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Category Archives: Latest Research

Categories Healthy eating, In the news, Latest Research, Soya

Cut Your Risk of Cancer by Reducing Red Meat Consumption

An independent report by the Scientific Advisory Committee reviewed the links between meat consumption and bowel cancer. It suggested those who eat at least 90g of red or processed meat a day faced higher levels of the disease. This is significant as bowel cancer kills around 16,500 people in the UK every year.

The DoH has now recommended that consumers cut their consumption to eat  2.5 oz (70g) of red or processed meat a day – the equivalent of three rashers of bacon. The weekly recommended limit is likely to be 1.1 lb (500g), the same as eating a large pack of minced beef, two 8oz steaks or four 4oz pork chops.

With the British classic ‘meat and 2 veg’ dinner plate it can be easy to forget that there is a whole variety of protein sources to choose from to obtain a balanced diet, limiting reliance on red meat.

Lean White meat
Chicken, turkey and game are great sources of protein. When you can opt for organic meat to reduce your exposure to pesticides and to help keep your intake of saturated fat low don’t eat the skin and remove this before cooking. Eating more turkey is also good for the waist line as it is so low in fat plus it can boost mood as it contains the amino acid tryptophan which is needed by the body to make serotonin which hep to lift mood.

Organ meat
These  include liver, kidney and heart. As well as a protein source liver also contains iron, copper, B vitamins, Vitamin A & C. Pregnant women should avoid too much Vitamin A and therefore should avoid Liver unless advised to eat this by their GP.

A great source of very digestible and absorbable protein along with being a great source of Iron and B vitamins.  Eggs make great breakfasts, scrambled or poached, easy snacks when boiled and great lunches when added to quiche or as a simple quick and nutritious dinner  stuffed with veggies of your choice an omelette is a winner.

Beans & Pulses
Beans and pulses are good sources of vegetable protein as well as providing plenty of fibre and being rich in the minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and folic acid. Add any of the following to soups, stews, curries or salads – lentils, chickpeas, aduki beans, pinto beans, haricot beans, butter beans, kidney beans, mung beans, cannellini beans, soya beans and split peas.

Although this is classed as a grain Quinoa is also a good complete protein source. You can sue quinoa grain like couscous or rice or quinoa flakes make a great porridge of savoury crumble topping.

Tofu (Soya bean curd) also contains potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin K as well as being a complete protein. It works well if you marinade it with strong flavours and add it to stews, curries, soups and personally I like it grilled until a little bit crispy and then and added to salad.

Categories Healthy eating, Latest Research, Mental health, Uncategorized

Trans and saturated fats linked to depression in a new study

Statistics show that 150 million people suffer from depression worldwide and this may be due in part to dietary changes away from unprocessed polyunsaturated fats towards a higher intake of saturated and trans fats.

Researchers from the Universities of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria have found that there is a link between eating trans and saturated fats and an increased risk of depression whereas olive oil is protective against it.

Saturated fats are found in red meat, dairy such as cheese, milk, cream, ice cream and butter as well as being found in many packaged and processed foods. Trans fats are processed fats and oils and have been found in the past in margarines (although these days much less so), fried food like crisps and chips and foods like samosas and spring rolls.

Results showed that despite the fact that none of the volunteers suffered from depression at the beginning of the study, at the end of the study, 657 new cases had been detected.

For those in the study that are higher amounts of trans fats they “presented up to a 48% increase in the risk of depression when they were compared to participants who did not consume these fats” said Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.  He added that, “the more trans-fats were consumed, the greater the harmful effect they produced in the volunteers”.

The researchers also looked at the effects of polyunsaturated fats found in fish and vegetable oils on the occurrence of depression.  Professor Sanchez-Villegas , “In fact, we discovered that this type of healthier fats, together with olive oil, are associated with a lower risk of suffering depression”.

healthy eating tips would be to eat more polyunsaturated fats found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and also seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, linseed and sesame seeds.

Try this delicious and easy seed mix

Seed Mix
It is useful to have a coffee grinder to grind nuts and seeds. Have a mix of one part each of sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds (these should be organic when posssible)) with two parts linseeds (flax) kept in an airtight container in the fridge. Take a good handful of this a day, grind in the coffee grinder and add to cereal, top onto yoghurt or add to salads. Delicious, packed full of good fats and has the added bonus of minerals and some protein too.


