Why is Vitamin D Intake So Important?

Why is Vitamin D Intake So Important?

Sometimes called the “Sunshine Vitamin”, Vitamin D is involved in so many physiological functions, when looking at the detail, you almost wonder if there is anything this vitamin doesn’t do!  It has received increased attention in the last 10 years, with many people taking daily supplements as part of their everyday routine.

Vitamin D is normally obtained through exposure of the skin to UVB through sunlight. This is great in the summer months, but during the winter, when days are shorter and exposure to sun is less, we run the risk of developing a Vitamin D deficiency. This is quite widespread in those that live in northern latitudes where sunlight levels are lower, including little old us here in GB! Another great reason to lap up any winter sunshine when it appears, let alone because it makes training or being outdoors much less bracing!

The variations of Vitamin D deficiency status between individuals can also be seen as a result of dietary intake, clothing worn during exercise and overall lifestyle (30). Whatever the reason for Vitamin D deficiency, it can have a significant effect on not only sporting performance but more importantly overall health and wellbeing.

 

Why do we need Vitamin D?

Vitamin D plays many vital roles in our body. The most renowned is its role in aiding the absorption of dietary calcium, and subsequent role in maintaining bone health. So, without Vitamin D present, we don’t absorb as much or any calcium from what we eat and drink, missing out on its vital benefits without realising. It also plays a crucial role in muscle function, recovery, and repair. A study in the Journal of Physiology showed that supplementing with 4000IU/day of Vitamin D had a positive effect on recovery following a bout of damaging eccentric exercise (31).

Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune function.  A study in 2011 looked at Vitamin D levels in college athletes over the winter and spring. It showed that those athletes with Vitamins D levels less than 95 n.mol.1 experienced one or more episodes of upper respiratory tract infection compared to those with higher concentrations of measured Vitamin D.

 

Where can I get Vitamin D from and how much should I take?

Vitamin D exists in very few foods, but mainly oily fish, red meat, liver, eggs yolks and fortified foods such as cereal and spreads). As a result, it’s very hard to meet daily requirements through food consumption alone. The Department of Health recommends taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms  (400 IU) through the winter months and all year round if you are not outside very often or you wear clothes that cover you up when outdoors.

If you are deficient you may need to supplement with more, however, as there are not clear signs to look out for it is hard to judge. General signs such as recurrent injury, fatigue and muscle soreness can be warning signals but hard to identify, as a lot of athletes can feel like this simply as a result of training.  Rather than guessing, the best way to find out is having a blood test. This can give you a clear answer on whether you need to supplement or not and will be advised by your Dr or dietitian as to what level to take. Although rare, as Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (excess amounts get stored, rather than excreted) there is always a chance that you can obtain too much Vitamin D if you supplement with high levels without a clear reason to. Although we know maintaining Vitamin D levels within the recommended amount is beneficial for our health and athletic performance, it is still unproven that Vitamin D supplementation is a direct performance enhancer.

 

Vitamin D’s effects on Cardiorespiratory Fitness (CRF)

Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune function, especially if you’re active.  A study in 2011 looked at Vitamin D levels in college athletes over the winter and spring. It showed that those athletes with Vitamin D levels less than 95 n.mol.1 experienced one or more episodes of upper respiratory tract infection compared to those with higher concentrations of measured Vitamin D.

Additionally, a recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology looked into a link between Vitamin D and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). They tested the blood of 2000 subjects to determine their Vitamin D levels compared to their VO2 max (a marker of cardiorespiratory fitness showing how efficiently your body utilises oxygen).

They found that those in the higher quartile of Vitamin D levels had significantly higher VO2 max levels, compared to those in the lower quartile. This suggested an association between CRP fitness and Vitamin D levels. However, it is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario as the researchers are still yet to conclude from this if CRF is better because of higher Vit D levels, or if Vit D levels are better because of higher CRF.

The general consensus is that Vitamin D deficiency can affect athletic performance, but it is still unknown if Vit D supplementation in those that are not deficient will have the same effects on performance and recovery as those that have a proven Vit D deficiency. More studies on this are needed.

