Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Magnesium


Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body.  It is required for over 300 biological processes.  It’s really important we consume enough magnesium in our diet.  The reason? It’s involved with lots of important bodily processes including: muscle function, sleep, mood and mitochondrial repair and replication.  It’s also been shown to be protective of cancer and heart disease.  It is absorbed in the small intestine and excreted by the kidneys
Mitochondrial repair and replication.

I want to hit this topic first, as I think this might be the most important role magnesium plays within our body.  It’s one of the main underlying mechanisms behind the benefits of magnesium.  You may need to bear with me here while I explain some background information.

The first thing I should probably do before explaining how magnesium impacts mitochondrial repair and replication, is explain what a mitochondrion is.  Pretty much every cell in the human body has a mitochondrion.  They are known as the “cell powerhouses” as they are the site in which most ATP is produced.  ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate which is essentially the currency for energy in the body.  So the more mitochondria you have, and the more efficient they are at functioning the more energy you can produce.  Increased numbers of mitochondria is usually brought on as part of a training effect from physical activity.  So someone like Mo Farah probably has one or two more mitochondria than say myself.

Now in order to increase numbers of mitochondria it requires your existing mitochondria to replicate their genome.  This is where magnesium comes in.  The enzymes required for mitochondria to replicate its self are magnesium dependent.  So the magnesium allows these enzymes to do their job.  So without enough magnesium your body will struggle to replicate its mitochondria, therefore compromising physical performance in athletics or everyday activities.

Another way to increase energy production is to increase your current mitochondria’s efficiency.  Every day we expose ourselves to or create oxidative stress, this can be through physical activity, pollution, smoking etc.  This oxidative stress damages our mitochondria, reducing their ability to produce ATP.  Not to worry though because our bodies are awesome and they can repair this damage using the same magnesium dependent enzymes I have previously mentioned.
Basic Structure of the Mitochondria


Cancer protection
A study took place in France following 4035 men between the ages of 30-60 for 18 years.   The men who had higher levels of magnesium had a 40% decrease in relative risk for all-cause and cardiovascular deaths and by 50% for cancer deaths, compared to those with the lowest magnesium levels.  The good thing about this study as far as quality goes is that it controlled for a number of other major risk factors for cancer.

Studies into levels of magnesium in drinking water have found that higher magnesium is inversely correlated with deaths from breast, prostate and ovarian cancers.

Now this data is very promising but what makes it better is a clear mechanism between adequate magnesium levels and cancer prevention.  That is exactly what I hope to explain now.  So one of the ways a cell can mutate and become potentially cancerous, is due to replication errors when the cells (specifically stem cells) attempt to replicate themselves.  During replication a stem cell must replicate the entire genome of the cell.  The enzymes required for this process are called DNA polymerase’s.  Now these enzymes are far from perfect, in fact on average 120,000 sequence errors are made per cell division.  Fortunately 99.9% of these errors are taken care of by a proof reading type system performed by DNA polymerase, and guess what DNA polymerase is dependent on….you guessed it magnesium.  So consuming adequate amounts of magnesium will maximise the efficiency of DNA polymerase and therefore reduce the likelihood of replication errors.  This mechanism gives a strong scientific link to the epidemiological data from France.

I hope I haven’t lost all of you at this point as this took me quite some time to get my head around.  The credit goes to Dr Rhonda Patrick’s for breaking this down in a way I could understand, she is definitely worth a follow on twitter @foundmyfitness.

Cardiovascular Disease
In a large review article comprising of 16 studies and 313,041 participants, higher magnesium levels were associated with a 30% lower risk of CVD.  This relationship was observed at a daily intake of 250mg/day.  Another review found a 15% reduction in cardiovascular disease between the highest and lowest groups of magnesium levels.

There are mechanism’s behind this association too! Magnesium has been shown to enhance endothelium dependant vasodilation, improve lipid metabolism, reduce inflammation and inhibit platelet function 

Muscle Function and Energy Production

Magnesium is required for the active transport of calcium across cell membranes.  This is important as calcium is essential with muscle tissue for it to contract. 

Magnesium acts as a cofactor for crucial enzyme called ATPase’s which are needed for production of ATP within the mitochondria.

