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Magnesium is an essential mineral and plays a role in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Beyond helping to maintain normal muscle and nerve function,* this mineral supports normal psychological function* and protects bones and teeth.* Magnesium also contributes to energy metabolism,* as well as supporting the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.*

Most women begin to experience the symptoms of perimenopause in their mid 40s. Magnesium is often recommended for menopause due to its far-reaching health credentials. Here, we uncover how magnesium may support your health throughout this hormonal transition, and how best to supplement it in your diet.

Sleep

Up to 60% of menopausal women experience sleep disturbances. The initial changes during the perimenopause causes highs and lows of progesterone and oestrogen which amplifies specific symptoms — hot flushes, sleep-disordered breathing, like sleep apnoea, and mood changes, such as anxiety and depression which may contribute to sleep issues.

Within the nervous system, magnesium binds to the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric (GABA), helping to settle any nerve activity that may otherwise fragment sleep. The mineral also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for promoting feelings of calm and relaxation.

Beyond easing the body into rest, magnesium has shown promise in improving sleep quality, presumably through helping to manage the symptoms that reduce sleep. Several studies have confirmed that this mineral encourages deep, restorative sleep.

Mood

As oestrogen and progesterone start to decline in perimenopause, this may disrupt the biochemical activity in your brain and affect the production of mood-regulating hormones, like serotonin. As a result, you may notice changes in your mental health, with emotions like panic, stress, and anxiety becoming apparent.

Besides this, contending with hot flushes, breast tenderness, fatigue, lower libido, mood swings, and insomnia may further compromise your emotional health and exacerbate anxiety.

Magnesium is believed to contribute to normal psychological function* and, for that reason, is often recommended for anxiety. Research suggests this mineral helps to regulate the neurotransmitters in the brain and several studies show magnesium supplement intake directly correlates with decreased anxiety.

Fatigue

Fatigue is a relatively common symptom in the early stages of perimenopause as your body adjusts to its new chemistry and hormonal status. When oestrogen drops suddenly, you may experience waves of lethargy or ‘crashing fatigue’.

Other implications of low oestrogen, including insomnia, night sweats, and frequent urination, can also disrupt sleep and increase daytime fatigue.

Magnesium plays a central role in energy metabolism* and supports the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.* This mineral is involved in the production and stability of the ATP molecule, which supplies energy for many bodily processes. Alongside this, magnesium also helps to convert glucose into energy.

Bone health

Oestrogen helps to regulate bone production and turnover, making it indispensable for bone health. However, due to the sharp decline of oestrogen in perimenopause, the risk of osteoporosis increases as you reach menopause and post-menopause. Women may lose up to 20 per cent of their bone density in the 5 to 7 years after the menopause.

Magnesium is crucial for the absorption and utilisation of both calcium and vitamin D, which are critically important for normal bones.* Your bones store magnesium, where in times of need, magnesium is transferred from the bones to the bloodstream. As such, an adequate intake of magnesium is essential to prevent the loss of bone density.

Heart health

Oestrogen also plays an important heart-protective role. Not only does this hormone support the function of the arteries and blood flow, but it also helps to prevent the build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries and control cholesterol levels.

Some scientists believe that the drop in oestrogen during perimenopause may increase the risk of heart-related issues. Indeed, magnesium is involved in the transportation of the electrolytes into cells*, which helps to regulate heartbeat. Evidence suggests low levels of magnesium may contribute to irregular heartbeat and, in some cases, heart palpitations.

How do I get magnesium?

To support your overall health in menopause and beyond, you should try to meet your daily requirement (375mg) with food. These include:

  • Fortified breakfast cereal
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables: kale, spinach and watercress
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes: kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, soya products
  • Whole grains: oats, brown rice, and quinoa
  • Seafood, like mackerel, tuna and salmon
  • Baked potato

While some people enjoy the foods above, some people may not. Fortunately, high- quality supplements can substitute food. Altruvita Magnesium provides high absorbing magnesium bisglycinate in a low dose per capsule. This means you can spread your intake throughout the day to avoid irritating the digestive system which happens with high doses and cheap forms, and you can vary the dose depending on how you feel.

* GB REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Psoriasis can flare up on any part of the skin. When it appears on the scalp, it’s known as scalp psoriasis. But wherever it appears, the cause is the same. It happens when faulty signals in the immune system tell the body to fight an infection (even if infection is not present). This releases inflammatory chemicals as part of the immune response, causing skin cells to reproduce quicker than usual. Typically, skin cells in a normal scalp will renew around every 21-28 days – it’s a natural process and is invisible to the naked eye. But if you suffer from psoriasis, they may reproduce up to 10 times quicker, causing plaques of excess skin cells to appear on the surface of the skin.

There are some similarities between scalp psoriasis and the symptoms of dandruff such as flaking, itching and dry scalp but sufferers are also likely to experience;

  • scaly, red, bumpy patches
  • silvery-white scales
  • burning or soreness
  • hair loss

Factors like stress, injuries to the skin or hormonal changes can aggravate the condition and have been shown to cause flare-ups in psoriasis sufferers.

Zinc is known to zinc contribute to the normal function of the immune system* and the maintenance of normal hair and skin.* Selenium also maintains normal hair.*

The relationship between occupational exposure, different skin diseases including scalp psoriasis and micronutrient deficiencies was studied by a team of researchers in Pakistan. Scalp hair and blood samples of patients who worked as manual labourers were analysed for zinc and selenium. These results were compared to those of office workers who did not have scalp psoriasis. The zinc and selenium levels were much lower (by 15-25%) in those with scalp psoriasis. The authors suspected that labourers had a poorer diet than the office workers and the labourers were given mineral supplements to increase their levels to a normal range.

