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Category Archives: In the news

Categories In the news, Latest Research, Uncategorized

Baby blues treatment may be found

It has been known for a while that in the first three to four days after giving birth, oestrogen levls drop by up to 1000 times. A new study has identified an enzyme called monoamine oxidase A, which increases dramatically in proportion to this oestrogen loss. Monoamine oxidase A may contribute significantly to depression in new mothers because it breaks down the vital neurotransmitters that keep us happy and content – serotonin and dopamine.

The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that levels of the enzyme peaked on the fifth day after giving birth; this is the day that new mothers often hit their lowest point.

It was found that levels of hormones could be measured during pregnancy –  high levels predicted post-natal depression with an accuracy of 75 percent during the study. It is hoped that screening for post-natal depression could be possible in the future.

While we wait for this exciting development, there are many things that new mothers can do to boost their serotonin levels. Gaining support from valued and trusted family members and friends, especially in the first week after giving birth, may reduce some of the stress and isolation at this wonderful but potentially difficult time. In addition, nutrition can play a huge role in balancing hormones and neurotransmitters.

Pregnancy and breast feeding place an enormous demand on the body – the baby will take whichever nutrients it needs for health and growth and this may deplete the mother’s resources. Cooking a nutritious meal for a new mother is probably the most useful thing you can do – especially if you wash up afterwards! 

What should a new mother eat?

Protein is important as neurotransmitters are made from amino acids, the building blocks of protein. A new mother will need 60g protein and this increases to 80g for breastfeeders – a vegetarian mother will have to work hard  to ensure that she is eating enough high quality protein from foods such as eggs, soya products, cheese, nuts and seeds and pulses.

Essential fats are vital for the production of serotonin and dopamine, so this is not a good time to cut down on fat. Non-vegetarians can boost their omega 3 fat intake with oily fish (sardines, mackerel, herring trout) twice a week, but vegetarians must rely on flax seed and oil for omega 3 fats. Cold pressed vegetable oils, nuts and seeds are good sources of omega 6 fatty acids. 

Vitamins and minerals are vital for new mothers in order to replenish supplies that have been depleted by pregnancy and to make neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine). For breast feeding mothers, making milk will deplete what the mother has available to her. Five prtions of fruit and veg is the minimum – 8-10 will be better. Wherever possible these should be fresh, organic and lightly prepared in order to preserve their nutritional content. Variety is important and a rainbow of colours will ensure that a wide range of vitamins and minerals are available – in the winter  some fruits that may not be local and seasonal can be added in order to boost the choices.

B vitamins and vitamin C are particularly important cofactors for neurotransmitter production; these can be found in whole grains, brown rice, leafy green vegetables, watercress, peppers and fruits.

How you eat is also vital for neurotransmitter production; processed foods, sugary sweet foods and stimulants are low in nutrients and play havoc with blood sugar. Allowing yourself to get too hungry will make you reach for these foods in desperation, but that will send you on a blood sugar rollercoaster where energy  escalates and plummets. This alone can have a devastating effect on mood and these foods contain no nutrients for health and wellbeing. Instead, a routine of enjoying three uninterrupted meals each day and three snacks can work wonders for mood and wellbeing. These meals and snacks should be high in fruits, vegetables and unrefined whole foods and each should contain some protein – 15g per meal and 5g for each snack is ideal (20g per meal for breastfeeders). Cutting down on sugar and stimulants such as tea, coffee and alcohol will help to stabilise moods, but breastfeeding  mothers will want to drink plenty of herbal teas and plain water to replace the fluids that the baby takes during feeds.

Having a new baby in the house is demanding and disrupted sleep patterns can cause exhaustion. Although preparing food can be time consuming, the rewards of stable moods and increased energy may be worth the extra work. Better still, direct any offers of help towards shopping or preparing healthy, delicious meals and snacks. If you tell them exactly what you need, people will be delighted to help.

