Smorgasbord Health Column – Food Therapy – Salmon – Omega 3 on a Plate


As a follow on from the recent series on the Weekly Grocery Shopping List of foods that contain the nutrients the body needs that contain the nutrients the body needs I am going to repeat my series from 2017 on the health benefits of some of our most common foods.

Food therapy is a broad term for the benefits to the body of a healthy, varied and nutritional diet of fresh foods.

Most of us walk through the fresh produce departments of our supermarkets without really paying much attention to the individual fruits and vegetables. This is a great pity because the vast majority of these foods have been cultivated for thousands of years, not only for their nutritional value but also for their medicinal properties. If you eat a healthy diet you are effectively practicing preventative medicine. A robust immune system, not only attacks external opportunistic pathogens, but also works to prevent rogue cells in the body from developing into serious disease.

NOTE – If you are on any prescribed medication do not take yourself off it without consultation with your doctor. If you follow a healthy eating programme and lose weight and are exercising you may not need the same dose and with your doctor’s agreement you may be able to reduce or come off the medication all together.

Much of the salmon available today comes from fisheries and conditions and feed of these farmed fish have improved through regulation in recent years. However, I am not convinced by the publicity and prefer to eat fish that has been caught in the ocean and to me there is definitely a difference in the taste of this salmon. You can buy ocean caught fish frozen or fresh depending on where you live and for me the freshest is fish that has been caught and frozen whilst the trawlers are still at sea.

There is always some concern about the levels of mercury in fish and studies indicate that ocean caught salmon from the northern seas and rivers have levels that are considered to be low and safe for more regular consumption.

Salmon has been on my ‘must eat’ list for a long time and in this day and age, when obesity and heart disease are becoming the top causes of premature death, then including it in your diet regularly is very important.

There are a number of health issues apart from heart function that eating salmon benefits including weight loss, bone health, a healthy immune system and brain health. The nutrients in this important source of protein are also helpful in preventing cancer and diabetes.

salmonI will begin with Omega 3, which is abundant in fatty fish such as Salmon.

Omega-3 (Linolenic Acid) is the principal Omega-3 fatty acid and is used in the formation of cell walls, improving circulation and oxygen. It is important that your overall cholesterol is kept to a normal level but it is equally important to ensure that the balance between the LDL (lousy cholesterol) and the HDL (healthy cholesterol) is maintained with a lower LDL to HDL ratio.

Omega 3 appears to maintain that correct balance. LDL (low density lipoprotein) has smaller particles than the higher density lipoprotein and when oxidised becomes dangerous. Because it is smaller it is able to clump and attach to the walls of the arteries and cause a dangerous narrowing. Pieces can also break off and travel in the bloodstream to major organs like the brain and the heart. An added bonus in eating salmon muscle is that it contains peptides that may also lower blood pressure.

One trial in New Zealand measured adults with a high cholesterol level over a 4-week period. They consumed 3g of salmon oil per day and after the 4 weeks they showed an increase of HDL and a decrease in LDL levels. Lowering both cholesterol and blood pressure levels certainly contributes to a healthy heart.

Omega 3 is linked to brain health in a number of ways. The brain contains a large amount of fat especially Omega 3 fatty acids in particular DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). In studies DHA levels determined levels of brain activity and cognitive function and is thought to be essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in babies. This ability is not limited to young humans as it is vital that this brain activity and function is maintained into old age. Including Omega 3 fatty acids in our diet therefore may well decrease our risk of developing degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Carrying additional weight can certainly contribute to strain on the heart muscle and the salmon has a rather unusual property that whilst yet unproven may help in weight loss.

There is a protein that is released when we begin to eat called amylin. This protein travels to the brain where it is measured and the brain then decides when we have eaten sufficient food and should stop eating. Unfortunately we have got very adept at overriding this message from the brain and consequently we tend to eat more than we actually need leading to weight gain.

The salmon produces a hormone called calcitonin, which has the same effect on animals as amylin does in humans. There is no conclusive proof but it is felt that this hormone when eaten might result in us consuming less food.

The other possible weight loss property of salmon is Chondroiton sulphate. Chondroiton is often used in conjunction with Glucosamine as a joint repair preparation but in this case the Chondroiton which is found in the nose of the salmon appears to have fat blocking capabilities. It appears to work in two ways by reducing the amount of fat absorbed into the intestines and then preventing any fat that has been absorbed from being stored in the cells. This will require a great deal more research but could be an interesting property in the fight against obesity.

As we get older the risk of bone fractures increases with many women particularly suffering from hip joint disease after menopause. Omega 3 may be instrumental in decreasing bone loss and therefore osteoporosis.

Our immune system is working ceaselessly against the constant onslaught of bacteria and viruses and on the whole if we have a healthy diet containing plenty of antioxidant rich foods our defence system keeps us safe. However, from time to time something slips through and then we need to know that all the complex mechanisms of the immune system are functioning perfectly.

Salmon is high in selenium,which is avery important trace mineral that activates an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which may help protect the body from cancer. It is vital for immune system function and may help prevent prostate cancerin particular.

Overall, the salmon contains many nutrients in the flesh and also in parts of the fish such as bone that is often included in canned fish. It is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, iron, iodine, manganese, copper, phosphorus and zinc, some of which are of particular benefit for the cardiovascular system and the heart.

Apart from its role in the formation of teeth and bones, calcium is also required for blood clotting, transmission of signals in nerve cells and muscle contractions. There is some indication that higher calcium intake protects against cardiovascular disease particularly in women.

The main function of iron is in haemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying component of blood. When someone is iron deficient, they suffer extreme fatigue because they are being starved of oxygen and the major organs of the body such as the heart become deprived of this life essential element.

Salmon is very versatile and provided it is from a healthy source and not from poorly maintained fish farms it can be eaten two to three times a week served hot or cold with plenty of fresh vegetables and salads. It is particularly delicious served chilled with a spinach salad and new potatoes.

You can also eat canned ocean caught salmon and this is particular good if you eat the soften bones that tend to come with it – if you find this unappealing simply mash the salmon and bone together with a fork and use on salads.

For some delicious recipes that will encourage you to include more salmon in your diet.. please head over to an earlier post where Carol Taylor shares some of her favourite dishes: Cook from Scratch – Salmon

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Health Column – Cook from Scratch to prevent nutritional deficiencies with Sally Cronin and Carol Taylor – #Minerals – Calcium


In this series we look at cooking and your diet from a different perspective. Usually we emphasize the health benefits of food and how they can be incorporated into your diet. But, what happens if you do NOT include them in your diet.

We now pick up the series after the summer with the minerals that are essential to our health.

We wanted to share with you what happens if your body is deprived of individual nutrients over an extended period of time.

Thankfully most of us eat reasonably well, with plenty of variety, but if you take a look at a week’s worth of meals, do you find that you are sticking to a handful of foods, all the time.

Variety is key to good health, to provide your body with as broad a spectrum of nutrients as possible that the body needs. Taking a supplement or relying on shakes and bars to provide your daily allowance of vitamins and nutrients is not in your body’s best interest. Giving it foods that the body can process and extract everything it needs is vital.

Over the next few weeks we are going to be working our way through the most essential of these nutrients and I will share the symptoms that you might experience if you are becoming deficient in the vitamin or mineral and list the foods where you can find the nutrient.

Carol Taylor is then going to provide you with some wonderful recipes that make best use of these foods… Cooked from Scratch.

Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body

Calcium is the most abundant and essential mineral in the body. There are about two or three pounds of calcium, which is mainly found in the teeth and the bones. Apart from the more obvious role in their formation it is also essential for the efficient functioning of many essential systems in the body.

There is also some evidence to suggest that women cannot absorb calcium prior to menstruating and that there may be an accumulative deficiency that contributes to PMS and menopause symptoms and also degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis. Certainly women who take in additional calcium have reported a reduction in those symptoms.

