Is there really such a thing as a “superfood”? This week’s Nutrition News aims to find out as it explores the latest in nutritional research including the science behind superfoods, the health benefits of ashwagandha and the link between vitamin D and mood.
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The science of superfoods
The branding of turmeric and honey as “superfoods” has often been dismissed as a marketing ploy but new research from the American Society of Nutrition has evaluated the science behind such claims and found that there are, indeed, certain foods we can deem “super” for their robust nutrient profile.
Honey, for example, has anti-inflammatory properties as a result of the nanoparticles it contains according to researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The researchers found in their experiments that these nanoparticles can reduce inflammation and can potentially inhibit the activation of a key inflammatory enzyme complex.
Similarly, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric are known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties but research into whether they can also benefit heart health is ongoing. A recent study from Clemson University found that these superfoods could have an effect on cholesterol levels by improving the lipid profile. While the research is limited and further studies would be needed to clarify the results, the findings suggest that these substances could support the general health and wellbeing of those with high cholesterol.
Ashwagandha and cardiorespiratory endurance
A recent study has found that ashwagandha may support cardiorespiratory endurance alongside stress management. The study from OM Research Centre and M V Hospital and Research Centre in Uttar Pradesh, India, as reported by NutraIngredientsUSA, found that the consumption of 600 mg of Ashwagandha root extract per day for eight weeks had positive effects on VO2 max, which is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise, compared to the baseline and placebo.
The study involved 50 healthy, athletic participants and found that Ashwagandha consumption increased VO2 max by 6.6 ml/kg/min compared to 2.03 ml/kg/min in the placebo group.
This study adds to an increasing body of research on the effects of Ashwagandha and how it may support a healthy life; specifically supporting the body’s healthy response to stress, cognitive function, sleep, metabolic wellness, adrenal function, and sports performance.
Vitamin D levels linked to mood
While the research into the link between vitamin D levels and immune system support is well known, research into the link between vitamin D and mood is ongoing. Researchers from the University of Leipzig, Germany, conducted research, reported by NutraIngredients, that found negative correlations between vitamin D levels and depressive symptomology.
Causality cannot be drawn on this study due to its cross-sectional design but it serves as a robust base from which to carry out further studies evaluating changes in depressive symptoms and inflammation as well as the effect of vitamin D supplementation on inflammation and depressive symptomology.
What the study does further highlight is the importance of monitoring vitamin D levels, particularly in countries where vitamin D is notoriously low amongst the general population, such as those with fewer sunlight hours, such as the UK, and amongst group most at risk of deficiency, such as the elderly.
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Alison is the 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.