To discuss your individual needs during pregnancy or after birth, why not make an appointment with Emma at Smart Nutrition?

Categories Heart disease, In the news, Uncategorized

Trans fats still a risk for coronary heart disease

Despite the recommendation of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) that trans fats should be banned, in line with current legislation in Denmark and New York City, the Government has today announced that it will neither ban the fats nor advise manufacturers to flag them up on food lables .

Trans fats are hydrogenated oils that remain solid at room temperature. They are harmful and have no nutritional benefits and, as they cannot be broken down in the digestive system, they accumulate and clog up arteries. Evidence is mounting that trans fats are implicated in cancer, multiple sclerosis, stroke, obesity and heart disease. They are found in many products, including deep fried foods, baked goods, ice creams, biscuits, snack bars and ready meals; cheap foods are more likely to contain trans fats as they are so convenient for manufacturers to use. Although Tesco and Sainsbury have stated that they will not use trans fats in their own brands, other convenience foods within the stores may be loaded with them.

Avoiding trans fats is not as simple as avoiding cigarettes or alcohol as consumers may find it difficult to know which foods contain them. The labels will not list ‘trans fats’ in the ingredients, but will list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. As these foods are found in many foods marketed for children it may be particularly difficult for parents of young children to identify the offending fats and protect their families; shopping with small children is difficult at the best of times and searching through ingredients may not be an option.

As the Government appear to be unwilling to support consumers to improve their health, it is important for people to educate themselves about which foods are safe to eat. Avoiding fried foods and packaged foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil will help. In addition, eating foods that are rich in essential fats such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and cold pressed vegetable oils may help to redress the balance.  To gain more advice on how to avoid the dangerous fats and boost levels of healthy fats, why not make an appointment with Emma at Smart Nutrition.

Categories Heart disease, In the news

NICE recommends banning trans fats

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has claimed that 40 000 lives could be saved each year if the amount of saturated fat and salt in food was cut and if toxic artificial fats called trans fats were eliminated. Trans fats are added to food in order to prolong shelf life, but they are linked to heart disease.

The NHS advisory body suggested that ministers should consider introducing legislation if manufacturers fail to take action. They recommend several courses of action, including:

  • Selling low salt and low fat foods more cheaply than their unhealthy counterparts, through the use of subsidies if necessary.
  • Banning advertising of unhealthy foods to children until after 9pm and using planning laws to restrict fast food outlets near schools.
  • Paying farmers to produce healthier foods.
  • Encouraging walking and cycling by local authorities.
  • Introducing a traffic light food labelling system, despite opposition from the European Parliament.
  • Disclosing lobbying of government and its agencies by the food and drink industry.

Professor Klim McPherson of NICE said ‘…we want the healthy choice to be the easy choice [and] we want the healthy choice to be the less expensive, more attractive choice. Put simply, this guidance can help the Government and the food industry to take action to prevent huge numbers of unnecessary deaths and illnesses caused by heart disease and stroke.’

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians responded to the NICE guidance saying ‘Banning trans-fats, reducing salt consumption and saturated fat levels in processed food may initially pose operational challenges for manufacturers, but the profits of private firms ought not to take precedence when compared with the health of the more than four million people at risk in this country.’

It is important to see this advice in context; an active lifestyle and a diet that is rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables is the way to good health. Although trans fats are deterimental to health and should be avoided, many low fat processed foods are loaded with sugar so food choices should be carefully considered. In addition, some salt is necessary for health, particularly for people with adrenal fatigue. Each individual is unique and the best way to establish personal needs may be to make an appointment with Emma at Smart Nutrition.

Categories Children, In the news, Latest Research

Burgers linked to asthma

New research suggests that eating three or more burgers a week may put children at risk of developing asthma, whereas eating a mediterranean diet may lower the risk.

Researchers writing in the journal Thorax have looked at 50 000 children from 20 countries in a 10 year study. Parents of children from wealthy and poorer countries were asked about their children’s diets and whether they had ever been diagnosed with asthma or had suffered wheezing.

