Zinc’s Role in the Immune System

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.

Altruvita CoQ10: Leaps and Bounds Above the Rest!

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.

Frighteningly Good Tomato and Pumpkin Soup

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

Can Vitamin C guard against colds?

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

Deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses rise when air pollution peaks

Air Pollution

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.

Particular Particulates

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.

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

Vitamin D and IBS

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.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Fecal Microbiota Transplant

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/

Photo by Gesina Kunkel on Unsplash

How much vitamin D?

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

Photo by Haley Hamilton on Unsplash