Our bones are not static and are constantly being broken down and formed. They are a living tissue made primarily from collagen which forms the framework whilst the calcium hardens the structure. After 40 years old more of the bone is broken down and less is manufactured; which is why it is important to make sure that you are consuming the right balance of dietary calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Other vitamins such as D and K and minerals are involved in the structure of bone and those have been covered in other posts

There are a surprising number of symptoms associated with a deficiency in calcium and here are the key ones to look out for:

  • Frequent feeling of dizziness leading to fainting
  • Chest pains (can lead to heart failure)
  • Numbness or tingling in fingers and toes
  • Frequent muscle cramps in legs particularly.
  • Difficulty swallowing,
  • Shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Very dry skin
  • Consistent tooth decay
  • Eye problems leading to cataracts
  • Muscle weakness
  • Reduced bone density (osteoporosis)

Word of warning about supplementation

If you are at risk from kidney stones you need to be careful about taking in calcium supplements and this also applies when taking in additional dietary calcium in the form of dairy products if you are suffering from prostate cancer. One of the reasons for this is that excess calcium depletes the body of Vitamin D, which is essential for our immune systems and may also protect against prostate cancer.

If you are supplementing choose a formula that includes Calcium and Vitamin D to aid absorption. As it is rare for a complete deficiency of calcium in our western culture it is important to ask the advice of a qualified sales person in the health store or the pharmacist. Keep a food diary for a week and take with you so that they can see what you are currently consuming.

Calcium is one of the nutrients that works more efficiently in conjunction with others including Magnesium for better absorption.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/smorgasbord-health-column-nutrients-that-need-others-to-be-evitamin-c-d-k-calcium-and-magnesiumfficiently-absorbed-by-the-body/

The best dietary sources of calcium are through eating moderate amounts of dairy products such as milk, cheese and butter. If you find that cow’s milk does not agree with you then try goat’s milk products from time to time as the different antibody does not usually cause an intolerance.

Eat fish such as sardines and canned salmon with the bones, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, watercress (more calcium than milk) and soy products such as tofu.You will also find good amounts in dried apricots, figs, kiwi fruit and oranges.

 

Time to hand you over to Carol Taylor who has been creating dishes that include ingredients that are great sources of Calcium.

Today marks the start of the next Cook from scratch to avoid deficiency of minerals in the body we begin with – Calcium…the most abundant and essential mineral in the body.

I am happy to be working with Sally on this…she is the expert on everything to do with Calcium… I have great fun researching and trying out the recipes on my ever happy band of guinea pigs…haha…They are my harshest critics trust me…They do not consider my feelings what so ever if it is not good I get told… I also get suggestions on how I can improve the said recipe…But that is good…I like that as that is the only way to get a better dish…I trust their judgement as they know food and always…well, nearly… offer what I consider good alternatives or additions to a dish…My role was to teach them and I consider it a job well done…

This first dish is a pasta one as although pasta is not a particular favourite with me… I prefer rice…My taste testers love pasta dishes and I know many of you do…

Pasta with spinach pesto and sardines…

Ingredients:

• ½ lb spaghetti…I used bows
• 15 cherry tomatoes
• 2 tbsp capers
• ½ cup pesto (see below)
• 1 can pacific caught wild sardines in olive oil…
• Fresh ground black pepper to taste
• Parmesan or crumbled feta for topping.
• Pesto
• 4 cloves garlic
• Zest and juice from 1 lemon
• 4 cups greens (I used 3 cups spinach and 1 cup basil)
• ½ cup walnuts or almonds
• 1 cup grated parmesan
• 1 tsp salt
• ¾ cup olive oil

Let’s Cook

  1. Using the back of your knife crush the garlic…The peel should come right off.
  2. Add all ingredients except olive oil and cheese in your food processor. Puree while drizzling olive oil in. The consistency should be slightly chunky, but the garlic shouldn’t be in large pieces.
  3. Once you get that right consistency, add the Parmesan and pulse until combined.
  4. Reserve ½ cup pesto for the pasta and freeze remaining or store in the fridge if you plan on using it within a week on say eggs, pizza or salmon…Salmon and pesto is one of my favourites and so quick to do…
  5. The next step is to cook the Pasta, bring large pot of water to boil with about 1 tsp of salt.
  6. While waiting for the water to come to the boil…slice tomatoes in half lengthwise. Slice extra if you ate some like I did….Cooks perks…haha…either that or my smallest tester is pinching one or two as I slice…
  7. Add pasta to boiling water and stir so it doesn’t stick. Cover pot and bring water back to a boil then remove the lid.
  8. Cook pasta until al dente, about 5-7 minutes. It should still have a little bite to it since it will cook more with the pesto. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of pasta water. The starchy pasta water along with the pesto will create a nice saucy coating on the spaghetti.
  9. Drain pasta, but do not rinse. Rinsing cools the pasta and prevents it from absorbing the sauce.
  10. Return the pot to a medium heat and add 2 tbsp olive oil.
  11. Add sardines and break up with spoon or tongs.
  12. Add about half of the pesto and then add the pasta. Stir until coated and drizzle in ¼ cup of the cooking water.
  13. Add the remaining pesto and drizzle in ¼ cup more water. Toss until well coated and pesto and water have created a sauce. If needed, add more pasta water.
  14. Toss in tomatoes and capers right before serving. Serve with parmesan cheese or crumbled feta which I did…

Enjoy!

My second dish is a dish which I have been craving for a long time and just never got around to making it…When I got to thinking about foods which contain Calcium like milk, cheese and butter…I got to thinking about rice pudding again…I love a baked rice budding with nutmeg which is how my mum always made it…The skin we would fight over as we all wanted the lions share…haha…

I am also very lucky to be able to get fresh goats milk so Rice Pudding it is with just a few tweaks…

Baked Rice Pudding…

Ingredients:

• 750 ml of goats milk
• 100 gm pudding rice
• 75 gm sugar
• 25 gm grass fed butter
• Grated Orange zest..reserve some for decoration
• Grated nutmeg

Let’s Bake…

First wash and drain the rice then grease a 1.5 litre oven proof dish with all the butter.

Stir together the rice, milk, sugar and orange zest leaving some for decoration when serving.

Pour the mixture into your greased oven proof dish and sprinkle the top with the grated nutmeg and just smell that aroma it is one of the best smells I adore nutmeg…

Bake the pudding at 150C/ Gas mk 2 for approx 2 hrs depending on your oven. Stir the pudding gently after about 20 minutes then cook until the rice is thick and creamy and the top golden brown.

My thanks to Carol for these two recipes that will bring calcium into your diet and for reminding me about homemade rice pudding… on the list.

 

About Carol Taylor

Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.

I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.

Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology:  https://www.amazon.com/Phuket-Island-Writers-Anthology-Stories-ebook/dp/B00RU5IYNS

You can find out more about Carol and catch up with her Food and Cookery Column HERE

Connect to Carol via her blog and enjoy posts on healthy eating, conservation, waste management, travel and amazing recipes: https://carolcooks2.com/

My thanks to Carol for all her efforts to bring great cookery and healthy options into our diets and I know she would love your feedback. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Health Column – Nutrients that need others to be efficiently absorbed by the body. Vitamin C, D, K , Calcium and Magnesium


The health supplement industry is worth billions of dollars and pounds annually. However, there is a danger that we will turn to the magic of pills or sprays to provide us with the nutrients that should be provided by foods as we restrict our diets in line with the latest official edicts.

The reality is that your body absorbs the nutrients that it requires from food, because over the last few hundred thousand years, that is how we have evolved. Not just humans but every animal across the millions of species, has also evolved that way. Which is why, however enriched a dry dog or cat food might be, it can never take the place of real meat, fish, fowl and some plants that animals would consume in the wild.

Put aside the fact for a moment that we are intelligent human beings, and look at your body as a fine example of thousands of years of fine tuning. Part of our problem with health and obesity is that we have gone from foraging and hunting and being opportunistic eaters, to being able to walk into a supermarket and pick stuff off the shelves all year around.

