News

Snack away the post-lunch slump

US researchers have found that eating almonds at lunchtime results in less memory decline in the afternoon. “When blood sugar levels dip below normal, cognitive function can decline,” explains Richard Mattes, PhD, RD, whose lab at Purdue University conducted the research.

“Almonds have been shown to moderate blood sugar levels after meals and when consumed as snacks, which may explain why the memory dip is improved when almonds are consumed at lunch.” The relatively high amounts of good fats (13g) and fibre (4g) found in every healthy 28g handful of almonds, coupled with their low carbohydrate content, may help steady blood sugar levels after meals by slowing digestion.

Eating almonds as part of a meal can reduce the glycaemic impact of carbohydrate, thereby helping to keep blood glucose concentrations at optimal levels for memory tasks.

Find out more at www.almonds.co.uk

Diet drinks linked to stroke risk

Fizzy diet drinks may be marketed as a healthier option, but new research has brought up some concerning statistics. Researchers from Boston University have shown that people who drink at least one can a day of artificially sweetened soft drink have a much higher risk of developing dementia or having a stroke. Their findings were published in Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association.

Meat is getting the chop

Meat is increasingly falling out of favour with British shoppers due to concerns about health. A new study, carried out by market analysts Clusters, has found that just over a quarter of people – the equivalent of 16 million of the UK population – have started to cut down on the amount of meat they eat.

The findings showed that people aged between 45 and 54 are particularly steering clear of red meat due to health concerns. From this group, 69 per cent noted health concerns to be a main motivator in their decision to cut back on meat and a further 37 per cent said they are worried that eating too much red meat will lead to diseases such as colon cancer.

The findings follow a number of high profile reports on the links between cancer and high meat consumption. At the end of 2015, the World Health Organization warned that there was ‘convincing evidence’ that processed meat such as sausages and ham caused colorectal cancer.

New hope for osteoarthritis prevention

Osteoarthritis may not necessarily be ‘part and parcel’ of getting older, as new research has shed light on how this debilitating condition can potentially be prevented.

Researchers from the University of Surrey have identified a crucial link between metabolism and osteoarthritis. Metabolic changes, caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, trigger the genetic reprogramming of cells in the body and joints. By identifying metabolic changes in cells, it is potentially possible to control or significantly slow down the symptoms of osteoarthritis, alleviating the suffering of millions of people.

Lead author Professor Ali Mobasheri, Professor of Musculoskeletal Physiology at the University of Surrey, said: “For too long osteoarthritis has been known as the ‘wear and tear disease’ and it has been assumed that it is part and parcel of getting older. However, this is not the case and what we have learnt is that we can control and prevent the onset of this painful condition. It is important never to underestimate the significance of a healthy diet and lifestyle as not only does it impact upon our general wellbeing but can alter the metabolic behaviour of our cells, tissues and organs leading to serious illnesses.” The findings were published in Nature Reviews Rheumatology.

Jeepers, creepers – how to look after those peepers!

It’s no surprise that loss of sight ranks highly in people’s personal fears. Our eyes are amazing, but we need to look after them. With National Glaucoma Awareness Week on the horizon (5-11 June) Fight for Sight, the UK’s leading eye research charity, shares some natural tips on keeping your peepers in top shape.

Feast your eyes
Fill up on green leafy vegetables, oily fish and citrus fruits. A diet rich in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E may help to prevent or delay age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

Have regular check-ups
Have your eyes tested every two years even if you think your vision is fine. An eye test can spot some eye conditions and even other illnesses not related to sight. Regular check-ups are vital as detecting conditions, such as glaucoma, as early as possible can save more of your sight.

Keep on moving
Maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure can help your eyes stay healthy, so a ‘feel good’ brisk walk or bike ride can bring added benefits for your sight. Being outside and away from artificial light and digital screens also gives eyes a fresh break, but always ensure you protect your eyes from glare and sunshine with good quality sunglasses that reduce exposure to damaging UVA and UVB rays.

For more eye health advice and information visit www.fightforsight.org.uk.

Trend alert: Napercise

“Power naps are one of the most powerful natural performance enhancers known to humankind,” says Dr Guy Meadows, sleep expert for Bensons for Beds and founder of the Sleep School. “They can be a brilliant way of boosting daytime performance and avoiding the typical afternoon slump.

