the majority of green tea’s antioxidant content. Among the catechins in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most researched and thought to provide the most health benefits. All of these things are found in more concentrated doses within green tea extracts, rather than diluting these key ingredients within green tea beverages.

How do green tea and green tea extracts support our health? 

Green tea helps to maintain women’s and men’s health* and it helps to reinforce the antioxidant defences of the body, including skin and eyes.* It also maintains healthy gut flora*, which means it feeds the bacteria in our gut, which in turn keeps our immune system functioning.  All of these things are important at this time of year when you’re trying to look and feel better at the same time as fighting off colds and flu.

Recent green tea supplement research

If you are one of the many thousands who are kick starting their year with a regular exercise routine, with a plan to lose weight, you may be interested in some research which was published in September of last year. 

Considering the relationship between cardiovascular diseases (heart disease, stroke) and obesity, the study investigated the effects of a green tea supplement and high-intensity interval training on blood cholesterol, triglycerides, maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) and other risk factors in overweight women.

Thirty overweight women (aged 20-30), were chosen and randomly divided into three equal groups (green tea alone, or exercise + green tea, or exercise + placebo). They worked-out for 10 weeks doing 40m shuttle runs at maximum effort. Women took 500 mg per day of green tea extract or placebo tablets. 

After 10 weeks, triglycerides, LDL (bad cholesterol), weight, and body fat percentage decreased in all groups. HDL (good cholesterol) and VO2max significantly increased in the exercise + green tea and exercise + placebo groups; whilst in the green tea group they did not, which would be expected without exercise.

It suggests that to get the full health benefits, a green tea extract combined with high intensity interval training exercise is probably the best way to go. Green tea and exercise both have their own unique way of improving different measurements and so collectively provide the best option.

Our carefully sourced green tea extract is low in caffeine and is composed of 98% green tea polyphenols.

* EFSA ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON-HOLD LIST

Photo by Verena Böttcher on Unsplash

Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the two most common forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and together they affect more than 300,000 people in the UK. IBDs can trigger a wide range of symptoms including pain, cramps, weight loss, extreme tiredness, diarrhoea and swelling of the stomach. 

Due to the high prevalence of nutrient deficiencies in patients with IBD, routine monitoring of nutrient status and supplementation are recommended. Not only are deficiencies a wider problem, but the resulting inflammation causes pain and intolerance to food during flare ups when the diseases are active.

Xanthohumol is an extract of the hop flower which protects body cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Xanthohumol protects body cells from oxidation-induced cell stress and reinforces cell protection*

A team in Portland, Oregon, who have been running multiple studies investigating the health benefits of xanthohumol hop extracts, have released their latest preliminary study, this time in IBD. The formula contained xanthohumol and curcumin, which is well studied for its anti-inflammatory effects* in IBD. The formula also contained a mixture of micronutrients (including methylated forms of folate and vitamin B12), macronutrients, and phytonutrients including, ginger compounds, and quercetin. Ten adults with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis were recruited from the Portland metropolitan area. Participants consumed a beverage twice daily for 12 weeks. 

The researchers wanted to see if the beverage affected blood nutrients and blood cells involved in immunity. Primary measures were the following parameters: folate, vitamin B12, red blood cell (RBC) count, haemoglobin, haematocrit, electrolytes, and albumin. Exploratory measures included a food frequency questionnaire, circulating blood cell counts, and inflammatory markers.

Nine participants completed the study and one withdrew. Adherence was 98%. Serum folate and red cell distribution width improved in adults with IBD after 12 weeks. Modulation of leukocyte subtypes was also observed, including a decrease in neutrophils and an increase in lymphocytes, with no change in total WBC count. 

The team have planned a bigger study to fully examine the effects of the beverage in IBD patients, exciting news for those who suffer from these conditions.

* EU EFSA ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON HOLD LIST.

Photo by zhenzhong liu on Unsplash

The quest for clear, glowing and youthful skin has obsessed people for centuries. People invest in lotions and potions, swear by their favourite skincare routines and turn to medical intervention to try and achieve the perfect complexion.