Zinc and selenium food supplements and topical prescribed minerals applied to the skin are often used to help patients.

Altruvita Max Strength Zinc and Altruvita Selenium come in packs of 60 tablets/capsules and are both vegan approved.

* GB REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Photo by John Fornander on Unsplash

Vitamin D is an essential fat soluble vitamin and hormone that contributes to the maintenance of normal bones, teeth and muscles through utilising calcium and phosphorus.* It is also used to support the normal function of the immune system and the process of cell division.*

Over the past few years the importance of maintaining normal levels in the blood has been not only recognised, but is heavily promoted within public health policy. Everyone has a different requirement of vitamin D but it is easiest to break down advice into seasons:

Autumn and Winter

During the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet and supplementation because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D. The angle of the sunlight hitting the earth prevents as many UVB rays from penetrating the atmosphere and rays cannot reach the skin. Since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone over 5 years (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should follow Public Health England (PHE) advice and take a 10-microgram supplement in autumn and winter.

Spring and Summer

Between late March to the end of September, most people can make all the vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet. However, the UK Department of Health and Social Care recommends that you take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if you:

  • Are not often outdoors during sunshine, for example, if you’re housebound, work long shifts indoors, or stay in an institutional setting.
  • Usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors.
  • Have dark skin you may also not make enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Vitamin D deficiency has also been found to be higher in polluted cities as ‘smog’ also prevents UVB rays reaching the skin.

Altruvita Vitamin D provides 25 micrograms (1000IU) vitamin D to support your health.

* GB REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Photo by zero take on Unsplash

Despite the whole spice, turmeric, being used across Asia for centuries, popularity of turmeric’s active extract, curcumin, is still growing in the West.

Curcumin is the collective name given to the group of curcuminoids within turmeric. Curcumin supplements are now one of the most popular food supplements out there. Below are the top 4 curcumin benefits:

1. Antioxidant

Curcumin is made up of natural curcuminoid polyphenols. As well as being natural antioxidants*, they are also responsible for giving curcumin its bright yellow colour. For this reason they are used as a natural colouring agent in some foods and are given an ‘E number! With curcumin’s significant antioxidant properties*, it may help to maintain the efficacy of the immune system.* There’s also work going on in the area of various allergies, as the supplementation appears to help to maintain resistance to recurring reactions.* 

2. Anti-inflammatory

The other main property in which curcumin acts is as a powerful anti-inflammatory.* Curcumin has also been shown to suppress inflammation through many different mechanisms thereby supporting its mechanism of action as a potential anti-inflammatory agent. 

3. Joints

Many of our customers start buying Curcumin+ during the winter months when they start to notice joint problems. Curcumin helps maintain the health of joints and bones* it helps protect and support joint comfort and flexibility.* Curcumin is an incredibly popular food supplement for athletes as it is on the ‘allowed list’ and is sometimes used in recovery.

4. Digestive system

There are various clinical trials looking at curcumin supplementation in irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and liver disease. We use curcumin in Happy Tum as it is known to contribute to digestive comfort.*  Curcumin also contributes to the stimulation of the production of the digestive body fluids and helps to facilitate fat digestion. It therefore supports normal liver and biliary function.* 

Curcumin within turmeric does not absorb well

Not all curcumin supplements get absorbed either! Curcumin+ contains CurcuWIN® – a form of curcumin that is 46 times more absorbable than standard curcumin/turmeric extract.**

* GB ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON HOLD LIST.

** JÄGERR ET AL. COMPARATIVE ABSORPTION OF CURCUMIN FORMULATIONS. NUTR.J 2014;13(1):11.

Cigarette smoking has long been known to have adverse effects of male reproductivity. Naturally, in the human body, there is a balance between free radicals and the antioxidant system. Cigarette consumption increases free radicals and decreases antioxidant vitamins and minerals in the body. Zinc contributes to normal fertility and reproduction* and in regards to male fertility, selenium helps with normal spermatogenesis; the production of sperm.*

One study looked at blood and seminal plasma zinc in smokers compared to non-smokers.  Seventy males were included: 35 smokers (group I) (smoking ˃20 cigarettes/day with mild smoking index <400) and 35 age-matched non-smokers (group II). Semen analysis was performed. Reduced zinc levels were evident in smokers which has a significant role in the adverse effects on the semen quality and quantity.

It is also interesting to know if antioxidant supplementation can help correct these problems. Research published in 2020 aimed to explore the effect of vitamin complement consumption on changing male infertility indices among smokers. A mix of compounds, including Zinc, Co-Enzyme Q10, and vitamin C were given to 50 infertile male smokers once a day for 3 months. Selenium was given every other day. Sperm parameters were compared before and after supplementation. The scientists confirmed supplementation effectively improved the qualitative parameters (pH and concentration) and quantitative parameters (volume, motion, morphology, count and progressive motility) in infertile male smokers.

Altruvita supports your reproductive health. See our Vegetarian Society approved range of food supplements: https://altruvita.com/range/

* GB REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Magnesium is required for psychological function and the normal functioning of the nervous system.*

Several studies have been undertaken on the effects of low magnesium levels within certain populations with mental health problems. One study (Barragán-Rodríguez et al, 2008) looked at whether magnesium supplements could help in the treatment of newly diagnosed depression in the elderly with type 2 diabetes and low magnesium levels.

Twenty-three elderly patients with type 2 diabetes and low magnesium levels were enrolled and randomly allocated to receive either 450 mg of elemental magnesium or an antidepressant daily for 12 weeks.

