How does your gut health affect your mood – could the microbes in your tummy be making you melancholic? We look at this and other recent health related research that made the news, including:
‘Government advice on folic acid supplements for pregnancy appears to be failing; but is the suggested mandatory folic acid fortification of flour good for us all’? ‘Several forms of vitamin E protect against memory disorders, study says’; and ‘do combined Selenium and vitamin E supplements increase prostate cancer risk’?
Melancholic microbes or how the microbiota can affect our mood
“How does the microbiota affect brain-gut communication?
This is one of the questions that experts from a range of disciplines, including neurogastroenterology and psychiatry, have been trying to answer for a while. They have used different strategies in their endeavours, from probiotics to microbiota transplants. And, for now, the results point to the conclusion that the gut microbiota may modify the chemicals in the brain and consequently, our behaviour.” As reported by Gut Microbiota Worldwatch from ESNM (European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility) – link to the full story below.
It’s probably a ‘given’ that for most people having even the slightest digestive discomfort can affect our physical performance and general sense of well being. There has been a wealth of positive research in recent years regarding maintaining the correct balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ live bacteria in the gut.
Now a team from University College Cork review recent studies that expand on how the health of our tummy may affect the health of our mind. Our comment is that starting with the logic that over 90% of serotonin is produced in our gut, and this neurotransmitter has the most profound effect on mood, you don’t need to look much further to know that gut health and mood are going to be intrinsically linked.
Several forms of vitamin E protect against memory disorders, study says
“Elderly people with high serum vitamin E levels are less likely to suffer from memory disorders than their peers with lower levels, according to a study published recently in Experimental Gerontology. According to the researchers, various forms of vitamin E seem to play a role in memory processes. The study was carried out in cooperation between the University of Eastern Finland, the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, Karolinska Institutet, and the University of Perugia” As reported by Science Daily – link to the full story below.
This research is particularly interesting as one focus is on how important it is to realise that vitamin E in a supplement comes in a number of ‘forms’ – and there is a big difference between these forms and how this can affect your body.
With vitamin E supplements what is particularly pertinent is that vitamin E occurs in nature (e.g. foods) as ‘tocopherols’ and ‘tocotrienols’, of which there are four of each. And you should always look for a vitamin E supplement with all four of the tocopherols and tocotrienols present. You should avoid vitamin E supplements that are ‘synthetic’ or ‘isolated form’.
Vitamin E is best known for its antioxidant function (vitamin E contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress). And it is equally important to never take fat soluble antioxidants without also taking a water soluble one alongside. This ensures that the fat soluble free radicals produced from the metabolic activity of antioxidants are conjugated and removed from the body.
We would stress that this research is not definitive and we look forward to the next stage of this process. Similarly we would reiterate the advice that you should not take high and repeated doses of a specific nutrient in a supplement form unless there is a compelling health reason to do so.
Folic acid taken by less than third of women planning pregnancy
“ Proportion heeding guidelines on B vitamin pre-pregnancy supplements falls despite advice on spina bifida risk: Women are ignoring expert advice to take folic acid supplements before pregnancy to protect their unborn children, a study has shown.
Researchers who questioned nearly 500,000 women attending antenatal clinics in England and the Isle of Man found that fewer than one in three took folic acid prior to becoming pregnant. These omissions were despite strong evidence showing that most cases of spina bifida and other birth defects affecting the brain, spine or spinal cord, can be prevented by boosting levels of folate – vitamin B9 – before pregnancy” As reported by The Guardian – link to the full story below.
The results of this study were a surprise to many as the health authorities in England have made a concerted effort to get across the importance of Folic Acid supplementation for preconception and pregnancy; specifically in helping prevent NTD’s (Neural Tube Defects). The current Government advice is:
“Women who are planning a pregnancy, or might become pregnant, or who are already pregnant, should also take folic acid and vitamin D supplements.”
The research also highlighted that “Just 6% of teenagers under 20 attending the antenatal clinics had taken the supplements”. The Guardian report also included the following: “Jonathan Bestwick, co-author of the study, who is a lecturer in medical statistics at Queen Mary, said: “The current UK policy of recommending women take folic acid supplements has failed and has also led to health inequalities among ethnic minorities and younger women. The government should introduce mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid without delay”
However we would express extreme caution on mandatory folic acid fortification of flour – as this has also been warned against by scientists concerned about the risk of an increase in colorectal and other cancers in the elderly. However in terms of folic acid supplementation if ‘Methylfolate’ was used there would be only benefit and no risk to any sector.
In terms of folic acid supplementation at Cytoplan (for example), for some months now we have replaced our original folic acid supplements with Methylfolate (5-MTHF). Methylfolate as folic acid is the better and safer form of folate, and will fulfil all the known uses of folic acid and more.
As Methylfolate is the most natural, stable, safe and bioeffective form of Folate (Folic Acid) it is ideal as a supplement for pregnant women and women planning pregnancy.
Methylfolate is the predominant Folate found in such foods as leafy green vegetables and is in a form that can be used directly by the body. This is a natural Folate and very different in structure and function from isolated folic acid, the most commonly sold supplemental form, which does not occur naturally in foods.
You can read more on Methylfolate in a previous Cytoplan blog (link below). We will be reporting in more detail on the concerns of mandatory folic acid fortification of flour at a later date.
Selenium, vitamin E supplements increase prostate cancer risk?
Another vitamin and mineral supplement ‘scare’ hit the headlines recently with claims from USA research that high supplement doses of (jointly) vitamin E and the mineral Selenium could increase prostate cancer risks. Although the purpose of the research was to attempt to find a positive correlation (for prostate and select nutrients) it was reported that their findings appeared to suggest the opposite.
This led to a round of media stories and at Cytoplan we have received a number of calls and emails from concerned customers seeking clarification on the implications of the news.
This research, and the reported (alleged) findings, requires detailed analysis and we devote a blog article specifically (and solely) to this topic next week (Tuesday 18th March).
Please do read this forthcoming article if you have any concerns in regards to the research; or concerns about vitamin E and Selenium supplements.
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If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.