Researchers found that the effects of their diet seemed to vary depending on where they lived. Fruit and vegetables were seen to be more protective in less affluent parts of the world, whilst eating lots of fish was more helpful in richer countries. Eating at least three burgers a week was linked to a greater risk of asthma and wheezing, but only in wealthier countries.

Author Dr Gabriele Nagel suggests that this may be because asthma is a collection of symptoms rather than a single condition, and different things may trigger in different parts of the world. The paper also sugggested that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables may be helpful because of the protective effects of antioxidants.

Dr Elaine Vickers, research relations manager at Asthma UK said ‘Previous studies have shown that a Mediterranean – style diet rich in fruit and vegetables can help to reduce a child’s risk of developing asthma symptoms. Our advice to parents is therefore to ensure that children eat a healthy, balanced diet and also get plenty of exercise.’

To upgrade the quality of your children’s diets and help protect them against asthma and other diseases, why not make an appointment with Emma by clicking here.

Categories In the news, Latest Research

Alertness from daily coffee is shown to be an illusion

New research published last week in Neuropsychopharmacology shows that frequent coffee or tea drinkers who reach for their morning brew in order to stimulate themselves are merely reversing the fatigue caused by acute caffeine withdrawal. In tests on 379 individuals at the University of Bristol, Peter Rogers found that ‘…we don’t gain an advantage from consuming caffeine – although we feel alerted by it, this is caffeine just bringing us back to normal.’

Approximately half the participants were non/low caffeine consumers and the other half were medium/high caffeine consumers. All abstained from caffeine for 16 hours. They were then asked to rate their levels of anxiety, alertness and headache before and after being given either a caffeine pill or a placebo. They were also asked to carry out a series of computer tasks to test their levels of memory attentiveness and vigilance.

The medium/high caffeine consumers who received the placebo reported a decrease in alertness and an increase in headache. These symptoms were not reported by the group that received caffeine. However, their post-caffeine levels of alertness were no higher than the non/low consumers who received a placebo, suggesting that caffeine only returns coffee drinkers back to ‘normal’.

Caffeine causes increased anxiety and raised blood pressure, making it a poor choice for many individuals. It also causes an imbalance in blood sugar that can cause irritability and fatigue. For a hot drink that has a similar taste to coffee, why not try Barley cup or dandelion coffee available from health food shops – both are naturally caffeine free. Alternatively, herbal teas may replace a morning cup of tea. Green tea contains antioxidants that can improve health and peppermint tea can soothe digestive discomfort.

Categories Heart disease, In the news, Latest Research

Body fat linked to Alzheimer’s

A study published last week in Annals of Neurology  has suggested that people with fat stomachs could be at greater risk of developing dementia. The research, carried out by the University School of Medicine in Boston, demonstrated that levels of visceral fat that surround the organs are associated with smaller total brain volume. Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society said that dementia is strongly associated with low brain volume.

Excess abdominal weight is already known to be associated with high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes; these are all major risk factors for dementia.

To reduce the risks of heart disease, diabetes and dementia it may be beneficial to keep levels of visceral fat low by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. To talk to Emma about how to make changes to your diet Click Here.

Categories Children, Heart disease, In the news, Latest Research

Kebab Houses and Burger Bars serve unhealthy snacks to school children

New research has found that many takeaway meals sold near London schools contain much higher levels of salt and saturated fat compared to outlets such as McDonalds and Burger King. Many children are leaving school to buy these burgers, kebabs, pies and chips for their lunch.

The London Environmental Health Food Teams undertook the study on behalf of Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH). They looked at the foods chosen by school children from takeaway shops in 16 London Boroughs, finding that the levels of salt, total fat, saturated fat, trans fats and calories were much higher than those in school lunches.

The results have prompted the Schools Food Trust, who advise the Government on improving the nutrition of school children, to call for a ban on children leaving school during the lunch hour.