 

Article by Alex Cook, The Sports Dietician

https://www.thesportsdietitian.co.uk/

 

 

Top Tips for Winter Wellness

Top Tips for Winter Wellness

As ol’ Ned Stark said, “Winter is coming”, and after the Arctic spell we had last year, we need to think ahead and be prepared.  Although we know that moderate exercise is good for keeping the bugs away, it is also evident that those of us engaged in more intense training, or have recently competed in an endurance event, appear to have an increased risk of developing symptoms of the upper respiratory tract (URT) (1). To us at Amplify Life, that just seems unfair!

To make matters worse, if you’re training to compete at any level, getting unwell can lead to a nice relaxing anxiety attack about time ticking away towards your next race! Many of us constantly analyse our levels of fitness, or lack thereof when the flu comes around. It adds an extra intensity and stress to a winter bug that maybe non-athletes don’t get.

We are itching to get back in our trainers and training schedules and, as a result, we may not rest quite enough and allow our bodies to recover before pushing the heart rate up again.

So, from learning through experience, here are my top tips for staying well and top of your training game during Winter (..and not ending up feeling like a white walker in the army of the undead)!

Eat well and hydrate often

  • It may seem simple, but one thing that does your body no good is training hard and not eating correctly to meet your requirements. Immune system function appears to be suppressed during periods of low calorific intake and weight reduction. Therefore, if you are prone to catching illness, it is advised to lose weight slowly and during non-competitive training phases when training volume is lower (2). In general, eating a healthy balanced diet on a day to day basis is a simple step to ensure an optimally functioning immune system. As, if you are energy deficient your immune system may suffer, and you may be more susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections (URTI).
  • A healthy immune system benefits from a diet adequate in calories, high in fresh fruit and vegetables, omega 3 fats, nuts and whole grains. Ensuring three meals a day and good recovery meals / snacks that contain carbs (50g) and protein (20g) post training will help keep your body in top form.
  • Keep hydration levels up. Drink regularly throughout the day (moderate tea and coffee intake also counts) and ensure after you have trained you hydrate enough for your urine to be clear.

Carbohydrate and fluid intake during exercise

  • Studies have found that carbohydrate intake may play an important role in maintaining effective immune function. Low carbohydrate intake may cause direct immunosuppression, as immune cells function best on glucose alone.
  • Additionally, ingestion of carbohydrates during prolonged, intense levels of exercise can reduce the production of cortisol as a response to training. Cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’, has been linked with immune suppression. If an athlete is training fasted or in an intentionally low-glycogen state, it is advised not do this more than a few days at a time. Plus, if you’re prone to illness and bugs it’s probably a safe bet to not do it at all until your immune system is back to strength.
  • Staying hydrated during exercise has multiple benefits. One key reason is that it ensures saliva flow is maintained (mmm nice right?). Saliva is important as it contains antimicrobial properties, so if saliva flow decreases there is a chance that we become more susceptible to infection from viruses and bacteria (1).

VitaminC

  • Vitamin C has antioxidant properties which help counteract the effect of damaging free radicals you produce as a result of heavy exertion. If you manage to have plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet, then supplementation may not be necessary. However, during high levels of training and getting over illness, you may benefit from increasing your Vit C intake to give your body that extra boost.
  • A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (3) showed how the supplementation of 600mg Vitamin C per day for 3 weeks prior to a 90km ultra marathon race, reduced the incidence of URTI during the 2 week recovery period.

Probiotics

  • Probiotics or ‘friendly bacteria’ are getting more and more attention these days. Whether you are fermenting your own food or taking a supplement, we are much more aware of how significant our bowel health plays in so many aspects of our wellness. Thinking about adding these into your diet may be a wise idea to help fortify your immune system.
  • Active people should look out for probiotics that contain at least 10 billion live species of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. If you don’t want to take supplements, try using live natural yogurt or foods such as sauerkraut and kefir for example.
  • A double blinded study in the International Journal of Sport, Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (4) supplemented 84 endurance athletes with a probiotic or placebo over 4 months of winter training. They measured the incidence of URTI in both groups. The number of athletes that experienced 1 or more weeks of URTI was 36% higher in the placebo group compared to those that took a probiotic.

Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is recognised as having an important role in immunity and helps to defend against the common cold. Vitamin D deficiencies are common in the athletic population, although the general population also suffers, especially in the months between October and March due to lack of natural sunlight.
  • Individuals are advised to supplement every day with 10 mcg of Vitamin D a day, and make the most of daylight hours!
  • It’s also crucial in assisting phosphate and calcium absorption, so getting enough Vitamin D is important when making sure you can get everything you can from what you eat and supplement.

Immune Boosting Top Tips summary!

  1. Don’t skip meals and avoid negative energy balance. Overall energy intake should match your requirements. Don’t shy away from carbohydrates, and if you are doing fasted training / training low carb, only do it for a few days at a time.
  2. Consider taking carbohydrate during training (30-60g / hr). Taking this in fluid form also helps maintain hydration and saliva flow.
  3. Ensure regular intake of protein (20g per meal per day) and focus on post training meals (0.3g/kg of body weight).
  4. Regular intake of fruit, vegetables and salads (at least 7 a day). If you think you will struggle with this consider taking a multi vitamin.
  5. Take Vitamin D supplement between October and March.
  6. Take probiotic every day ensuring it has at least 10 billion live bacteria
  7. Consider supplementing with extra Vit C (no more than 1000mg) leading up to focus races.

(* note : if you are taking a multivitamin, to avoid double dosing check what it contains as you may not need extra vitamin C or D, for example.)

Article by Alex Cook – Registered Sports & Clinical Dietician

References

  1. Gleeson M 2016 Immunological aspects of sport nutrition. Immunology and Cell biology 94 117-123
  2. Nieman DC et al 1996 Immune response to obesity and moderate weight loss Int. J Obesity relatedMetab. Discord, 20:353-360
  3. Peters EM et al Vitamin C supplementation reduces the incidence of postface symptoms of URTI in ultra marathon runners Am Journal Clinical Nutrition 57: 170-174
  4. Gleeson M, Bishop NC, Oliveira M, Tauler P 2010 Daily probiotics (Lactobacillus casei Shirota) Reduction  of infection incidence in athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 1-10

Introducing our Shop

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We’ve embarked on a journey of building a health service that can help you achieve your health goals, whether you simply want to become more active and eat well, or your managing an active athletic lifestyle

Amplify’s small and passionate team have been working tirelessly on a revolutionary set of services, that will help to transform your health and life. And we are proud to launch a vitamins and supplements store with a wide range of health and fitness products, as our first milestone.

We are dedicated to providing a wide range of products and brands, that we know most of you are taking today, to maintain your health and to supplement your active lifestyle. And we promise what we are building in this store keeps very much in line with our broader health service offering and will always add value to your life.

If you want to continue to hear about our developments, you can drop us your email address here.

We’ll send on more updates as we go along!

 

 

7 Nutrition Tweaks for Active People

If you exercise and maintain a healthy and active life, it makes sense to ensure you are in the driving seat when it comes to nutrition, too. Here are some easy tips to help you make changes for the better NOW!

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  1. Choose ‘active-friendly’ nutrients

One in five adults and one in six children may have low vitamin levels of the ‘sunshine’ vitamin – an estimated 10 million people across England alone, according to NICE recommendations from 2014. Vitamin D is essential for active people as it’s been shown to help build strong bones and boost muscle health. Other essentials for anyone keeping active include magnesium, which is lost when we sweat, and essential fatty acids for a healthy heart. And take antioxidants to protect against damaging free radicals, which according to studies are produced when we train, particularly if it’s hard enough to feel exhausted. Try sports antioxidants from Reflex to beat oxidative stress.

  1. Eat before exercise

Before a run, cycle or cardio event, endurance athletes should focus on consuming slow release carbs and allow time to digest the fuel (this will vary from person to person, but for most it’s around two hours). If you’re in a hurry grab a carb bar, such as SIS’s Go Energy Bar. If you’re lifting weights opt for lean protein and carbs, for example lean chicken and noodles or for time-pressed gym bunnies try a Promax Bar from Maxi Nutrition.