Transdermal Magnesium for DOMS
An ever increasing method for combatting the dreaded DOMS is applying transdermal magnesium.  This can be done by directly spraying magnesium onto muscles or soaking in a bath with magnesium flakes or bath salts.

I have heard a lot about this method from various sources and have used magnesium flakes myself on a few occasions.  Personally I did feel a benefit from using the magnesium flakes it certainly aided my sleep and I noticed considerably less DOMS following a legs session.  As I have been having a look through the literature it seems there is a lack of studies into the effects transdermal magnesium has on DOMS.  A lot of the studies that have been done tend to have an affiliation with a specific product, which always screams bias to me.  Now that doesn't t mean they have falsified results or anything, you couldn't get away with that.  Their results are still very positive, but experiments or stats can sometimes be set up in a certain way to make positive or negative result more likely.

So for now all I will say is yes there is some evidence to suggest transdermal magnesium can alleviate symptoms of DOMS and aid sleep.  Is there enough research to make a definitive conclusion?  As far as I can tell (I may be wrong) no quite at the moment, but none the less I have experienced a benefit from using them myself, so will probably continue to use them.  So if you do exercise regularly or find yourself suffering from DOMS, maybe give transdermal magnesium a go feel free to comment and let me know how you get on. Also if you know of any studies on transdermal magnesium, please leave me a comment.  I should also point out when using magnesium bath salts its important to get the temperature right, I believe 50 degrees centigrade is normally recommended.  If that baths isn't at the right temperature your body will not absorb the magnesium. 


Sleep, Mood and Migraines
Sleep quality, mood and migraines have many things in common, one is levels of serotonin.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter.  Low levels of serotonin can result in poor sleep, low mood and migraine incidence.

Serotonin is produced by converting the amino acid tryptophan, first to 5HTP then serotonin.  Part of this sequence is reliant on both vitamin B6 and magnesium, as well as some other micronutrients.  Serotonin is a precursor hormone melatonin, this is the hormone that, for lack of better words, “controls” our circadian rhythm.  This is why magnesium is frequently in supplement formulas that aid sleep or mood e.g. 5HTP complexes.
The additional mechanism tying magnesium to migraines is that it relaxes blood vessels in the brain, and inhibits the ability of calcium to constrict blood vessels     
Process of creating serotonin from protein in the diet all the way to the neurotransmitter itself

Food
So now we know some of the functions magnesium has in the body and why it’s so important, so how do we get it in the diet?  What are the best sources?  Foods rich in magnesium are…green leafy vegetables, nuts, avocado, cocoa, grains and seeds.  I should make it clear that throughout this post I have used the phrase “adequate” very deliberately when referring to levels of magnesium, this is because like any other mineral you can certainly consume too much.  The current UK dietary reference value is 300mg per day.  This is the amount of magnesium required to meet the needs of 97.5% of the population.  The only way to really get to know your individual requirements would be to get blood work done.  Below you can see a table with some examples and their magnesium content per 100g.

Food Item
Magnesium per 100g (mg)
Kale
47
Spinach
79
Avocado
29
Oats
177
Brazil Nuts
376
Almonds
268

Something to bear on mind with the food sources of magnesium is something called phytic acid.  Nuts and grains contain phytic acid which can inhibit the absorption of certain minerals.  This is important as for the most part it’s not a case of “you are what we eat” it’s more like “you are what you absorb”.  So the magnesium in these food sources could be less available to the body.  For me personally I try and get as many servings of green leafy vegetables as I can.  The magnesium is more bioavailable and you have a ton of other micronutrients packed in their too!

Supplementation
Before supplementing it’s always best to consult a doctor, just to make sure it’s safe for you as an individual. It’s more than feasible to get all the magnesium you need through real, wholefood sources. If you do want to supplement with magnesium, magnesium citrate has been shown to be the mote bioavailable form of magnesium.  Try and avoid enteric coated supplements, as the coating can inhibit absorption by up to 67%.  Finally, if you do supplement with magnesium consider taking it in conjunction with calcium in a 2:1 ratio in favour of calcium.  This is often recommended as calcium and magnesium are absorbed through similar pathways. 

