• Call: 01273-775-480

Tag Archives: Heart disease

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 Chocolate, Heart disease, In the news

Flavonoids in chocolate cut heart risks

Recent research carried out in Sweden has been widely reported in the media because it claims that chocolate can reduce the risk of heart failure in elderly and middle-aged women. The researchers asked thousands of people to complete questionnaires listing which foods they commonly eat and found that older women who eat one to two portions of chocolate once or twice a week had a lower incidence of heart failure than those who ate chocolate more or less frequently. The portion size was not stated, but was estimated by the researchers to be 19-30g of chocolate that contains 30% cocoa solids.

The researchers acknowledge that the health benefits of chocolate are likely to be gained from the flavonoids that it contains. Flavonoids are compounds that are synthesised by plants and they are therefore prevalent in fruits, vegetables and legumes. Research has shown that red wine and tea are also high in flavonoids but, like chocolate, these substances can be harmful to health and so they should be limited in the diet.

Common food sources of flavonoids include red, blue and purple berries, red and purple grapes, apples, citrus fruits, onions, broccoli, apples, parsley, thyme, celery, hot peppers, soybeans and legumes. Research has shown that flavonoids may act as antioxidants. They may also reduce inflammation, cut cancer risks and decrease neurodegeneration in addition to cutting cardiovascular disease.

No adverse effects have been associated with high dietary intakes of flavonoids from plant-based foods, wheres side-effects have been observed from drinking tea, red wine and chocolate due to the caffeine, alcohol, saturated fat and sugar in these products. This research demonstrates that benefits are only seen with small intakes of chocolate – a small bar once or twice a week. Intakes above this are likely to reduce health due to the fat and sugar content of chocolate. A small bar each week may be a great way to gain flavonoids whilst having a treat, but far greater health benefits can be gained from eating a diet rich in a variety of fruit, vegetables and legumes.

For more information about flavonoid rich diets, why not call Emma at Smart Nutrition or make an appointment today?

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, 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, 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.

Categories In the news, Latest Research

Packed junk food?

Are packed lunches healthy? They certainly can be, but research from Leeds University has suggested that only 1% children’s lunchboxes currently meet the nutritional standards that school dinners have to meet. The research, commissioned by the Government, has found that parents are choosing foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar to put in children’s lunchboxes, placing them at risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. These anti-nutrients are now limited in school dinners, thanks largely to Jamie Oliver’s campaigns.

Although Ofsted has recommended a policy on packed lunches, there is no legislative imperative for them to comply with the nutritional standards that are applied to school dinners. Many parents report that their children will not eat the healthy choices that they offer in lunchboxes and, as a result, only one in five packed lunches contained any salad or vegetables and half included a piece of fruit.

Packed lunches can be a highly nutritious alternative to school dinners. Much can be done to improve their nutrient status with some ingenious preparation of fruit and vegetables and by adding popular protein foods for brain development and growth. Protein can be included from homemade chicken nuggets, mini burgers or grilled tofu saved from last night’s dinner. Although nuts are discouraged from schools, cheese strings (natural cheese, like mozzarella that has been cured into an elastic strip) or individual cheese portions can boost the protein content of a lunchbox. Encourage children to eat fruit and salad with cheese strings to provide potassium to balance their salt intake.

Sandwiches can be stuffed with tuna, egg or cheese with tomatoes, cucumber or lettuce can boost the vitamin and mineral content – start with tiny amounts to allow children to get used to the look, taste and texture and increase slowly.

Some children will enjoy cherry tomatoes, olives, lettuce, slices of pepper, cucumber and carrots in their lunchboxes, alongside apples, pears, bananas and oranges. Inflatable fruit bags can prevent bruising of fruit on the way to school and allow for easy identification in the snack tray.

Reluctant children may need more encouragement to eat their fruit and veg; have fun with preparation and presentation. Natalie Savona suggests turning mangoes into hedgehogs, oranges into dragons and skewering red and white grapes onto sticks. For dessert, if fruit does not satisfy alone, strawberries can be half dipped in melted chocolate the night before and allowed to set overnight.