  1. Fuel up on the move

If you’re working out aerobically for 90 minutes or more you’ll need to top up your glycogen stores and keep on top of electrolytes. The American College of Sports Medicine recommend we fuel every 45-60 minutes during a long workout, taking on board 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (120-240 calories) per hour. For ideas on what to eat during your workout visit the Amplify Shop.

  1. Get Carbs on board after your workout

After a long run or bike ride, or hard session at the gym, you’ll need to boost your carb and protein levels for energy and repair. “Choose a three-to-one ratio, carb:protein if you’ve trained hard and re-fuel within the first hour – the acute phase of recovery,” suggests Dr Justin Roberts from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Unrefined, or liquid sources of carbs are a good choice as they will digest quicker, try SIS Rapid Rego Recovery and for more ideas, check out all our post workout nutrition products.

  1. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is vital for total health as well as maintaining good performance in sport and it’s why we’ve included a hydration measure on our dashboard (coming soon!). When you are exercising and active it’s essential to stay on top of hydration levels, particularly as the weather heats up in the summer months. Try Zero Extreme tablets, which have the added benefits of extra vitamins, or Higher Nature’s Performax sachets with added electrolytes, great for post workout rehydration.

  1. Eat for your body type

Precision Nutrition, the world’s largest online nutrition coaching company make the recommendations based on body type. Ectomorphs (longer limbs and skinnier bodies – a typical runner) metabolise carbohydrates better than other body types. The recommendation is for a 55:25:20 diet (carbs: protein: fats). Mesomorphs (stockier, muscular athletic types) need a 40:30:30 diet. And endomorphs (rounder and heavier) are recommended a 25:35:40 combination.

  1. Get rid of refined sugar

Eddie Izzard, the 54 year old comedian who recently ran 27 marathons in 27 days, gave up ‘refined sugar’ three years ago, ‘Once you get yourself off refined sugar, you do get to a much better place,’ he told the BBC. The simplest way to kick-start going sugar-free is to get label savvy. If sugar is in the Red, don’t buy it! Hidden sugar is in most foods, even those we perceive to be healthy. For example, a 100g portion of granola can have around 13g of sugar. Swap sugar-laden cereal for protein, for example, boiled eggs, which will fill you up, and give you energy.

Looking for sugar free fuel for your training – check out the range at the Amplify Shop.

 

 

Magnesium

 

Twitchy legs, cramps, sore muscles and feeling tired? You may need to check your magnesium levels

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What is magnesium?

It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. About 50 per cent of your body’s magnesium is contained in your bones, while the remainder is inside your tissues and organs. Magnesium is important in more than 300 chemical reactions that keep the body working properly. People get magnesium from their diet, but sometimes magnesium supplements are needed if magnesium levels are too low. Dietary intake of magnesium may be low, particularly among women.

Food sources

  • Spinach and kale (but don’t over cook)
  • Seeds (pumpkin seeds are a great source)
  • Nuts (particularly almonds)
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Whole unrefined grains
  • Halibut and Mackerel


The Benefits of magnesium

Bone health

As it’s found in the bones it’s needed for bone health, along with other nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.

Heart and blood pressure

Magnesium is necessary in the transport of ions that conduct nerve impulses for normal muscle contraction, and heart rhythm, and a deficiency can result in arrhythmias (irregular heart beat, too fast or too slow). Magnesium deficiency can also lead to higher blood pressure (but take too much and your blood pressure can drop).

Muscle health

In 2006 researchers found that low levels of magnesium impact on muscle function: including oxygen uptake, energy production and electrolyte balance. A deficiency in magnesium can also result in calcium deposits staying in the cells, which can restrict muscle contraction. This, too, can lead to lactic acid build up and that painful muscle cramping, and twitches. The right levels of magnesium can help active people and endurance athletes recover from exercise by allowing muscles to contract and relax effectively.

Energy Production

Magnesium is responsible for synthesis of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate – known as the ‘energy currency’ of cells) energy. ATP energy is released for all muscle contractions and when we exercise it needs to be synthesised quickly.


