Walnuts – The Healthiest Nut for Your Heart

You may have avoided eating nuts for fear of putting on weight, but a new scientific study gives walnuts a strong recommendation as they have a combination of more healthful antioxidants and higher quality antioxidants than any other nut.

A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other popular nut such as peanuts or almonds. Also, nuts in general have an unusual combination of nutritional benefits as they contain plenty of high-quality protein that can substitute for meat; vitamins and minerals; dietary fiber; and are dairy- and gluten-free.

Years of research by scientists worldwide link regular consumption of small amounts of nuts or peanut butter with decreased risk of heart disease, certain kinds of cancer, gallstones, Type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.

The researchers compared both the amount and quality of antioxidants found in nine different nuts: walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, and pecans.

Walnuts not only had the highest levels of antioxidants but also the highest potency, of antioxidants. They are 2-15 times as potent as vitamin E, renowned for its powerful antioxidant effects that protect the body against damaging natural chemicals involved in causing disease.

Another reason that walnuts are so healthy is that are eaten raw, unlike other nuts which are heated which generally reduces the quality of the antioxidants, so you get the full effectiveness of those antioxidants.

If it is the dietary aspect that has kept you from eating nuts, and they are it is true high in fat and calories, but nuts contain healthful polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats rather than artery-clogging saturated fat. As for the calories, eating nuts does not appear to cause weight gain and even makes people feel full and less likely to overeat. In a 2009 U. S. study, nut consumption was associated with a significantly lower risk of weight gain and obesity.

What’s the maximum healthy snack size to get your daily dose of antioxidants? Apparently it is seven, and think of the extra calories you will expend in cracking the shells!

The Positive Side of Coffee

If you have forsworn the beverage as part of your New Year healthy eating plan you may want to rethink as new research is showing some benefits you won’t want to pass up on. Personally coffee, like butter, is something I have never given up on but have cut down to two cups a day because my health philosophy has always been everything you want in moderation.

Coffee is actually one of the richest sources of antioxidants there is and remains so however you drink it as its high antioxidant content of the coffee is still absorbed easily by the body. Antioxidants help to protect our cells from free radical damage caused by oxidative stress – a fact that is backed up by hundreds of intervention studies on polyphenols and polyphenol-rich foods including coffee.
According to Gary Williamson, Professor of Functional Food, School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds, “Coffee is in my top 20 lifespan essential foods.” Many people can’t start their day without it and if you want a quick and high oxidant boost then look for Nescafe have even developed a special blend that is higher in antioxidants than their standard coffees so look for their Green Blend in supermarkets.

Other Caffeine Benefits:
A new review has indicated that antioxidant supplements may benefit couples who have difficulty conceiving naturally. The review provides evidence from a small number of trials that suggest the partners of men who take antioxidants are more likely to become pregnant so coffee could well play a part in that antioxidant increase.

Another new study also shows that caffeine energizes cells, boosting virus production for gene therapy applications. Now why would that concern you? Well it helps move research forward faster because if you give caffeine to cells engineered to produce viruses used for gene therapy then those cells can generate 3- to 8-times more virus, according to a recent paper published in Human Gene Therapy.

Lentivirus vectors are commonly used for transferring genes into cells for both research applications in the laboratory and, increasingly, for gene therapy procedures in clinical testing. The addition of caffeine should significantly decrease the cost of lentiviral production for research and clinical uses and James M. Wilson, MD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, and Director of the Gene Therapy Program, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia can certainly see the advantage. “It is ironic that the ingredient in beverages like colas and coffees that helps keep us awake and alert is also useful in jazzing up cells to produce more gene therapy vectors. An increase in vector production of 5-fold may prove critical in establishing the commercial viability of lentiviral based products.”

Antioxidants not a risk for melanoma

September 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Medical Research & Studies

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A recent study set up a scare that supplements such as vitamins C and E, beta carotene, selenium and zinc which are used for cancer prevention. It seemed to suggest that daily supplementation with these antioxidants increased the risk of melanoma in women four-fold. This was very worrying as nearly 50 percent of the UK and US populations regularly use supplements so a new study was set up at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland.