Nutritious food can improve children’s health and happinness. It can also enhance attention, learning, behaviour and physical ability. By providing children who take a packed lunch to school with high quality protein, fruit and vegetables and omitting foods high in saturated fat and sugar, these benefits may be seen in the classroom. If healthy lunchboxes become the norm, children will be happy to eat the same nutritious food as their peers.

To find out more about Cardiovascular / Heart Health click here.  To find out more about health tests for Cardiovascular disease /Heart Health click here

To find out more about Diabetes click here. To find out more about health tests for Diabetes click here

Chicken Nuggets

Many children will eat chunks or strips of chicken breast or boneless chicken thigh that have been baked in a moderately hot oven (200°C/400°F/Gas 6) for 15 mins or until the meat is cooked through. Those children that are partial to a golden crisp coating may enjoy Patrick Holford and Fiona McDonald Joyce’s gluten free battered nuggets:


4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced into strips (about 4 strips each)

200g (7oz) instant pre-cooked polenta flour

210ml (7floz) water

4 eggs, beaten

2 tsp onion salt or sea salt

4 tbspn sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Mix together all the batter ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Drop the chicken pieces (one at a time) into the batter and turn over to coat evenly. Place on the baking tray and cook for 15 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through (cut a piece in half and check that the flesh and juices are not pink).

Lamb Burgers


500g (1lb 2oz) lamb mince

1 very small red onion, finely chopped

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

1 tsp sea salt

black pepper

2 tbspn finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

a little coconut oil, for frying

Mix together all the ingredients until well combined. Roll into 6-8 balls (or more  for mini burgers) and flatten

Grill or fry in a little coconut oil for 15-20 minutes, turning halfway, until both sides are coloured and the burgers are cooked through.                                                                   

 These recipes are taken from ‘Smart Food for Smart Kids’ by Patrick Holford and Fiona McDonald Joyce.

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.

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



Categories In the news

Heartened by champagne?

If you enjoyed a couple of glasses of champagne over the festive season, don’t despair. Recent research suggests that champagne may have a beneficial effect on the walls of blood vessels.

It has been known for a while that red wine may reduce the risk of heart problems and stroke due to the action of chemicals called polyphenols. These slow down the removal of nitric oxide from the blood, which itself causes blood vessels to dilate, lowering blood pressure. Although polyphenols are found in high levels in red wine, but not white wine, this new research has shown that champagne had a far greater impact on nitric oxide levels in the blood than a polyphenol-free control drink of alcohol with carbonated water.

It is generally accepted that a small amount of alcohol confers health benefits, but that beyond moderate consumption, alcohol intake is associated with liver disease, sleeping disorders, cancer, hypertension and mood disorders. It can also have adverse social effects and can cause people to act irresponsibly.

Polyphenols are found in many foods, notably berries, cocoa, walnuts, peanuts, tea, fruits and vegetables. For the greatest health benefits, therefore, 2 small glasses of red wine or champagne can be added each week to a diet rich in berries, fruits and vegetables. Pregnant women are advised to avoid alcohol entirely.

To find out more about Cardiovascular / Heart Health click here

To find out more about health tests for Cardiovascular disease /Heart Health click here

Categories Latest Research

“Energy Drinks” Potentially Harmful to Patients With Cardiovascular Disease

Consumption of energy drinks increases blood pressure and heart rate, and should therefore be avoided by people with hypertension or heart disease, according to results of a small prospective study.

These effects are probably seen because the beverages  which are  marketed to enhance cognitive function and stamina, usually contain caffeine, the amino acid taurine and  sugars.

The researchers found that “Increases in blood pressure and heart rate of the magnitude observed in our study could be significant in persons with known cardiovascular disease,”  and that “Young individuals with undiagnosed, premature cardiovascular disease could also be at risk”

This study was published in the April issue of The Annals of Pharmacotherapy.