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“An apple and artichoke a day keeps your stroke risk at bay?”

Yet more evidence this week about the importance of fruit and vegetables in our diet- this time specifically related to risk of the most common type of stroke. This is known as an ischaemic stroke ( is-k-ee-mick) and occurs when a blood clot causes a blockage in some of the blood vessels in your brain. These types of strokes affect more than 100,00 people in the UK each year and having high blood pressure is known to be a risk factor. A team of researchers looked at data from over 400,000 people over 12 years across 9 European countries and found that  “higher consumption of fruit, vegetables and dietary fibre was associated with lower risk of ischaemic stroke”

So what is it about fruit and veggies that might cause this brain healthy effect? The key players could be fibre content as well as possibly the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) – particularly potassium and folate – which have been shown in some other studies to reduce blood pressure. 

So pile those veggies high! 

Source: https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/advance-article/doi/10.1093/eurheartj/ehaa007/5748325

As the nights draw in, it’s the most important time of the year to take Vitamin D-here’s why….

The role of vitamin D and its importance for children

Vitamin D deficiency is now recognised as pandemic. As very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, it is recognised that the major cause of deficiency is the lack of appreciation that sun exposure in moderation is the major source of vitamin D for most of us. 

However, long dark winters, increasingly indoor lifestyles, the use of high-SPF sunscreens and widespread media warnings about skin cancer have meant that people living in the Northern Hemisphere have become even more deficient in the ‘sunshine vitamin’.

Rickets, a disease caused by lack of sunlight (resulting in a lack of vitamin D production) which leads to a softening and weakening of bones in children, was prevalent in the early 1900’s as people moved out of the country and into the cities. Governments decided to fortify foods with vitamin D, including milk, breads and cereals to combat the disease. This gave rise to the nutrient reference value (NRV), which is the daily amount of a vitamin or mineral that the average healthy person needs to prevent deficiency.

The UK currently advises that children aged one to four years should have a daily 10mcg (400iu) supplement all year round. Those under one should be given 8.5 to 10mcg daily. Despite the fact that this level is enough to prevent rickets in children, it’s not enough to support overall good health throughout our lifetime. However, a recent study found that most of the multivitamin and vitamin D supplements available for children in the UK do not provide the recommended 400iu/day.

Vitamin D affects over 3000 cell processes in the body helping the body to build bone, fight infection and repair cells. Vitamin D deficiency is correlated with increased risks of developing common cancers, autoimmune diseases, hypertension and certain infectious diseases.

Without vitamin D, our bodies cannot effectively absorb calcium, which is essential for bone health and bone growth. It is equally important for the health of children’s teeth, optimising the absorption of calcium and phosphate to produce

tooth enamel. Children with sufficient vitamin D intake are less likely to suffer cavities compared to those who are deficient.

Vitamin D is understood to play a key role in maintaining healthy levels of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter essential to mood. Deficiencies of serotonin have been linked with depression. This could explain why some people experience low mood during winter months, a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

Around 1 in 5 people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D. Your GP is able to offer a blood test if you’d like to know optimise your levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Alternatively, you can buy a test from a reputable company online.

Does time really fly?

Where does the time go? Hasn’t this year gone quickly? How is it almost July? I blinked and its summer

Have your heard or said any of these in the last few days, chances are you have. Certainly the concept of time – its pace, never having enough, us having a lack of control over it – is something that we talk about often. But what is it that we really mean? Why does it ‘go so quickly’ and can we get more of it?

Alan Burdick, author of  ‘Why Time Flies’ says that when we talk about time, we often think of a clock, and when we feel time speed up or slow down it is because it doesn’t accord with that regimented ticktock, the steady idea of time ticking by that we have in our minds. 

Part of the reason it feels like time is going quickly is because we are doing so many things. And literally trying to do multiple things at once. A definition of stress I heard a few years ago was put as simply as doing one thing and having the feeling you should be doing something else.  Sound familiar?

How do we get more time? Laura Vanderkam- Time Management Expert, reminds us that we have 168 hours  in a week. And factoring in a full time job and sleeping for 8 hours a night still leaves us with around 72 hours for other things. That is a lot of time each week and her advice is that we have to plan and prioritise how we use those hours each week, ideally a #friday afternoon. There will always be ‘life admin’ and things that need to get done but planning around career needs, family/home needs and personal needs is a clear way of thinking about these hours to try and feel more in control of our time. 

