In the news – summer wellness health & nutrition news

In this week’s article we provide a roundup of some of the most recent summer wellness health and nutrition related articles in the news, five items comprising:

  • Can colourful fruit and veg protect your skin from sun damage?
  • Trees could be the secret to adolescent mental wellbeing
  • 30 minutes of physical activity per day may help reduce the risk of prolonged sitting
  • Beating jet lag with pine bark extract?
  • Research reveals the most effective probiotics to help reduce travellers diarrhoea

Can colourful fruit and veg protect your skin from sun damage?

The skin’s outermost layer of the epidermis, called the stratum corneum, acts as a protective barrier between the organism and the outside environment. While sunlight has a host of benefits to the body and mind, overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun can damage the skin and result in photo-aging, burns and skin cancer formation.

Melanin, located in the epidermis and produced by melanocytes, is involved in the protection of the skin and is able to absorb UVR to help prevent against skin damage. URV exposure induces melanin oxidation and spatial redistribution, while new melanin synthesis increases sun protection factor having photoprotective effects and reducing UV damage to DNA. Dark skin contains 3-6 times more melanin and eumelanin with larger melanosomes than lighter skin and allows a lower percent of UVB and UVA rays to pass through the epidermis.

In plants, chlorophyll and carotenoids are involved in photosynthesis, protecting the plant from oxidative stress and thus playing a role in photoprotection. Phytonutrients including flavonoids, polyphenols and carotenoids can increase the protective mechanism of the skin, with research over the last 30 years emphasising their photoprotective effect against UVB and UVA light, alongside their use in preventing skin cancer.

Carotenoids accumulate in the epidermis and dermis and act as filters for blue and near violet light, as well as; quenching reactive oxygen species (ROS), reducing the decline of antioxidant enzymes in the cells exposed to UVA, and protecting against DNA damage and lipid peroxidation, which has been shown in both in vivo and in vitro studies.

Carotenoid status in the skin has been demonstrated as a marker of not only consumption and antioxidant status but as a biomarker of anti-ageing. Carotenoid bioavailability increases when the cell wall of the plant is broken down, which is done through cooking.
Carotenoids include;

• Lycopene, is a tetraterpene compound abundantly found in tomatoes and tomato-based products and is well known for protecting against sunburn and UVR damage.

• Astaxanthin has been found to remove oxygen and nitrogen species to protect the skin from inflammation induced by UVB and UVC radiation. It is considered to help reduce the signs of skin ageing and UV induced photo-aging.

• Both lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoid compounds that are highly concentrated in the macular of the eye. Research has uncovered that lutein exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, helping to prevent UV induced photodamage, with one study finding that dietary intake of lutein reduced the risk of melanoma. Zeaxanthin can block the formation of melanin pathways, reducing inflammatory molecules and improving antioxidant status. One study found that a combination of lutein and zeaxanthin improved skin firmness and elasticity. They believed that the additional skin brightening effects of these compounds can be down to their limiting of two melanin compounds, pheomelanin and eumelanin.

In conclusion the present study identified the achievements regarding the use of selected plant photosynthetic pigments from the carotenoid family to help protect the skin against UVR radiation.

They state that oral photoprotective agents, including micronutrients, polyphenols and flavonoids from plant origin can offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to the skin, as well as acting as natural filters to enhance photoprotection.

Read the full report here: Skin Protection by Carotenoid Pigments – PMC (

Trees could be the secret to adolescent mental wellbeing

Many studies have looked at the effect of spending time in nature, in particular the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, for psychological well-being.

Spending time in green spaces, forests, parks and other outdoor environments have been found to support health both physically and mentally, with research finding that forest bathing in particular, not only led to a reduction of overall stress, but also had beneficial impacts on physiological health by improving markers of cardiovascular function.

The authors of the current study explore the theories that aim to understand why being nature can have such a big impact on health. The Attention Restoration Theory believes that time in nature can help improve attention span and mental alertness, while the Stress Recovery Theory suggests that spending time outside in nature while experiencing stress, can help to reduce the negative physiological and psychological effects of that stress.

It is well known that stress reduction techniques such as yoga, exercise and meditation can have a wealth of positive effects on the body and mind, including supporting immunity, improving sleep, reducing inflammation and reducing the risk of depression and anxiety.

However, much of the research into the link between nature and improved health are conducted on adults. The current authors report that adolescent depression and anxiety rates in America have skyrocketed by 59% between 2007 and 2017, highlighting the need for further mental health support for this age group.

The current study investigated the effects that forest bathing once a week, for 3 weeks, would have on the mental wellbeing of 24 participants aged between 16-18 as part of a youth participatory action research (YPAR) project. They used a convergent, parallel mixed-methods design and mood and well-being was measured using the Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Survey.

The results found that the adolescents mental well-being significantly increased after forest bathing, with participants reporting that they felt more relaxed, happy and less stressed.

They concluded that spending time in nature could therefore be a low cost and accessible way to improve adolescent wellbeing and mental health.

Read the full report here: Forest Bathing Increases Adolescents’ Mental Well-Being: A Mixed-Methods Study – PMC (

30 minutes of physical activity per day may help reduce risk of prolonged sitting

Modern living, with an increasing number of jobs being computer and office based, has led to an increase in sedentary lifestyles, with prolonged periods of sitting down now the norm for a majority of working people. In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that sedentary behaviours, including long periods of time sitting and being inactive, is a significant barrier to supporting good health.