A low blood magnesium level was defined by blood serum magnesium levels lower than 1.8 mg/dL, and depression by ‘Yasavage and Brink score’ at 11 points or over. The results were classified according to the change in depression level.

After 12 weeks, the researchers found that magnesium supplementation was as effective in the treatment of depressed elderly type 2 diabetics with low magnesium levels as an antidepressant.

Altruvita Magnesium contains 60 x 50mg magnesium bisglycinate capsules, meaning it is a high quality and high absorbing form of magnesium rather than the cheap oxide types. You can match your dose to your specific needs, and it’s vegan approved too. A single pot of Altruvita Magnesium costs £10.95.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Following regular headlines about the damage air pollution has on our health, we increasingly want to avoid sources of pollution if we can. Although we can reduce our risk by wearing masks etc, we cannot fully prevent inhalation for example, especially if we have to live and work in an area where the pollutant is present.

Fine dust pollution is often referred to as ‘particulates’. These particulates vary in size and can be made of anything from chimney soot, diesel particulates, brake, tyre or cement dust and volcanic minerals.

Both short- and long-term exposure to fine dust air pollution has been linked to various cardiovascular diseases. Cardiovascular diseases included thing like coronary artery disease, arrythmias, strokes and heart attacks. Air pollution damage doesn’t stop at the lungs, any matter small enough can absorb through the lung tissue into the blood vessels. When the cells that line the blood vessels are damaged they are not able to divide anymore to make healthy cells. This is called cell senescence and it becomes a risk factor for developing a cardiovascular disease. Recent evidence suggests that fine dust induces premature cell senescence in blood vessels, thus increasing the stress on the existing cells lining the blood vessels.

There have been multiple studies of different vitamins and botanical in combatting air pollution damage and a study from 2020 looked at the effect of hop extracts and their components eg Xanthohumol, on fine dust damage. Xanthohumol+ has a number of therapeutic health benefits including its ability to act as an antioxidant.* Antioxidants are vital to protect the immune system. They work to slow down and prevent damage to our body’s cells caused by free radicals (unstable molecules in our body caused by a variety of stress and lifestyle factors). Xanthohumol protects cells from oxidation and induces mental and physical wellbeing* which may also factor in supporting a healthy immune system.

In the initial study of cells, hop extracts and the active components such as xanthohumol protected against fine dust induced blood vessel senescence. The scientists felt that this was most likely via the antioxidant activity. Further studies are planned as hop extracts could be a potential therapeutic agent for preventing and/or treating air-pollution-associated cardiovascular diseases.

Altruvita Xanthohumol+ costs as little as 37p a day based on a 12 month subscription.

* EU EFSA ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON HOLD LIST.

Designed for those who have tried everything.

Gut symptoms make up a large proportion of appointments with GP’s. If problems persist, a referral to a gastroenterologist is made, but when nothing serious is found people often try a variety of probiotics, medications, diets and supplements. Altruvita Happy Tum is a vitamin and botanical extract formulation put together as a result of looking at the evidence base for what works.

Curcumin

The therapeutic benefits of the turmeric spice have been recognised for centuries in traditional Indian and Chinese medicines. Curcumin is the active antioxidant* ingredient found in turmeric and contributes to digestive comfort*. We use CurcuWIN® a form of curcumin that is 46 times more absorbable than standard curcumin.** 

Green Tea Extract

Green tea is enjoyed by many for its high levels of green tea polyphenols (98%) which act as antioxidants.* Green tea maintains a healthy gut flora* and supports a healthy digestion.* These highly active green tea polyphenols are readily absorbed by the gut. Our specially sourced green tea extract is caffeine free.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, made by the body through the action of sunlight on the skin. It can also be sourced through diet and supplements. Vitamin D has a role in cell division and supports normal function of the immune system.* The Vitamin D3 we use is naturally sourced for better absorption.

Altruvita Happy Tum encapsulates these ingredients inside a veggie capsule and is Vegetarian Society approved. Happy Tum is available from only 45p a day when you sign up for a 12 month subscription.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS AND EFSA ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON HOLD LIST.
** JÄGERR ET AL. COMPARATIVE ABSORPTION OF CURCUMIN FORMULATIONS. NUTR.J 2014;13(1):11.

It’s like trying to get all the exercise you need this month. You decide to get up, head out for a 40 mile run and then sit on the sofa for 4 weeks until the next one.

Ridiculous – right?

So then why do many research studies use what is called ‘bolus’ dosing or dosing at higher rates for vitamins, but at intervals that are far apart? For example, if they want to test what 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily would do, instead of having subjects take 1,000 IU every day (because they can’t economically monitor that), they give each subject 30,000 IU once a month and have them come into a central location and watch them take the dosage (or placebo). This saves costs for the clinical trial center, the cost of supplements, packing and posting, the cost of monitoring subjects in a trial, and to ensure every participant had the dose they say they did.

The problem is that bolus dosing does not replicate daily dosing. This is why some studies using bolus high dose amounts show poor results. One large study found that among older women, annual oral administration of high-dose vitamin D resulted in an increased risk of falls and fractures, not reduction. This is because the body needs a regular supply of vitamin D to protect bones and other aspects of health including immunity.

They gave their subjects 500,000 IU vitamin D once a year, for three to five years. It would have been a better study if they had given the treatment group a small dose eg 1,000 IU every day to keep sufficient levels in the blood throughout the year.

Many people forget to take their vitamin D every day but it is important to give our body a regular supply, especially when we are limited on sunshine and need to protect our immune system.

Altruvita Vitamin D3 is available from only 10p a day when you sign up for a 12 month subscription.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

What is selenium?