Altruvita’s Xanthohumol+ Skin food supplement contains hop extract in a carefully formulated concentration which works synergistically to support problem-skin. The expert team behind Altruvita believe that healthy skin is best achieved by supplementing our diet with natural ingredients which are backed up by science.

A naturally derived component of hops, xanthohumol has been investigated as an anti-acne compound when it is tested directly on the skin. The tests showed strong antibacterial activity against P. acnesS. epidermidis, S. aureus, K. rhizophila and S. pyogenes, which are bacteria living in the skin and linked to the development of spots. Xanthohumol and humulones, also found in hops, demonstrated action against the enzymes which break down collagen, which supports the structure of the skin. 

Xanthohumol also showed the highest antioxidative potential from all of the plant extracts tested. Antioxidants could play a significant role in delaying the aging process of skin by scavenging free radicals and preventing the activity of collagenase and elastase enzymes.

Altruvita Xanthohumol+ Skin is designed to help protect the body from the ageing effects of a stressful lifestyle. Xanthohumol has a number of therapeutic health benefits and as an antioxidant it protects cells from stress-induced oxidation and premature ageing.*

* EU EFSA ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON HOLD LIST.

It has been suggested for some time that PM2·5 (the smallest type of particulates found in emissions which go unfiltered into the lungs) are associated with increased risk of diabetes; however, nobody really knew how big the effect was. 

To really dig down on what was happening, last year scientists took a group of 1,729,108 US veterans and followed them to see what happened over an 8.5-year period, taking note of the all the fine details, where they live and PM2.5 levels. 

Diabetes was recorded by using the International Classification of Diseases-9 code, diabetes medication prescription or abnormal blood glucose level tests.

A 10 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre) increase in PM2·5 was associated with increased risk of diabetes and exposure to PM2·5 was associated with increased risk of death. An integrated exposure response function showed that the risk of diabetes increased substantially above 2·4 μg/m3, and then exhibited a more moderate increase at concentrations above 10 μg/m3.

Globally, ambient PM2·5 contributed to about 3.2million incident cases of diabetes, about 8.2million disability adjusted life year (DALYs) caused by diabetes, and 206,105 deaths from diabetes attributable to PM2·5 exposure, especially in low-income and lower-to-middle-income countries.

Importantly, the study shows that substantial risk exists at concentrations well below those outlined in the air quality standards of WHO and national and international regulatory agencies, meaning targets need to tighten even further.

The biological mechanism underpinning the association is based on the premise that pollutants enter the bloodstream where they might interact with tissue components to produce pathological effects. This mechanism is now supported by evidence both in experimental models and humans that inhaled nanoparticles, which when sufficiently small can enter the bloodstream and interact with distant organs—including liver tissue—and exhibit affinity to accumulate at sites of blood vessel (vascular) inflammation.

Both research studies and human evidence suggest that exposure to ambient air pollutants can lead to clinically significant disturbances in oxidative stress, inflammation, cell division and broad metabolic derangements in glucose and insulin homoeostasis. This includes glucose intolerance, decreased insulin sensitivity and impaired secretion, and increased blood lipid concentrations, thus providing biological mechanistic plausibility to the association of PM2·5 exposure and the risk of diabetes.

The global burden of diabetes attributable to PM2·5 air pollution is significant. Reduction in exposure will yield substantial health benefits, but protecting the body from not only breathing particles in, but also providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents must also become a focus until things that contribute to emissions, such as diesel fuels, are faded out.

Altruvita’s Air Pollution Formula is designed to provide natural support in a polluted world, click here to learn more about this food supplement.

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Living or working in the UK’s most polluted cities and towns increases the risk of an early death by the equivalent of smoking three cigarettes a week, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has warned today.

The BHF has called for air pollution to be declared “a public health emergency” following the starling results of a research project funded by the charity. The study in question found that breathing in the particulate matter found in polluted air is a serious risk factor for diseases effecting the circulatory system.

Around 11,000 coronary heart disease and stroke deaths each year in the UK are caused by particulate matter air pollution. It can also worsen existing health problems such as respiratory illnesses, but in truth it effects every part of our body.

It’s the PM2.5 – the smallest of the particulate matter found in vehicle emissions – that are of most concern, as these cannot be filtered out of the air we breathe by our nostrils or the tube going down into the lungs.

