Zinc Can Help Prevent Pneumonia In Over Sixties

August 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Health, Healthy Ageing, Vitamins & Supplements

Zinc is certainly an essential ingredient in your diet for fighting infection and something that I supplement with every winter to keep colds at bay and now my anecdotal experience has been medically validated.

That is probably a first, but a new report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that zinc plays a very important role in health maintenance, particularly for the over 60s. Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Massachusetts studied over 600 people from 33 different nursing homes in the Boston area.

What they found was that those with healthy blood levels of zinc are 50 percent less likely to develop pneumonia than those with sub-par levels. The study was a follow-up to a previous one which found that people given 200 international units (IU) of vitamin E every day for one year are 20 percent less likely to develop upper respiratory infections, including common colds. But after a follow-up, the trial also revealed that a majority of those same participants had low levels of zinc in their blood. As we saw in the previous item, zinc is a necessary mineral for maintaining immune health, regulation of blood pressure and the mineralization of bone and as well as being essential For the eyes and prostate.

The study’s conclusion is that daily zinc intake can help nursing home residents who are susceptible to pneumonia as it can reduce the risk of developing pneumonia by about 50%. Plus – bearing in mind the previous item – not only did those participants have a higher risk of developing pneumonia when they did become sick, they did not recover as quickly and required a longer course of antibiotics.

Another factor to bear in mind is that they also found that those who were taking regular zinc supplements also had a 39% lower rate of deaths from all causes than a comparable group who were not taking supplements.

Food sources:

Best sources of zinc are the protein foods including beef, lamb, pork, crabmeat, turkey, chicken, lobster, oysters, clams and salmon. Other good sources are dairy products, yeast, peanuts, beans, and wholegrain cereals, brown rice, whole wheat bread, potato and yogurt. For vegetarians and vegans pumpkin seeds offer one of the most concentrated non-meat food sources of zinc.

If you have a good and varied diet then your body getting enough zinc, the RDA for adults is around 11 mg a day, but the actual amount your body can absorb may be as little as 15 to 40% but you can improve this if you are taking Vitamins C, E and B6 and minerals such as magnesium as they can increase zinc absorption in the body.

Health benefits of Dandelions

June 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Natural Medicine


As summer appears to have suddenly burst upon us, you may soon be wrestling with that common misplaced flower – the dandelion. It may be a weed to you, but it can have some useful health benefits so save a corner of the garden for it and you might be surprised at how useful it can be.

It contains a host of good ingredients such as vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, and the minerals iron, potassium, and zinc and has been used across the world. Native Americans used dandelion to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and stomach upset. Chinese practitioners traditionally used dandelion to treat digestive disorders, appendicitis, and breast problems such as inflammation or lack of milk flow. In Europe, herbalists incorporated it into remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.

Today, dandelion roots are mainly used as an appetite stimulant, to improve upset stomach, flatulence, and constipation. Dandelion is a natural diuretic that increases urine production by promoting the excretion of salts and water from the kidney and so is used for poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure. Research also suggests that dandelion root may improve the health and function of natural bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.

How to use it:

** Dandelion tea has been used for many years to treat colds, diabetes, tuberculosis, rheumatism, and arthritis. You can get it ready made at a herbalist or health shop, but if you are making your own only pick tender, young leaves. Leave them any longer and they will taste very bitter.

** To use it as a diuretic, simmer two ounces of the sliced root in two pints of water. Boil it down to one pint. Drink half of a glass two or three times a day.

** To make a dandelion coffee to help you sleep, and solve your digestive problems, you need to roast the roots until they’re brown and hard. Grind into a power and treat like an instant coffee (but without the caffeine).

** An ‘old wives’ remedy for warts was to squeeze the stems of dandelions until the white milky substance inside comes out. Put this liquid onto the wart, let it dry and don’t wash off. Reapply when you can no longer see it on the skin and in three days it should have dried the wart so that turns black, and drops off. No need to wear a pointy hat and have a black cat, unless of course you want to.

Plants contain powerful substances and are not to be taken lightly. Dandelion is generally considered safe but it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to even the most natural substance. If you have an allergy to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine, you should avoid dandelion. In some people, dandelion can cause increased stomach acid and heartburn and it may also irritate the skin if applied directly to it. If you have gallbladder problems and gallstones then best to avoid this should consult a health care provider before eating dandelion.
Because of it’s diuretic effect, dandelion may increase the excretion of drugs from the body and if you taking any of the following drugs check with your doctor first: Lithium, Antibiotics, Antacids and other medicines that lower stomach acid, such as Zantac.