Conclusion
So magnesium is an essential mineral, that we should consume around 300mg per day.  There is some very strong and robust mechanistic and epidemiological evidence that adequate magnesium intake can be protective of cancer can heart disease. 

Magnesium is a key component of muscle function.  So anyone who is active really needs to make sure they get their daily dose of magnesium.  There is some evidence that transdermal magnesium can aid with DOMs, however personally I think more research could be done in this area.
Magnesium is required for serotonin production, therefore impacting sleep, mood and potentially migraine incidence.

I should finish off my saying I have only really touched on some of the main functions of magnesium in the body.  Honestly in the process of reading around for this post I found you could probably dedicate an entire book to the processes magnesium is involved with, and the benefits of consuming enough of it has.

So load up on that green leafy veg and get your magnesium in!

References
BATRA, V., BEARD, W., SHOCK, D., KRAHN, J., PEDERSEN, L. and WILSON, S. (2006). Magnesium-Induced Assembly of a Complete DNA Polymerase Catalytic Complex. Structure, 14(4), pp.757-766.

Boska, M., Welch, K., Barker, P., Nelson, J. and Schultz, L. (2003). Contrasts in cortical magnesium, phospholipid and energy metabolism between migraine syndromes. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 43(4), pp.425-425.

Chiu, H. F., Chang, C. C., & Yang, C. Y. (2004). Magnesium and calcium in drinking water and risk of death from ovarian cancer. Magnesium research,17(1), 28-34.

Chun-Yuh Yang, Hui-Fen Chiu, Bi-Hua, (2000). CALCIUM AND MAGNESIUM IN DRINKING WATER AND THE RISK OF DEATH FROM BREAST CANCER. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 60(4), pp.231-241.

Chun-Yuh Yang, Hui-Fen Chiu, Shang-, (2000). CALCIUM AND MAGNESIUM IN DRINKING WATER AND RISK OF DEATH FROM PROSTATE CANCER. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 60(1), pp.17-26.

Del Gobbo, L., Imamura, F., Wu, J., de Oliveira Otto, M., Chiuve, S. and Mozaffarian, D. (2013). Circulating and dietary magnesium and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98(1), pp.160-173.

Geissler, C. and Powers, H. (2005). Human nutrition. Edinburgh: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone.

Leone, N., Courbon, D., Ducimetiere, P. and Zureik, M. (2006). Zinc, Copper, and Magnesium and Risks for All-Cause, Cancer, and Cardiovascular Mortality. Epidemiology, 17(3), pp.308-314.

Qu, X., Jin, F., Hao, Y., Li, H., Tang, T., Wang, H., Yan, W. and Dai, K. (2013). Magnesium and the Risk of Cardiovascular Events: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. PLoS ONE, 8(3), p.e57720.

Zidverc-Trajković, J., Pavlović, A., Jovanović, Z., Šternić, N. and Kostić, V. (2001). Efficacy of intravenous magnesium sulfate in severe migraine attacks. J Headache Pain, 2(2), pp.79-82.


Saturday, 14 February 2015

Calorie Counting – The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Today I want to talk about calorie counting.  It’s on every food packet and is the back bone of a lot of diets.  I am going to cover the benefits of knowing your caloric intake, but also how it can become an obsessive and potentially negative practice.  Bear in mind this is my opinion, I’m talking about what works for me and what I have heard/seen work for others.  When it comes to diet, health and fitness it’s all about finding what works for you.  So give it a read, consider what I am saying and look to figure out what elements if any you can apply to yourself as an individual.

What is a calorie?
So before we get onto counting them it is important we know what a calorie actually is, and how they apply to our body.  Some people say........

Really a calorie is a unit of measurement for energy, often abbreviated to kcal (kilocalorie) not to be confused with the other form of energy measurement on food, the kilojoule (kj).  1 calorie is equal to 4.17 kilojoules.