The BHF analysis shows that the Chelsea, Newham, Westminster, Kensington and Islington areas of London are worst hit by air pollution – the equivalent to smoking more than 150 cigarettes a year on average. Those in Waltham Forest, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham, Lambeth and Southwark in London are also badly affected, as are people in Slough, Dartford, Gravesham, Thurrock, Portsmouth, Medway and Luton,

The results of studies such as these have led to an increase in demands that the next government should urgently introduce the much tougher World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution limits in place of EU limits. the current EU limits – which the UK comfortably meets – for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are 25 micrograms per metre cubed as an annual average. The WHO limits are much tougher – at 10 micrograms per metre cubed as an annual average. The potential health benefits of lowering these levels would allow everyone to live healthier lives for longer.

it’s not all doom and gloom – we’ve recently written about how dietary components can help play a role in combatting the effects of air pollution, which you can read about here. Altruvita’s medical and nutritionist team has also developed Air Pollution Formula, the very first food supplement of its kind and designed to provide natural support in a polluted world.

There are many ways you can try to limit your exposure to both indoor and outdoor air pollution, and to help you out we’ve gathered them together in our insightful Air Pollution Survival Guide. Download your FREE copy here.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) remains a common and difficult to manage gastrointestinal condition. There is growing interest in the use of traditional medicine to manage IBS, as prescribed drugs often fail after time and revolve around symptom management of cramps and diarrhoea rather than addressing the cause of the problem. In particular, curcumin, a biologically active phytochemical, has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in several studies. 

Last year a group of researchers looked at all the studies available with IBS and curcumin. 3 studies were included in the final analysis this included treatment of 326 patients.

They found curcumin to have a beneficial effect on IBS symptoms. With its unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, and ability to modulate gut microbiota, curcumin is a potentially useful agent for IBS. It also appears safe and well-tolerated, with no adverse events reported in the available trials. 

There are more studies on the way looking at even more benefits that it may have in the gut and elsewhere in the body, so watch this space!

Altruvita’s Happy Tum supplement contains highly absorbable curcumin, green tea and vitamin D. Take a closer look at Happy Tum here.

With studies on the impact of air pollution on our health being released on a weekly basis now, it’s no wonder we’re all starting to pay attention. It’s especially emotive when children and babies are at risk too. The latest research shows that children living next to a main road will not have developed lungs which are needed to protect against respiratory infections, and they also have a 10% higher risk of lung cancer in later life. This is along with increased risk of asthma and COPD. Whilst some are considering an escape to the country, and away from main roads, for others it’s impractical to move their home, work or school. 

We’ve known for quite some time that diets high in particular compounds, and supplements, have shown promise in terms of benefit against air pollution. In an attempt to avoid selection of anti-pollution superfoods, here’s some tips to what an anti-pollution super diet could look like:

  • Firstly, don’t starve your body, it needs continuous protection against pollutants. One study has suggested that there may be increased susceptibility to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) when someone is in a fasting state. NO2 is produced by motor vehicles, biomass burning, airports and industry.
  • Children living in the city should eat a diet high in antioxidants. A study of children looked at total antioxidant intake and asthma rates, and there appeared to be a link between higher antioxidant intake (total antioxidant capacity) and diminished sensitivity to inhaled allergens. Children should be encouraged to eat their 5 a day, and even such things as turmeric which contains curcuminoid antioxidants.  Potatoes are an important source of the antioxidant vitamin C.
  • Protect your skin with vitamin C and E. Exposure to ground level ozone (O3) results in dose-dependent depletion of antioxidants vitamin C and E in the skin. (O3) generation is a major component of smog and is formed as a result of a photochemical reaction between O2 and pollutants such as hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides, which is facilitated by sunlight. Foods such as oranges, strawberries and lemons are high in vitamin C, and almonds and avocados are good sources of vitamin E.
  • Keep your vitamin D levels topped up, especially in asthmatics. Although most of your vitamin D comes from sunlight, supplementation is often required because of reduced sunlight. The sun’s UVB rays struggle to get through air pollution smog and have been shown to affect blood levels of vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels are linked to allergic asthma exacerbation. A vitamin Dcontaining supplement and consuming foods such as oily fish may help.
  • Ensure vitamin C and E levels are kept topped up in asthma and COPD. A London-based study looked at whether individual blood antioxidant concentrations (vitamins A, C and E) could modify the response to particulate matter with respect to hospital admissions for COPD or asthma. Two hundred and thirty four admissions were recorded and the level of PM10 (larger particles) was noted 14 days before and after each event. Combined admission rates were related to a 10 μg/m increase in PM10. Serum vitamin C modified the effect of PM10 on asthma/COPD exacerbations. A similar (although weaker) influence was observed for low levels of vitamin E in the blood. Citrus fruits provide lots of vitamin C, whereas almonds and avocados are rich in vitamin E.
  • Vitamin C and E supplements may help asthma patients exposed to high ozone levels. Antioxidant supplementation with vitamin C and E above the minimum dietary requirement led to reduced nasal inflammation and partially restored antioxidant levels in asthmatic patients exposed to high levels of O3. Vitamin E-containing antioxidants also reduced O3-induced bronchoconstriction in subjects with asthma in 2 other studies. High levels of vitamins C and E were provided as supplements and it is not known if diet would have the same effect.
  • Vitamin E supplements may help in people exposed to O3 without asthma. Two trials reported that vitamin E-containing antioxidants reduce O3-induced bronchoconstriction in subjects without asthma, suggesting potential protective effects of vitamin E against the detrimental effects of O3. High levels of vitamin E were provided as supplements and it is not known if diet would have the same effect.
  • Eat turmeric if you live in a city or you are around smoke. In a Singapore population of 2478 people, where air pollution and smoking rates are high, researchers found that people taking dietary curcumin through eating turmeric in curry, had better pulmonary function. The average adjusted forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) associated with curry intake was 9.2% higher among current smokers, 10.3% higher among past smokers, and 1.5% higher among non-smokers. Turmeric and oil can also be used to marinade meat and fish and in dhal, rice and Moroccan dishes.
  • Fish derived omega 3 oils could protect the heart and blood vessels. Omega 3 oils are known for their effects in alleviating inflammation in the body and there are recent studies which use omega-3 oils to combat the effects of air pollutants. In an animal study researchers demonstrated that omega-3 oils prevented and improve inflammation caused by fine particulate matter. A human study in China found that a dose of 2.5g/day fish derived omega 3 oils led to protection of the cardiovascular system from the tiny particulates in air (PM 2.5). These studies used supplements as it is impractical to try to consume high doses of the oil through eating oily fish.
  • The Mediterranean diet may help if smoke is an issue. A diet high in oily fish, olive oil, fresh fruit, veg and salads does offer some protection against the effects of tobacco smoke in smokers and passive smokers.

No particular dietary intervention has been tested in a high pollution environment yet and you’ll see that most research suggests that supplements are required to get enough of a particular compound.

We’ve developed Air Pollution Formula, the very first supplement of its kind, to offer natural support in a polluted world. Take a closer look at the ingredients chosen for our unique Air Pollution Formula here.

New data has been published which aims to predict the impact of 2 different pollutants on the life expectancy of children born in London in 201, assuming they remained living in the city all their life. 

Diesel emissions are the biggest source of air pollution in towns and cities, and a source of some of the most dangerous air pollutants for health: NO2 and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). Diesel vehicles produce more of these dangerous pollutants than their petrol counterparts.

So, what did the researchers find out? Their calculations showed that boys are expected to live 9.5 months less due to the tiny particulates PM 2.5, and 17 months less due to NO– nitrogen dioxide. Girls are expected to live 9 months less due to PM 2.5 and 15.5 months less due to NO2

There are multiple sources of outdoor air pollution, however in urban areas the single biggest source is road transport.  Children in particular are vulnerable to the effects of air pollution from traffic. Even within the womb, a child can be affected by pollution.

It’s no surprise that research as emotive as this has caused people working in the medical profession to take a stand against diesel emissions. ‘Doctors Against Diesel’ is a public health campaign aiming to stop children’s health being affected by air pollution and supporting alternatives to diesel. Many people, rich or poor, spend their lives in cities like London and it does have significant effects on their health. It doesn’t matter who you are, we’re all stuck breathing in the same air.