The hidden benefits of oysters for women

March 25, 2009 by  
Filed under featured, Food & Nutrition, Womens Health


The benefits of oysters as an aphrodisiac are well known, but eating them could actually be a great way of avoiding type 2 diabetes – but only if you are a woman.

There has been a long running data survey running in the USA that has yielded some fascinating results. Over 25 years of medical and nutritional data on over 80,000 nurses has been studied by the Harvard School of Public Health and interesting information on the relationship between zinc in their diet and the chance of developing type 2 diabetes has come to light.

The nurses were all over the age of 33, and when their dietary intake was analysed it was found that there was between an eight to ten percent lower risk of diabetes in women who showed the highest zinc intake. That seems impressive enough, but when they looked at their figures and took other factors into account the figure jumped to a 25 percent lower risk for those with the greatest amount of zinc in their diet.

Oysters of course are a great source of zinc, each one can give you around 40-250mg, plus other essential minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. However you have to eat them raw to get the benefit, and have a healthy bank balance as well. If you are looking for more economical ways of upping your zinc intake then you should include red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, cabbage, and dairy products – or buy a decent supplement.

If you are over 50, then you should definitely check your zinc intake as it declines with age and it is an essential element for a healthy immune system.

Natural help for eyes

As we get older our eyes become vulnerable, and around 1 in 7 over 55 year olds will suffer from macular degeneration. This is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision impairment worldwide, and a study in the Archives of Ophthalmology reports on the benefits of Omega-3 for reducing the risk.

Macular degeneration (MD) affects central vision and this gradually deteriorates causing functional blindness. Peripheral vision is not at first greatly affected; but over time peripheral vision is also reduced. A study of 8,000 people in the Netherlands found that those who developed the disease were more likely to be smokers and have high cholesterol and that because free radical damage has been linked to MD that antioxidants can reduce the disease’s progress.

However, a more recent study has shown a clear link between consumption of Omega-3 and reduction in age-related MD. Dr Chong of the University of Melbourne did a meta-analysis of nine studies which covered 90,000 people, and 3000 of those had age-related MD.

Back to the benefits of fish again, because her study found that eating just one portion of Omega-3 rich fish may reduce the risk of contracting MD by over 50%. In fact increasing your daily intake by 300 mg per day of the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, reduces the risk of MD by about 70%.

If fish really isn’t your favourite then you can get Omega-3 from flaxseed oil which is also rich in lutein and that’s one of the antioxidants that boosts eye health and prevents cataracts and macular degeneration. These are the essential elements for good eye health:

BETA-CAROTENE which destroys free radicals and helps keep eye tissue healthy.

VITAMIN C and VITAMIN E are antioxidant and protect the eye from sun damage

ZINC and COPPER are antioxidant and protect our eyes

B VITAMIN complex to fight free radicals in your eyes, particularly the cornea and the myelin sheath around the optic nerve

TAURINE is an essential amino acid for retina health and blocks out UV rays and environmental toxins.

EYEBRIGHT is a herb that been traditionally used to relieve irritated eyes and strengthen blood vessels in the eyes.

Otherwise it’s the usual mix of dark green leafy vegetables, particularly spinach, and a varied daily diet to keep your eyes sparkling.

Natural help for healthy hair

No matter what your age, your hair reflects your state of health and particularly as we get older it is more prone to weakness and thinning. You don’t have to accept poor or lacklustre hair as a given, because there are plenty of things you can do naturally to help improve its condition. These suggestions might help:

Thinning hair: The hormone natural progesterone has been used by several trichologists to help people with thinning hair, in particular Ailsa Bosworth of Hair Tomorrow has had good success. The ‘recipe’ for healthy hair is to have a good intake of iron, zinc, vitamin C and B vitamins. All of those can be got from a good healthy diet but if you have a serious hair loss problem then it will be worth while taking them as supplements. A natural way to stimulate hair growth is to go out in the countryside and pick some nettles or get dried nettle from any good herbalist, or online from people like Neal’s Yard. This old-established method is easy to follow, because instead of using shampoo, you take a handful of loose nettle tea and boil in water. Strain the tea, let it cool and then use it to ‘wash’ your hair.