Selenium is an essential mineral micronutrient found in soil, and although it is required only in tiny amounts, it is vital to our health. Selenium, known primarily for the antioxidant properties of some enzymes, is obtained mainly from meat, seafood and grains. Intake varies across the world owing largely to differences in soil content and factors affecting its bioavailability to plants.

Why do we need selenium?

Amongst a variety of roles, selenium contributes to the normal function of the immune system, and helps protect cells from oxidative stress.* Selenium maintains normal hair and nails.* In regards to male fertility, it helps with normal spermatogenesis; the production of sperm.* As well as copper, zinc, calcium and iron, selenium also contributes to the normal function of the thyroid gland.* The thyroid gland, like the brain and testes hold a large amount of selenium.

What does selenium do in the thyroid gland?

In the 1990s, selenium was identified as a component of an enzyme that activates thyroid hormone; since this discovery, the relevance of selenium to thyroid health has been widely studied. Like all vitamins and minerals, adverse health effects have been observed when intake is too low and too high. Studies have linked an increased risk of thyroid diseases ‘autoimmune thyroiditis’, ‘Graves disease’ and ‘goitre’, to low selenium status. Part of the treatment for Graves disease for example show that selenium supplementation might lead to faster remission or hyperthyroidism, improved quality of life and eye involvement in patients with mild thyroid eye disease.

The future…

Ongoing and future trials will help identify individuals who can benefit from selenium supplementation, based, for instance, on individual selenium status through blood tests, or genetic profile where thyroid disease may be more likely to develop. Altruvita Selenium, sourced from a naturally occurring amino acid, provides over 180% of your daily requirement from only 10p a day.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Over the past year there has been lots of interest around nutrition and the immune system. Zinc is an essential mineral, and although it is required only in small amounts, it is vital to our health. Amongst a variety of roles, zinc contributes to the normal function of the immune system*.

The best sources of zinc are found in red meat, the dark meat on poultry, crab, nuts, beans, fortified cereals and dairy products.

Populations who are most at risk from zinc deficiency include those with poor nutritional intake, such as the over 65’s, people who are unwell in hospital for a long time, or those who have difficulty absorbing zinc via the digestive system for some reason.

Zinc deficiency has a major impact on our bone marrow, decreasing the number immune precursor cells which then reduces output of a type of white blood cell called B lymphocytes. B lymphocytes make valuable antibodies. It also causes thymic atrophy which is the reduction in size of the thymus gland. This then reduces the amount of T lymphocytes, another type of white blood cell which play a role in controlling immune response to kill dangerous cells.

Zinc deficiency impairs many other aspects of immunity, including reducing white blood cells called phagocytes, which scavenge foreign particles such as bacteria or dust, and eat them up!

There are a number of studies which have been undertaken in people who are suffering from colds and pneumonia, whether they have proven decreased levels of zinc or not. A huge 24 randomised clinical controlled trials showed that taking a zinc supplement during a cold reduces cold duration and symptoms.

Zinc, when given as an adjunct to the treatment of severe pneumonia was also shown to be effective in reducing death rates in 5 randomised controlled trials.

When zinc was used for preventative purposes in an elderly population, 45g of elemental zinc a day reduced the total amount of infections over a 12 month period. Altruvita Max Strength Zinc provides 25mg elemental zinc in each tablet. Unlike some other forms, zinc gluconate is well absorbed by the body. A 2 month supply costs only 13p a day when you buy a single tub, or just 10p a day if you buy a 12 month subscription.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Altruvita Max Strength Zinc provides 25mg elemental zinc in each tablet. Unlike some other forms, zinc gluconate is well absorbed by the body. A 2 month supply costs only 13p a day when you buy a single tub, or just 10p a day if you buy a 12 month subscription.

Energy Production and why we need CoQ10

CoQ10 functions as a coenzyme in the energy producing mitochondrial pathways. Every cell in the human body must produce its own energy in order to carry out its specific functions. Cells produce most of their energy in the mitochondria by metabolising carbohydrates and fats in a process referred to as ‘aerobic respiration’ and over 90% of the oxygen we breathe in is used for this process. CoQ10 has a specific role in the mitochondria and there is no substitute for CoQ10 in cellular biochemistry. The generation of energy (i.e. ATP molecules) depends on there being optimal levels of CoQ10 in the mitochondrial membrane. CoQ10 has been shown to increase the level of available energy in muscles and is especially important for cardiac function.

Sources of CoQ10

CoQ10 is found in small quantities in foods such as meats, especially offal, and fish; it is also found in most fruit and vegetables, but at even lower levels and the amounts are too small to produce any significant clinical benefit. We therefore rely mainly on synthesis within the body to maintain adequate levels. Our bodies are designed to make all of the CoQ10 that it needs, but may not manage to meet requirements due to lack of substrates or lifestyle factors which increases somebody’s needs.

What can lead to lack of CoQ10?

Reduced production by the body and increased use by the body can lead to deficiency. The body’s manufacture of CoQ10 is very complex and its synthesis requires support from other nutrients such as folate, vitamins C, B5, B6, B12 and selenium.  A study of hospitalised patients showed that blood levels of CoQ10 plummeted by around 50 percent when nutritional intake was poor. Therefore, a lack of any of these components for a sustained amount of time will likely impair a cell’s ability to make CoQ10. 

Mutations in genes that code for proteins that make CoQ10 can also reduce production. There is ongoing work in this area and several diseases involving fatigue.

A group of cholesterol lowering drugs called statins have also been identified as perhaps playing a role in CoQ10 deficiency. These drugs work by inhibiting the function of the enzyme responsible for the synthesis of cholesterol; HMG-CoA reductase. Unfortunately, this enzyme is also responsible for the body’s production of CoQ10.

