The global pandemic has got us all thinking about our health a little bit more, whether that is the food we eat or how much exercise we do, but how does the UK compare to the rest of the world? This week’s Nutrition News covers studies that evaluate international variations in health research as well as recent studies on specific foods such as ginger and ashwagandha.

Read the research in full here.

2020 health trends around the world

2020 has put health in the spotlight like no other year has. As the pandemic of COVID-19 has spread from country to country, the research and conversation around health has evolved, with each country seemingly focused on specific trends.

This article from NutraIngredients has evaluated health trend data from all over the world during the period of the pandemic and draws interesting conclusions on the variation in research between countries. It found a significant uptick in interest in immune system support nutrients but these specific nutrients varied from country to country. European countries were most likely to search for “vitamin D and coronavirus”, whilst those in Middle Eastern, African and Asian countries are more likely to research “vitamin C and coronavirus”. Searches for “zinc and coronavirus” were more popular in Central and South American countries as well as Caribbean countries. Each nutrient is known to contribute to the normal function of the immune system and the variation of interest in each is likely due to the varying media coverage in each country.

Research into COVID-19 is still ongoing and, as yet, there is no known cure but what this study does show is that there is a heightened concern globally for immune system support and general health support through both nutrition and exercise. This has been illustrated by a correlation between COVID-19 case numbers and searches for topics such as “weight loss”, “cycling”, and “exercise” in addition to these nutrients.

The health benefits of ginger

Ginger is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties but this Healthline article looks at some of the spice’s other potential health benefits.

Gingerol is the main bioactive component in ginger that gives it is anti-inflammatory effects but it is also thought to offer some protection from oxidative stress, reducing the amount of free radicals in the body. Ginger is also commonly used to help combat nausea, specifically morning sickness in pregnant women, though it is important to remember to speak with your doctor before introducing items to your diet when pregnant.

Some studies suggest that ginger can be helpful in weight management. Further research is needed but it is thought that ginger’s role in supporting the maintenance of a healthy weight could be linked to increasing the amount of calories burned or reducing inflammation.

Ashwagandha and sleep

We touched on nutrients that helps you sleep in last week’s Nutrition News but now a study has been released that evaluates the effects of Ashwagandha on sleep support and insomnia.

The study, reported by NutraIngredients, looked at 80 participants, which included 40 insomniacs and 40 non-insomniacs, who were assigned either a placebo or ashwagandha for eight weeks. The results showed that there were benefits to sleep in both the insomniac and non-insomniac groups, with marked improvements in both groups for sleep onset latency and total scores on the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index.

In improving the sleep quality of both insomniacs and non-insomniacs, the study’s authors suggest that this shows promise for the potential of ashwagandha in improving sleep quality universally.

While more research is needed and additional clinical trials are suggested by the study’s authors to generalise the outcome of the findings, it is a positive result for the research.

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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.