Researchers there examined the association between antioxidants and melanoma among 69,671 women and men who were participating in the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) study, designed to examine supplement use and cancer risk. Their exhaustive study of the records showed that they did not find any link between blood levels of beta carotene, vitamin E and selenium and any subsequent risk of melanoma.

So if you are a regular supplement user, the fear of melanoma has just been debunked.

Antioxidants OK in the sun

September 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Medical Research & Studies

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Antioxidants help our skin stay healthy and younger looking and skin is adversely affected by being exposed unprotected to the sun. You want to avoid wrinkles, and you want a healthy glow so what do you do? Many people take antioxidant supplements but there have been previous alerts that they could increase the risk of melanoma, particularly in women.

This is now shown not to be true, based on an analysis of data from a population study of almost 70,000 participants. So no need to give up a healthful supplement, but don’t give up using sun protection please!

Blue Honeysuckle – The latest craze?

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The natural health world never stands still; in fact it is always out there searching for the next big craze. This time around it looks to be a Russian plant that was first reported on late last year in the journal Molecules, and in other research papers since. It’s remarkable because it produces blue honeysuckle berries that not only taste good but have a host of health benefits too, Gardeners might like to know it’s botanical name which is Lonicera caerulea, and the fruits tastes like a hybrid of blackberry and blueberry and are very high in vitamin C and bioactive flavonoids.

When analysed the berries were found to have antioxidant, anti-platelet, and wound healing abilities and several valuable flavonoids as well. Particularly important is epicatechin which has a role to play in the prevention of some of the largest causes of death, including cancer, strokes and heart failure. This is closely followed by rutin, which is valued for its ability to fight cancer, help keep skin younger and reduce inflammation.

Free radical damage is what the flavonoid quercetin is able to reduce and help to prevent damage to our cellular structure. This means it can keep our hearts healthy and help maintain the health of our lungs and respiratory system. Combats cancer, alleviates bruising and varicose veins, enhances cardiovascular health, prevents oxidation of cholesterol, and also can improve both lung health and respiration.

These are just some of the flavonoids that have been identified in blue honeysuckle and others have been shown by researchers to fight free radicals, have powerful antioxidant qualities, regularise blood pressure and support the nervous system. There is even more, as a recent study using the dried fruit was shown to be effective against intestinal parasites in conditions like E. Coli, Streptococcus and Candida.

All this, and they apparently taste good too. Sounds like a definite winner to add to your morning muesli or as a healthy snack. They are available in the USA, and the dried form can be bought online but I haven’t seen any of the actual fruits in the UK yet. Do let me know if you come across them because planting a bush and harvesting your own fruit will require some patience as it takes around four years.

The most effective antioxidant juice – Honest

It used to be that you just went into the supermarket, and bought juice. Probably orange or apple and that was that. Now the packs all scream about being one of your 5 a day, or that they are rich in antioxidants and can reduce your levels of free radicals – in their opinion, which is rarely backed up by any facts and figures. You know that to be healthy you need a decent level of antioxidants in your diet, but with up to a dozen or so manufacturers all claiming the same thing for their product – so just who do you believe?

Happily for us, the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry has just reported on some research done at the University of California which definitively proves which juice has more antioxidants than any other drink, including other juices, green or black tea, and red wine.

Ready for it? The winner is pomegranate juice, which has around 20% more antioxidants than other drinks tested. They carried out a series of tests to determine their antioxidant levels and abilities to scavenge for free radicals. The pomegranate juice was a clear winner on all counts as was their conclusion and it has been linked to many other health benefits including a 50% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk, and suggested as part of a cancer prevention diet, particularly prostate cancer.

Yet more benefits of green tea

As I have now trailed so many benefits of this ‘wonder’ tea, I am amazed the supermarket shelves haven’t been stripped bare, and yet here is another one. You know that it is packed with powerful antioxidants with lots of great health bonuses, but recently scientists discovered that green tea increased the effectiveness of certain antibiotics by as much as 99.99%…even when pitted against antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

This was a 12-month study at Alexandria University in Egypt and the results show that green tea boosted the performance of several antibiotics used in the treatment of 28 different disease-causing bacteria — including several strains of Staphylococcus. For example, 20 percent of previously drug-resistant bacteria were killed when green tea was combined with cephalosporin. This is good news because Cephalosporin is a widely used antibiotic – however many strains of bacteria have developed immunity against it.