The body requires a wide range of nutrients to obtain what it needs, and up until the food industry began importing foreign produce and canning foods, we would have eaten seasonally. Do you get into May or June and start to crave crisp salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber and spring onions? Do you get to October and suddenly want to dive into root vegetable stews and soups and mashed swede or parsnips with a pudding of berries on porridge? That is your ancestral instinct for seasonal foods.

Now that we can pick and choose our food to buy rather than gather… it does mean that sometimes we are not getting the right combination of nutrients together to be effective. Some nutrients require other vitamins or minerals to be absorbed by the body and this applies not only to the food that we consume but any supplements that we take.

Let me give you some examples.

You will usually see calcium supplements sold as either Calcium and Magnesium or Calcium and Vitamin D3.

CALCIUM: The most abundant and essential mineral in the body. There are approximately two to three pounds mainly found in the teeth and bones. Apart from its role in the formation of teeth and bones it is also required for blood clotting, transmission of signals in nerve cells and muscle contractions. There is some indication that higher dietary calcium intake protects against cardiovascular disease particularly in women. If you are at risk of kidney stones consult your doctor before taking in additional calcium supplements. This also applies if you are suffering from prostate cancer where there may be a link between increased levels of dietary calcium in dairy products and this form of cancer. It is thought it is thought that excess calcium causes lower levels of Vitamin D, which helps protect against prostate cancer.

 

The best dietary sources are dairy (moderate intake) milk (semi-skimmed is good), yogurt, cheese such as Feta and cottage cheese sardines, canned salmon (the bones), green leafy vegetables such as watercress, broccoli, kale and spinach; soy products such as tofu and nuts such as almonds. Figs and oranges, fortified oats and other cereals, almond or rice milk and even tinned baked beans.

Although an excess of dietary calcium is indicated as lowering levels of Vitamin D it actually requires Vitamin D to be absorbed efficiently from the stomach and for the various calcium functions within the body. Which means that you would need to increase foods that contain Vitamin D or obtain adequate amounts of sunshine to allow your body to produce effectively to help boost your immune system and to prevent diseases such as prostate cancer.

VITAMIN D: CHOLECALCIFEROL; Essential for maintaining blood levels of calcium by increasing absorption from food and decreasing loss from urine. This maintains a balance preventing calcium from being removed from the stores in the bones. It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system and blood cell formation. It may protect against prostate cancer. It is needed for adequate levels of insulin and may protect the body from Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes.

Why Vitamin D is essential for healthy bone density

A network of collagen fibres forms the base of bone and they are then overlaid with minerals. The strength of the finished bone is dependent on the amount of mineralisation that takes place. Osteoclasts will remove old bone when needed and this results in a need to produce new collagen matrix to attract new minerals for the repair process.

Here is an example of healthy bone.

normal-bone-micrograph

Vitamin D is essential to ensure that sufficient calcium and phosphorus is attracted to the new matrix and that strong new bone is produced. It begins its work in the intestines where your food is processed and assists in the absorption of calcium. If you are deficient in Vitamin D the bone becomes calcium depleted (osteomalacia) increasing your risk of fractures.

Unfortunately, if you are deficient in this vitamin more bone is discarded than replaced leading to soft and malformed bones.

osteoporotic-bone-micrograph

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is mainly synthesised by the body during exposure to sunlight although it is also found in Cod liver oil, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and free-range eggs. It is also added to fortify milk and cereals including in bread. 

As you can see from the above calcium and Vitamin D work together.

However, during the winter months when sunlight is restricted there is a danger that the relationship will become one sided with the constant intake of calcium in everyday foods but a decrease in available vitamin D.

If you cannot get enough Vitamin D through the winter months from eating an increase in oily fish or eggs, then you can opt to take a Vitamin D3 supplement. For example I take it in a spray form that is absorbed quickly into the body through my cheek membranes..

But taking a Vitamin D3 supplement adds another wrinkle.

To activate the D3 supplement and to prevent the calcium build up in the bloodstream, you need to make sure that you have adequate intake of both magnesium and Vitamin K2.

MAGNESIUM: It is essential mineral needed for bone, protein and fatty acid formation, forming new cells, activating the B vitamins, relaxing muscles, clotting blood and forming ATP the fuel the body runs on. The secretion and action of insulin also needs magnesium. It is needed to balance calcium in the body and too much can result in very low levels of calcium.

The best food sources are whole grains such as brown rice and oats, almonds, bananas, beans, pumpkinseeds and sesame seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables such as spinach and kale, Brussel Sprouts, mushrooms, egg yolks soybeans and fish. Chicken, lamb and turkey, white fish and tuna.

VITAMIN K: PHYLLOQUINONE; Necessary for proper bone formation and blood clotting, and has been largely ignored until relatively recently, as not just necessary, but essential for bone health and cardiovascular health because of its working relationship with calcium.

The vitamin is fat-soluble and is stored in the liver. Studies indicate that approximately 50% of the stores come from our diet and the balance from bacteria in the intestines. We need healthy bile production for efficient absorption of Vitamin K and our lymphatic system circulates it throughout the body.

Vitamin K1 is mainly found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and dark lettuce, raw cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, and olive oil. It is also produced by the body from bacteria in the intestines.

There are two forms of of the Vitamin and K2 (MENAQUINONE) and since the focus on Vitamin K has always been on blood clotting, it is only recently that the significance of inadequate amounts of K2 has been identified.

Without adequate K2 in relation to Vitamin D (particularly as a supplement) there is an over absorption of calcium leading to deposits in the arteries and heart disease.

Therefore K2 is essential to help maintain the calcium in our bones and prevent it leaching into the bloodstream; resulting in not only harmful calcium deposits but also osteoporosis.

 

Best food sources for K2 are in organ meats such as liver, egg yolks and  butter, milk, cheese such as Brie and Gouda and fermented foods such as Sauerkraut etc. (Fermented foods help maintain a balance of healthy bacteria in the gut and as Vitamin K is also produced in the gut it is a great addition to your diet)

In Summary:

To ensure that you maintain the correct balance of calcium, magnesium, Vitamin D and Vitamin K2 you need to combine foods during the day that provide you with adequate amounts of each.

As you have seen from the food sources there are some that handily combine one or more of the nutrients. If you were to compile your breakfast, lunch and evening meal with a component or a joint component from each of these food selections, you would be going a long way to achieving adequate intake of them all. This will help to prevent some of the age related diseases such as heart disease.

Calcium

The best dietary sources are dairy (moderate intake) milk (semi-skimmed is good), yogurt, cheese such as Feta and cottage cheese sardines, canned salmon (the bones), green leafy vegetables such as watercress, broccoli, kale and spinach; soy products such as tofu and nuts such as almonds. Figs and oranges, fortified oats and other cereals, almond or rice milk and even tinned baked beans.

Vitamin D

It is a fat-soluble vitamin and is mainly synthesised by the body during exposure to sunlight although it is also found in Cod liver oil, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and free-range eggs. It is also added to fortify milk and cereals including in bread.

Magnesium

The best food sources are whole grains such as brown rice and oats, almonds, bananas, beans, pumpkinseeds and sesame seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables such as spinach and kale, Brussel Sprouts, mushrooms, egg yolks soybeans and fish. Chicken, lamb and turkey, white fish and tuna.

Vitamin K2 in varing forms such as MK-4 and MK-7 which are just as effective.

Best food sources are in organ meats such as liver, chicken, pork, duck, herrings, egg yolks and  butter, milk, cheese and fermented foods such as Sauerkraut etc. (Fermented foods help maintain a balance of healthy bacteria in the gut and as Vitamin K is also produced in the gut it is a great addition to your diet)

Here are some ideas and you can mix and match from each of the groups to vary your meals.

Breakfast – A bowl of porridge with semi-skimmed milk and a chopped banana. Glass of fortified orange juice.