Categories Alzheimers, In the news, Latest Research, Memory, Mental health, Uncategorized

Study shows raised homocysteine levels are linked to dementia

An article in Nature Journal confirms previous evidence that raised homocysteine levels are a likely primary predictor and potential cause of the brain damage that identifies Alzheimer’s.  ‘homocysteine is associated with an increase in the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia’ Levels of Homocysteine area associated with a lack of Vitamin B6, B12 and Folic acid.

Good dietary sources of these foods rich in B6, B12 and folic acid

Dark green leafy vegetables, Whole grains, Fortified breakfast cereals and fortified refined white flour. Whole grain flour. rice, black-eyed peas, lentils, bananas, avocado, broccolli, wheatgerm, peanuts, eggs, tuna, salmon.

More information about homocysteine and its effect on health

Test for high homocysteine levels

Categories Healthy eating, In the news, Latest Research, Nutrition, Save money, Uncategorized, Weight management

Save money, Ditch the credit card and eat more healthily

A study published this week showed that when we pay for food with cash we make healthier choices and steer clear of junk food and impulse purchases. Cash should also keep your weight down as researchers suggested that there is a link between rising obesity and the use of cash cards in America. Great news for those of us worried about the recent cuts and for those wanting to cut their waist line down too!

Categories Elderly, Latest Research, Memory

B Vitamins and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.

A study from The University of Oxford study shows that daily B vitamin supplements can halve the rate of brain atrophy in elderly people who suffer from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).

The two year randomised double-blind clinical trial is the largest to study the effect of B vitamins on MCI and is excitingly one of the first disease-modifying trials in the Alzheimer’s field to show positive results in humans. The study assessed the progression of disease by measuring brain atrophy rate following 168 volunteers with mild memory problems, half of whom took the combined high dose B vitamin tablets for two years and the other half a placebo tablet. MRI scans were used to measure rate of brain shrinkage over the two-year period.

The research team set out to see whether taking supplements of the B vitamins required for maintaining and lowering homocysteine levels could slow the higher rate of brain atrophy observed in MCI or Alzheimer’s.

They found that on average the brains of those taking the folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 treatment shrank at a rate of 0.76% a year, while those in the placebo group had a mean brain shrinkage rate of 1.08%. Significantly the subjects with the highest levels of homocysteine benefited most, showing atrophy rates on treatment that were half of those on placebo.

Co-leader of the trial, Professor David Smith of the Department of Pharmacology, Oxford University, explained, “It is our hope that this simple and safe treatment will delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease in many people who suffer from mild memory problems. Today there are about 1.5 million elderly in UK, 5 million in USA and 14 million in Europe with such memory problems.”

The study was co-funded by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive for the Trust said, “These are very important results, with B vitamins now showing a prospect of protecting some people from Alzheimer’s in old age. The strong findings must inspire an expanded trial to follow people expected to develop Alzheimer’s, and we hope for further success.”

High homocysteine levels are prevalent in Alzheimer’s sufferers who also commonly have a low B12 and folate nutritional status. This combination can be a predictor to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and age-related memory problems. High homocysteine is associated with more rapid progression of the disease and may damage both the brain and arteries supplying blood to the brain.

Categories In the news, Latest Research, Mental health

Balance blood sugar to keep aggression at bay

Research published this week suggests that  a sweet drink allowed students to remain calmer under stressful provocation than their counterparts who had been given an artificially sweetened drink. Student volunteers performed tasks such as preparing a speech to be read to a stranger; this speech was then criticised as boring and disappointing. Those who had drunk a sugary lemonade responded to this provocation leading the Australian researchers to conclude that the brain may need glucose for functions such as controlling behaviour.

The researchers are correct in concluding that the brain needs glucose to function correctly. However, they fail to acknowledge that sugary drinks will provide the brain with glucose for only a short time because insulin will be produced in order to reduce the high blood sugar. This will ultimately result in a lowering of blood sugar to levels below the consumption of the sugary drink, and an increased likelihood of poor stress control and aggressive responses.

