Food as Medicine Ginger (Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae)

History and Traditional Use
Range and Habitat

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a tropical perennial herb native to Southeast Asia and widely cultivated in China, India, Nigeria, Australia, Jamaica, and Haiti.1 Its subterranean stem, known as a rhizome, is the edible and medicinal portion of the plant.2 Gingerroot is characterized by its knotted, beige exterior and its yellow interior. The herb features thick, protruding, reed-like3 stems and lanceolate leaves arranged in two vertical columns on opposite sides of the stem.4 Seasonally unfurling from ginger’s leaves are dense, ovoid-shaped flower structures that produce yellow-green flowers with a deep purple, yellow-marked lip.3Ginger plants can have an indefinite spread in tropical climates, though it is susceptible to pests and disease.5 The flavor of ginger is described as sweet and peppery with a prominent spicy aroma due to the presence of gingerols and ketones.6

Phytochemicals and Constituents

Thus far, researchers have identified 115 chemical components in a variety of dried and fresh ginger types.6 The most important phenolic elements of the ginger root are gingerols and their ginger-related composites — paradols, zingerone, and shogaols.6,7 Gingerols are the most abundant constituents of fresh ginger6; the three other phenolic compounds are not as plentiful. When gingerols are cooked or dried, they transform into various bioactive compounds,6 many of which have beneficial antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties.7 Research suggests that the optimal dosage of ginger ranges from 250 mg to 4.8 g per day of fresh or dried rhizomes.6,8 Other dosages for ginger intake vary depending on the form in which they are consumed and the purpose for which they are intended.8

Historical and Commercial Uses

In India, ginger has been used as a flavoring agent in food and beverage preparations as well as in traditional Ayurveda medicinal practices.4 Historically, it was regarded as the mahaoushadha (“the great medicine”) among ancient Indians.9 Fresh and dried ginger is used commonly in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of ailments such as indigestion, fever, and digestive disorders.8 Fresh ginger is thought to be beneficial in reducing nausea and vomiting due to the presence of shogaol, and dried ginger has been shown to alleviate chronic respiratory conditions.10 In addition, gingerol, the most predominate pungent bioactive compound of ginger, has been reported to stimulate digestive enzymes to help improve gastrointestinally (GI) issues.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, fresh ginger root (sheng jiang) is considered warm and pungent and recognized for dispersing cold within the stomach, which contributes to the treatment of nausea and vomiting.11 It also is acknowledged as an expeller of exterior cold, quelling inflammation of the stomach and infections related to the cold and flu. Dry ginger (gan jiang) is considered to be more hot and pungent than fresh ginger, and it is responsible for dispersing cold in the spleen region, thereby alleviating ailments such as diarrhea and poor appetite. Quick-fried ginger (pao jiang) is warm and bitter and used to treat symptoms associated with conditions such as dysmenorrhea and diarrhea. Asian cuisine features ginger in a number of dishes for flavoring, including soups, curries, rice dishes, stir-fries, and sauces.12

It is believed that both the Chinese and Indians have used ginger root for medicinal purposes for more than 5,000 years; however, the exact origin is unknown.6 Highly prized for its medicinal properties, ginger was a popular trading commodity exported to the Roman Empire more than 2,000 years ago from India. (Anecdotally, Queen Elizabeth I of England is credited with the creation of the gingerbread man, which evolved into a popular treat consumed during the Christmas holidays.)

Ginger is used commercially in a variety of forms, including, but not limited to, fresh, dried, and candied.6The age of the ginger plant determines its culinary and medicinal use. Young ginger root harvested at five months has not matured and typically has a mild flavor, suitable to be used fresh. At nine months, ginger characteristically has a thick skin and pungent root, from which the volatile oils can be extracted. This material also is used in dried or ground form as a spice and in commercial baking products. Further, ginger is added as a flavoring to a number of different beverages such as ginger ale, ginger beer, and ginger wine.12

Modern Research

A considerable amount of research demonstrates and supports the significant health benefits of ginger. The majority of clinical evidence for ginger’s medicinal properties is related to nausea caused by pregnancy or chemotherapy.13

Three clinical studies have explored the effects of ginger in reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea in young adults and children.14-16 The results from these studies indicated that ginger is effective in decreasing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. More specifically, one trial indicated that supplementing with ginger (0.5 g to 1.0 g liquid ginger root extract) reduces nausea.16 In a separate study, researchers observed reductions in the prevalence of nausea in patients with breast cancer when 1.5 g powdered dried ginger root was added to an antiemetic therapy following chemotherapy.14

Another clinical study observed the effects of powdered ginger in patients with intra- and postoperative nausea accompanying Cesarean sections.17 The results indicated that episodes of intraoperative nausea were reduced when ginger was administered orally. However, ginger did not have an effect on the overall incidence of intraoperative nausea and vomiting.