BMR
BMR stands for basal metabolic rate, which is essentially the amount of energy your body requires just to keep ticking over at complete rest.  There are a few different equations for calculating this, each will spit out a slightly different number, but they are generally in the same ball park.  The one I use is the Schofield equation, I believe this is the one used by today’s dieticians.  Your energy needs don’t stop there though, you need to factor in a physical activity level or PAL.  I have inserted a table below that will help you estimate your individual PAL.  Along the top is occupational activity split into light (e.g. sedentary office work), moderate (e.g. waiter/tress) and heavy (e.g. builder).  Down the left hand side is your non occupational activity so training or sport.  Non active is pretty self-explanatory, moderate would be a 1-3 training sessions a week and very active would be in the 3-5 fairly intense training sessions per week.

non occupational


Occupational




Light (Male)
Light (Female)
Moderate (Male)
Moderate (Female)
Heavy (Male)
Heavy (Female)
Non Active
1.4
1.4
1.6
1.5
1.7
1.5
Moderate
1.5
1.5
1.7
1.6
1.8
1.6
Very Active
1.6
1.6
1.8
1.7
1.9
1.7





For me I probably have a PAL of 1.7.  I generally sit on my arse all day as far as work goes, but I have some more active days working part time in a café.  I train quite regularly usually Muay Thai or weights.  This gives me an estimate of what I roughly need to consume each day to maintain my weight. 

1930x1.7=3281kcal

I do think it’s important to play around with your caloric intake to find out what works best for you.  This brings me quite nicely into…..

The Good
So we now have our starting point: BMR X PAL.  I think in the beginning it can be very useful to count calories for a number of reasons.  1. To find out a bit more about food and how calorically dense some foods can be.  For example you normally grab a muffin at your local coffee shop at lunch time.  It doesn’t seem like much but a chocolate muffin could be as much as 530kcal. That's easily the equivalent of a healthy balanced meal for some people. 2. To figure out how many calories you actually need as an individual.  The previous calculations give you a ball park figure you now need to test that.  It is a case of tracking your intake, whilst monitoring your weight and energy levels.  3. I think it’s useful to be able to know roughly how many calories is in a plate of food, this can really help with portion sizes/control.  

The best way for me to explain all this is perhaps to write down what I have done/am currently doing.
So I got my estimated daily energy requirement – 3281kcal

From studying nutrition and being “that guy” who always looks at food labels, I kind of already know roughly how many calories is in a lot of foods/food groups.  So I started consuming around 3300kcal per day.  What I found was on some days I felt a little tired, I lost a small amount of weight and appeared slightly leaner.  So I have gradually upped my daily intake to around 3500kcal per day and this feels comfortable.  My weight is pretty consistent, and I feel like I have energy throughout the day and during most training sessions.  Now all I have to do if I want to get leaner or gain weight is add or subtract calories.

The Bad
Food is awesome! We shouldn’t just think of it as fuel.  It brings people together socially, it can be fun to prepare and cook, certain tastes can bring back positive memories and a whole host of other positive things come from food. 

Breaking down food just into its caloric or macronutrient value kind of takes the fun out of it.  This can build up an unhealthy relationship with food, something I definitely do not want to promote.  What I do now is estimate how many calories I have at each meal, and just add that up on the calculator on my phone.  I’m not tracking each individual item on an app and obsessing over it.  I am also very safe in the knowledge that as long as I primarily stick to whole foods as the bulk of my diet, I am rarely in danger of massively over consuming.  In fact on most days my last two meals are usually slightly larger than I perhaps planned, due to being under my requirements.  Occasionally I may be 100-200 calories above or below my target, but in the grand scheme of things one day where I am a little out won’t make a monumental difference.

The Ugly

Calories and energy intake are just one of several measurable factors in nutrition.  Each calorie is not created equally.

If I were to eat 1000kcal of table sugar, it would have a completely different effect to consuming 1000kcal of lard.  It’s important not to think of calorie counting as the holy grail of diet and nutrition, we need to think about how specific foods and nutrients react in our body hormonally.   We also need to consider nutrient density.  I have illustrated this below by analysing two very different meals.

  Nutritional density simply refers the amount of macro and micronutrients a food or meal has gram for gram
  Meal 1 – 240grams chips and 60 grams cheddar cheese
  Meal 2 – 300g chicken breast, 350g sweet potato, 100g spinach, an apple and 30g almonds.