It’s also worth noting that the risks from air pollution do increase among those living in the most deprived communities, and particularly children in these areas. This is due to the combined impacts of poor housing and air quality indoors, the stress of living on a low income and limited access to healthy food and/or green spaces to exercise.

If you want to protect yourself against the harmful effects of pollution, the best way would be to avoid polluted cities, although of course this is not realistic for millions of people living in the UK.  A diet high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds is probably going to be helpful for those people living in cities or near main roads, however the research currently sits more with a few food supplements providing benefit. Read our insightful Air Pollution Survival Guide for more detailed information.

Photo by Brunel Johnson on Unsplash

Stiffness and aching joints are often associated with winter, in particular the dropping temperatures and increase in wet weather. The exact science behind why colder weather increases joint pain is still slightly unclear, but there’s plenty of evidence to show levels of discomfort rise when it’s cooler. For those living with arthritis or stiff, aging joints it’s worth exploring natural support to get through the winter in comfort. Introducing turmeric, a vibrant yellow spice that could be a secret weapon in the battle against join stiffness and pain. 

Turmeric has traditionally been used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat arthritis. Curcuminoids within turmeric are collectively called ‘curcumin’ and we are confident in the science which shows that curcumin blocks inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), in the same way as the common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) painkiller ibuprofen. A study on knee osteoarthritis patients compared the ability of curcumin and another NSAID called diclofenac to inhibit cyclo-oxygenase 2.Both the groups showed significantly reduced cyclo-oxygenase 2 secretions, meaning inflammation levels were lower after the use of a painkiller, but also after the use of curcumin.

Several recent studies show that turmeric/curcumin has noticeable anti-inflammatory properties and it also modifies immune system responses related to arthritis.  A 2006 study showed turmeric was more effective at preventing joint inflammation than reducing joint inflammation. However, a 2010 clinical trial found that a turmeric supplement provided long-term improvement in pain and function in 100 patients with knee osteoarthritis.

One study compared the effects of ibuprofen (2 × 400 mg/day) with those of curcumin (4 × 500 mg/day) in patients who were over 50 years of age, had severe knee pain and their radiography showed the presence of osteophytes. Both the groups showed improvements in all assessments but the curcumin group was statistically better in patient satisfaction, timed walk or stair climbing and pain during walking or stair climbing. 

A pilot clinical study evaluated the safety and effectiveness of curcumin alone, and in combination with diclofenac sodium in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Forty-five patients diagnosed with RA were randomized into three groups with patients receiving curcumin (500 mg) and diclofenac sodium, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). (50 mg) alone or their combination. The curcumin product reduced joint pain and swelling in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis better than diclofenac. More importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse events.

Another study evaluated the comparative efficacy of two different doses of curcumin with that of a placebo in active rheumatoid arthritis patients. Twelve patients in each group received placebo, 250 or 500 mg of the curcumin product twice daily for 90 days. Patients who received the curcumin product at both low and high doses reported statistically significant changes in their clinical symptoms at the end of the study. These reported changes were backed up by changes seen in patients’ blood tests. 

Curcumin+ is a powerful anti-inflammatory*, antioxidant* formula that helps support inflammatory issues for optimum wellness. It helps protect and support joint comfort and flexibility*.

* EFSA ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON HOLD LIST.

Photo by Anna Auza on Unsplash

You may remember the news from last year that the artificial blue light emitted by our smart phone screens is too stimulating for our brains at bedtime, but did you know that there are also plenty of other electronic devices which can impact sleep?

WIFI emits Electromagnetic Frequency radiation (EMF).  In 2013, the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at The University of Melbourne published a study on how EMF affects the quality of our sleep, especially in relation to the pineal gland which sits in the brain.

They found that our bodies sense EMF radiation in a similar way to how we perceive light. The pineal gland (the gland responsible for producing melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep and circadian rhythm) slows down production. When we’re unable to get proper sleep, our ability to fight bacterial, viral and fungal infections and repair tissue damage is impaired. Sleep is one of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle, and EMF radiation dramatically affects our ability to get that sleep- a fact also understood by NASA.