Impact of Deficiency

CoQ10 deficiency results in reduced energy production. Fatigue, muscle weakness and many other disease states have also been associated with a need for CoQ10. As we get older we may gradually become more susceptible to low levels of CoQ10. This is simply because our body’s demand for cellular energy remains high however our ability to produce this coenzyme becomes reduced.

Nature’s Sparkplug for Energy Production

Altruvita Co-enzyme Q10 contains a strong 250mg dose, costing 53p per day when you buy a single pot, or just 40p a day if you sign up for 12 months.

Halloween is nearly upon us and although the temptation may be to have lots of ‘treats’, scary can be healthy too!

Here we have a soup which is full of carotenoids, bursting with beta-carotene from pumpkins and lycopene from tomatoes.

Here are some cool facts!

1. Lycopene is found in many forms

Your body works many wonders, but it can’t produce Lycopene by itself. Instead, it must be introduced to your body from foods and/or supplements. Since it is a pigment, it can be found in a select number of fruits and veggies like tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guavas and papayas. The best source of Lycopene comes from tomatoes and tomato products.

2. Boost the benefits with olive oil

Both all-trans lycopene and tetra-cis are best absorbed by the body when mixed with oil because Lycopene is fat-soluble (it binds to fats easily). To get the best bang for your buck, make a tomato salad with a drizzle of olive oil. Not only does is help absorb lycopene faster, the combination of lycopene and oil may reduce the risk of serious health problems

3. Eating raw tomatoes may not be enough

There are no recommended dietary intake values for lycopene, but health organisations like the NHS recommend eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day to help ensure that individuals get enough of the beneficial carotenoids in their diets. If you are looking to get the full affects, you may be surprised to find that the best sources are prepared tomato products. When eating raw tomatoes, the body goes through a long process to break down the cell walls of the food to separate the Lycopene and convert it into a form that it can use and benefit from. In the nutritional world, we would say that the Lycopene in raw tomatoes isn’t as “bioavailable” to the body as processed sources. The magical benefits of Lycopene occur when tomatoes are either 1) heated up or 2) the lycopene is extracted or 3) eaten with olive oil, because the cell walls of the plants are broken down and lycopene is fat soluble. The most bioavailable sources are prepared tomato products like tomato sauce, tomato soup, salsa, ketchup, and tomato puree

We’ve made sure we get the most lycopene out of our tomatoes!

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato purée

3 red peppers, deseeded and sliced

1 pumpkin, halved, seeds and pulp removed and flesh chopped (reserve the seeds)

1 litre vegetable stock

6-8 tablespoons double cream, to serve

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the chopped red onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the sun dried tomato purée, sliced peppers, and the chopped pumpkin.
  • Cook for 10 minutes, then add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Blend in a food processor (or use a stick blender) until smooth, then return to the pan to warm through
  • For Halloween, serve in bowls and make a spider-web pattern with cream by drizzling on two concentric circles plus a dot in the centre, then drag lines outwards from the centre with a skewer.
  • Top with baked pumpkin seeds which look like bugs, for a fun Halloween meal. (Bake your reserved pumpkin seeds in a preheated oven at 200°C, fan 180°C, gas mark 6, for 8 minutes until crisp. Or use ready-baked pumpkin seeds).

Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Vitamin C is often touted as a natural cold remedy. The nutrient is featured in supplements aimed at the immune system.

About vitamin C

Our bodies can’t make vitamin C, but we need it for protection of cells from oxidative stress.* It contributes to normal nervous system, psychological function, and helps reduce tiredness and fatigue through involvement in energy yielding metabolism.* Vitamin C contributes to normal collagen formation, and the normal function of bones, teeth, cartilage, gums and skin.* In regards to aiding the use and absorption of other nutrients, Vitamin C helps utilise vitamin E and increases iron absorption.*

We get vitamin C from our diet, usually in fruits and vegetables, but also potatoes provide a useful contribution to the diet. The recommended daily amount is 80mg per day in adults.

The impact on colds

The best evidence to date comes from a 2013 review of 29 randomised trials with more than 11,000 participants. Researchers found that among extremely active people—such as marathon runners, skiers, and Army troops doing heavy exercise in subarctic conditions—taking at least 200 mg of vitamin C every day appeared to cut the risk of getting a cold in half. But for the general population, taking daily vitamin C did not reduce the risk of getting a cold. So if you’re really active you may benefit from taking a vitamin C supplement all year round.

Taking at least 200 mg of vitamin C per day did appear to reduce the duration of cold symptoms by an average of 8% in adults and 14% in children, which translated to about one less day of illness. That could be really important for some people, since the common cold causes millions of lost days at work every year.

What you should do?

Should you take a supplement? Of course it’s better to get vitamin C from food, because you also get other important nutrients. Eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day for general health, and you’ll get enough vitamin C to meet your 80mg target.

If you exercise vigorously or want to reduce cold duration you may need to take a supplement to get a higher dose. If you want the benefits of vitamin C, you’ll need to consume it every day, and not just at the start of cold symptoms.

What about claims that massive doses of vitamin C can help prevent a cold? Some studies have suggested there may be a benefit, but they required doses of 8,000 mg per day. The problems is that at doses above 400 mg, vitamin C is excreted in the urine- see our blog about Altruvita using sensible doses of vitamin C. A daily dose of 2,000 mg or more can cause nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and it may interfere with tests for blood sugar.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Photo by Adam Śmigielski on Unsplash

As the company behind Air Pollution Formula, the very first dietary supplement designed to provide antioxidant support in a polluted world, at Altruvita we keep a close eye on the latest news and research around global air pollution. There’s no shortage of opinion, fact and evidence about the impact that the quality of the air we breathe can have on our health, and just last week yet another study highlighted why it’s something to be mindful of. The research, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined the levels of fine particulate pollution over 30 years in 650 cities in 14 countries, spread across 6 continents.