Nutrients
Meal 1
Meal 2
Kcal
1121
1116
CHO
98.9g
126.8g
Protein
26.1g
111.8g
Fat
71.8g
25.8g
Potassium
1175mg
4154mg
Iron
2.5mg
7.9mg
Vitamin C
29mg
122mg

As you can see the two meals have a very similar caloric content, but the nutrients are completely different.  I personally know how much better I would feel consuming meal 2 versus meal 1.  Also look just how food you get to eat in meal 2 compared to meal 1.  You can see how by eating nutrient dense whole foods you are more likely to be struggling to meet your caloric requirements, than surpassing them.   

To really illustrate how different the meals are, I thought I would recreate them.  So here they are....




I have spoken to a number of people, whilst working in a health food shop, who maintain that no matter what they eat as long as they are below their caloric needs they will lose weight.   They eat fry ups, processed cakes and pastries and other junk foods, but as long as they aren’t over consuming calories they will lose weight. They aren’t wrong they will lose weight, but how will their health be?  How are they going to feel day to day?  The answer is probably pretty terrible.  They will feel hungry, tired, lethargic etc. as their body cries out for all the micro and macronutrients it’s missing out on by eating energy dense, nutrient sparse food.

So the morale of the story……yes it’s good to know how many calories are in food, and to track how much you’re consuming especially in the beginning.   Don’t let calorie counting define your diet or become an obsession.  Generally speaking, stick to whole foods at a portion size suitable for you, and you will be well on your way to a healthier fitter you!


Friday, 6 February 2015

Flavonoids


What are they?
Flavonoids are a subcategory or type of polyphenol, which are also referred to as phytonutrients. There are over 4000 identified flavonoids, and they are sometimes split into further subcategories: flavones, flavonols and flavonones.  They cannot be created by the human body.  For the sake of this post I’m not going to be addressing each individual flavonoid or subcategory (unless a study has used a specific flavonoid, in which case it’s only ethical I name it).  The reason is threefold: 1 life is short and I’m far from being educated enough to delve into thousands of individual compounds 2. Flavonoids are something I don’t think we need to supplement with, as they are abundant in a variety of foods 3. Foods contain a plethora of these plant pigment powerhouses, and the main message I want to convey is that we need to eat more fruit and vegetables in a variety of colours.  They serve a number of processes in the body as they are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory.  These processes have been associated with several health benefits and disease preventions.  


Antioxidant Action
This is the biggie!  Foods and food products are always being marketed for their antioxidant content, but why is this important? What’s it actually doing within the body?  In a nutshell an antioxidant prevents other molecules from being oxidised.  To get a real understanding of this we need to dig a little deeper into the biochemistry.  The first thing to know is what exactly a free radical is.  A free radical is a molecule with an unpaired electron.  The fact is has an unpaired electron makes it unstable and highly reactive.  To rectify this it “attacks” the nearest stable molecule “stealing” an electron from that molecule and thus turning that molecule into a free radical.  This can cause a cascade effect and result in the disruption of a living cell.  Picture a child losing his favourite toy so he goes and steals his friends toy, if this chain of events carries on soon the whole playground is crying and going crazy.   An antioxidant is a child who is happy to give up their toy to the first child and prevent any negative situation from occurring.  This is because antioxidants are stable with paired or unpaired electrons.  Free radicals occur as a result of normal everyday metabolism and immune function, but increased levels are produced as a result of cigarette smoke, pollution and radiation.  So essentially antioxidants help prevent cell damage and death.