When to take a supplement

We lose magnesium when we sweat and if you’re someone who enjoys strenuous exercise you should consider taking a supplement as it can, according to research, increase urinary and sweat losses that may increase magnesium requirements by 10 to 20 per cent (Nielsen and Lukaski 2006).

Lactic acid is produced when oxygen in the body becomes limited through strenuous activity, and this can cause a ‘burn’ in your legs. Research, including a Turkish study which looked at 30 people following a four-week jumping training programme has concluded that magnesium supplements can help lower lactate levels. Another round up of research from 2000 found competitive rowers who took a magnesium supplement (360 mg/d) for four weeks had lower serum lactate concentrations and 10 per cent lower oxygen uptake during a controlled submaximal exercise test.

The UK recommended intake for magnesium is 300mg for men and 270mg for women. In the US, the recommendation is higher but recent surveys have found that some 57 per cent of the US population is not meeting the recommended levels. And some experts argue athletes need more than this – as much as 500mg a day. Magnesium supplements are available in many formats and often are often combined with vitamin D, or calcium, to help boost bone health.


Oils and Bath Salts

Magnesium can be absorbed through your skin and help to displace the calcium ions that may cause muscle cramping and restlessness and some say it’s a more effective way to take magnesium and helps to avoid overdose (which can result in diarrhoea). Note when using oil, check to see if it has black pepper added; this can make itching and irritability associated with magnesium oil worse! Epsom Salts contain magnesium, too and added to a bath make for a fantastic post workout recovery.

 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has a number of functions that help to keep us healthy, strong and illness free.

 

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What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It is essential for the growth and repair of all tissues, and helps to produce the protein collagen. Collagen is used to make skin, cartilage, tendons and ligaments, and therefore vital in maintaining healthy joints and connective tissue. Vitamin C is also essential to bone health, for a healthy thyroid gland, and to help the body cope with stress. Vitamin C aids iron absorption and is a potent water-soluble antioxidant.


Food Sources

  • Beansprouts
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Potatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Peppers
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Parsley
  • Oranges
  • Spinach
  • Sprouts
  • Turnips
  • Melon
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemons
  • Watercress
  • Tomatoes


The Benefits of Vitamin C

  • Protects cells and assists in wound healing.
  • Maintains healthy joints and connective tissue.
  • Supports the immune system.
  • Important for optimal post-exercise recovery.
  • Supports the body during times of stress and illness.


When to supplement

Vitamin C is perhaps best known for its role in helping to prevent and cure colds, and as an all-round immunity booster. However, when it comes to the general population its status as a cure for the common cold has been put under scrutiny. The Cochrane Review in 2004 looked at 29 studies (with 11,000+ participants) and concluded that regular use of vitamin C had no effect on common cold incidence in the general population. However, when the body is put under significant stress, for example when we exercise, research has found that it can help alleviate the symptoms of a cold. Trials looking at the effects of vitamin C have shown that it can halve the incidence and duration of the common cold amongst sporty individuals. Other research has shown that vitamin C plays a role in conditions such as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (also known as exercise induced asthma). A 2014 round up of research from the University of Helsinki cited in Science Daily found that Vitamin C halved post-exercise FEV1 decline (i.e. the amount of air you can blow out within one second) in participants who suffered from exercise-induced bronchoconstriction.

Vitamin C also has a role to play in the helping the body absorb iron, particularly non-haem (vegetarian sources) of iron. Sports people (especially women) often need significantly more iron compared to the general population, and may therefore need more vitamin C, too. “For one part of iron to be properly absorbed five parts of vitamin C are required. That puts the vitamin C requirement for a sportswoman at 205mg daily, and for the sportsman at 180mg”, suggested running coach Frank Horwill in an article for the Serpentine Running Club in London.