The research observed that on days when particulate pollution was high, death rates from respiratory and cardiovascular illness also rose. Interestingly, the peaks in air pollution observed were often still within World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. Particulate pollution is created by car exhausts, household products and industrial processes, with fine particles known as PM2.5 causing the most concern for researchers. Their name refers to the minute size of the particles (less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter), which is around one thirtieth of the width of most human hair. The study’s lead author, Yuming Guo from Monash University’s School of Public Health in Melbourne explains: “The smaller the airborne particles, the more easily they can penetrate deep into the lungs and absorb more toxic components.”

It’s important to note that this study was observational, meaning that it doesn’t directly prove that the higher levels of air pollution made people unwell. It does highlight a link between the increase in deaths when air pollution levels rise and supports claims that even ‘safe’ air pollution levels are too high. Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, commented: “this study yet again underscores the need for the UK government to step up to the mark and protect our lungs by adopting World Health Organisation limits on PM2.5 in the anticipated Environment Bill”.

This research demonstrates once again why air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to our health. A study in July found that long-term exposure to ground-level air pollution, in particular ozone, is as bad for respiratory health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. You can read more about that study on a recent Altruvita blog post here.

Read more about our revolutionary Air Pollution Formula here.

A study just published today the 22th August, tells a tale of how our health is being affected by pollution, in particular particulates.

Teams from across the globe recorded their daily data on mortality (number of deaths) and their air pollution levels. Teams were located in 652 cities in 24 countries or regions.

Although there are dangers known for outdoor air pollutants; sulphur dioxide, ozone and nitrogen dioxide etc, this study was just looking at very small particles. They evaluated the associations of inhalable particulate matter (PM) with a diameter of 10 μm or less (PM10) and fine PM with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less (PM2.5) with daily all-cause, cardiovascular, and respiratory mortality. In other words, they measured the particles in the air on every day and recorded number of deaths on that day.

They found that increases short-term exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 led to small but significant increases in all causes of deaths, and cardiovascular eg heart attack, and respiratory mortality eg asthma attack.

These are just 2 types of pollutants, adding in data from all pollutants lead to further deaths.

It’s a stark reminder that pollution levels need to fall to improve global health.

Liu C, et al. Ambient Particulate Air Pollution and Daily Mortality in 652 Cities. N Engl J Med. 2019 Aug 22;381(8):705-715. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1817364.

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Over the past few years there has been a renewed interest in vitamin D as it has been found to be strongly associated with many diseases. For example intestinal inflammation, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and some cancers cancer have strong associations with vitamin D deficiency.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the gastrointestinal system affecting a large number of people worldwide. Although it doesn’t directly kill people, flatulence, bloating, distention, pain, diarrhoea and constipation have a substantial impact on patients’ quality of life. Appointments for IBS symptoms also put a large financial burden on healthcare services and patients are often forced to trialling unsafe dietary restrictions alone without professional support.

Although the role of vitamin D deficiency in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has not yet been established one new study tried to establish the role of vitamin D deficiency in IBS patients compared to a healthy control group.

Sixty patients with IBS and 100 healthy individuals were included as test and control groups, respectively, in the study. The average blood level (nmol/L) of IBS patients was compared to the control group levels.

Although vitamin D is common in various parts of the world, there was a statistically significant difference in the mean vitamin D level between healthy and IBS patients. Vitamin D deficiency was detected in 49 patients (82%) in the IBS group and 31 patients (31%) in the control group.

These results suggest that vitamin D should be tested in IBS patients and vitamin D supplementation could play a therapeutic role in the control of IBS.

Reference

Khayyat Y, Attar S. Vitamin D Deficiency in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Does it Exist? Oman Medical Journal. 2015;30(2):115-118. doi:10.5001/omj.2015.25.

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Fecal Microbiota transplant (FMT) is making the news this week. It is where faeces are transplanted from a healthy person [1] into another bowel to help change the bacterial make-up; the microbiota. Yes, you read this correctly!

Why would you want to do this? It acts in the same way as a probiotic and although it sounds disgusting, it has been used very successfully in treating clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection. It also looks to be one way of treating inflammatory bowel diseases; Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, since the causes of these may be from bacterial imbalance.

You may be wondering how the new microbiota get there? It is performed using nasogastric tubes, endoscopy, enema or colonoscopy. There are also ongoing trials on using carefully sealed capsules for oral administration. If the disease is in the small intestine, access through the mouth is favoured and if in the large bowel, access through the rectum is preferred.

There are some websites that show how you can try it yourself, although this could be very risky business. Faeces should be pre-screened for infectious diseases, or there is a risk of picking up more than you bargained for.

An excellent review published a few years ago, explaining the topic in more depth [2].

Have you tried diet and supplements first?

References

[1] Bakken J S et al (2011) “Treating Clostridium difficile Infection With Fecal Microbiota Transplantation”. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology; 9(12):1044–1049.

[2] Kelly CR, Kahn S, Kashyap P, et al. Update on Fecal Microbiota Transplantation 2015: Indications, Methodologies, Mechanisms, and Outlook. Gastroenterology. 2015;149(1):223–237. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4755303/

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Official estimates suggest one in five adults and one in six children in England may have vitamin D3 deficiency.

