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

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Lycopene- what you need to know

1. Lycopene is found in many forms

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

2. Boost the benefits with olive oil

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

3. Eating raw tomatoes may not be enough

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

4. Lycopene can be found in orange products too

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

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Altruvita Vitamin C: no expensive urine

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

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

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

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

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

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

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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

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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

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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.

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