Vitamin D

It’s estimated that around one in 5 adults, and around one in 6 children, may have low vitamin D status – an estimated 10 million people across England. We explore the benefits of this vital nutrient and explain why you may need to supplement

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What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D isn’t like other vitamins, which are chemicals we need for good health. Often referred to as the sunshine vitamin it’s the only vitamin that can be generated by our own bodies. In fact, it is probably more appropriately described as a ‘pro-hormone’. The energy provided through the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light leads to natural cholesterol stored in our skin being able to change in form twice, leading to production of vitamin D3, the most beneficial, and biologically active form for humans – also known as cholecalciferol. From here, vitamin D is transported to the liver, then kidneys, where some more chemical changes take place. This allows the vitamin to become activated and take part in its many useful processes.


The Benefits of vitamin D

Vitamin D and your health

In the 1900s vitamin D was linked to preventing rickets. Recent research has shown that it has a role to play in all aspects of health. Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked with high blood pressure1, obesity2, poor lung function3, multiple sclerosis4, and even schizophrenia5. Taking Vitamin D is also important for pregnant mothers, protecting the unborn baby, and helping deliver babies with a healthier heart.

Bone health

Vitamin D is needed for the incorporation of calcium into the bones, helping bones grow and strengthen. In an article published in the Current Sports Medicine Report in 2010, two scientists Larson-Meyer and Willis discussed emerging evidence that adequate vitamin D intake reduces risk of stress fracture (as well as total body inflammation, infectious illness, and impaired muscle function).

Muscle function: power and strength

A study of ballet dancers found that supplementation with vitamin D helped to improve muscular strength in vitamin D deficient dancers: they were able to jump higher and had fewer injuries. Other research found vitamin D was positively related to muscle power, force and velocity.

Vitamin D deficiency lowers immunity

Many studies (including one of 19,000 people over a six-year period6) have found that low levels of vitamin D result in a higher reported incidence of upper respiratory infections. This has negative consequences for those under physical stress and with often stressed immune systems, such as endurance athletes, and even those who share locker facilities at the gym!


When to take a supplement

Unlike other important vitamins, like vitamin C, dietary sources of vitamin D, usually found in eggs and oily fish, are simply not widely available in sufficient quantities for our needs. In addition, the sun, in northern latitudes, is only strong enough to stimulate vitamin D production in your skin from May to August. To benefit adequately from the sun’s rays, we ideally need 20 minutes skin exposure daily, without sunscreen, between the hours of 10am and 2pm. Even if a person is regularly outdoors (e.g. runners, walkers) the sun exposure they do get is compromised by the use of SPF creams and pollutants. Researchers have found that even distance runners are often not exposed to enough sunshine as they choose to run early morning or evening. A recent US study found that one third of a large cohort of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I college athletes at a single institution had abnormally low vitamin D levels.

References:

Blood pressure and vitamin D

Low vitamin D status is associated with greater bone turnover, bone loss and obesity

Poor lung function and vitamin D deficiency

MS and vitamin D

Schizophrenia and vitamin D

Immunity and vitamin D

 

Essential Fatty Acids (EFA)

For a healthy heart, mind and body, make sure you are getting essential fatty acids.

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What are essential fatty acids (EFAs)?

EFAs are unsaturated fatty acids that are essential to human health, but cannot be manufactured in the body. “The two main essential fats that we must absolutely get from food are alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA (the ‘mother’ Omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid or LA (Omega-6),” explains Lucy Ann Prideaux.

Humans have some potential to convert ALA to the highly-beneficial longer-chain Omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA. Both, however are already present in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, as well as seafood and some sea vegetables (see below).


Benefits of EFAs

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important to the normal functioning of all cells of the body and play a critical role in the development and maintenance of proper brain function; heart function; normal vision; and the production of hormone-like molecules that modulate immune and inflammatory responses. EPA and DHA are strongly associated with healthy cardiovascular function, and DHA is essential to brain development and visual health.

These two polyunsaturated fats can, according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), “reduce blood cholesterol, including triglycerides”. They are recommended for a healthy heart, preventing the blockage of arteries as well as help prevent heart disease and stroke. Studies of heart attack victims have found that supplementing the diet or increasing consumption of omega-3 fatty acids daily can reduce the risk of stroke, follow-on heart attacks, and death.

They can also relieve the symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis, menstrual pain, and joint pain.