The study involved the students fasting for 3 hours. After three hours, most people would have a falling blood sugar that may make them susceptible to mood changes. The study did not report what the students had eaten prior to the fast, but if it was a meal low in protein, complex carbohydrates and essential fats (these are students!), it is likely that their blood sugar was quite low. The students drinking the sugary drink would have increased their blood sugar, but only for a short time.

In order to avoid these dips in blood sugar that can cause mood swings and a reduced ability to deal with stressful situations and remain calm under provocation, it is important to eat regular meals and snacks containing protein, essential fats and low glycaemic carbohydrates that are digested slowly. The brain will then have a constant source of glucose without the need for hormonal involvement that may cause stress. Avoiding simple sugars reduces the production of insulin that can ultimately result in low blood sugar. Eating three meals and at least two snacks daily, going no more than three or four hours without food, can help to regulate blood sugar and hormones. 

Why not try some of these meal and snack ideas to balance blood sugar, or call Emma at Smart Nutrition to get more advice?

Breakfast suggestions: 

*Porridge with milk and berries and/or cinnamon to sweeten 

*Muesli with nuts and seeds and milk or yogurt 

*Fresh fruit salad with yogurt, nuts and seeds 

*Grilled bacon with tomatoes 

*Scrambled, boiled or poached eggs on a slice wholemeal toast 

*Peanut butter on wholemeal toast 

Snack suggestions: 

*Nuts, seeds or natural yoghurt with some fruit. Low-sugar fruits include apples, pears, plums and berries, while high sugar fruits are dried fruits (the dehydration process means the fruit sugar is more concentrated), bananas, grapes and melon. Fruit’s high nutrient content outweighs the negative sugar impact in most cases, but be aware that if you’re going to eat a banana, for example, it might be wise to also have some nuts in order to keep things balanced.

 *Oatcakes with nut or seed butter eg tahini, peanut butter, almond butter 

*Vegetable crudités with hummus 

*1-2 squares dark chocolate with nuts to balance the sugar. This way you can still have chocolate as a snack, but just make sure you are balancing the sugar if you do. Same goes for biscuits/cake etc. If you do have these foods (try to limit them as much as you can), ensure you also have some protein to counter-balance the negative effects. 

Lunch suggestions: 

*Wholemeal sandwich/pitta/roll etc or salad centred around a protein source such as chicken, tuna, salmon, cheese, lentils, tofu, nuts, hummous etc 

*Soup with meat or lentils with a wholemeal roll and soft cheese/peanut butter instead of butter 

*Egg/beans/peanut butter on toast (beans are a mixture of complex carb and protein) 

*…and follow with nuts/yoghurt/fruit (if well tolerated). Following with refined foods will just make you crash and burn and heading for a mid-afternoon slump! 

Dinner suggestions: 

*Grilled or roasted meat or fish with seasonal vegetables and brown rice, pasta or potatoes with skin (boiled, mashed or baked) 

*Stir-fry including chicken, prawns, cashew nuts, tofu etc and vegetables served with wholemeal rice or egg noodles. (Brown basmati rice is the lowest GI rice) 

*Meat or lentil curry with brown rice 

*Spaghetti bolognaise with wholemeal spaghetti 

*Salmon fillet with steamed broccoli, courgette and peppers and sweet potato mash (sweet potato is lower GI than regular potato) 

Or any protein with or without a small amount of wholegrain rice, pasta or bread, quinoa, noodles or potato with skin (boiled, mashed or baked) and lots of salad, fruit or veg for vitamins and minerals.

Categories Heart disease, In the news, Latest Research, Mental health

High fat diets may cause emotional disturbance

Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behaviour (SSIB) has found that a prolonged high fat diet is associated with changing levels of a brain chemical called dopamine. This chemical conducts signals in the brain that control movement, emotional responses and the ability to feel pleasure or pain. Low dopamine levels adversely affect comfort, satisfaction and a sense of fullness after eating.

The research was carried out in Chicago on rats that has consumed a high fat diet for 2 or 6 weeks. Compared to rats consuming a standard low fat diet, high fat rats released lower levels of dopamine and had reduced reuptake of dopamine by dopamine transporters in the brain.