Vitamin D is an essential fat soluble vitamin that contributes to the maintenance of normal bones, teeth and muscles*. It is used to support the normal function of the immune system and the process of cell division.* Vitamin D also is required for the normal absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphorous, and normal blood calcium levels.*

For most people, the bulk of their required vitamin D3 is made from the action of sunlight on their skin. Sunlight contains ultraviolet B radiation. During and after the European summer, levels of vitamin D3 in the blood are a bit higher and sometimes scientifically ‘normal’. A healthy, balanced diet is always recommended and with exposure to summer sunshine, many people may get enough of the vitamin D they need.

However, during autumn and winter, sunlight is in short supply, particularly in the northern European countries.

People are also at risk of vitamin D deficiency and need extra help with reaching those vitamin D targets because they have dark skin, are elderly living in care homes, or wear clothing that cover most the skin, which effects conversion of sunlight to vitamin D.

Unfortunately having more sunshine until you burn is not a safe option of getting more vitamin D made in the body.  You must wear sunscreen in the UK.

Government report on vitamin D supplements:

  • Everyone over the age of four should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day, particularly in Autumn and Winter.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women and at-risk groups should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day all year round
  • Children between the age of one and four should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D supplements every day, all year round
  • All babies from birth up to one year of age should take 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day (particularly those being breastfed).

Treating vitamin D deficiency requires far higher doses.

In addition of course, limited amounts of the vitamin are found in foods such as oily fish, liver, eggs, milk, fortified cereals and fat spreads with added vitamin D. Unfortunately however, it would be near impossible for us to obtain high enough levels of vitamin D through diet without supplementation.

Altruvita vitamin D contains 25 micrograms in 1 vegetarian capsule.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

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1. Lycopene is found in many forms

Your body works many wonders, but it can’t produce lycopene by itself. Instead, it must be introduced to your body from foods and/or supplements. Since it is a pigment, it can be found in a select number of fruits and veggies like tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guavas and papayas. The best source of lycopene comes from tomatoes and tomato products.

2. Boost the benefits with olive oil

Both all-trans lycopene and tetra-cis are best absorbed by the body when mixed with oil because lycopene is fat-soluble (it binds to fats easily). To get the best bang for your buck, make a tomato salad with a drizzle of olive oil. Not only does is help absorb lycopene faster, the combination of lycopene and oil may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

3. Eating raw tomatoes may not be enough

There are no recommended dietary intake values for lycopene, but health organisations like the NHS recommend eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day to help ensure that individuals get enough of the beneficial carotenoids in their diets. If you are looking to get the full affects, you may be surprised to find that the best sources are prepared tomato products. When eating raw tomatoes, the body goes through a long process to break down the cell walls of the food to separate the lycopene and convert it into a form that it can use and benefit from. In the nutritional world, we would say that the Lycopene in raw tomatoes isn’t as “bioavailable” to the body as processed sources. The magical benefits of lycopene occur when tomatoes are either 1) heated up or 2) the lycopene is extracted or 3) eaten with olive oil, because the cell walls of the plants are broken down and lycopene is fat soluble. The most bioavailable sources are prepared tomato products like tomato sauce, tomato soup, salsa, ketchup, and tomato puree.

4. Lycopene can be found in orange products too

A common myth is that only red tomatoes contain Lycopene, when in fact tomatoes do not have to be a deep red color to be an outstanding source of lycopene. Lycopene from orange and tangerine colored tomatoes have lycopene too and may actually be better absorbed than the lycopene from red tomatoes since they contain a different type of lycopene called tetra-cis (instead of trans-lycopene). One study showed that tetra-cis is most efficiently absorbed by the body.

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Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Humans, unlike most animals, are unable to synthesize vitamin C themselves, so it is an essential dietary component.

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin micronutrient that contributes to the normal function of the immune system and the protection of cells from oxidative stress.* It is also known to contribute to normal nervous system psychological function, and helps reduce tiredness and fatigue through involvement in energy yielding metabolism.*Vitamin C contributes to normal collagen formation, and the normal function of bones, teeth, cartilage, gums and skin.* In regards to aiding the use and absorption of other nutrients, Vitamin C helps utilise vitamin E and increases iron absorption.*

Ongoing research is examining whether vitamin C, by limiting the damaging effects of free radicals through its antioxidant activity, might help prevent or delay the development of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases in which oxidative stress plays a causal role*.

Insufficient vitamin C intake causes the skin disease called scurvy. The timeline for the development of scurvy varies, depending on vitamin C body stores, but signs can appear within 1 month of little or no vitamin C intake (below 10 mg/day). Initial symptoms can include fatigue (probably the result of impaired carnitine biosynthesis), malaise, and inflammation of the gums. As vitamin C deficiency progresses, collagen synthesis becomes impaired and connective tissues become weakened.

Oral intake of vitamin C produces tissue and blood plasma concentrations that the body tightly controls. Approximately 70%–90% of vitamin C is absorbed at moderate intakes of 30–180 mg/day. However, at doses over 400mg /d vitamin C starts to be excreted in the urine. Above 1 g/day, absorption falls to less than 50% and absorbed, unmetabolised ascorbic acid is excreted in the urine. For this reason Altruvita sells a sensible and absorbable 250mg dose of vitamin C, perfectly formed into 1 vegan capsule.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

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We recently wrote about the effect of a low selenium blood level in men causing male infertility, and the positive effects of supplementation.* Perhaps it is not a surprise that the rest of the diet can also play a role

A team in Spain examined the diets of men who were analysed within 35 studies. Their paper was published in Human Reproduction Update.