The good news about time feeling like it is running away with you? Research done in elderly care facilities  shows that when people are asked about how quick they think time is passing, the ones that feel time is going fast are more likely to be more socially engaged and active than those who felt it was going slowly. 

So it does seem that time really does fly when you are having fun. 

Screen time and kids- does it matter?

A report released by Common Sense Media in 2017 states that 8 to 12-year-olds spend an average of 4 hours and 36 minutes every day on screen media.

Depending on our own experience, this figure may shock or normalise our own children activities on line. As a parent of a 5 year old, 4 hours a day on screen seems a lot. But then talking to parents of older children, and when they average in week ends too, these numbers are met with ‘ well maybe it is about that..’

How much screen time is enough/safe/healthy is going to be a continuing topic of research with some experts reassuring that actually its not as bad as we think it might be and then others advising that we restrict time on line from an early age.

Ultimately it is our choice- as parents and then as our children become young adults helping them to decide- what the best balance is. 

At Noggin we are all about the #brain and there is no doubt that for learning and having fun screens have a lot to offer our youngsters ( and us oldies too!) 

But its not without challenges- especially around sleep and the way the blue light emitted from screens can affect our kids sleep patterns as well as distraction by thinking about their latest level on game or what they have just read on line.

We think it’s important to focus on the idea of connection, both on screen and off.

Making the decision to turn your screen off and do something else , or helping your child to do this is a really important way to help focus on reconnecting. Helping them enjoy their screen time but then deciding when enough is enough and how not being glued to the blue light can actually be fun-

Some ideas include…

#simplethings #conversation- a 10 year old told me this week how cool it was that when he talked to his step parent more at home it was really cool to learn more bout them,

talking to their friends outside school, playing a #sport or learning a new activity, going for a #walk or to the #park. 

Screens can also HELP connection too- such as sitting down to #movie together, talking about the games you are playing or maybe using a game or a language app that several members of your family group can get into, or maybe even helping gran or grandad do an online shop or read something on line 

Vitamin D in the headlines

With stories in the news last week about the super powers of the sunshine vitamin we wanted to explain a bit more about the role of vitamin D and its importance for children

Vitamin D deficiency is now recognised as pandemic. As very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, it is recognised that the major cause of deficiency is the lack of appreciation that sun exposure in moderation is the major source of vitamin D for most of us. 

However, long dark winters, increasingly indoor lifestyles, the use of high-SPF sunscreens and widespread media warnings about skin cancer have meant that people living in the Northern Hemisphere have become even more deficient in the ‘sunshine vitamin’.

Rickets, a disease caused by lack of sunlight (resulting in a lack of vitamin D production) which leads to a softening and weakening of bones in children, was prevalent in the early 1900’s as people moved out of the country and into the cities. Governments decided to fortify foods with vitamin D, including milk, breads and cereals to combat the disease. This gave rise to the nutrient reference value (NRV), which is the daily amount of a vitamin or mineral that the average healthy person needs to prevent deficiency.

The UK currently advises that children aged one to four years should have a daily 10mcg (400iu) supplement all year round. Those under one should be given 8.5 to 10mcg daily. Despite the fact that this level is enough to prevent rickets in children, it’s not enough to support overall good health throughout our lifetime. However, a recent study found that most of the multivitamin and vitamin D supplements available for children in the UK do not provide the recommended 400iu/day.

Vitamin D affects over 3000 cell processes in the body helping the body to build bone, fight infection and repair cells. Vitamin D deficiency is correlated with increased risks of developing common cancers, autoimmune diseases, hypertension and certain infectious diseases.

Without vitamin D, our bodies cannot effectively absorb calcium, which is essential for bone health and bone growth. It is equally important for the health of children’s teeth, optimising the absorption of calcium and phosphate to produce

tooth enamel. Children with sufficient vitamin D intake are less likely to suffer cavities compared to those who are deficient.

Vitamin D is understood to play a key role in maintaining healthy levels of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter essential to mood. Deficiencies of serotonin have been linked with depression. This could explain why some people experience low mood during winter months, a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

Around 1 in 5 people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D. Your GP is able to offer a blood test if you’d like to know optimise your levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Alternatively, you can buy a test from a reputable company online.

1 Holick, M. & Chen, T. (2008) ‘Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences’ American Journal of Nutrition 87(4):1080S-1086S.

2 Great Britain. Public Health England (2016). Government Dietary Recommendations. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/618167/government_dietary_recommendations.pdf 

3 Moon, R. Curtis, E. Cooper, C. et al. (2019) ‘Vitamin D supplementation: are multivitamins sufficient? Archives of Disease in Childhood Published Online First: 25 February 2019.