Green tea was also shown to effectively support the antibiotics tetracycline, cefuroxime and it helped prevent the production of beta-lactamases-substances produced by bacteria allowing them to develop resistance to antibiotics.

So if you combine drinking green tea when on antibiotics you will help them be more effective and if you are drinking it regularly anyway then hopefully you won’t need the antibiotics at all, or in such quantity.

Ripe fruit = more antioxidants

May 27, 2008 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition

As someone who has never been in favour of ‘crunchy’ fruit and been told often by nutritionists that too ripe fruit was bad for me as it upped my sugar levels too high, I am delighted to report that there is an upside to fruit that are fully ripened.

Apparently, as pears and apples ripen, the chlorophyll in the peel is replaced by an antioxidant known as nonfluorescing chlorophyll catabolytes (NCCs), not a very catchy name, but according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Innsbruck, Austria, it has the benefit of upping the antioxidant level of the fruit.

Chlorophyll is the chemical that makes plants’ leaves green and enables them to convert sunlight into energy. When a leaf dies, the chlorophyll begins to decay and the leaf loses its green color. This may happen because of age or injury, so I shudder to think what state the Jolly Green Giant is in as he got his name in 1925 when the US General Food Company thought it would help kids eat more vegetables, by frightening them into it presumably, and has been around on their canned vegetable labels ever since.

The decay of chlorophyll in fruit appears to be linked not to death, but to ripening. In apples and pears, chlorophyll in and just below the peel breaks down into NCCs as the fruit ripens. NCCs are only the most recent antioxidant to be identified in fruit and according to the researchers, the presence of NCCs in ripe fruit have a definite antioxidant effect, and this suggests that they may have an important nutritional effect in animals that regularly eat fruit. That would be us and the chimpanzees, so I can now have a good reason for avoiding the crunchy conference pears and heading straight for the luscious Italian dessert varieties.

A chocolate a day keeps womens heart attacks away?

The University of East Anglia is conducting a study on the health benefits of chocolate, specifically relating to risk of heart disease in women. In the first clinical trial of its kind, the researchers at UEA will be asking postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes to eat a specially formulated chocolate bar which has been developed with the help of a Belgian chocolatier for this study. It will provide a higher dose of the protective compounds in cocoa than found in standard chocolate and to maximise the potential benefits, soy has also been added. Soy is another great source of flavonoids, which have been shown to benefit the heart-health of women. This is particularly important for women over 50, because the hormonal changes at that time means that deaths due to heart disease increase rapidly after the menopause, and having type 2 diabetes increases this risk by a further three-and-a-half times.

According to Professor Aedin Cassidy, the lead researcher and Professor of Diet and Health at UEA, “Despite postmenopausal women being at a similar risk to men for developing cardiovascular disease, to date they are under-represented in clinical trials. We hope to show that adding flavonoids to their diets will provide additional protection from heart disease and give women the opportunity to take more control over reducing their risk of heart disease in the future.” Funded by Diabetes UK, I would have thought the health benefits of chocolate had been thoroughly explored, certainly by me on a regular basis, but if any of you are still in doubt: per ounce, chocolate has more antioxidants than fruit, vegetables, tea or wine, with dark chocolate having twice the antioxidants of milk chocolate but you will get the most benefit, as usual, from eating organic. Looks like sales of Green & Black’s organic chocolate bars is set to rise!

Interested in taking part? The researchers at UEA are recruiting 150 women under the age of 70 who have type 2 diabetes and have not had a period for at least one year (and are not taking HRT). If you fit the profile you will also need to have been prescribed cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) for at least one year. To find out more, or to volunteer, please telephone 01603 288570 and ask for Andrea Brown (study nurse) or Dr Peter Curtis (study co-ordinator) or email FLAVO@uea.ac.uk.