Some local initiatives are extremely encouraging; Morrison’s in Kendal, Cumbria, and McDonald’s in Folkestone have agreed not to sell to school pupils at lunch time. However, the majority of school children are exposed to snacks such as the Doner Kebab – one of which was found to contain 48.7g saturated fat, more than double the official Government daily recommendation of 20g.

Suggestions have been made for nutritional labelling of restaurant food to allow children to choose healthy options. As research in Greenwich earlier in the year proved, academic performance, as demonstrated by SATS results,  may increase with better nutrition.

Categories Heart disease, In the news, Latest Research

Processed meats increase the risk of heart disease

A review by the Harvard School of Public Health has found that people who eat one serving (50g) daily of processed meat such as bacon, ham, sausages or salami have a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Unprocessed red meats, such as beef, lamb or pork, do not increase the risk.  

The review was published in the journal Circulation and examined 20 studies published worldwide, involving over a million people. It is already known that processed meats are linked to an increased chance of developing bowel cancer, but this new research shows that as little as two rashers a day also increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Categories Heart disease, In the news, Weight management

‘Healthy’ snacks are loaded with sugar.

The Times reported last week that supermarket snacks that are marketed as healthy may contain up to 69% sugar; more than three times the amount found in chocolate ice cream. It is common for low fat options to have more sugar than conventional products as manufacturers attempt to make these products more palatable.

Most processed foods contain some added sugar – baked beans, chilli, vegetables, sauces for pasta or curries and ready meals all contain significant amounts of sugar. Many breakfast cereals and cereal bars are also high in sugar, especially those that are being promoted for people who are trying to lose weight; Tesco Healthy living forest fruit and raisin bars contain 50% sugar and Kellogg’s Special K Fruits of the Forest bars are 39% sugar.

Snacks marketed for children are often high in sugar. Kellogg’s Fruit Winders Doubles contain 37% sugar and Fruit bowl apple and strawberry fruit flakes contain 69% sugar; that’s five times the amount of sugar found in fresh fruit, but with significantly diminished levels of vitamins, minerals, water and enzymes that are all important for good health. With more than 13.8g in a packet, a child has nearly 3 teaspoons of sugar from a bag of fruit flakes alone. Adding a carton of fruit juice and a yogurt (both healthy choices) could push the sugar content up to 45g – that’s 9 teaspoons. 

The food industry has been competing to sell low fat snacks in order to reduce obesity and heart disease. To increase their palatability, sugar has been added, but it is now known that people who eat more sugar are more likely to have lower levels of good cholesterol and higher levels of some blood fats, which are risk factors for heart disease.

It is important to keep sugar levels down to protect teeth, to reduce unwanted calories and also to prevent the mood swings and lethargy associated with imbalanced blood sugar. Refined sugar does not need digesting, so provides an instant blood sugar boost, but this is always followed by a crash as the body tries to rectify high blood sugar by producing insulin. In the long term, these patterns can lead to diabetes, hormonal imbalance and obesity, as extra energy is converted to fat in the body.

Fresh vegetables or fruit make the ideal alternative to shop bought sugary snacks. Cut up into crudités, vegetables can be dipped into hummus or used to scoop up cottage cheese or home-made mackerel pâté. Fruit can be transported easily, needing only a wash or to be peeled. For children, a new studycarried out in Europe shows that fruit is more likely to be eaten when it is attractively presented in a  fun shape such as a hedgehog. Many cereal bars, such as the Food Doctor bars contain no added sugar and are ideal for a more substantial snack, or oatcakes are delicious with nut or seed butter.

To make a mango hedgehog, slice down each side of a mango from top to bottom, close to the stone, so you have two ‘almost halves’ with a middle slice clinging to the stone (you may find that the children fight over who gets this bit!). Cut across the flesh of each mango half in parallel lines, carefully so as not to cut through the skin. Now cut across these lines in the same way, so you have criss-crossed flesh with the skin intact. Turn the skin in on itself so you have a mound of spikes to decorate with raisins for eyes and a nose.