Deficiency of essential fatty acids may cause the following:

  • decreased immune function
  • depression
  • dry/scaly skin
  • hormone imbalances
  • joint pain and inflammation


EFAs and Fat Loss

“EFAs have been found to inhibit fat storage, increase the chemical process ‘beta oxidation’ (i.e. fat burning), improve insulin sensitivity, and increase thermogenesis (i.e. calorie burning),” explains Lucy Ann Prideaux, “and therefore have a very positive effect on fat loss,” she adds.


Food sources

  • LA is commonly found in nuts, seeds and their cold-pressed oils, as well as vegetable oils and animal foods.
  • ALA is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds and most abundant in walnuts, hempseeds, flaxseed, chia seed and the oils from these foods, as well as rapeseed oil, red meat and dairy.

Oily fish contains EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) fatty and its recommended we eat it two to three times a week (see suggestions below). “This is regardless of whether we’ve had a heart attack or not due to a change in guidelines from NICE (National Institute for Care and Excellence),” say the BHF. Do check on mercury levels, PCBs and other toxins in deep-water fish such as tuna.

  • Anchovies
  • Bluefish
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon (wild has more omega-3s than farmed)
  • Sardines
  • Sturgeon
  • Lake trout
  • Tuna


Should you supplement?

  • For heart disease prevention and management, a 500mg combination DHA /EPA from fish oil per day is often recommended. For optimal brain and immune system functioning, 1000mg/day is the preferred dose.
  • Pregnant women and mothers, nursing mothers, young children, and women who might become pregnant should choose supplements over potentially contaminated fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for fetal neurodevelopment and may be important for healthy birth weight as well. It is worth noting that supplements made from the body of fish, often called omega-3 fish oil supplements are safe to take in pregnancy. But those made from the liver of fish, such as cod liver oil, are not recommended to take in pregnancy.
  • Note: fish oil has both EPA and DHA. Algae oil has DHA and may be a good option for people who don’t eat fish.

Calcium

 

Calcium plays a key role in bone health and muscle contraction. Here we explain what foods contain calcium and how this vital mineral contributes to total body health.

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What is Calcium?

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. It has several important functions – including regulating muscle contraction and heart rate. It’s particularly important for bone health playing a vital role in building optimum bone mass between the ages of 18 and 25. This is when the bones take up most calcium, due to hormonal changes and fast bone growth. The body, however, needs calcium every day, being vital for proper muscle and heart function, and to assist in Vitamin D metabolism. Vitamin D helps the body absorb and retain calcium.

Food sources

  • Milk, cheese and other dairy foods.
  • Green leafy vegetables: kale, watercress, broccoli, cabbage and okra, (not spinach).
  • Sea vegetables and seaweeds
  • Soya beans and tofu.
  • Drinks such as soya milk, coconut milk and almond milk, with added calcium.
  • Nuts and seeds – especially almonds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.
  • Dried figs
  • Food fortified with calcium including bread and cereals.
  • Bony fish (sardines and pilchards).

 

The Benefits of Calcium

  • Bones: Helps build strong bones and teeth (research shows that drinking calcium-rich milk can reduce risk of stress fracture amongst runners). Calcium deficiency can lead to rickets and osteoporosis (brittle bone disease).
  • Heart and muscle function: Regulates muscle contractions, including heartbeat, and ensures that the blood clots normally.
  • Weight loss: Taking three to four servings of low fat dairy a day may, according to researchers (Davies et al. 2000; Zemel et al 2000), help the body’s fat burning mechanism, and has a role to play in maintaining a healthy weight.

 

When to supplement?

  • For most of us we should be able to get all the calcium we need by eating a varied and balanced diet. Most adults need 700-1000mg of calcium a day.
  • Hypocalcaemia (calcium deficiency) can be as a result of many different issues, including: faddy dieting, eating disorders such as bulimia/anorexia; over consumption of sodium and processed foods, and malabsorption problems such as IBS/Coeliac/Crohn’s disease.
  • Post-menopausal women (particularly those who have consumed a lot of caffeine/fizzy drinks and alcohol) may need to supplement to keep their bones strong. Supplements should be combined with vitamin D and magnesium to enhance bone health.
  • Note, taking high doses of calcium alone (over 1,500mg a day) may lead to heart problems, and other issues long-term, so supplementing should be done with expect guidance, care and advice of a health professional or nutrition expert.