Previous studies have explored the damaging effects of prolonged sitting on the population, connecting these lifestyle behaviours to an increase in the susceptibility to type 2 diabetes, low grade inflammation, weight gain and cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

Researchers looking into offsetting a sedentary lifestyle wanted to know if physical activity outside of the workplace could attenuate these risks and subsequent impact on health.

Their first meta-analysis study suggested that the risks of prolonged sitting can be reduced by adding in 60-75 minutes of exercise per day, to which they later found in a further meta-analysis that this could be synthesised into just 30-40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise. The latter, being more in line with the recommendations set out by the WHO, may be more of a realistic target for many busy people, but can a short amount of physical activity really reduce the effects of a mainly sedentary lifestyle?

The current study looked at 481,688 participants over a mean follow up of 12.85 years, results were adjusted for sex, age, lifestyle factors such as smoking and drinking, BMI and education. They identified and grouped participants with similar leisure time physical activity as to better compare those who predominantly sat during the workday to those who did not. Their aim was to assess the health risks that prolonged workplace sitting had on all-cause mortality and CVD, as well as exploring how much out of work physical activity was needed to mitigate these negative effects.

They found that those who predominantly sat down at work all day had overall increased risks of all-cause mortality. Although, delving further into the results, it was found that those alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day experienced 16% reduction in all-cause mortality compared to those who mostly sat. Furthermore, those who sat at work but had higher levels of physical activity outside of work reduced this risk to be on par with those who did not sit during the workday but had lower outside work activity levels.

Overall, the current study concluded that those who were predominantly sitting during the workday would need to add in an additional 15-30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day to reduce health risks and to be on par with those who were not as sedentary. These findings fall below the WHO recommendations and so aiming for 30 minutes a day may be better practice.

The authors noted the advice from experimental studies who recommend the use of standing desks in the workplace, employee exercise breaks and active group activities to further reduce these potential risks.

Read the full report here: Occupational Sitting Time, Leisure Physical Activity, and All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality – PMC (

Beating jet lag with pine bark extract?

Jet lag occurs when our circadian rhythm, which is our body’s internal clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle becomes out of sync, often after air travel across multiple time zones. Symptoms manifest as brain fog, inability to concentrate, fatigue, digestive issues, sleep disturbance, mood imbalances and muscle and joint stiffness.

Pycnogenol, also known as maritime pine bark extract, has a multitude of uses including skin health, circulation and preventing peripheral oedema, and has been praised for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The present study looked at the use of Pycnogenol in preventing jet lag and the resulting symptoms such as temporary cognitive dysfunction.

Participants included 127 individuals divided into groups. The first group consisted of 48 aviation professionals, including pilots and flight attendants, half were given 150mg a day of Pycnogenol while the remaining participants made up the control group. The second group of participants compromised of 47 frequent flyers, as before half of this group also took the supplement, leaving the remainder as controls. In addition to this, 32 separate subjects with mild hypertension were included, with half of this latter group supplementing with Pycnogenol.

All participants flew east for 10-12 hours in economy class. The findings revealed that those who took the Pycnogenol, including those with hypertension, had significantly lower scores in the post flight Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) for all signs and symptoms of jet lag compared to their matched controls. Cognitive function was also shown to be significantly preserved after the flight in those who had taken Pycnogenol. Any signs or symptoms that were apparent were reported to much lower in intensity and duration for the supplemented group, including the number of nights of altered or poor sleep. Leg oedema measured by ankle circumference before and after the flight was increased in all participants, but significantly more so in the control group.

In conclusion, Pycnogenol as a supplement may support the reduction of jet lag symptoms, including cognitive disturbances and sleep quality.

Read the full report here: Prevention and control of jet lag symptoms and temporary impairment of cognitive function with Pycnogenol® in healthy individuals and in hypertensives – PubMed (

Research reveals the most effective probiotics to help reduce travellers diarrhoea

Traveller’s diarrhoea is a common symptom with approximately 10-40 million travellers experiencing digestive discomfort while abroad. Exposure to new environments, unfamiliar and interesting foods, and different drinking water can cause disruption to both the gut microflora and to general digestive function. Many preventative measures can be taken to reduce such issues, such avoiding tap water if not drinkable and opting for cooked foods or raw foods washed in clean water, alongside taking probiotics.

Probiotic strains support general gut health in a variety of ways, they produce antibacterial compounds to reduce pathogens, reduce inflammation, support the integrity of the gut lining, modify the gut environment to make it more favourable to beneficial strains, and reduce the growth of less advantageous bacteria.

The effectiveness of probiotics in supporting the health of the gut and preventing the occurrence of traveller’s diarrhoea may not be well known to the general public, but research has consistently found that live bacteria can be of benefit when taken before and during a trip.

Research around the particular strains of bacteria that offer the best support and have the best outcome are mixed and so the current authors performed a systematic review of the literature concentrating on randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials that were made up of travellers visiting several different destinations. Results of the review indicated that probiotics can help reduce the incidence of traveller’s diarrhoea, with the strains Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus fermentum, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and Saccharomyces boulardii being found to be the most effective.

Read the full report here: Investigating the influence of probiotics in preventing Traveler’s diarrhoea: Meta-analysis based systematic review – ScienceDirect

All of our blogs are written by our team of expert Nutritional Therapists. If you have questions regarding the topics that have been raised, or any other health matters, please do contact them using the details below:
01684 310099

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Last updated on 19th June 2024 by cytoffice


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