4 Hossain, S. Beydoun, M. Beydoun, H. et al. (2019) ‘Vitamin D and breast cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies Clinical Nutrition 30:170-184.

5 Seminario, A. Jumani, K. Velan, E. et al. (2018) ‘Suboptimal serum vitamin D associated with early childhood caries in special health care needs children’ Journal of Dentistry for Children 85(3):93-101.

6 Stewart, A. Roecklein, K. Tanner, S. et al. (2014) ‘Possible contribution of skin pigmentation and vitamin D in a polyfactorial model of seasonal affective disorder’ Medical Hypotheses 83(5):517-525.

7 Great Britain. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (2016). Vitamin D and Health. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537616/SACN_Vitamin_D_and_Health_report.pdf 

Brain Health and MS -how we learnt that small changes matter

Having a relative with Multiple Sclerosis was one of the inspirations behind Noggin. MS is another one of these conditions with a funny name that affects both brain and body, often in many unseen ways. MS is often diagnosed in young people and with a massive range of symptoms affecting each person differently on any one day is a very challenging condition for doctors to treat and for people and their families to live with. Frequently invisible to the naked eye, with no current cure, and in the very scary sounding category of being a ‘neuro (brain) degenerative’ condition we wanted to understand about ways people with MS -and similar ‘scary’ diagnoses- could look after their brains. What we found out was that by making some simple changes, we can all make some changes to  how we feel and this is super important , especially when you are living with something like MS or with someone who has it.

Rest Me– take time out, focus on sleep, switch off- all these things really do change how our brains perceive the world around us

Feed Me– what we eat and drink makes a difference-whether it is less cake or more vegetables, more water or fewer chips we can all try a little harder in this area

Keep Me ActiveExercise, even on its own, with no other changes can help the health of our noggins. And no age is too old or activity too little, anything will help. Set your own goal- it might be a 10 k or walking to the garden gate-get moving. And being social is pretty important too, social connections also help the wiring in our brains to improve how we feel. You don’t have to go to a party if you don’t want to, just chatting to someone on the bus or on the park bench is a start

Help my Best Friend– our brains and tummies are in communication all the time- those butterflies when you are anxious? So eat more fibre, drink more water and get out for a walk in nature to keep those good gut bugs happy 

Can sleep help our memory?

Sleep and Memory is a big area for those researching risk factors of for dementia but what about on a day to day basis- how does sleep affect your memory of what you did today or yesterday?

“You don’t need to sleep to create a memory but sleep plays a critical role in determining what happens to newly formed memories” according to Robert Stickgold, and research from the division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“Sleep help to move things into long term storage and it links memories with previous memories”. 

And have your ever wondered why you remember some events or experiences more than onthers? It seems that sleep favours certain types of memories especially those with emotional aspect. And interestingly, those experience that are linked with a negative emotion get preferential space in our minds- we want to remember not to do it again!


How to eat your way to a great mood!

Spoiler-B Vitamins are pretty important

It goes without saying that eating food we enjoy is one of life’s great pleasures, and so it should be.  It’s no coincidence that nature provided us with a whole raft of delicious, colour-rich, highly nutritious foods to relish and, as importantly, to feel good!  

But how does food affect our mood and overall brain function? It’s largely down to a very important family of eight B-vitamins found in a variety of foods.  Like all good families, they support each other.  The B-vitamins work together in many body functions and some directly affect mood and overall mental health.  In fact, deficiency of any one of the B-vitamins can quickly affect how we think and feel.  This is partly because they’re water-soluble so are quickly excreted from the body but are also rapidly used up by the brain every day, and even more when we’re stressed. 

But first   …… an introduction!

The members of the family are thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, biotin, folic acid and cobalamin (vitamin B12).  B-vitamins are easily destroyed by cooking, food processing and exposure to ultra-violet light so they need to be present in the diet daily.

The good news is that B-vitamins are widely available in foods and often in the same ones, including red meat, poultry, eggs, fish, dairy products, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. 

How do they work?

B-vitamins actually work their magic in a variety of ways.  They are known as ‘energy-producing’ because they enable the food we eat to be turned into energy, which is why our food choices are so important. They’re also involved in hundreds of enzyme reactions, as well as transporting energy-containing nutrients around the body.  

However, when it comes to mood and overall mental well-being, there are four B-vitamins that are really shining lights, namely vitamins B2, B6, B12 and folic acid. 

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