Anti-Inflammatory
It is theorised that flavonoids play a role in managing inflammation.  Most of the experiments into this theory are in cellular models (so in the lab rather than on humans).  The mechanisms that have been identified, in these lab trials, link flavonoids to preventing the creation of pro inflammatory mediators (eicosanoids, cytokines, adhesion molecules and C-reactive protein).  It is important to bear in mind these trials took place in the lab. This is where it gets kind of fuzzy.  For example some lab trials will use astronomically high dosages to identify mechanisms.  There have been human trials, investigating this theory, which have thus far yielded positive, but less conclusive results.  These experiments have predominantly used increased consumption of flavonoid rich foods (tea, fruit, veg, cocoa etc.).  This type of method has positives and weaknesses.  From a really scientific point of view, it’s difficult to attribute the reduction in inflammation to just the flavonoids when you are using food.  This is because real food also has loads of vitamins, minerals and various other brilliant compounds, which could potentially be causing the positive effect.  On the other hand, the way I see this is, real whole foods, the stuff that we should be eating more of, are having an effect on inflammation.  To sum up this section there is some fairly strong evidence for flavonoids as an anti-inflammatory, but a bit more work on human trials needs to be done.  This is necessary to make a definitive conclusion to fully attribute the effect solely to them.

Effect on Health
Knowing these two mechanisms is great, but everyone wants to know what real world effects of getting enough flavonoids in our diet.

Heart Disease Incidence and Deaths
I looked at a review article that examined results from several large cohort studies.
4/7 studies found a statistically positive association with increased flavonoid intake and death from coronary heart disease.  Three of seven cohorts reported that greater flavonoid intake was associated with lower risk of incident stroke.  The flavonol and flavone classes were most strongly associated with lower heart disease mortality. The evidence for protection from heart disease from other flavonoid classes were more limited.

I want to take a break from flavonoids here and briefly explain what I mean by “association”, and the difference between association/correlation and causality.  You will often see media outlets run articles headlined by titles along the lines of “food product X cause/cures disease Y”.  This kind of title, in most cases, is very misleading as the studies they are based on make no claim to causality.  What can cause or protect us from disease is not black and white, as we don’t live black and white lives.  Everyone one of us has our own lifestyle and there are a plethora of factors that could influence what goes on in our body.  Cohort studies take a brief snapshot of a population in order to try and identify trends.  I will use this study on flavonoids and heart disease as an example.

So the people who consumed greater amounts of flavonoids had lower incidence of heart disease, that’s the general trend it seems.  But what if by chance those people also exercised more frequently, or had healthier diets too.  It’s difficult to label flavonoids as the single defining factor effecting their heart health, when we know there are lots of other potential contributors.  This is just a brief explanation, and as I have been writing this paragraph I think this topic needs a whole blog post, so stay tuned for that.  It’s something I feel quite strongly about as I seem to constantly encounter a clear lack of understanding, or negligence from the media when they report on nutritional/health science.  This muddies the water and leads to confusion.

Cancer
I don’t want to get too deep into cancer, as I don’t think it is really my place.  I have a bit of an understanding of the disease; however it’s extremely complex and I’m not a doctor.  That being said I have looked at some epidemiological studies regarding flavonoids and cancer.  I am going to use some direct quotes here, to make sure I’m not misinterpreting any studies.  All the articles and books I’m using will be listed at the end of the post.

It has been theorised that antioxidant compounds play a role in protecting us from cancer.  This is thought to be due to the mechanism I have explained, with flavonoids clearing up free radicals and reactive oxygen species.  To really get into the science the Mechanisms of action are: inhibition of proliferation, inflammation, invasion, metastasis, and activation of apoptosis (death of an infected cell).

The main review article I looked at  concluded that “Food flavonoids exert protective effects against various types of tumours including oral and pharyngeal, gastric, pancreatic, colorectal, hepatic, prostate, ovarian, endometrial, breast, and lung cancers.”  However it also stated that “Prospective studies with larger sample sizes are necessary to reduce bias and calibrate the effects of specific flavonoids and interactions on the cancer response.”

I also came across two nice studies from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC).  EPIC is a huge programme that currently has 521,000 participants.  It really is one of the most robust studies investigating cancer.  If you are interested here is a link to their website, check it out http://epic.iarc.fr/

In an 11 year follow up the group that consumed the most flavonols (one of the subclasses on flavonoids), had a lower rate of cancer incidence, compared to the group that consumed the least amount of flavonoids.  The risk association was 0.74.  This means they had 26% less cancer incidence.

Again in an 11 year follow up, incidence of gastric adenocarcinoma (A form of stomach cancer) was reduced, this time in association with total flavonoid consumption.  The incidence rate was lower in both men and woman, but only in women was the difference statistically significant.