Snack – Handful of pumpkin seeds.

Lunch – A two egg omelette made with milk, cheese and spinach, served with a spinach, tomato and avocado salad and a slice of wholegrain bread and butter.

Snack – An orange

Dinner – Roast pork with broccoli, brown rice, carrots and a dessertspoon of sauerkraut or other pickled vegetables. Followed by a yoghurt with chopped dried apricots.

If you are taking these nutrients in supplement form.

If you are taking a Calcium and D3 supplement, then I suggest that you look at changing to a Calcium and Magnesium combined supplement, and during the winter months particularly when sunlight is in short supply, a Vitamin D3 and a separate K2 supplement.

You might find these posts of interest .

The progression of Osteoporosis over 50.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/05/16/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe-the-skeleton-the-progresson-of-osteoporosis-over-50-2/

A brief overview of the nutrients we need and the foods that supply them.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/nutrient-directory-a-brief-overview-of-the-nutrients-we-need-and-the-foods-that-supply-them/

 

A bit about my nutritional background.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook fromhttp://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally

 

 

 

 

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – The Soda Stream worth 125 billion dollars a year at the cost of your health


 

We have all drunk them – I remember when I dieted many years ago you immediately reached for the ‘light’ versions and you even have ‘zero’s’ now.  Go to a fast food establishment and you can have a bucket full of it and even a refill!  As you will see, we were aware of the dangers of drinking too many fizzy drinks 40 years ago, but you have got to give the manufacturers their credit they can spin on a dime – or is that $125billion per year.

The estimated consumption of fizzy drinks around the world is 50billion units a day!

There is little doubt that drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health in many respects. Your liver, brain and immune system come under immense pressure when they have to deal with excessive amounts and the long term effect on health is measureable. However, these days, the alternatives that are on every shelf of the supermarket and in bars and restaurants, should not be the first thing you turn to when moderating your alcohol consumption.

The worst offenders are the carbonated drinks. Fruit juices without added sugars and additives mixed with mineral water or undiluted are fine in moderation. They too are high in fruit acids that can cause some tooth damage if you do not clean your teeth at least twice a day, particularly at night.

It is the processed canned and bottled fizzy drinks that really do have some harmful effects on not only the teeth but also our operational systems in the body and structural health of skin and bones.

Do people really drink that much fizz?

The American Soft Drink Association was proud to say a few years ago that the average American consumes over 600, 12oz servings per year. Children are consuming many more fizzy drinks than adults and they estimate that the average teenager drinks an average of 160 gallons of soft drinks per year until their late 20’s. What is more horrifying for me is that they also reckon that teenagers get as much as 10% of their daily calorie intake from fizzy drinks. As I mentioned earlier, the estimated number of units consumed world wide on a daily basis is 50billion.

Children and teenagers are still growing and need a huge amount of nutrients to build healthy bone and other body tissues. It is not just that these fizzy drinks are nutritionally sterile; they contain several harmful ingredients that can have long term effects on your health.

What sort of effects are we talking about?

Scientific studies have shown that as little as one or two soft drinks a day can increase your risk of developing a number of medical problems such as obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, osteoporosis, nutritional deficiencies, heart disease and neurological problems.

Most of the calories in soft drinks are in the form of refined sugars or artificial sugars and they have absolutely no other nutritional content. In one study by Dr. Charles Best who discovered insulin by the way, it was shown that teenagers who drink too many soft drinks could develop cirrhosis of the liver, something we normally associate with chronic alcoholism.

There is no cure for cirrhosis except for a liver transplant.

A very common problem when you drink too many soft drinks is the increased acid levels throughout the body. The worst offenders are Coke and Pepsi. It takes over 30 glasses of high alkaline water to neutralise one glass of Coke. That is 24 more glasses per day than I recommend on the healthy eating plan and many people felt that they could not drink those.

How harmful are the sugars in soft drinks and what are the most common effects?

Caries or cavities in the dental enamel are caused by demineralisation of the calcium in them. Bacteria such as Streptococci, Lactobacillus and Actinomyces form dental plaque that clumps together and adheres to the teeth. Acid is produced and the low pH level that results draws the calcium out of the teeth.

All bacteria thrive in an acidic environment. Drinking lots of soft drinks full of sugars and sugar alternatives provides the perfect environment for them leading to increased damage to the teeth. Our saliva contains calcium, fluoride and phosphate naturally, that would normally remineralise our teeth, but if you are constantly taking in the more acidic soft drinks, demineralisation occurs more frequently than the saliva can cope with.

This ability to corrode our teeth is not a new discovery. I trained as a dental nurse back in 1969 and the dentist I worked for wanted to discourage a young boy of 11 or 12 to stop drinking so much cola as it was causing lots of cavities. He had to extract a tooth and he told the boy to come back the next day. We left the tooth in some coke overnight and the next morning only half the tooth was still there. That was over 40 years ago! Amazing that the formula still contains additives that can cause harm to teeth – why is that do you think? Perhaps down to the amount of tax that certain soft drink manufacturers pay around the world!

Does the acid in fizzy drink have a specific effect on any part of the body?

When you introduce the acid in fizzy drinks to your stomach acid it immediately increases the levels of acid dramatically. It causes an inflammation of the stomach and erosion of the stomach lining, which results in very severe stomach aches. Part of the problem is the combination of caffeine and acids in soft drinks, which include acetic, fumaric, gluconic and phosphoric acids. The effect of these acids is so strong that plumbers will often use a soft drink to unclog a drain or it can be used for example to dissolve corrosion on car batteries.

The stomach maintains a very delicate acid/alkaline balance to enable your food to be digested and then metabolised efficiently. You can see now that by just having one or two soft drinks that this balance is disrupted but in the quantities that most people drink them, there is the distinct possibility of severe damage.

Eventually with constant increased acidity levels there will be erosion of the gastric lining, the phosphorous which is found in high levels in soft drinks will effectively neutralise the hydrochloric acid in the stomach acid, making the digestive process ineffective and this results in bloating and gas.

Carbon dioxide is produced when we consume the soft drink and this depletes the amount of oxygen in the body and some researchers are beginning to connect to this to increased risks to cancer from damaged cells.

How can consuming soft drinks contribute to osteoporosis?

The large amounts of sugar, bubbles created by carbon dioxide and the phosphoric acid remove nutritious minerals such as calcium from the bones allowing them to become weak and brittle. The increased levels of phosphorous from the acid disrupt the calcium-phosphorous ratio, which then causes the calcium to dissolve from the bone.

It is becoming more of a problem as children and teenagers substitute the milk that they used to drink in preference for a coke or Pepsi or other fizzy soft drink. Although milk is not the only source of calcium, it is essential as part of the diet of the growing body and when it is removed at an early age and substituted by this calcium depleting drink, there are long term effects. I have seen the x-rays of the bones of a 16-year-old that could have been those of an 80-year-old.

What about the caffeine that is in some drinks?

Caffeine is a mild drug; in adults too much can elevate blood pressure and cause anxiety. In young children it can cause hyperactivity as it acts a stimulant on the nervous system and they can also suffer from insomnia, anxiety, irritability and irregular heartbeats. Caffeine is addictive and this causes the drinker to want more and more of the soft drinks. It is not unusual for people to drink one can after another much like a chain smoker and cigarettes.

Pregnant women who drink excessive amounts of soft drinks with caffeine in them could possibly be increasing the risk of birth defects.

Is there anything else that causes concern in soft drinks?

Apart from the preservatives and additives I have already covered there are the colouring agents that are used. In particular your lovely dark, bubbly glass of cola did not originally start out as brown in colour. That is due to the caramel colouring caused by the chemical polyethylene glycol which is antifreeze – there are concerns that this is carcinogenic.

What can we use as substitute for canned and bottled soft drinks?

I still enjoy the occasion coke on a hot summer day, but my consumption is down to perhaps two a year from one or two a day. The acid erosion of my teeth is testament to their power of these drinks.

