Thursday, 19 February 2015

Not all Fish Oils are created equal

A recent University of Auckland study has found the bulk of fish oil pills sold in New Zealand and Australia are misleading consumers with false claims.  The study found the bulk of supplements sold in the two countries were almost a third lower in omega-3 fatty acids than their labels claimed.  Only three of the 32 fish oil supplements analysed by the scientists contained the concentrations of fatty acids listed on the label.  The rest had on average 68 per cent of the claimed content.  The majority of the supplements tested were considerably oxidised, ie. the oils were on the way to becoming rancid, and the price made no difference to the quality of the product.

There are many benefits that a high quality and highly concentrated fish oil supplement can bring to the health and wellness of you and your family.  Fish oil is important for us at all different stages of our life - during childhood, adulthood and even into old age.  Without doubt, omega-3 fatty acids are part of a balanced diet.  Fish oils rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids are important to enhance general health, as well as supporting cardiovascular and metabolic health, promoting healthy brain development and cognitive function, reducing inflammation and supporting healthy mood.

How do you choose a good quality fish oil supplement?

Although the study did not indicate any relationship between price and the quality of the fish oils, commonsense tells us that if the price is too good to be true, it is most likely the case.  The market is now flooded with fish oil supplements at unbelievably cheap prices.  Just imagine how much oil you can get out of a fish, I hope you would think twice on what sort of oil you are actually getting, next time you think of buying those fish oils at very special prices!

Find out what the manufacturers do to remove and test for impurities, organic pollutants and contaminants such as DDT and other pesticide derivatives, dioxins, heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic, as compared to the standards provided by the authority.  If a manufacturer cannot provide or does not have this information, you might want to consider another brand.

Good quality fish oils are manufactured using nitrogen flushing to produce oils that are fresh and are protected from oxidation.  Like all other oils, fish oils can become oxidised or rancid when exposed to heat, air or light.  Anisidine and Peroxide are indicators of the level of oxidation in a fish oil.  Oxidised fish oils can taste and smell very “fishy”.  If you are using liquid fish oil, you will know your fish oil is oxidised when it tastes and smells too “fishy” to be normal.  If you are using fish oil pills, you can always chew into one and check the taste if it is too “fishy”.  Fish oils being fish oils will always taste and smell a bit “fishy”.  Most fish oil supplements will use some kind of flavouring to make it palatable. Check that natural flavouring is used.  You may want to avoid fish oils that have synthetic flavouring or sweeteners as artificial flavouring may mask the taste and smell of the fish oil that has gone rancid.

Fish oil manufacturers that support sustainable fishing and marine conservation tend to source their fish oils from small fish species.  Small fish species generally have less organic pollutants and heavy metal loads than large fish species.  So, check if the manufacturers of your fish oils support sustainable fishing.  If they do, they should have information that they are certified by for example, Friend of the Sea, an independent organisation that audits and certifies products that practise sustainable fishing.

Remember different health conditions need varying levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EPA/DHA). Therapeutic amounts of EPA and/or DHA are needed to deal with different health conditions.  High level of DHA is needed to help support normal, healthy brain function as well as improve memory in people with age-related cognitive decline.  For temporary relief of pain and inflammation from arthritis and help maintain cardiovascular health, you will need higher level of EPA.  Depending on the health condition you are trying to address, you will need a fish oil created specifically to help with your condition. 

If you are still confused about what fish oils you should be choosing after reading this article, come and see us.  We can advise you and help you choose the fish oil that best suits your needs based on the health outcomes you want to achieve.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Is Cholesterol really that bad?

Cholesterol lowering drugs are now one of the most prescribed drugs in the world.  It seems like everyone has high cholesterol nowadays!  But, cholesterol is a type of fat that is vital for life. It is a building block for many metabolic processes in the body including making hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone and cortisol, supporting cell structure and making bile. Cholesterol can be found in certain foods such as meats, dairy products and eggs, but most people are not aware that cholesterol is also made by our liver.