 

Brain Function

A relatively new discovery is that flavonoids intake could impact our brains, potentially improving memory, learning and brain plasticity. 

There have been several studies linking flavonoid intake to the reversal of age related deficits in memory and learning.  A large number of these studies have used tea, cocoa and gingko biloba.  They have yielded positive results, however like the studies into heart disease and cancer it’s difficult to single out flavonoids as the single reason for this positive change.
A more recent study in mice, has actually identified a mechanism linking pure flavonols and anthocyanin with improved brain function.  Not only did the mice have improved spatial memory performance, the researchers saw a rise in the levels of a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).  This protein promotes the survival of nerve cells (neurons)The BDNF protein helps regulate synaptic plasticity, which is important for learning and memory.  Even though this study is in mice it’s a big discovery, as we now have some mechanistic evidence to support the previous trials.  This evidence means that flavonoids could potentially be protective of neuro-degenerative disease, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's 


Here are two graphs from the study I have mentioned.  As you can see memory performance and levels of BDNF were much better in the various flavonoid groups (BB, A & F), compare to the control group (C).
Food
Let’s talk real food!  We now know loads about flavonoids but where do we get them in the diet?  The main source for most of us should be fruits and vegetables.  Flavonoids are just one of many reasons we need to pile out plates high with veges! Other common sources are tea, coffee, chocolate and red wine.  Obviously with those last three we need to think about moderation.  With chocolate it’s only the dark stuff that is rich in flavonoids so 70%+, personally I really like 85% dark chocolate it is awesome.  Whilst I have been reading, it seems to be the flavonol subclass that has the strongest links to health.  These include Kaempferol, myricetin and quercetin, rich sources are Onions, kale, broccoli, apples,
cherries, fennel, sorrel, berries and tea.

For me I think the easiest way to get more vegetables in to my diet is stir-frys, I eat loads of these.  They are quick and easy to make and there is so much you can do with in terms of flavours.  Soy sauce, ginger, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, honey, coriander are just a few things I like to throw in to add flavour.  Then all I need is some meat and maybe some grains or sweet potato and its game on. 
Here is my stir-fry of the day - chicken, broccoli, spinach, carrot, peas, sugar snap peas, garlic, soy sauce and mixed grains.  Beside it a cup of rooibos tea for some extra flavonoid power. 
Local Shops
Originally I was going to link in local fruit and veg suppliers, but I figured they could fit in with loads of future posts.  So I visited a couple of local shops seeing a big variety of tea, dark chocolate and coffee.

The Green Shop - 30 Bridge St, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland TD15 1AQ
01289 305566








The Market Shop - 48 Bridge Street, Berwick-upon-Tweed TD15 1AQ
01289 307749




Conclusion
Flavonoids are very strongly linked to a variety of health benefits.  They are powerful brain boosting, cancer fighting, molecules of marvel.  They are just one of hundreds of reasons why eating several portions vegetables, and maybe the odd glass of red wine, is really important for our health and well being


References
Geissler, C. and Powers, H. (2005). Human nutrition. Edinburgh: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone.

Hodgson, J., Puddey, I., Mori, T., Burke, V., Baker, R. and Beilin, L. (2001). Effects of regular ingestion of black tea on haemostasis and cell adhesion molecules in humans. Eur J Clin Nutr, 55(10), pp.881-886.

Kumar, P. and Clark, M. (n.d.). Kumar & Clark's clinical medicine.

Mrak, R. and Griffin, W. (2007). Common Inflammatory Mechanisms in Lewy Body Disease and Alzheimer Disease. Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, 66(8), pp.683-686.

Mukamal, K., MacDermott, K., Vinson, J., Oyama, N., Manning, W. and Mittleman, M. (2007). A 6-month randomized pilot study of black tea and cardiovascular risk factors. American Heart Journal, 154(4), pp.724.e1-724.e6.

Murphy, T., Dias, G. and Thuret, S. (2014). Effects of Diet on Brain Plasticity in Animal and Human Studies: Mind the Gap. Neural Plasticity, 2014, pp.1-32.