Part of the problem is the addictive nature of caffeinated drinks. To be honest it can be hard for adults, let alone children to give up drinking the harmful variety and you may have to try and wean yourself off them over a period of time.

Substitute drinks like Cranberry juice topped up with sparkling water or soda– Cranberry has actually been shown to help prevent the bacteria from clumping and forming plaque in the first place.

Drink still fruit juices unsweetened but make sure that you are cleaning your teeth thoroughly at the end of the day.

The simplest is to have a bottle of water to hand throughout the day and drink that every time you are thirsty. After about three days you will notice that you will have lost the craving and that the fizzy drinks actually taste far too sweet and have an after taste.

Thank you for dropping by and please feel free to share.. Sally

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Skeleton -The progresson of Osteoporosis over 50.


health column final

As we get into our middle years and with a reduction in protective hormones a lifetime of inadequate nutrition and weight bearing exercise can lead to a weakened skeleton.  As our bones become less dense we are at risk of fractures and loss of joint flexibility.

Osteoporosis is more prevalent in women than men but affects both.  Last time I covered some of the nutrients needed to ensure dense bones and a strong skeletal structure throughout our lifetime. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/05/11/the-incredible-structure-that-keeps-us-upright/  I am repeating the nutritional information at the bottom of this post.

Statistics for Osteoporosis

Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds.

Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide – approximately one-tenth of women aged 60, one-fifth of women aged 70, two-fifths of women aged 80 and two-thirds of women aged 90.

Osteoporosis affects an estimated 75 million people in Europe, USA and Japan

For the year 2000, there were an estimated 9 million new osteoporotic fractures, of which 1.6 million were at the hip, 1.7 million were at the forearm and 1.4 million were clinical vertebral fractures. Europe and the Americas accounted for 51% of all these fractures, while most of the remainder occurred in the Western Pacific region and Southeast Asia.

Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men aged over 50.

80%, 75%, 70% and 58% of forearm, humerus, hip and spine fractures, respectively, occur in women. Overall, 61% of osteoporotic fractures occur in women, with a female-to-male ratio of 1.6.

Nearly 75% of hip, spine and distal forearm fractures occur among patients 65 years old or over

A 10% loss of bone mass in the vertebrae can double the risk of vertebral fractures, and similarly, a 10% loss of bone mass in the hip can result in a 2.5 times greater risk of hip fracture

By 2050, the worldwide incidence of hip fracture in men is projected to increase by 310% and 240% in women.

The combined lifetime risk for hip, forearm and vertebral fractures coming to clinical attention is around 40%, equivalent to the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Osteoporosis takes a huge personal and economic toll. In Europe, the disability due to osteoporosis is greater than that caused by cancers (with the exception of lung cancer) and is comparable or greater than that lost to a variety of chronic non-communicable diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and high blood pressure related heart disease

  progression-of-osteoporosisThe progression of osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, as we approach middle age it is not just a few wrinkles and dodgy arteries we have to worry about.  Osteoporosis can develop in both women and men but women are at a higher risk over 50 and are four times more likely to suffer from the disease than men.

Osteoporosis is when the bones in the body thin and begin to develop small holes reducing the density. The bones also become brittle, leading to fractures. Some of these may go undetected as they can be very small. For example, if you suffer from consistent back pain, do not dismiss out of hand, as you could be experiencing very small hairline fractures in your spine. If the condition is not treated or diagnosed, these small compression fractures can cause a vertebra to collapse, a condition that is extremely painful and difficult to treat.

The progress of the disease is subtle. You reach maximum bone density in your 30’s and then your bone strength will slowly decrease naturally. Then add into the mix the reduction of both oestrogen hormones in women over 50 and the decrease in testosterone in men of a similar age, and you have a further loss of density.

Normal bone

normal-bone-micrograph

Osteoporosis affected bone.

osteoporotic-bone-micrograph

There are other risk factors to taken into account.

For both men and women, having a slight body frame and being very slim means that there is less bone to begin with.

Smoking from an early age for a lifetime will put you at higher risk.

Those suffering from certain eating disorders can show decreased bone density in their teens and 20’s due to vitamin and mineral deficiency. (I have seen a 16 year old girl’s x-ray showing the bone density of an 80 year old woman)!

There can be a family history of osteoporosis, if not mother then look to grandmothers.

If you have a history of repeated fractures then it may be that you have brittle bones and you will need to be additionally careful and under medical supervision as you move into middle age.

If you already suffer from rheumatoid arthritis you could be at a higher risk of osteoporosis.

Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to thinning of the bones.

If you have stopped exercising – especially weight bearing exercise that strengthens the bones such as walking regularly.

Last but not least is eating too restricted diet.  As we get older our appetites decrease naturally, we tend to reduce our weight bearing exercise, do not spend time outside in the sun obtaining Vitamin D, and we listen to nutritional advice which tells us to drop full fat dairy, cheese and butter from our diets!!

Diagnosis of Osteoporosis.

I believe that every woman over 55 and men over 65 should have a bone density test to discover where their bone health actually is following the reduction of the two hormones involved. The doctor will also take into account your medical history – particularly if you have had a number of fractures in the past. You should also have a urine and blood test to rule out any other reasons for bone loss and the blood test will show the levels of both oestrogen and testosterone.

A reminder of the nutrients needed to build and maintain healthy bone if you missed the first post.

As I have already mentioned in a previous blog there are certain nutrients that are essential for bone health and I gave brief notes about them. Today I am going to go into one of the most important vitamins for bone health and that is vitamin D. Also, a vitamin that gets little press but that also plays an important role in our bone health and that is Vitamin K.

There is increasing concern that vitamin D (that incidentally thinks it is a hormone) is becoming deficient, particularly in children as we see a rise in the cases of rickets.

Once you have read the notes on this vital nutrient, you can identify if perhaps you are missing it in your diet or lifestyle, and if your family might be at risk.

Vitamin D

If ever there was a reason to get out and lie or walk in the sun for 40 minutes in the mornings, getting your daily recommended dose of Vitamin D is it. In fact, 3 hours in sunlight, spread over a week, in moderate climates, without using any sunblock is sufficient to boost your levels of what is known as the sunshine vitamin. However, you may need less, or more, depending on latitude, time of day and air pollution.

It is not advisable to lie out in the heat of summer in Spain, for example, for 3 hours without protection but you will still receive beneficial amounts through sunblock of under factor-8. Most of what we require on a daily basis is produced in the skin by the action of sunlight and many of us who suffer from depression through the dark winter months are actually missing around 75% of our required daily dose of 1000 IU.

There are a number of diseases that result from a deficiency of Vitamin D and over the years, since it was identified in cod liver oil, there has been increasing research into its role in the body.

In Victorian times children with rickets or bow-legs were a common sight. You rarely see this in developed countries today, although in Southern Asia there is still a problem. In adults the condition is called osteomalacia (soft bones) and it is estimated that millions of people who suffer from unexplained bone and muscle pain actually have this condition. There has been an increase in recent years in the incidence of rickets in the western world and some of this is down to the decrease in outside activity for our children.

More of them are kept inside for safety reasons, many no longer walk to school, go outside at playtime, have football or other team sports encouraged. They sit in front of the television or computer instead of playing in the street and when they do go in the sun they are plastered in factor 30 and above.

They also have too much fizzy pop in their diets and the chemicals in these are not bone friendly. We have gone away from the free school milk and there is too much sugar in our diets which is acidic and leeches mineral from the bones.

How is Vitamin D involved in our bones?

Our bones are living tissue that grows and regenerates throughout our lifetime. It is not static and old bone is removed and replaced with new bone continuously, a process that requires that the essential elements of bone to be available from our diet and from chemical reactions in the body.

There are four main components in bone that are needed to ensure it is strong and able to repair itself on a daily basis.

