Cut heart disease – Put on the kettle

I was giving a talk on alternative medicine on a cruise recently and mentioned the many health benefits of green tea – a substance I am very fond of. So, imagine my surprise when I went to the buffet to get a cup and couldn’t find a green tea bag anywhere. I spoke to the catering manager who couldn’t understand it either, but told me suddenly everyone was drinking green tea! So for all those converts, and those who aren’t here is another good reason to head for the green stuff – it can cut your heart disease and stroke risk in HALF! New studies on green tea (or epigallocatechin gallate to give it the proper name) show it has all these benefits:

* Lower your cholesterol counts by 9 points
* Prevent cancer cells from ever forming
* Protect DNA from mutating
* Boost production of disease-fighting T-cells
* Even prevent tooth decay

It has been called the ultimate antioxidant, and to enjoy it at its best let it steep for a couple of minutes then drink without milk or sugar. I often add some fresh mint leaves for taste although you can now buy several different flavoured varieties, and sweeten with honey if it’s not to your taste. However you drink it, try to get one or two cups a day into your routine – your health really will benefit.

Keep the grapes for yourself

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Wellness

red grapes

Ever wondered why most of us take grapes to people in hospital and end up eating them ourselves at the bedside? My personal idea is that all hospital visiting is stressful and so we unconsciously try to reduce that stress by distracting ourselves. Stress can impact heart disease, so imagine my surprise to find I have scientific backing for this idea – perhaps not the exact circumstances,but the latest research findings from Spain show that antioxidant-rich red grapes are high in fibre and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease more effectively than other fibre sources such as oat or psyllium.

It has to be red grapes however, not any other colour as a trial conducted by researchers in Madrid reported that cholesterol levels fell by nine per cent, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by a similar amount and blood pressure was reduced by about 5 per cent. The researchers said: “Grape antioxidant dietary fibre contains relatively large amounts of proanthocyanidins (condensed tannins), which are partially bioavailable in the small intestine, but a major part reach the colon, where they may provide a high antioxidant status.” This was only a small trial of 34 subjects, but might be worth you keeping that fruit bowl filled up with a large bunch if you have any concerns about family blood pressure.

Antioxidants for ‘airport ears’

Do you live near to an airport or are you often exposed to loud noise on a regular basis? Are you suffering from hearing loss because of it? If so, you may be interested to hear of some new research, at present only being carried out on guinea pigs, that seems to show that having a good level of antioxidants might just make all the difference. The University of Michigan Hearing Research Institute carried out the study and they gave the guinea pigs a mix of antioxidants: vitamins A, C, and E, and magnesium one hour before they were exposed to the equivalent decibel level comparable to a jet engine taking off. The guinea pigs continued to be given the same amount of the antioxidant mix for a further five days after that single event. A test group were also exposed to the same decibel level, but with no antioxidants given.

When they compared the hearing levels of the two groups at the end of the five-day period, the group that had taken antioxidants experienced a significantly lower loss of hearing. So could it help us too? I will pass on information on phase two of the research, where the Michigan researchers are testing the same antioxidants on soldiers who are exposed to high decibel levels during training, and indeed often very frequently afterwards.

Celebrate Sardines!

Although National Sardine Day falls on the 25th of November 2008, yes really, I thought I would encourage you to look ahead and plan for later in the year to celebrate this remarkable fish. The humble sardine isn’t something people usually rave about, but in terms of the health benefits per square inch they really are quite something. Whether you opt for the fresh fish, delicious grilled and stuffed with lemon, or the tinned variety in oil – not sauce – they are packed with inexpensive, high- yielding health benefits and nutritional value.

For such a small fish they can have a big impact as they contain substances that are proven to benefit your skin, joints, memory, and even boost your energy. Sardines are rich in omega 3 fatty acids — the crucial long chain variety you can only find in seafood, not vegetable matter high – and also have good levels of calcium and vitamin D.

Sardines also contain high levels of Coenzyme Q10 which is essential for so many important functions in the body. It is a supernutrient that’s great for heart health, energy, immune support, and healthy brain function. It is also an effective antioxidant and has been used for decades in Cancer treatment.

CoQ10 is also very important for cardiovascular health as it has many of the antioxidant properties of vitamin E. Inadequate levels of CoQ10 have been linked to heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and arrhythmias. In addition, CoQ10 is believed to lower blood pressure, prevent the oxidation of low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and help with irregular heartbeat. CoQ10 is also good for the teeth and gums, helping to fight oral infection.

Sardine sandwich anyone?

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!