Severe vitamin D deficiency found in UK’s ethnic minorities

More than 50 per cent of the UK’s Asian population is severely deficient in vitamin D, while over a third of Black Africans living in Britain have high levels of vitamin D deficiency, a new study has revealed.

The study was led by the Australian Centre for Precision Health, University of South Australia, using data from 440,581 UK Biobank participants, and the findings were published in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

First author, UniSA PhD student Joshua Sutherland, said: “The reason that people with darker skin are more at risk is because higher levels of melanin, which increases skin pigmentation, can lessen the skin’s ability to make vitamin D. But this, combined with spending more time indoors and consuming lower vitamin D-containing foods, can foster severe deficiency.”

Nearly one third of study participants living in Edinburgh and Glasgow recorded low vitamin D levels in winter, while southern UK residents, from comparatively higher socio-economic regions, had less winter deficiency and were also more likely to take vitamin D supplements and eat more oily fish.

The lead study author, Professor Elina Hypponen, said: “The severity of vitamin D deficiency is concerning, especially with the high rates of Covid-19 infections in Europe and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere this winter. Clinical trials have shown that vitamin D supplements are beneficial in the prevention of respiratory infections and even mortality. Given the Covid-19 pandemic, now is really the time for all who may be affected to take action.”

Regular and intermittent smoking reduces brain power

People who smoke cigarettes occasional for social reasons run a similar risk of reducing their grey matter volume compared to regular smokers, a new study shows.

The research was carried out by scientists from the University of Roehampton, the Combined Universities Brain Imaging Centre, London, and King’s College London. The study involved 85 participants including 41 non-smokers, 24 intermittent smokers and 20 daily smokers, all of whom were examined using MRI brain scanners. The findings showed that both regular and intermittent smokers showed a reduction in volume and concentrations of important chemicals such as glutamate, in the prefrontal cortex area of the brain. It is believed that these changes in brain volume and function are caused predominantly by the nicotine in tobacco, but may also be due to the multitude of harmful chemicals that are also added to cigarettes by manufacturers. The research was published in the journal Addiction Biology.

Quality over quantity

Sleep quality, rather than sleep quantity, is the strongest predictor of mental health and wellbeing in young adults, New Zealand researchers have revealed.

The University of Otago study, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, surveyed more than 1,100 young adults from New Zealand and the United States about their sleep, physical activity, diet and mental health.

Along with quality sleep, exercising, and eating more raw fruits and vegetables – in that order – were three modifiable behaviours which correlated with better mental health and wellbeing in young adults. Depressive symptoms were lowest for young adults who slept for 9.7 hours per night, and feelings of wellbeing were highest for those who slept for eight hours per night. Wellbeing was highest for young adults who ate 4.8 servings of raw fruit and vegetables per day; those who ate less than two servings, and also more than eight servings, reported lower feelings of wellbeing.

Lead author Shay-Ruby Wickham said: “This is surprising because sleep recommendations predominantly focus on quantity rather than quality. While we did see that both too little sleep – less than eight hours – and too much sleep – more than 12 hours – were associated with higher depressive symptoms and lower wellbeing, sleep quality significantly outranked sleep quantity in predicting mental health and wellbeing. This suggests that sleep quality should be promoted alongside sleep quantity as tools for improving mental health and wellbeing within young adults.”

Super social sharer winners

In the September and October issues of Your Healthy Living we ran a brand new social media competition called the Super Social Sharer. This gave you our readers the chance to get creative and tell us which health products you love the most through either filming a fun video, taking a quirky and creative image or writing a glowing review. The prizes up for grabs included:

  • A weekend yoga and spa retreat for two at Green Farm Spa and Retreats in Kent worth £1,000.
  • Three online health coaching consultations with holistic lifestyle coach Holly Zoccolan worth £267.
  • Five online personal training sessions with personal trainer Anna Cousins worth £175.

We were delighted with the number of entries and the range of creative ideas you came up with! Now, we can reveal our winners and runners-up:

Read the full story here...