  • Minerals – Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorus.
  • Matrix – Collagen fibres (gristle)
  • Osteoclasts – Bone removing cells
  • Osteoblasts – Bone producing cells.

If you ever made papier-mâché sculptures at school you will have used a chicken-wire framework, first of all, to establish the shape that you wanted. Over this you would have laid your strips of wet paper and allowed them to harden. The bone making process is very similar.

A network of collagen fibres forms the base and they are then overlaid with minerals. The strength of the finished bone is dependent on the amount of mineralisation that takes place. Osteoclasts will remove old bone when needed and this results in a need to produce new collagen matrix to attract new minerals for the repair process.

Vitamin D is essential to ensure that sufficient calcium and phosphorus is attracted to the new matrix and that strong new bone is produced. It begins its work in the intestines where your food is processed and assists in the absorption of calcium. If you are deficient in Vitamin D the bone becomes calcium depleted (osteomalacia) increasing your risk of fractures.

Unfortunately, if you are deficient in this vitamin more bone is discarded than replaced leading to soft and malformed bones.

Rickets, for example, is the result of soft and insufficient bone material in the legs allowing them to bend and stunting their growth. In adults the disease is called osteomalacia and because the symptoms are usually related to unspecific muscle and bone pain it can remain undiagnosed for years. This leads to chronic pain and the truth is that therapeutic doses of vitamin D may be the only treatment necessary.

Food Sources and supplementation.

vit d 2

Apart from sunshine, vitamin D can be obtained from a small range of foods including egg yolk, fish oil and liver. A glass of milk contains only 100 IU of the vitamin. It can be tough from just food sources to reach 1000 IU per day of the vitamin so getting out into the daylight on a daily basis is important. Certainly, I have found that taking good quality fish oil capsules over the years has been of benefit to me. There are supplements that you can take and if this is recommended it is usually in the form of calcium and D3 together to aid absorption. There is a new D3 spray for children, but I do advise that you ask a qualified practitioner or your doctor before you use.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is of particular interest to women in relation to osteoporosis risk because one of the causes of heavy periods is a deficiency of this vitamin. And if this has been a regular occurrence during fertile years, this deficiency could lead to early thinning of the bones.

There are two forms of the vitamin that the body can utilise. The first is K1 (phylloquinone), which is from plant sources and the other is K2 (menaquinone) which is produced by bacteria in our own intestines. This is where many of us get into trouble because we are not eating sufficient raw and unprocessed foods for health and additionally many of us suffer from bacterial imbalances in the gut so do not produce sufficient from that source either.

The vitamin is fat-soluble and is stored in the liver. Studies indicate that approximately 50% of the stores come from our diet and the balance from bacteria in the intestines. We need healthy bile production for efficient absorption of Vitamin K and our lymphatic system circulates it throughout the body.

Apart from helping reduce excessive bleeding during menstruation it is also used therapeutically for the prevention of internal bleeding and haemorrhages, including emergency treatment for overdoses of blood thinners such as Warfarin.

Blood clotting is a critical function in the body that solidifies blood to prevent us from bleeding to death from external or internal injuries. Vitamin K is essential for the production of a protein called prothrombin and other factors involved in the blood-clotting function and is therefore necessary to prevent haemorrhages.

Also, interestingly, Vitamin K activates other enzymes that decrease the clotting ability so it assumes the role of regulator within the blood stream. An example of this might occur if a clot forms within a blood vessel that could block the flow, and needs to be dispersed.

As the vitamin works within the body it changes from function to function according to the various interactions with enzymes and at one stage it acts as an antioxidant preventing oxidative damage to cells. There may also be a role for the vitamin in cancer prevention as it is believed it may stimulate rogue cells to self-destruct.

Bone Health and Vitamin K

The vitamin has also been the subject of a great deal of research in recent years as scientists discovered that it played a significant role in liver function, energy production in the nervous system, and in preventing bone loss as we age by assisting the absorption of calcium.

Vitamin K is needed to activate osteocalcin, the protein that anchors calcium into the bone, building and repairing the structure. A deficiency in the vitamin can therefore lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.

Food sources for Vitamin K

vitamin K

It is very easy to obtain sufficient Vitamin K through diet and you will find that good sources are: Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli and cabbage, asparagus, Avocado, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Green beans, Green Tea, Carrots, Eggs, Liver, Potatoes and Tomatoes.

Although the vitamin is fairly resilient it is better to eat plant sources either raw or lightly steamed to obtain the maximum benefits. Freezing reduces the amount of the vitamin so you need to eat a little extra of frozen vegetables than fresh.

Final note is on exercise. Whilst it is preferable that your exercise is taken outside in the fresh air and sunshine, it is obvious that during the winter months this is not always a pleasurable option. Dancing, yoga, aerobics, jogging, walking and light weight training are all good forms of inside activity. Find the combination that works for you. There is also a plus to even 30 minutes exercise per day. It will keep your weight down and also stimulate your appetite. This will enable you to continue to consume sufficient foods containing the essential nutrients you need for bone health.

 

Please feel free to comment or share.. Thanks for dropping by Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Incredible structure that keeps us upright.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

Unless we break a bone or crack one, we tend to take our skeleton for granted.  As we get older we can also experience problems within the structure particularly in the joints that limit our mobility and provide an excuse for not doing quite as much exercise as we should!

However, it is never too late to help your bones as our diet and our exercise levels do have an impact on the regeneration of this essential framework.

I am going to give an overview today on our skeleton and then follow that up with a closer look at the essential nutrients needed in the formation and maintenance of our bones and the precious marrow that is held inside them.  This marrow is essential for our immune system and overall health.  Arthritis in its various forms is likely to affect most of us as we grow older and I will cover the three most common – Osteo-Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gout during the series. The other area that is an increasingly more prevalent problem for the elderly is osteoporosis.

The Skeleton.

We often marvel at the magnificent structures that have been built over the last few thousands of years. The pyramids remain a mystery and their complexity and their resilience to time and man’s destructive influences overawe us.

Instead of being overawed we tend to take for granted our own support structure which is actually as marvellous and as complex as any building or edifice from the ancient or civilised worlds. Buildings are in the main fixed, with the rare exception of a revolving door or floor.

Our bodies on the other hand not only have to be structurally sound but also have to move, requiring intricate and sophisticated engineering systems to maximise strength and mobility.

Every bone in our body, and there approximately 200 of them, is a particular shape because it has a specific role to play. Where flexibility is required, cartilage takes over from bone but it is the joints and ligaments that provide us with our unique ability to stand upright and move with such grace and flexibility

Obviously the skeleton provides an essential framework for our outer layer as well as supporting us as we move through life. But our bones have some vital functions that also are essential to our health and survival.

At birth we have far more bones in our body despite our small size; around 350 which over the years will fuse together into larger units. A baby’s skull has tiny bones with gaps between called fontanelles. This allows the skull to be molded sufficiently to pass through the birth canal without damage to the mother or the baby’s brain.

Not only does a baby have more bones than an adult but more cartilage, which is more flexible. As the baby grows this cartilage will harden into bone and the process continues well into a person’s late teens.

Bones lengthen in the arms and legs at each end at the growth plate, which is made up of cartilage. This cartilage slowly hardens and becomes bone and when no more cartilage is left in late teens or early 20’s, growth stops.

From a nutritional point of view these years of bone growth, fusion of the skeleton and hardening of the bones themselves is critical. Poor diet from birth into early teens can have a dramatic effect on bone health in middle age resulting in Osteo-arthritis and osteoporosis.

Bone health is not just associated with our structural skeleton because underneath this tough and solid outer layer is the soft and vital marrow where all our blood cells are produced that keep us alive. You will find more details in blood health in an upcoming series of posts.

What do we need to keep our bones healthy?