Too much cholesterol can be detrimental to your health by promoting fatty plaque deposits in blood vessels, known as atherosclerosis, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. But, our bodies need cholesterol to function properly and remain healthy.  Lowering it too much can also be detrimental to your health.  So, managing your cholesterol at a healthy level is key to being healthy and well.

There are two main types of cholesterol: high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. HDL is essentially the ‘good’ form of cholesterol while LDL is the ‘bad’ form of cholesterol. If the ratio of HDL:LDL is out of balance (i.e. not enough HDL, too much LDL), this puts you at increased risk of heart disease. So, it is important to look at the HDL:LDL ratio. If you have unhealthy cholesterol balance, specific nutrients are needed to restore the balance between the good and bad types of cholesterol.

Most people can control their cholesterol levels without the use of any prescription drugs.  Remember that you need cholesterol to remain healthy.  So, you can’t just avoid eating foods high in fats.  Also, your liver can play a part in your cholesterol levels.  One thing for sure – you need to eliminate damaging trans fats found in fast foods, fried foods and baked goods. Trans fats increase the ‘bad’ cholesterol.  You need to increase the amount of good fats you eat from fresh fish, nuts and seeds.  Embrace a diet full of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil and garlic. Cut down on sugar in your diet.  Soft drinks, fruit juices and processed foods frequently contain ‘hidden sugars’. When there is an over-supply of sugar the body converts this to fat, which negatively affects cholesterol balance.

If you are overweight, weight loss is an essential part of reducing your cholesterol levels. Daily physical activity is vital for stabilising cholesterol levels and for weight maintenance.  As well as the dietary and lifestyle strategies suggested, appropriate natural supplements and medicines may also help prevent and/or treat high cholesterol.

It is never too late to improve your health. Simple dietary and lifestyle modifications, along with appropriate supplementation, can add years to your life and life to your years!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Depressed? Changing what you eat may help you get out of it!

Depression is a whole body illness, affecting the body, the nervous system, moods, thoughts and behaviour. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you think about people around you and the way you react and think. Food greatly influence the brain’s behaviour. The level of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters which regulate our behaviour are closely related to what we eat and neurotransmitters are closely linked to mood. The neurotransmitters related to mood are dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. The precursor to serotonin is tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Sufficient amounts of vitamins B6, C, folate and magnesium are necessary for the formation of tryptophan.

Here are some changes you can make to your diet to help you deal with depression:

·        A diet high in complex carbohydrates, whole grains, seeds, nuts, brown rice, millet, soy protein, beans and pulses will help you become more relaxed.
·        Consume salmon and turkey. Both are rich in protein and tryptophan. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we feel good at Christmas!
·        Omit wheat and gluten from your diet. Wheat and gluten have been found to be linked to depressive disorders.
·        Take essential fatty acids like flaxseed oil, fish oil or evening primrose oil. Essential fatty acids aid in the transmission of nerve impulses, which is needed for brain function. Essential fatty acids are also rich in seeds and nuts like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts.
·        Some natural supplements that are recommended include 5HTP which increases the body’s production of serotonin, SAMe which works as an antidepressant, Vitamin B complex which is necessary for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, Kava Kava which helps to induce calm and relieve depression and St John’s Wort.  Magnesium is a mineral that helps us to relax.  Selenium has been shown to elevate mood and decrease anxiety. These effects were more noticeable in people who had lower levels of selenium in their diets. NZ soil is deficient in selenium. This may explain why so many Kiwis are depressed!  Folic acid deficiency has also been linked to depression, especially in the elderly.   A word of caution - there are contraindications between prescription drugs and natural supplements to increase serotonin production.  Please consult a qualified natural health care professional before taking any of the supplements.

Also, aromatherapy is great for relaxing ourselves and uplifting our moods. A combination of Lavender, Bergamot and Cedarwood is great for rest, relaxation and for an uplift. It can be used as a massage, in the bath, or in a burner.

If you are still depressed after reading this article and making the dietary changes, come in and see what we can help you with! Small steps can make a big difference!