If you can’t bear not to use shampoo, then please pick one that is organic, mild, natural and PEG free. That excludes most commercial, major brand shampoos no matter how ‘herbal’ or natural they claim to be. Not sure what to look for? Avoid these:

* sodium lauryl sulphate
* sodium laureth sulphate
* diethanolamine
* isopropyl alcohol
* propylene glycol
* anything ending in ‘parabens’.

Always read the label, and if you have trouble finding such a shampoo locally, then Simply Nature have a very effective natural one and you will find it on their website at www.simply-nature.co.uk. Your scalp matters if we are not happy with your hair, it’s tempting to hide it away under a hat or scarf, but please don’t. Your scalp has to be healthy to allow new hair growth to come through, and in order to do that you need to keep your pores and hair follicles free of dead skin cells. One of the best ways to do that is to massage your scalp every night before you go to bed.

Here’s a great two fold process: first using a metal comb tap all over your head with it for about a minute. It has to be metal, not plastic, because tapping with metal will create tiny electromagnetic currents on the scalp that stimulate the cells in the hair follicles. Next, you massage your scalp gently with a few drops of jojoba oil. It will naturally and gently help cleanse your scalp and contains lots of great hair nutrients like Vitamins C and B and the hair health mineral Zinc.

Prostate health and Zinc

As I am a great believer in pro-active health care, there is another story about prostate health that came up this week that I thought might prove revealing. The risk of prostate cancer is increased if a man is exposed to enough cadmium, a toxic heavy metal that many people are regularly exposed to. It is present in cigarette smoke, so anyone exposed to that – even secondhand – is at risk.

Cadmium is also an environmental pollutant, pumped into the air by various industries and the burning of coal and household wastes. Once airborne, cadmium can travel long distances, eventually falling to ground or into water. We can then ingest it through our diet; particularly from fish and shellfish or vegetables grown in soil that has absorbed cadmium from the air water. According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, “Cadmium stays in the body a very long time and can build up from many years of exposure to low levels. However, it is not all doom and gloom because just adding a little of the mineral zinc to your diet can counteract its effects as US researchers at Rochester have found. Apparently, zinc prompts the production of a protein that binds cadmium to help move the toxin out of the body. Plus, zinc enhances your immune system, helps repair damaged tissues, inhibits the abnormal clotting that contributes to cardiovascular disease, assists in maintaining healthy vision, and is one of the key elements required for DNA reproduction and repair. Sounds like it’s worth increasing in your diet doesn’t it? Good dietary sources of zinc include cabbage, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products.

Think Z’s for winter protection

I am not talking about catching up on your sleep, though winter is the time for slowing down and even hibernating if you are a bear! Z is for zinc and although perhaps it’s best known, and most popular effect is on the sex drive, it is also essential for supporting the immune system.

Many people get shots for flu or pneumonia with the onset of winter, but their effectiveness is reduced if you don’t have a strong immune system to help support their benefits. It’s a bit like swallowing vitamins to help your health,but not eating regularly or well – they will not do the job on their own. The truth is that once you get over the age of 55, you are likely to have a zinc deficiency and this leads to a greater susceptibility to infections, and increased oxidative stress. The good news is that this is easily reversed by taking a zinc supplement for just one year. The suggested dose is 45mg daily and a US study that showed that just that amount reduced the incidence of infections and inflammation. Speaking specifically about pneumonia, there is a new study from the Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in the US that looked at residents in Nursing homes in Boston. Half the residents were given a placebo, and half given daily supplements of vitamins, including zinc. The trial lasted a year and at the end of it everyone was given a blood test to check their zinc levels. Interestingly the trial only gave people half the recommended dietary allowance, and yet those who received the supplements and had nearly normal zinc levels had less incidence and duration of pneumonia, together with less use of antibiotics. Of those who were given antibiotics, the patients with low blood levels of zinc needed greater amounts than those with reasonable zinc levels.

The researchers were very clear that taking zinc supplements could help the over 55′s to reduce the frequency and serious effects of attacks of pneumonia – which can be fatal in vulnerable patients.

Although the US study suggested 45mg a day for supplementation, the RDA (recommended daily allowance) is just 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Many nutritionists consider the RDA to be far too low but you might want to start with that and gradually increase the amount – or talk it over with your doctor if you are concerned.

Need more reasons to up your zinc levels? As well as helping protect your immune system zinc is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, protects your eyes from age-related macular degeneration and it inhibits the abnormal blood clotting that contributes to heart disease. Don’t like supplements? Make a point of adding zinc-rich foods to your daily diet such as red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products. Two of the best sources are oysters and cabbage, though not at the same time if you have any respect for your taste buds!