When should I nap? “The ideal time to nap is between midday and 3pm,” says Dr Meadows, “as this is when the waking signal of the body clock naturally dips.”

What are the benefits? “The benefits include boosting energy and alertness levels, which results in improved cognitive processing such as learning, focus and concentration and decision making. Research suggests that power napping can also enhance creative problem solving.”

How long should I nap for? “The term ‘power nap’ refers to a short nap lasting between 10 and 30 minutes,” says Dr Meadows. “This is the ideal time because any longer and you end up in deep sleep and potential brain fog. Keeping it short and at the designated timing mentioned above also prevents reducing sleep drive for the night ahead.”

Practice makes perfect! “Napping is a skill and so the more you practise, the better at it you become. A pro napper can expect to fall to sleep within a minute and wake themselves up of their own accord after 10 minutes feeling refreshed and ready to go.”

Why you love... natural beauty

We love to hear from you. This month you tell us why natural beauty products get your vote.

“Cruelty-free, chemical-free, better for me and for the environment. And, most of all, they look and feel amazing!” Deborah, Birmingham

“I started using natural products over 30 years ago to avoid products that had been tested on animals. I also prefer to limit the number of chemicals I use on my skin.” Kerry-Ann, Bishops Stortford

“I choose natural beauty products because they are so unique in quality and price and second to none on the market place. Plus, I instantly feel like a million dollars when I’m wearing them,” Jaqueline, Bolton

Research shows many probiotics don’t deliver what’s on the label

A new report* claims that many probiotic supplements on the market are subject to poor quality control measures. The study, headed by the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, states that probiotics are frequently misidentified, contaminated or contain little to no viable bacteria.

“Probiotics produced under pharmaceutical control offer the most assurance for consumers,” says Frankie Brogan, a senior nutritionist with Pharma Nord (www.multivits.co.uk). “However, most probiotics are considered dietary supplements and need to comply with less stringent regulatory criteria. Pharmaceutical grade probiotics are available in health food stores alongside dietary grades, so checking the label will help identify them. Optional protective measures (such as hermetically sealed containers) help ensure product stability and bacteria viability.”

*journals.lww.com/jpgn/Abstract/publishahead/Commercial_probiotic_products___A_call_for.97192.aspx

Wake up to organic this month!

This month, independent retailers, delicatessens, farm shops and cafés across the country will celebrating all things organic as part of the Wake Up To Organic campaign. There will be plenty of fun and enticing activities taking place on 14 June including free organic mini breakfasts, cookery demos, talks from chefs and bloggers, free organic tastings and opportunities to meet local producers.

Organic farming works with the environment as it uses fewer pesticides. It’s a way of farming that protects and encourages wildlife whilst looking after the health of the soil. Organic standards insist that animals are given plenty of space and fresh air to thrive and grow more naturally.

It is hoped that the campaign will encourage more people to try organic and demonstrate just how simple it can be to make the switch to organic. From Edinburgh to Manchester, Norwich, London and Bristol there’ll be lots of chances to try a delicious organic breakfast.

To find out more, visit www.wakeuptoorganic.co.uk and share your favourite organic breakfast recipe on social media with #WakeUpToOrganic.

Ditch the plastic

This month, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is asking people to give up single-use plastics for a whole month as part of its annual Plastic Challenge. The challenge involves saying goodbye to conveniences like pre-packed sandwiches, ready meals and plastic-bottled drinks.

MCS says the amount of plastic litter on our beaches has increased by 180 per cent in the last 20 years and has become a massive threat to marine wildlife. Plastic bags, bottles and tiny plastic pieces are regularly found in the stomachs of turtles and other sea creatures, and in some cases have caused their death from starvation or choking.

Simon Reeve, TV presenter and ambassador for the challenge, says: “Our planet is becoming poisoned by plastic. The vast amount in our oceans has become an environmental emergency as a direct result of our throwaway society. Don’t just get depressed about plastic – stop using it!” Register to take part in the Plastic Challenge at www.mcsuk.org/plasticchallenge

Enjoy a green BBQ

Summer nights are perfect for barbecues, so make sure that yours is as environmentally friendly as possible. Go for charcoal as it is the most carbon neutral option. Always use good quality, British lump charcoal which is free from additives, by-products and chemical fillers.

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