Turn your WIFI off at night.

And it’s not just WIFI that effects the quality of our sleep, a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicinedraws a very interesting link between weight gain and sleeping with a television on.

The study followed women between the ages of 35 and 74, and showed that sleeping with the TV on, or any other source of bright light in the bedroom, led to weight gain. The data from a five-year period shows that those who have a TV or other light source on while they sleep gained over 10lbs during the period of the study.

We are meant to sleep in the dark, we are equipped with a pineal gland to wake us up at sunrise.

Getting enough solid sleep every night is one thing essential to health, and lack of sleep has indeed been associated with a variety of conditions. Lack of deep sleep and not getting enough sleep overall are both correlated with obesity.

Artificial light has been shown to hamper sleep quality, and that’s one of the reasons why blue-light-dimming features have crept into our mobile devices and computers. Remember, no phones under your pillow either! Why not buy an old-fashioned alarm clock and banish tablets and smartphones from the bedroom altogether?

As well as embracing darkness and electronic device-free zones to promote better quality sleep, it might interest you to know that hops have been known for their calming abilities for centuries. This is thought to be partly due to the xanthohumol that they contain, which induces mental wellbeing and brings better sleep*. Take a closer look at our Hops and Dreams supplement here

*ESFA Article 13.1 botanicals on hold list

Photo by Mohamed MAZOUZ on Unsplash

Let’s face it, there are no winners when it comes to air pollution. Plants, animals and humans all absorb it one way or another.

If you have ever experienced true smog or breathed in the dirty exhaust fumes when an old car drives past, you’ll know that pollution irritates the parts of your body that comes into contact with it – your chest (lungs), skin and eyes. Wheezing, ageing and itchy skin and sore eyes are really common symptoms of exposure to air pollution. The latest research also shows that much more life-threatening medical changes can happen too.

A team at King’s College London published data from 9 UK cities – London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton. They found that high air pollution levels in those cities trigger hundreds more heart attacks, strokes and acute asthma attacks each year.

From ambulance call data, they calculated that the days with above average pollution levels would see an extra 124 cardiac arrests over the year. On days with high pollution levels, across the nine cities in total, they calculated that there would be a total of 231 additional hospital admissions for stroke, with an extra 193 children and adults taken to hospital for asthma treatment.

In London, high-pollution days would see an extra 87 heart attacks per year and an extra 144 strokes. 74 children and 33 adults would end up in hospital with asthma-related issues.

Among the long-term risks associated with high pollution levels are stunted lung growth and low birth weight.

The King’s College research also suggests cutting air pollution by a fifth, which is more than attainable over a short period, would decrease incidents of lung cancer by between 5% and 7% across the nine cities surveyed.

None of this should be a huge shock, after all we are breathing in toxic chemicals and particulates and of course air pollution costs lives and causes a range of illnesses, thus impacting more on the financial constraints of the health service.

The UK hosted an international clean air summit earlier in the month with the aim of exploring ways to improve air quality. Along with cleaning up the air in our environment, it may also be possible to support your health with a range of actions and a food supplement which contains ingredients proven to work against pollution. Read our Air Pollution Survival Guide to find out more.

World Menopause Awareness Day is held on the 18th of October every year to raise awareness of the health issues faced by women during and after the menopause. In the lead up to this year’s event, it is an ideal time to take a closer look at the causes and symptoms of the menopause and how a hidden element of the humble hop flower might be able to help ease some symptoms.

What is the menopause?

The menopause is a natural part of ageing for women, normally occurring between the ages of 45 and 65, when their periods stop for good. It is triggered by a natural alteration in the balance of sex hormones in the body, in particular oestrogen. Also known as the second puberty, the menopause is an important stage of women’s life but one which is mainly associated with the various complaints and distresses it can cause.

What are the symptoms of the menopause and can they be treated?

