Air pollution – can changing your diet help?

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.

The startling effect of pollution on the life expectancy of children growing up in London

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.

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Suffering from stiff and creaky joints?

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.

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Banish smartphones and turn WIFI and TVs off for better quality sleep

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

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Air pollution- At what cost?

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.

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.

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Happy Brain, Happy Tum

If you’ve ever uttered the words, ‘I’ve got a gut feeling about this’ or ‘I’ve got butterflies in my stomach’, you’ll understand the connection between your gut and your brain. What you may not know is that there is a real biological link between them.

The gut is home to an important part of the nervous system, and contains over 100 million nerve cells. These line the gastrointestinal tract, and help digest food and control blood flow. They are the reason we can ‘feel’ what is happening in the gut.

The gut is also home to part of the immune system, in the form of gut bacteria. These bacteria also communicate with the nerve cells.

One of the most common causes of discomfort during the digestive process is stress. Typically, once the stressful stimuli go away, your gut will return to normal. But ongoing stress can cause chronic inflammation, increasing the harmful bacteria in your gut.

Inflammation is a leading cause of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, which is why it is so important to control it. The right nutrition can be very helpful in reducing inflammation in the body, but how do you achieve it?

A good place to start is with your levels of vitamin D3. Vitamin D is responsible for the normal function of the immune system, so see your GP for a blood test if you suspect you have changes to your gut health or you don’t get enough sunshine. You may be advised to take a supplement if deficiency is found.

Botanical extracts like green tea are known to have antioxidant properties and may maintain healthy gut flora. It can be drunk as tea, or taken as a green tea polyphenol supplement.

Curcumin, the extract from the Indian spice turmeric may contribute to digestive comfort and is an excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Turmeric, in the form of powder or fresh root, can be added to stews, curries and vegetables, and also to nut milk for a warming, latte-style drink.

Altruvita Happy Tum contains vitamin D, curcumin and green tea. Click here to find out more.

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Our 10 Top Tips for Digestive Comfort

If you’ve ever suffered from bloating after a big meal, you’ll know how uncomfortable and unpleasant it is. Bloating happens when the gut stores up excess gas, produced by bacteria. It can affect anyone, but it needn’t make you change your plans or affect every day activities. Take a look at our top tips to support gut health and digestive comfort.

  1. Trial avoiding vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, onions and leeks for a week.
  2. Cut back on pulses like dry roasted peanuts, beans and lentils for a week.
  3. Take a probiotic for four weeks: put some lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in your gut.
  4. Avoid sweeteners like glycerol, sorbitol, mannitol or xylitol as gut bacteria love to munch on them!
  5. Slow down and avoid swallowing air! Take at least 15 minutes to eat a meal.
  6. Get tested for vitamin D3 deficiency.
  7. Drink green tea or peppermint tea. Green tea may maintain healthy gut flora.
  8. Try lactose-free milk and dairy products for 2-4 weeks: large doses of lactose may cause wind and bloating in a small amount of the population. 
  9. Add curcumin to your diet: it’s known to contribute to digestive comfort.
  • Don’t go too long between meals or chew chewing gum: an empty stomach produces more gas.

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Digest This!

What we eat affects all our organs, but it’s the gut that has to deal most directly with our dietary choices. A poor diet, high in processed foods, can cause constipation and inflammation, and could lead to more serious conditions.

How do we look after our gut? The traditional Mediterranean diet (without the processed meats) is one answer: high in fruit, vegetables and omega-3 oils, but low in saturated fat, sugar and processed food.

We can also show our gut some love by eating individual nutrients that support gut health.

Curcumin is a compound from the spice turmeric and can reduce inflammation and support digestive comfort. Turmeric isn’t only good in curries – it’s also great sprinkled on eggs and green vegetables, and stirred into milk as a night time drink.

Green Tea contains antioxidant compounds and is a good choice to replace our regular tea or coffee. It may also help maintain healthy gut flora.

Eat a rainbow diet, full of different coloured vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and pulses. Fibre helps the bowel to contract and each colour provides us with different nutrients.

Pre- and pro-biotics: prebiotic foods like onions, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, asparagus and chicory are favourites of the bacteria that live in our guts. And the live bacteria found in probiotic yogurts, drinks and supplements are super-friendly to our digestive systems.

Get more calcium from foods like green vegetables, dairy products and some fish. It’s good for our bowels and strengthens our bones at the same time.

Part of our immune system is in the gut, as gut bacteria. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to immune health. We need more Vitamin D than we usually get from sunlight and we can boost our intake through oily fish, egg yolks and fortified dairy products.

And of course…

Don’t forget to exercise.

Physical activity is great because it gets the bowel moving. We might not want to think about it too much, but the longer waste sits in our bowels, the more likely we are to develop problems.

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