Hope for those with Parkinson’s Disease

New research has shown that a cognitive-training app is helping to improve the lives of those with Parkinson’s Disease. The research, carried out at Radboud University Medical Center and Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, revealed that patients who used the MyCognition app regularly for 24 weeks reversed the decline in their global cognition – that is their memory, their ability to concentrate, make decisions and learn new things. This was when compared to a controlled group of patients in a similar condition who didn’t use the app. For more information, visit

Veggie and vegan inspiration

This January many people will be trying out a plant-based diet as part of the Veganuary pledge. If you want to give it a try, but need some motivation and inspiration, why not take a look at VeggieVision TV? This internet TV station is a great resource for vegan and vegetarian cookery ideas, recipe inspiration as well as interviews with celebrity vegans and vegan experts. There are plenty of TV channels to keep you entertained and inspired, from cookery to health and beauty, food and drink, entertainment and news.

Find out more at VeggieVision.TV

An avocado a day could keep gut problems at bay

A new study from the University of Illinois has shown that consuming avocados on a daily basis can help to improve the health of your gut.

“We know eating avocados helps you feel full and reduces blood cholesterol concentration, but we did not know how it influences the gut microbes, and the metabolites the microbes produce,” said Sharon Thompson, graduate student in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at U of I and lead author on the paper, which was published in the Journal of Nutrition.

The research team discovered that individuals who ate avocado on a daily basis had greater amounts of gut microbes that break down fibre and produce metabolites that support gut health. They also had greater microbial diversity compared to those who did not eat avocado every day.

Thompson added: “Avocado consumption reduced bile acids and increased short chain fatty acids. These changes correlate with beneficial health outcomes.”

Avocado is an energy-dense food, but it is also nutrient-dense, and it contains important micronutrients such as potassium and fibre.

Hannah Holscher, assistant professor of nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at U of I and senior author of the study said: “We can’t break down dietary fibres, but certain gut microbes can. When we consume dietary fibre, it’s a win-win for gut microbes and for us. Just like we think about heart-healthy meals, we need to also be thinking about gut healthy meals and how to feed the microbiota.”

Lockdown eating patterns revealed

A new study has shed light on Britain’s healthy eating habits during the first and second lockdowns. The study, conducted by health and wellness app Lifesum, analysed the eating habits of 10,000 people across the UK. The findings revealed that during the first lockdown those surveyed ate more fruit, nuts and vegetables, while their intake of ready meals, snacks and desserts decreased. As lockdown lifted, intake of fruit, nuts and vegetables decreased, while those studied craved more snacks and ready meals. Interestingly, when faced with lockdown two, the pattern was repeated, with participants eating more fruit, nuts and vegetables, and decreasing their intake of ready meals, snacks and desserts.

“In 2020 a classic ‘yo-yo’ eating pattern emerged in real-time,” says Lifesum nutritionist, Signe Svanfeldt. “During lockdown Brits ate healthier, then craved self-soothing, sugary foods as it lifted - a natural reward response to the heightened anxiety caused by the pandemic – and, possibly, due to cooking and cleaning fatigue.”

In praise of the elderberry

Ethical vitamin company Viridian Nutrition has named elderberry as its Ingredient of the Year 2021. Native to Europe and scientifically known as Sambucus nigra, these berries from the black elder tree have a long history of use as a traditional remedy. Elderberry is rich in oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) which have been shown to provide therapeutic benefits in research.

Viridian’s Direction of Nutrition, Aimee Benbow, said: “Elderberry is a fascinating nutrient-rich ingredient which has gained considerable attention and featured in many clinical trials demonstrating its health properties. Our NPD team have been following the studies with huge interest. We strongly believe elderberry will continue to gain prominence in the nutrition and health field.”

Viridian has launched a new Ingredient of the Year logo and will be championing the beneficial properties of elderberries over the coming 12 months.

CNM pioneers online natural health diploma courses

Responding to the current worldwide health challenges, the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM) is now offering online its internationally recognised diploma and short courses to overwhelming positive response from the public.

CNM graduates and students know:

  • that a healthy and robust body can resist infections better and return to health faster
  • that a strong immune system is important
  • how to boost the immune system naturally

Read the full story here...

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