 To make an orange dragon, lay an orange on a board with the stalk and base facing to the sides. Using a sharp knife, cut the orange asross the segments into generous rounds. Then, take a slice and at a point between two segments, carefully cut through the skin and as far as the centre of the slice. Carefully prise open the slice, seperating the little triangular segments: you end up with a flat line of orange skin with a series of little triangles poking out from it – the dragon fins. Repeat with the other slices. This is much easier to do than to describe in words – so give it a go and you’ll find your children will be keener to eat the oranges than if they’d had to peel them in the usual way.

To make grapes more appealing, slide onto skewars and freeze for an alternative to an ice lolly.

These ideas are taken from ‘Wonderfoods for kids’ by Natalie Savona

To make mackerel pâté, whizz up 4oz/100g smoked mackerel fillet with the same amount of cottage cheese in a blender.  Add 2 chopped spring onions, parsley and lemon juice to taste. Eat with rye bread, rice crackers, oat cakes or crudités.

Categories Heart disease, In the news, Latest Research

B vitamins may prevent heart disease and stroke

Research published this month in the journal Stroke has found that people who eat a diet high in B vitamins are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. A study in Japan analysed dietary questionnaires completed by more than 23,000 men and women. During an average 14 years of follow-up, 986 of the respondents died from stroke, 424 died from heart disease and 2,087 died from cardiovascular related disease.

The study found that  women who ate more foods with the B vitamins folate and B6 were less likely to die from stroke or heart disease and men who ate more of these vitamins were less likely to die of heart failure.

The researchers suggest that folate and vitamin B6 may help to protect against cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of homocysteine in the blood. This amino acid is produced in the body as a by-product of other chemical reactions; high levels can cause damage to the body. With adequate B vitamins, homocysteine can be converted into useful antioxidants, but without the B vitamins, homocysteine levels will rise. In addition to cardiovascular disease and stroke, high homocysteine levels are associated with cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Homocysteine levels can be checked at home. To order a test to find out what your levels are Click Here.

The researcher Dr Hiroyasu Iso suggests that people should increase their intake of vitamin B6 and folate.  To achieve this, enjoy more spinach, watercress, wheatgerm, bananas, brussels sprouts, broccoli, brown rice, avocado, asparagus, cauliflower, cabbage, nuts and seeds.

Why not try this recipe from Antony Worral Thompson?

Cauliflower, spinach and chickpea balti


For the balti sauce
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2cm/¾in piece ginger, grated
1 large garlic clove, crushed
3 onions, chopped
250ml/8¾fl oz water
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp garam masala
2 bay leaves
4 cardamoms, broken slightly open
1½ tsp salt
For the vegetables
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
2cm/¾in piece ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tomatoes, chopped
200g/7¼oz cauliflower florets
250g/8¾oz tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tsp salt
250g/8¾oz baby spinach leaves
2-3 fresh green chillies, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp garam masala

To serve
brown rice

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan then add the ginger and garlic and stir.
2. Add the onions and stir-fry for five minutes until they are translucent.
3. Add the water and bring to the boil.
4. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients, cover and simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes.
5. Remove the bay leaves and cardamom pods, and liquidise the rest in a blender.
6. Heat the oil in a large wok then add the onions and fry gently until they begin to turn brown.
7. Add the ginger and garlic, stir well, and cook for one minute.
8. Add the tomatoes, cauliflower, chickpeas, salt and enough balti sauce to coat all the vegetables (4-6 ladles of sauce).
9. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer until the cauliflower is just tender.
10. Add the green chillies and spinach and stir-fry for three more minutes until the spinach has wilted down.
11. Stir in the coriander.
12. Just before serving, sprinkle the garam masala on top.
13. Serve with brown rice, naan bread or chapatis.