Can Vitamin D help you right now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Reference:

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

Red meat – BBQ bliss or a health hazard?

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

Is red meat really that bad? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there any risk in barbequing meat?

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

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

What can we eat?

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

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Super selenium, the lesser-known immune system hero

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

What is selenium and which foods is it found in?

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

What happens if you are deficient in selenium? 

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

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

What can you do to help ensure optimum selenium levels? 

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

Altruvita's selenium supplement

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

Answering the 3 most common vegan nutrition questions

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

2014 – 3,300

2015 – 12,800

2016 – 23,000

2017 – 59,500

2018 – 168,500

2019 – 250,000

2020 – 400,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can my dog become vegan too?

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

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

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

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

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

A startling fact about British wintertime and vitamin D…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash

Weighing Up Veganuary

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

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

The good bits

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

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

The not so good bits

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

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

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

Vitamin B12

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

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

Omega-3 oils

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

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

– Zinc: nuts & seeds

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

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

Iron

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

Vitamin D

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

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

Add a green tea extract to your new year health kick for additional benefits!

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

What is green tea? 

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

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

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

Recent green tea supplement research

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

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

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

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

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

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

* EFSA ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON-HOLD LIST

Photo by Verena Böttcher on Unsplash

Xanthohumol now used in IBD research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* EU EFSA ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON HOLD LIST.

Photo by zhenzhong liu on Unsplash

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.

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