With the current global pandemic, research into health and nutrition has never been more important. In this week’s Nutrition News, we aim to arm you with all the latest studies and health news to make an informed decision on your personal health needs.

From the debated health benefits of echinacea to the importance of immunonutrition for the older population, read the latest research here.

The health benefits of echinacea

Echinacea is a daisy-like plant often recognised by its cone-shaped seed head and pink/purple delicate petals. As well as being a being a pretty addition to the flowerbed, this vibrant flower is thought to hold a wealth of supporting health benefits, as described by Medical News Today.

There are three types of echinacea that are more frequently used in food supplements; the E. pallida, which has pale petals, the E. purpurea, which has purple petals, and the E. angustifolia, which has narrow petals and is the form used in Metabolics Echinacea. The phenols in echinacea are the active compounds that have led to much of the belief that echinacea is beneficial to the body as they may have antioxidant properties; contributing to thought that echinacea supports the immune system.

Despite several published studies exploring the link between echinacea and the immune system, specifically respiratory support in many cases, more research is still needed to form robust data.

The link between flavonoid consumption and brain health

A new study, led by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Centre on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University has explored the link between increased flavonoid consumption and brain health. The study, reported by Science Daily, found that older adults that consumed small amounts of foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to experience detrimental effects to their brain health than those who didn’t.

Substances rich in flavonoids include berries, apples and tea and associated with various health benefits including reduced inflammation.

The study looked at 2,800 people over the age of 50 and examined the long term association between eating flavonoid-rich foods and the likelihood of them developing brain-health related conditions. Senior researcher on the project, Paul Jacques, said “Our study gives us a picture of how diet over time might be related to a person's cognitive decline”.

Immunonutrition could benefit vulnerable groups

An article published by BMJ Nutrition, entitled “COVID-19: is there a role for immunonutrition, particularly in the over 65s?” by Dr Emma Derbyshire and Dr Joanne Delange, explores the use and potential benefits of immunonutrition for the older population.

The article highlights the importance of nutrition for optimal immune function in the over 65s during such a pandemic as the one the world is currently facing. Whilst optimum nutrition cannot prevent such viruses as COVID-19 from effecting the body, the article argues that the right nutrition, including a variety of vitamins and minerals, could better prepare the immune system for such attacks.

The article looks at several research papers evaluating the role of micronutrients in meeting the needs of the immune system and concluded that the greatest amount of evidence centred on a need for optimum levels of vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc.

The article makes clear that, given the rapid transmission and spread of COVID-19 globally, firm answers from nutritional immunology are likely to come too late as much more research is needed. However, there is enough clear evidence to suggest that ageing populations are more at risk from the impact of such harmful infections and following Public Health England guidance on vitamin D and other supplementation is vitally important.

Share your thoughts

Agree with the findings in this week’s Nutrition News? Share your thoughts with us on  Facebook and Twitter.

Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.