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

Taking a closer look at the humble hop for World Menopause AwarenessDay 2019

Image of hops

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

What is the menopause?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The healing power of the humble hop…?

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

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

*ESFA Article 13.1 botanicals on hold list

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.

Air pollution is as bad for respiratory health as smoking 20 cigarettes a day

Air Pollution

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

The findings in more detail

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

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

What is Air Pollution Formula?

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

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

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

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

Learn more about Air Pollution Formula and Altruvita

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

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

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

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

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

Diet and male fertility research

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

Photo by Tim Bogdanov on Unsplash

MagnEASY sleep

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

Photo by Krista Mangulsone on Unsplash

Hop it!

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.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash