Apium Graveolens as an Anti-Inflammatory

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The Use Of Vitamin D To Fight Infection

Vitamin D is an important hormone that has a number of different functions in human physiology. One of the most important roles for vitamin D is the maintenance of the immune system. Evidence suggests that vitamin D deficiency significantly increases the risk of infection, and this is likely the reason that upper respiratory tract infections are more prominent in the winter. During the winter months, sunlight induced vitamin D production drops, and this increases the risk of infection due to poorer immune status. Studies have investigated the effects of vitamin D supplementation on the infection rates in vitamin D deficient humans. In one study, 300 IU of vitamin D, a modest to small dose, caused a significant reduction acute respiratory infections over a 3 month period, when compared to a placebo group. The vitamin D supplements cause significant increases in the 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations in the blood of the vitamin D group, suggesting vitamin D status had been improved.

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Camargo, C. A., Ganmaa, D., Frazier, A. L., Kirchberg, F. F., Stuart, J. J., Kleinman, K., Sumberzul, N. and Rich-Edwards, J. W. 2012. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation and risk of acute respiratory infection in Mongolia. Pediatrics. 130(3): e561-e567
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Vitamin D Supplements for Treating Depression?

Low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are associated with a number of detrimental health effects. These include immune dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, cancer and mood disorders. Blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are directly related to the dietary intake of vitamin D, or the amount of sun exposure, which is also a source of vitamin D. Studies have investigated the effects of high doses of vitamin D supplements on the mood of individuals with low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. In particular, the researchers were interested in the effects of the vitamin D on depression and anxiety. The subjects received 40,000 IU of vitamin D per week (equivalent to 5714 IU per day) for 6 months. The results of the study showed that subjects with the lowest level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D at the start of the study had a significantly greater risk of depression. However, the vitamin D supplements did not improve the mood of the subjects over the course of the study compared to the placebo, suggesting the supplement was not effective.

vitamin D depression mood anxiety

It is unclear why vitamin D supplements were not effective at improving the mood of the subjects compared to a placebo, particularly as the supplements were effective at raising blood levels of vitamin 25-hydroxyvitamin D. More studies will be needed to investigate possible confounding variables and to determine if vitamin D supplements are beneficial to mood. Certainly sunlight does appear to elevate both mood and vitamin D status, suggesting that perhaps the sun is a better source of vitamin D than the diet.

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Kjærgaard, M., Waterloo, K., Wang, C. E., Almås, B., Figenschau, Y., Hutchinson, M. S., Svartberg, J. and Jorde, R. 2012. Effect of vitamin D supplement on depression scores in people with low levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D: nested case – control study and randomised clinical trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 201(5): 360-368
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The Effects of Black Tea on Mood

After water, tea is the most commonly consumed drink in the world. Black tea is an oxidised form of tea and that has been researched and shown to possess a number of health effects including benefits to cognition and mood. A number of studies have investigated the mental health effects of black tea consumption, and generally these studies have shown a positive effect on mood. In addition, the same studies show that black tea consumption also causes a rapid increase in alertness. Further, studies suggest that black tea consumption also increases the rate at which information is processed, without damaging sleep patterns or sleep quality. Therefore overall black tea appears to have positive mood and cognitive effects. One aspect of black tea that was especially evident is that it prevented the normal detrimental effects on mental cognition of diurnal patterns of the body clock. Theanine and caffeine may be responsible for these effects, although their relative contribution is not known.

black tea mood anxiety depression

Black tea is protective of a number of brain disorders, particularly age related dementia and Parkinson’s disease. This demonstrated the neuroprotective effects of tea.

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Gardner, E. J., Ruxton, C. H. S. and Leeds, A. R. 2007. Black tea–helpful or harmful? A review of the evidence. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 61(1): 3-18
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On The Chemistry of Green Tea Catechins

Green tea catechins are a group of flavonoids that have been shown to have biological effects in humans and animals. The catechins are absorbed from green tea and then have anti-cancer, cardioprotective and weight loss effects. However, green tea catechins are only partially absorbed, and this partial absorption is a characteristic of flavonoids in general, with only a fraction of the ingested flavonoid being detectable in blood following consumption. Another nuance of green tea catechins is that their ability to act as antioxidants is pH dependant. For example, studies have shown that at an alkaline pH above 8, green tea catechins are very unstable. However, at a lower pH of 4 they are stable. Between these two values stability increases as pH drops. Therefore as the green tea catechins pass into the stomach, they would appear to be stable in structure. However, this structure is chemically altered in the higher pH of the intestine, and this may explain the low absorption rates of parent compounds.

green tea antioxidants catechins

Drinking green tea provides a large amount of green tea catechins to the consumer. However, due to chemical alteration in the intestine, much of the ingested catechin load is not absorbed.