The research ties in with previous studies that  have linked obesity and high fat diets with reduced dopamine transporter numbers. The authors conclude that diet may have an important impact on brain neurochemistry.

Cutting out saturated fat from the diet is also important to reduce the risks associated with obesity and developing heart disease. However, it is important to include essential polyunsaturated fats found in oily fish, nuts and seeds as these are beneficial for brain chemicals and they can keep depression at bay. Replacing fatty meats, cakes, biscuits, cheese and full fat dairy products with low fat options and foods that are high in polyunsaturated fats can boost health and emotional well being.

Try these top ten swaps:

  • Swap fatty cuts of beef, pork or lamb for chicken breasts or trim the fat from lean chops or steak.
  • Use chicken, turkey or soya mince instead of minced beef, or grind your own mince from lean steak.
  • Swap butter for olive oil on bread; try rubbing toast with a little garlic before drizzling with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Grill, bake, poach or steam instead of frying.
  • Snack on nuts and seeds with fresh fruit instead of cakes and pastries.
  • Choose nairns oatcakes or oat biscuits instead of biscuits containing hydrogenated oils – these trans fats are the fast track to heart disease.
  • Try cottage cheese instead of full fat options – if you find it bland choose one flavoured with onions and chives or add your own herbs.
  • Soya or tofu sausages make a wonderful alternative to traditional sausages. If you prefer meat, choose an organic pork sausage and prick the skin before grilling.
  • Swap pork pies for smoked mackerel fillets when picnicking. Prepare crudités of peppers, carrots, celery and cucumbers instead of crisps.
  • Swap ice creams for homemade sorbets or ice lollies made from blended fruits.

To discuss other ways of cutting out fat and making choices that boost neurotransmitter production, why not call Emma at Smart Nutrition?

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

Nitrate content of beetroot juice lowers blood pressure

Researchers at the Queen Mary University of London and UCL have published a study that found that the high nitrate content of beetroot causes blood vessels to dilate, lowering blood pressure. Healthy volunteers who were given beetroot juice or nitrate tablets had their blood pressure reduced within 24 hours.

Beetroot is a good source of fibre, potassium, manganese, iron, calcium and vitamin C. It also acts as a liver cleanser and has powerful antioxidant properties for cancer protection. Beetroot can be juiced with any fruits and vegetables, but works particularly well with orange, carrot, apple or cucumber.

Why not try these recipes to add a little beetroot to your diet?


500gm Raw Beetroot – raw, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 celery sticks, trimmed and finely chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 thyme sprig, leaves stripped

sea salt and black pepper

1/4 red cabbage

800 ml vegetable stock or water

1 tbsp red wine vinegar to taste

1 tsp xylitol or caster sugar

A handful of dill, chopped

4 tbsp natural yogurt to serve

1.       Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion, celery, carrot, thyme leaves and seasoning. Cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes.

2.       Add the beetroot and cabbage with a splash of water. Stir, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes until the vegetables are just tender. Stir a few times to prevent the vegetables from catching and burning on the bottom of the pan.

3.       Pour in the stock or water to cover the vegetables. Add the vinegar, bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Skim off any froth and adjust the seasoning to taste with salt, pepper and xylitol or sugar.

4.       Puree the soup if desired and serve with chopped dill and a dollop of yogurt.

Beetroot, carrot and chicory salad

3 heads of chicory

2 medium carrots

250g cooked beetroot in natural juices

handful of lightly toasted hazelnuts


1 pomegranate

1 orange

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and black pepper

1. Trim the chicory and shred the leaves into matchsticks. Peel the carrots and cut into ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Roughly cut the beetroot. Place these ingredients in a bowl.

2. Make the dressing by halving the pomegranate and scooping out the seeds into another bowl. Squeeze the juice of the orange into the bowl and add vinegar, olive oil and seasoning to taste. Blend until the pomegranate seeds are finely crushed and then sieve.  Spoon the dressing over the salad and scatter with lightly crushed toasted almonds.

Recipes taken from ‘Healthy Appetite’ by Gordon Ramsay

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 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.