Nägga, K., Wattmo, C., Zhang, Y., Wahlund, L. and Palmqvist, S. (2014). Cerebral inflammation is an underlying mechanism of early death in Alzheimer’s disease: a 13-year cause-specific multivariate mortality study. Alzheimer's Research & Therapy, 6(4), p.41.

Ralph, A., Garrow, J. and James, W. (2000). Human nutrition and dietetics. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

Rendeiro, C., Guerreiro, J., Williams, C. and Spencer, J. (2012). Flavonoids as modulators of memory and learning: molecular interactions resulting in behavioural effects. Proc. Nutr. Soc., 71(02), pp.246-262.

Rendeiro, C., Vauzour, D., Rattray, M., Waffo-Téguo, P., Mérillon, J., Butler, L., Williams, C. and Spencer, J. (2013). Dietary Levels of Pure Flavonoids Improve Spatial Memory Performance and Increase Hippocampal Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. PLoS ONE, 8(5), p.e63535.

Romagnolo, D. and Selmin, O. (2012). Flavonoids and Cancer Prevention: A Review of the Evidence. Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics, 31(3), pp.206-238.

Ryu, O., Lee, J., Lee, K., Kim, H., Seo, J., Kim, S., Kim, N., Baik, S., Choi, D. and Choi, K. (2006). Effects of green tea consumption on inflammation, insulin resistance and pulse wave velocity in type 2 diabetes patients. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 71(3), pp.356-358.

Steptoe, A., Gibson, E., Vuononvirta, R., Hamer, M., Wardle, J., Rycroft, J., Martin, J. and Erusalimsky, J. (2007). The effects of chronic tea intake on platelet activation and inflammation: A double-blind placebo controlled trial. Atherosclerosis, 193(2), pp.277-282.

Widlansky, M., Duffy, S., Hamburg, N., Gokce, N., Warden, B., Wiseman, S., Keaney, J., Frei, B. and Vita, J. (2005). Effects of black tea consumption on plasma catechins and markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in patients with coronary artery disease. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 38(4), pp.499-506.

Zamora-Ros, R., Agudo, A., Lujan-Barroso, L., Romieu, I., Ferrari, P., Knaze, V., Bueno-de-Mesquita, H., Leenders, M., Travis, R., Navarro, C., Sanchez-Cantalejo, E., Slimani, N., Scalbert, A., Fedirko, V., Hjartaker, A., Engeset, D., Skeie, G., Boeing, H., Forster, J., Li, K., Teucher, B., Agnoli, C., Tumino, R., Mattiello, A., Saieva, C., Johansson, I., Stenling, R., Redondo, M., Wallstrom, P., Ericson, U., Khaw, K., Mulligan, A., Trichopoulou, A., Dilis, V., Katsoulis, M., Peeters, P., Igali, L., Tjonneland, A., Halkjaer, J., Touillaud, M., Perquier, F., Fagherazzi, G., Amiano, P., Ardanaz, E., Bredsdorff, L., Overvad, K., Ricceri, F., Riboli, E. and Gonzalez, C. (2012). Dietary flavonoid and lignan intake and gastric adenocarcinoma risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96(6), pp.1398-1408.

Zamora-Ros, R., Sacerdote, C., Ricceri, F., Weiderpass, E., Roswall, N., Buckland, G., St-Jules, D., Overvad, K., Kyrø, C., Fagherazzi, G., Kvaskoff, M., Severi, G., Chang-Claude, J., Kaaks, R., Nathlings, U., Trichopoulou, A., Naska, A., Trichopoulos, D., Palli, D., Grioni, S., Mattiello, A., Tumino, R., Gram, I., Engeset, D., Huerta, J., Molina-Montes, E., Argaelles, M., Amiano, P., Ardanaz, E., Ericson, U., Lindkvist, B., Nilsson, L., Kiemeney, L., Ros, M., Bueno-de-Mesquita, H., Peeters, P., Khaw, K., Wareham, N., Knaze, V., Romieu, I., Scalbert, A., Brennan, P., Wark, P., Vineis, P., Riboli, E. and González, C. (2014). Flavonoid and lignan intake in relation to bladder cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. British Journal of Cancer, 111(9), pp.1870-1880.