Vasomotor symptoms (VMS), such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, and fatigue, are the most common menopause symptoms affecting about 50% to 80% of middle-aged women. These symptoms, resulting from oestrogen deficiency during menopause, can exert negative effects on women’s health and quality of life and thus need to be managed through medical treatments such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Oestrogen deficiency is associated with complaints that may increase the risks for both illness and early death, including increased cognitive changes and osteoporosis. For this reason, HRT for menopausal women seems the most appropriate answer. However, HRT comes with its own set of risks and potential health conditions, which you can read about on the NICE website here.

Common mood changes that menopausal women may experience include irritability, nervousness, anxiety and depression. Mood changes often go hand-in-hand with poor sleep and fatigue, and night-time symptoms certainly contribute to this.

Is there a natural way to support your health during the menopause?

During the past decade, growing attention has been paid to the use of herbal medicines or complementary therapies for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. 

Many herbal treatments for menopausal symptoms contain hops (Humulus lupulus L.). Within hops there are components such as 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN; a potent phytoestrogen), 6-PN and isoxanthohumol (two well-known flavanones), and xanthohumol (a prenylated chalcone). The high oestrogenic potency of 8-PN has the ability to interact with oestrogen receptors and therefore is an attractive choice for menopause sufferers. For this reason, it must be avoided by anyone with an oestrogen receptor positive disease or cancer.

The healing power of the humble hop…?

Hops have been known for their calming abilities for centuries. This is thought to be partly due to the xanthohumol it contains, which induces mental and physical wellbeing*. Hops containing terpenoid, flavonoid glycoside and catechin are widely used to treat tension, headache and sleep disorders (through impact on the central nervous system), activating the stomach and appetite.

Despite their confirmed benefits, the mechanisms through which hops relieves menopausal symptoms are not clearly understood. Considering the possible negative effects of HRT, flavonoids extracted from hops can serve as a useful complementary treatment for the alleviation of some problems during the menopause. Keen to give it a go? Why not explore our high-quality Xanthohumol supplement ‘Hops & Dreams’ here.

*ESFA Article 13.1 botanicals on hold list

New research unveiled this week reveals that air pollution in some major cities is as bad for us as smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Scientists from the University of Washington monitored the levels of fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, ozone and black carbon in the air outside the homes of over 7,000 adults (aged 45- 84) living in 6 major US cities. Over an average of a 10-year period between 2000 and 2018, the research also tracked the development of emphysema and monitored lung decline in participants with CT scans. The researchers’ discovery is a startling reminder of the negative effects of breathing polluted air, particularly for those who live in a city environment.

The findings in more detail

The scientists found that long-term exposure to all the pollutants they were monitoring was linked to an increased percentage of emphysema. Emphysema is one of several conditions, along with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis, that are grouped together and referred to as chronic lower respiratory disease. Chronic lower respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death in the world.

Ground-level ozone – the levels of which are increasing worldwide due to the use of fossil fuels – was found to be the deadliest pollutant measured and was linked to a decline in lung function. The results of the research show that long-term exposure to ground-level ozone increases chance of a person developing emphysema by the same as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 29 years.

What is Air Pollution Formula?

Air Pollution Formula is the very first food supplement of its kind. It is an innovative option for those looking to support their health in a polluted world and has been developed to provide powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Air Pollution Formula includes the antioxidant vitamins C and E, which contribute to the protection of cells from oxidative stress*, curcumin to help control inflammatory responses within the body* and vitamin D for its role in the process of cell division and immune system function*, as well as choline and omega 3 fatty acids.

How can a dietary supplement tackle the effects of air pollution?

It’s a question that we often get asked about our Air Pollution Formula – how can taking a pill help mitigate some of the harmful effects of breathing in polluted air? The key ingredients chosen for our air pollution supplement are absorbed into the bloodstream where they are then distributed throughout the body. This means that their effect is far wider than just the digestive system.

Learn more about Air Pollution Formula and Altruvita

Altruvita’s evidence-based food supplements are developed by leading experts using carefully chosen premium materials, minerals and plant extracts to support your health.

Click here to take a closer look at Air Pollution Formula from Altruvita: https://altruvita.com/air-pollution-formula/

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS AND EFSA ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON HOLD LIST.

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“Energy boost!!! Amazing product! Took 4 a day for 2 weeks and saw a massive difference in my energy levels. Highly recommended.”

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