Vitamin B

Energising B Vitamins are found in lots of different foods and help to lift our mood, and energy levels, as well as performing vital functions at key life stages.

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What are B Vitamins?

B vitamins were first grouped together because they were found together in many of the same foods. Whilst they have many similar functions as energy vitamins – i.e. the conversion of food into energy or ATP – scientists soon discovered that these water soluble vitamins are in fact quite different, and have their own unique roles in the body. Some are more crucial to red blood cell production, others in nerve system functioning. All, however are essential to the normal healthy functioning of the body and metabolism. 

Food Sources

All the B vitamins are present in a wide variety of other foods – both from animal and plant sources. Because the B vitamins play such an essential role in our health, many foods are now fortified with several of the B vitamins. However, those that are naturally present in foods are the best source.

  • B1 (thiamine): whole grains, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes and oranges.
  • B2 (riboflavin): milk, cheese, leafy vegetables, beans, mushrooms and almonds.
  • B3 (niacin):  chicken, fish, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, nuts, beans, mushrooms, tofu and peanut butter.
  • B5 (pantothenic acid): meats, whole grains, avocados, broccoli and mushrooms.
  • B6 (pyridoxine): meats, whole grains, vegetables and nuts.
  • B7 (biotin):  peanuts, leafy green vegetables and corn.
  • B9 (folic acid):  vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, peas, dairy products, whole grains and meats.
  • B12 (cobalamine): mostly in animal products.

 

The Benefits of B vitamins

The B vitamins (often referred to as the B Complex) are known by several different names and each plays a unique role in the body:

  • B1 (thiamine): Thiamine is important for brain and nerve function as well as energy use throughout the body.
  • B2 (riboflavin): Riboflavin is used to help make and transport energy in the body. It also helps with brain function and helps make chemicals that protect the body from free radical damage.
  • B3 (niacin): Niacin is an essential part of both using energy and storing energy in the body.
  • B5 (pantothenic acid): B5 is often used by the body to break down and build proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
  • B6 (pyridoxine): Vitamin B6 is used to make some of the building blocks of proteins and also helps to break down carbohydrates and fats.
  • B7 (biotin): Biotin is important in making the building blocks of proteins and also helps the body store energy.
  • B9 (folic acid): Folic acid plays a key role in copying and repairing DNA, which makes it especially important in growth.
  • B12 (cobalamine): B12 is important in copying DNA, but also plays a role in breaking down fats and proteins. It’s heavily used in the brain and nervous system.

 

When to take a supplement?

Folic acid is an essential vitamin for pregnant women, as large amounts are needed for the foetus to develop their brain and nervous system. Folic acid is recommended for anyone planning to get pregnant or already pregnant. For the most part, deficiency in any of the B vitamins is uncommon because they are present in many of the foods we eat, or added (i.e. fortification) to several processed foods such as breakfast cereals, that might otherwise be low in B vitamins. Those who are deficient tend to have an illness, follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet (putting them at risk of B12 deficiency), have malabsorption problems (e.g. the elderly), or have a genetic enzyme dysfunction that puts them more at risk for deficiency. Coeliac disease, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) for example, can inhibit absorption of some B vitamins, so often supplementation is necessary. And heavy drinkers are also at risk of B12 deficiency. Older adults tend to be at higher risk for B12 deficiency because their body is less able to absorb it than the body of a younger person. A lack of both B12 and folic acid in adults can cause fatigue and some neurologic problems. Finally, those who eat a diet that is low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains are at risk for deficiency in B vitamins. And according to research published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism athletes with low levels of B vitamins will notice a dip in performance during high-intensity exercise, so if it’s worth checking your levels if you want to perform at your best.

When supplementing, B vitamins are best taken in a “B Complex” form, to ensure a balanced intake.