Generally, the results indicated that healthy diets rich in some nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, some antioxidants (vitamin E, vitamin C, β-carotene, selenium, zinc, cryptoxanthin and lycopene), other vitamins (vitamin D and folate) and low in saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids were inversely associated with low semen quality parameters.

In terms of specific foods, the diets high in fish, shellfish, poultry, cereals, vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy and skimmed milk reflected in good sperm quality parameters.

Diets rich in processed meat, soy foods, potatoes, full-fat dairy and total dairy products, coffee, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets were detrimentally associated with the quality of semen in some studies.

The analysis also showed that a high intake of alcohol, caffeine, red meat and processed meat by males has a negative influence on the chance of pregnancy and fertilisation rates in their partners.

Although this review may show links or associations, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something causes or prevents infertility. However the study is helpful to couples planning a pregnancy so they can be generally aware of what could be good, and what could be bad for their chances. As suggested in the first blog post, if possible, micronutrient screening blood tests of males can be done to see if deficiencies are present prior to conception.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

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What’s the truth about magnesium and sleep?

You may have read in the past that taking a magnesium supplement can help aid a more restful night in the land of nod, but is there any truth in this?

We know that magnesium contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, and is required for normal psychological function and the normal functioning of the nervous system.* But does it do this by increasing the amount or quality of our sleep? The answer to this may be complex.

You may know that any kind of inflammation is not a good thing, especially when it continues chronically. It involves swollen tissue and the release of inflammatory markers leading to a state called ‘inflammatory stress’. For example, someone who has an inflamed skin condition, or gum disease. One factor that may increase inflammatory stress is disrupted sleep/sleep deprivation. Inadequate sleep duration has been associated with increases in several inflammatory biomarkers including plasma C-reactive protein (CRP). Sleep quality also has been associated with increased morning concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers IL-6 in healthy adults, elderly women and spousal Alzheimer’s caregivers. Higher circulating levels of IL-1β have been seen in women, but not men. Magnesium intake has been found to be inversely related to elevated circulating CRP concentrations, a marker of acute stress to the body. Thus, subclinical magnesium deficiency through exacerbating a low grade inflammation could be a factor in sleep disruption or deprivation. The possibility that magnesium deprivation affects sleep quality is supported by a few human and animal studies:

A study found 27 patients with unusual behaviours of the nervous system during sleep (parasomnias) displayed low blood magnesium, and also had nocturnal EEG abnormalities occurring during slow wave sleep.

In a placebo-controlled, randomised cross-over experiment with 12 older patients (aged 60 to 80 years), magnesium supplementation significantly reversed brainwave electroencephalogram (EEG) changes, including decreased slow wave sleep, that occur during aging.

Magnesium treatment of alcohol-dependent patients (who often have magnesium metabolism disturbances), significantly decreased sleep onset latency and improved subjective sleep quality as assessed by the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

In rats, magnesium deficiency significantly increased wakefulness at the expense of slow wave sleep; magnesium supplementation restored sleep organization to its original pattern.

In addition to a chronic inflammatory stress relationship, sleep architecture and magnesium may have a biochemical relationship. It has been suggested than magnesium regulates sleep because it is an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist and a γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) agonist. Sleep architecture, especially slow wave sleep, apparently is closely associated with the glutamatergic and GABAergic system.

So how do I improve my own sleep?

If you have a poor diet, high intake of alcohol, or any reason to believe you’re not absorbing food properly, and you have poor sleep, it may be worth a trial of a magnesium supplement. You may want to get your blood levels measured first. The nutrient reference value is 375mg per day for magnesium so you, unless you have a proven deficiency you wouldn’t want to go too much higher than this, or for too long.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

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10 years ago researchers discovered a potent antioxidant in beer that gives new meaning to the traditional toast: “to your health.”

Antioxidants are substances that protect against the damaging effects of oxygen and nitrogen in the human body.

Hops, used in most beers to provide flavouring, contain substances known as prenylated flavonoids. They are a better source of antioxidants than red wine, green tea and soy products, according to researchers in Oregon State University who run clinical trials on hop extracts.

But to maximise the health benefits of hops, you’d have to drink about 450 litres of beer per day. The most likely outcome for the research, therefore, is a pill that captures their enhanced antioxidant activity.

You can’t cure a disease by drinking beer, but it might just help in the tiniest way. The bottom line is that you’re going to get some, but not preventative, levels of antioxidants by drinking beer.

Different beers have varying levels of antioxidants, ranging from a high of four milligrams per liter for some lager beers to negligible levels in some microbrews.

Previous research indicates that beer has other characteristics as well as antioxidant properties. The current research identifies the heretofore-unknown reason for these healthful qualities and suggests, for the first time, their source: the prenylated flavonoids in hops – specifically, the compound xanthohumol..

Xanthohumol is found exclusively in hops, is six times more effective than antioxidants found in citrus fruits and almost four times more effective than antioxidants found in soy products, Combined with vitamin E, xanthohumol has even greater antioxidant activity.

The compound’s chemical structure could explain its added potency.  As a prenylated flavonoid, xanthohumol has an additional layer of protection that allows it to survive longer in the body than other known flavonoids. A prenyl group has a particular arrangement of carbon and hydrogen molecules that have protective properties.

Flavonoids have been known to be antioxidants for years. Flavonoids are widely sold in pill form in health food stores and supermarkets, where they are presented as nutritional supplements.

Xanthohumol has higher antioxidant activity than previously known flavonoids- It takes less of these to do the same job as others and they do a better job with the same amount.

Xanthohumol protects the body cells from harmful free radicals which damage cells*. Xanthohumol protects them from oxidation induced cell stress and reinforces cell protection*.

* EFSA Article 13.1 botanicals on hold list.

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