Calcium helps bone to develop. When we make new bone tissue the body first puts down a framework of a protein called collagen. Calcium from the blood then infuses the framework and when the calcium crystals have filled the entire structure the collagen and the calcium form the strength and flexibility of the bone. In a reverse process when we do not get sufficient calcium from our food or fluids, calcium is borrowed from existing bones, which of course weakens them. As calcium is not just used to manufacture bone but also to assist in neural communication and heart and lung functions, demand has to be met by taking in sufficient through diet to prevent further bone density loss.

Bone health needs to be dealt with by age group. Obviously babies, children and adolescents have a different requirement for calcium as they are in such a rapid growth phase. There are some recommendations for calcium daily requirements but because of the complex mechanism of bone development calcium is not the only requirement. Vitamin D is essential for the process as is weight bearing exercise.  Other nutrients such as Vitamin K also play a role which I will cover later in the series.

Children’s’ bodies are an eating machine that is highly efficient in taking what it requires from food and metabolising it into the required components for health. There has been a great deal of research in the last few years into the role of dairy products as a source of calcium for bone health leading to some concerns that excess dairy provided calcium may lead to accelerated bone loss rather than the reverse. However, dairy products still feature high on the list of food sources for this crucial mineral and whatever the results of current research, there is no doubt that bone health requires Calcium and Vitamin D combined with weight bearing exercise.

Best food sources of calcium

The average requirement for a child is as follows:

  • · 1 to 3 years – 500mg per day
  • · 4 to 8 years – 800mg per day
  • · 9 to 18 years – 1,300mg per day

As adults between the age of 19 and 50 we need 1,000mg per day but after 50 we need slightly more and should be taking in at least 1,200mg per day from nutritional sources. Recent research is indicating that it may be harmful to take in large doses of supplemental calcium.  https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/05/04/smorgasbord-health-2017-nutrients-in-the-news-can-take-calcium-supplements-damage-your-heart/

All these food sources will provide 300mg of calcium and it is important to obtain the mineral from as varied a source as possible so that you obtain not just the calcium, but the different nutritional benefits of the individual foods.

  • · Dairy products. Milk 250ml, Yoghurt 175ml, Cheese including low fat varieties 50gm.
  • · Fish products. Canned Salmon with bones 213gm, Canned sardines with bones 213gm.
  • · These products provide 150mg of calcium per serving.
  • · Fruit and vegetables. Oranges x 3, Figs x 6, Baked beans ½ can, Broccoli 250gm, Brussel sprouts x 10 large. Spinach 250gm.
  • · There is also calcium in seeds and nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and sesame seeds and in fortified drinks like orange juice.

The role of Vitamin D in bone health

The importance of this Vitamin that actually thinks it is a hormone, cannot be overstressed.  It is becoming increasingly evident that this vitamin is showing signs of being deficient in many children’s diet and lifestyle resulting in far more cases of rickets or soft bones.  It is essential for so many functions within the body but is difficult to source especially in the winter months and from limited foods within the diet.

Image

Vitamin D enables calcium to leave the intestine and enter the bloodstream. It also works in the kidneys to help reabsorb calcium which might otherwise be excreted in urine.

One of the problems regarding this particular vitamin is that the best way to produce Vitamin D in the body is to get out in the sunshine, unprotected for 30 to 45 minutes 5 times a week. Exposing your hands, arms and face in this way is usually enough to satisfy the body’s requirement. In this day and age of fears about skin cancer, people are either wearing heavy sunscreens or not exposing their skins at all to sunlight. Also, as we age we become less able to utilise sun to make our Vitamin D. As we reach adulthood we tend to play outside far less than children and this limits our exposure to sunlight. Failing exposure to sunlight then we need to take in sufficient Vitamin D through our diet and this means including free-range eggs, salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, cod liver oil.

The last part of the bone health equation is weight bearing exercise

Apart from ensuring that we take in the right ingredients for the production of bone we also need to stimulate bone to continue growing and strengthening.

We all need frequent, weight bearing exercise. Bone is a living tissue and it constantly changes density, gaining and losing strength according to how often it is used. The old saying that I keep repeating ‘use it or lose it’ applies to our bones as well as most other parts of our body. Exercise stimulates calcium absorption in bone and bone also responds to an increase of blood flow during activity. This ensures that not only calcium but other vital nutrients are also absorbed.

The types of exercise that we take part in tends to differ at various ages but are no less important to bone health. Children, particularly during their incredible growth rate, need to not only take in the nutrients but also actively stimulate their bones into normal growth. Bones can also store calcium for later use during exercise, which makes it even more important. Walking and playing team sports, hiking, tennis, dance and martial arts are all good examples of weight bearing exercises suitable for children but certain activities need to be supervised to make sure that children are not exercising beyond their body’s capabilities. Bones are still not fully formed and joints are vulnerable to damage.

Other weight bearing exercises suitable for adults include walking, dancing, jogging, aerobics but these exercises will only benefit the bones being used and in this case it is the legs. To fully benefit the bones in the rest of the body we need to also take part in resistance exercise which uses muscular strength to improve muscle mass and strengthen bones.

The action of pulling on bone by the muscle actually stimulates it to grow so weight lifting and floor exercises such as push-ups will be very effective. Again these types of exercise should be supervised to maximise the benefits.

Our bones are hidden from view and we invariably only know we have a problem when we suffer a fracture. A couple of external indicators might give you a clue to your skeletal health and that is your teeth and nails. If they are strong and in good condition this should indicate that your bones will also be receiving sufficient calcium and Vitamin D.

As we get older a bone density test is a good idea, particularly for women who are going through the menopause and in the years following this natural process. Early detection of a problem will enable you to deal with the problem by making either some dietary changes or working the appropriate exercise into your lifestyle.

More on our bone health and the diseases we can impact by diet and lifestyle changes next time.

Health Bite of the Day – Osteoporosis – not just little old ladies with a dowager hump. Get checked out!


Image

The progression of osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, as we approach middle age it is not just a few wrinkles and dodgy arteries we have to worry about.  I have looked at general bone health in the last few blogs and today I will be covering Osteoporosis as this can develop in both women and men.

Admittedly, women are at a higher risk over 50 and are four times more likely to suffer from the disease than men. 

Osteoporosis is when the bones in the body thin and begin to develop small holes reducing the density. The bones also become brittle, leading to fractures.  Some of these may go undetected as they can be very small. For example, if you suffer from consistent back pain, do not dismiss out of hand,  as you could be experiencing very small hairline fractures in your spine.  If the condition is not treated or diagnosed, these small compression fractures can cause a vertebra to collapse, a condition that is extremely painful and difficult to treat.

The progress of the disease is subtle.  You reach maximum bone density in your 30’s your bone strength will slowly decrease naturally.  Then add into the mix the reduction of both oestrogen hormone in women over 50 and the decrease in testosterone in men of a similar age, and you have a further loss of density.

Normal bone

Image

Osteoporosis affected bone.

Image

There are other risk factors to taken into account.

For both men and women, having a slight body frame and being very slim means that there is less bone to begin with.

Smoking from an early age for a lifetime will put you at higher risk.

Those suffering from certain eating disorders can show decreased bone density in their teens and 20’s due to vitamin and mineral deficiency.  (I have seen a 16 year old’s X-ray showing the bone density of an 80 year old)!

There can be a family history of osteoporosis, if not mother then look to grandmothers.

If you have a history of repeated fractures then it may be that you have brittle bones and you will need to be additionally careful and under medical supervision as you move into middle age.

If you already suffer from rheumatoid arthritis you could be at a higher risk of osteoporosis.

Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to thinning of the bones.

You have stopped exercising – especially weight bearing exercise that strengthens the bones such as walking regularly.

Last but not least is restricted diet.  It is a vicious cycle as you get older.  Our appetites decrease, we tend to reduce our weight bearing exercise, do not spend time outside in the sun and we listen to nutritional advice which tells us to drop full fat dairy, cheese and butter from our diets!!

Diagnosis of Osteoporosis.