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Zhu, Q. Y., Zhang, A., Tsang, D., Huang, Y. and Chen, Z. Y. 1997. Stability of green tea catechins. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 45(12): 4624-4628
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How Do Plants Respond to Mineral Deficiencies?

As with animals, plants respond to reduced mineral availability through decreases in growth and reproduction. Firstly, plants responds to a decrease in availability of minerals through the use of vacuolar reserves to bridge the gap in available nutrients. Leaves and other tissues can store minerals and this reserve of minerals may be used while it remains intact. After the vacuoles have been drained of nutrients, the second stage occurs, whereby growth retardation is evident. This stage is also characterised by a continued reduction in nutrient reserves as the plant becomes depleted of nutrients and its nutritional quality declines significantly. Photosynthesis rates also decline and lateral branch and leaf expansion rates decline. There is also a reduction in reproduction as nutrient reserves do not provide sufficient energy or energy cofactors to allow reproductive costs to be met. In the last stage the plant begins to die due to metabolic derangement and a reduction in the efficiency of the roots is evident.

minerals plants selenium

Plants require minerals to be present in the soil for their own growth. Poor quality minerals deficient soils produce poor quality plants which produce poor quality animals and humans when eaten.

Plants therefore require minerals in the same ways a humans and animals. These minerals are required for growth and without them the plant gradually dies. However, this process is a long one, and the plants can appear to be healthy for food preparation whilst they are going through the stages of nutrient deficiency. Like humans and animals, plants can also grow with low amounts of minerals, albeit in an unhealthy form. Consumption of these plants may provide adequate macronutrients such as starch and can still be considered a good source of energy. However, consumption of mineral deficiency plants results in the mineral deficiencies being passed onto the animals or humans consumer, and this can lead to ill health. Many farmed plants are also supplemented with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium as these factors allow enhanced growth rates in the absence of adequate mineral status. Mineral deficient plant consumption is a real problem and has been particularly well documented in the case of selenium.

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Chapin III, F. S. 1980. The mineral nutrition of wild plants. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 11(1): 233-260
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Creatine and Insulin

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Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and Mood

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More on Creatine and Mood

Creatine supplements may have mood elevating and cognitive effects. The reason for this is the ability of creatine to increase the energy capacity of brain cells. The mood elevating and cognitive enhancing effects of creatine make it a potentially useful treatment for dementia, where cognition and mood become depressed. A number of studies have investigated the effects of creatine on dementia in humans subjects. For example, in one study researchers administered 20 grams per day of creatine monohydrate for 6 days followed by 2 grams per day of creatine monohydrate for 6 months to a group of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. The results of the study showed that there was an increase in the uptake of creatine into the brains of the patients. Further, creatine also caused an improvement in mood in the patients, supporting other studies that suggest that creatine has mood elevating properties. In addition the creatine also caused a small improvement in the effects of the dopaminergic medication being used by the patients.  

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Bender, A., Koch, W., Elstner, M., Schombacher, Y., Bender, J., Moeschl, M., Gekeler, F., Muller-Myhosok, B., Gasser, T., Tatsch, K. and Klopstock, T. 2006. Creatine supplementation in Parkinson disease: a placebo-controlled randomized pilot trial. Neurology.  67(7): 1262-1264
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Creatine and Cognitive Function

Creatine is an important component of cells because it is used to buffer phosphocreatine during energy utilisation. Higher levels of creatine mean a greater buffering capacity, and this means the cell has a larger amount of energy for important processes. Taking in creatine as a supplement in the form of creatine monohydrate has been shown to increase the creatine stores in cells, and this may translate into a larger pool of energy in cells. One of the benefits of creatine supplementation is an increase in the energy content of brain cells, and this may improve cognitive function. Creatine supplements have been shown to cause increases in blood oxygen levels, signifying increased energy utilisation. This is particularly evident in vegetarians, who naturally have lower levels of creatine when compared to meat eaters.  Vegetarians supplemented with creatine showed improvements in memory performance when compared to controls. Creatine may also enhance brain function under conditions of stress.

creatine brain

The best dietary source of creatine is red meat. However, supplements are available that let vegetarians benefit from increased creatine stores in cells.

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Andres, R. H., Ducray, A. D., Schlattner, U., Wallimann, T. and Widmer, H. R. 2008. Functions and effects of creatine in the central nervous system. Brain Research Bulletin. 76(4): 329-343
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