I believe that every woman over 55 and men over 65 should have a bone density test to discover where their bone health actually is following the reduction of the two hormones involved.  The doctor will also take into account your medical history – particularly if you have had a number of fractures in the past.  You should also have a urine and blood test to rule out any other reasons for bone loss and the blood test will show the levels of both oestrogen and testosterone.

NUTRIENTS

As I have already mentioned in a previous blog there are certain nutrients that are essential for bone health and I gave brief notes about them.  Today I am going to go into one of the most important vitamins for bone health and that is vitamin D. Also, a vitamin that gets little press but that also plays an important role in our bone health and that is Vitamin K.

There is increasing concern that vitamin D (that incidentally thinks it is a hormone) is becoming deficient, particularly in children as we see a rise in the cases of rickets.

Once you have read the notes on this vital nutrient, you can identify if perhaps you are missing it in your diet or lifestyle, and if your family might be at risk.

Vitamin D

If ever there was a reason to get out and lie or walk in the sun for 40 minutes in the mornings, getting your daily recommended dose of Vitamin D is it. In fact, 3 hours in sunlight, spread over a week, in moderate climates, without using any sunblock is sufficient to boost your levels of what is known as the sunshine vitamin. However, you may need less, or more, depending on latitude, time of day and air pollution.

It is not advisable to lie out in the heat of summer in Spain, for example, for 3 hours without protection but you will still receive beneficial amounts through sunblock of under factor-8. Most of what we require on a daily basis is produced in the skin by the action of sunlight and many of us who suffer from depression through the dark winter months are actually missing around 75% of our required daily dose of 1000 iu.

There are a number of diseases that result from a deficiency of Vitamin D and over the years, since it was identified in cod liver oil, there has been increasing research into its role in the body.

In Victorian times children with rickets or bow-legs were a common sight. You rarely see this in developed countries today, although in Southern Asia there is still a problem. In adults the condition is called osteomalacia (soft bones) and it is estimated that millions of people who suffer from unexplained bone and muscle pain actually have this condition. There has been an increase in recent years in the incidence of rickets in the western world and some of this is down to the decrease in outside activity for our children. 

More of them are kept inside for safety reasons, many no longer walk to school, go outside at playtime, have football or other team sports encouraged.  They sit in front of the television or computer instead of playing in the street and when they do go in the sun they are plastered in factor 30 and above.

They also have too much fizzy pop in their diets and the chemicals in these are not bone friendly.  We have gone away from the free school milk and there is too much sugar in our diets which is acidic and leeches mineral from the bones.

How is Vitamin D involved in our bones?

Our bones are living tissue that grows and regenerates throughout our lifetime. It is not static and old bone is removed and replaced with new bone continuously, a process that requires that the essential elements of bone to be available from our diet and from chemical reactions in the body.

There are four main components in bone that are needed to ensure it is strong and able to repair itself on a daily basis.

  • · Minerals – Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorus.
  • · Matrix – Collagen fibres (gristle)
  • · Osteoclasts – Bone removing cells
  • · Osteoblasts – Bone producing cells.

If you ever made papier-mâché sculptures at school you will have used a chicken-wire framework, first of all, to establish the shape that you wanted. Over this you would have laid your strips of wet paper and allowed them to harden. The bone making process is very similar.

A network of collagen fibres forms the base and they are then overlaid with minerals. The strength of the finished bone is dependent on the amount of mineralisation that takes place. Osteoclasts will remove old bone when needed and this results in a need to produce new collagen matrix to attract new minerals for the repair process.

Vitamin D is essential to ensure that sufficient calcium and phosphorus is attracted to the new matrix and that strong new bone is produced. It begins its work in the intestines where your food is processed and assists in the absorption of calcium.  If you are deficient in Vitamin D the bone becomes calcium depleted (osteomalacia) increasing your risk of fractures.

Unfortunately, if you are deficient in this vitamin more bone is discarded than replaced leading to soft and malformed bones.

Rickets, for example, is the result of soft and insufficient bone material in the legs allowing them to bend and stunting their growth. In adults the disease is called osteomalacia and because the symptoms are usually related to unspecific muscle and bone pain it can remain undiagnosed for years. This leads to chronic pain and the truth is that therapeutic doses of vitamin D may be the only treatment necessary.

Food Sources and supplementation.

Apart from sunshine, vitamin D can be obtained from a small range of foods including egg yolk, fish oil and liver. A glass of milk contains only 100 IU of the vitamin. It can be tough from just food sources to reach 1000 IU per day of the vitamin so getting out into the daylight on a daily basis is important. Certainly, I have found that taking good quality fish oil capsules over the years has been of benefit to me. There are supplements that you can take and if this is recommended it is usually in the form of calcium and D3 together to aid absorption.  There is a new D3 spray for children, but I do advise that you ask a qualified practitioner or your doctor before you use.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is of particular interest to women in relation to osteoporosis risk because one of the causes of heavy periods is a deficiency of this vitamin.  And if this has been a regular occurrence during fertile years, this deficiency could lead to early thinning of the bones.

There are two forms of the vitamin that the body can utilise. The first is K1 (phylloquinone), which is from plant sources and the other is K2 (menaquinone) which is produced by bacteria in our own intestines. This is where many of us get into trouble because we are not eating sufficient raw and unprocessed foods for health and additionally many of us suffer from bacterial imbalances in the gut so do not produce sufficient from that source either.

The vitamin is fat-soluble and is stored in the liver. Studies indicate that approximately 50% of the stores come from our diet and the balance from bacteria in the intestines. We need healthy bile production for efficient absorption of Vitamin K and our lymphatic system circulates it throughout the body.

Apart from helping reduce excessive bleeding during menstruation it is also used therapeutically for the prevention of internal bleeding and haemorrhages, including emergency treatment for overdoses of blood thinners such as Warfarin.

Blood clotting is a critical function in the body that solidifies blood to prevent us from bleeding to death from external or internal injuries. Vitamin K is essential for the production of a protein called prothrombin and other factors involved in the blood-clotting function and is therefore necessary to prevent haemorrhages.

Also, interestingly, Vitamin K activates other enzymes that decrease the clotting ability so it assumes the role of regulator within the blood stream. An example of this might occur if a clot forms within a blood vessel that could block the flow, and needs to be dispersed.

As the vitamin works within the body it changes from function to function according to the various interactions with enzymes and at one stage it acts as an antioxidant preventing oxidative damage to cells. There may also be a role for the vitamin in cancer prevention as it is believed it may stimulate rogue cells to self-destruct.

Bone Health and Vitamin K

The vitamin has also been the subject of a great deal of research in recent years as scientists discovered that it played a significant role in liver function, energy production in the nervous system, and in preventing bone loss as we age by assisting the absorption of calcium.

Vitamin K is needed to activate osteocalcin, the protein that anchors calcium into the bone, building and repairing the structure. A deficiency in the vitamin can therefore lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.

Food sources for Vitamin K

It is very easy to obtain sufficient Vitamin K through diet and you will find that good sources are:

  • · Dark green leafy vegetables, such as
    spinach, broccoli and cabbage
  • · Asparagus Avocado          Broccoli
  • · Brussel sprouts     Green beans     Green Tea
  • · Carrots      Eggs     Liver
  • · Potatoes    Tomatoes        

Although the vitamin is fairly resilient it is better to eat plant sources either raw or lightly steamed to obtain the maximum benefits. Freezing reduces the amount of the vitamin so you need to eat a little extra of frozen vegetables than fresh.

Final note is on exercise.  Whilst it is preferable that your exercise is taken outside in the fresh air and sunshine, it is obvious that during the winter months this is not always a pleasurable option.  Dancing, yoga, aerobics, jogging, walking and light weight training are all good forms of inside activity.  I have a treadmill that I use to cover a couple of miles a day and in the summer this is outside and I swim everyday.  Find the combination that works for you.  There is also a plus to even 30 minutes exercise per day.  It will keep your weight down and also stimulate your appetite.  This will enable you to continue to consume sufficient foods containing the essential nutrients you need for bone health.