Ginger has been explored as a possible treatment for other GI issues such as dyspepsia, gastric emptying, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).18-20 The authors of one clinical study tested the effects of ginger on functional dyspepsia and gastric motility.18 The results indicated that ginger increased gastric emptying more rapidly than the placebo; however, ginger did not influence any GI symptoms. Researchers of a related clinical trial examined ginger’s effects on IBS over a period of 28 days.20 The results indicated that the group taking 1 g of ginger had a 26.4% reduction in symptoms.

Studies have shown that ginger may be beneficial for non-GI-related conditions as well. In two separate clinical studies, researchers explored ginger’s mitigating impact on dysmenorrhea.  The first study was conducted for a period of three days based on reports of pain experienced during the first two days of menstruation each month.21 The results suggested that ginger had more of an impact on dysmenorrhea symptoms compared to muscle-relaxation exercises. A similar clinical study found that at the end of the study period, 82.85% of the participants in the experimental group reported symptom improvement compared to 47.05% of the participants in the placebo group.22

Three clinical studies have examined the effects of ginger in the treatment of colorectal cancer.7,23,24 As noted, the bioactive compounds of ginger contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties, which can interfere with pathways responsible for cancer development.7 The results of all three studies demonstrated that an intake of 2 g of ginger root was able to reduce proliferation in the colorectal epithelium. Further, one trial illustrated that ginger simultaneously increased apoptosis (normal, programmed cell death) and differentiation.7 Ginger also exhibited an anti-inflammatory effect in individuals of normal risk and lowered COX-1 in individuals at higher risk.23,24

Other clinical studies have explored the effects of ginger in relation to muscle pain, respiratory distress syndrome, chronic lower-back pain, satiety, migraines, osteoarthritis, and type 2 diabetes.25-32

Nutrient Profile33

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 1 tablespoon [6 g] raw ginger)

5 calories
0.11 g protein
1.07 g carbohydrate
0.04 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 1 tablespoon [6 g] raw ginger)

Good source of:

Magnesium: 3 mg (0.75% DV)
Potassium: 25 mg (0.7% DV)
Vitamin B6: 0.01 mg (0.5% DV)
Vitamin C: 0.3 mg (0.5% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g (0.4% DV)
Folate: 1 mcg (0.25% DV)
Niacin: 0.05 mg (0.25% DV)
Phosphorus: 2 mg (0.2% DV)
Calcium: 1 mg (0.1% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Recipe: Candied Ginger

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh ginger root
  •  3 cups water
  • 3 cups granulated sugar, plus additional for coating

Directions:

  1. Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a sheet pan lined with wax paper.

  2. Peel and thinly slice the ginger root.

  3. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan. When the sugar is dissolved, add the ginger and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, until ginger is tender.

  4. Drain the ginger and reserve the liquid for another use. (The reserved liquid can be further reduced to make ginger syrup or added to drinks.) Spread the ginger on the cooling rack in a single layer and dry for 30 minutes.

  5. Once dry, toss ginger slices with additional sugar to coat. Store in an airtight container.

References

  1. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council and Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
  2. Webb GP. Dietary Supplements and Functional Foods. West Sussex, UK: Blackwell Publishing; 2011.
  3. Bown D. The Herb Society of America New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. London, UK: Dorling Kindersley Ltd.; 2001.
  4. Ginger. University of Maryland Medical Center website. Available here. Accessed February 23, 2015.
  5. Ginger Root Production in Hawaii. Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service website. Available here. Accessed February 23, 2015.
  6. Bode AM, Dong Z. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2011.
  7. Citronberg J, Bostick R, Ahearn T, et al. Effects of ginger supplementation on cell-cycle biomarkers in the normal-appearing colonic mucosa of patients at increased risk for colorectal cancer: results from a pilot, randomized, and controlled trial. Cancer Prev Res. 2013;6(4):271-281.
  8. Blumenthal M, Hall T, Goldberg A, Kunz T, Dinda K, Brinckmann J, et al, eds. The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 2003.
  9. Ravindran PN, Babu KN. Ginger: the Genus Zingiber. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2005.
  10. Ginger – Ayurveda “Root” to Good Health. Kerala – Home of Ayurveda website. Available here. Accessed March 4, 2015.
  11. Yang Y. Chinese Herbal Medicine Comparisons and Characteristics. London, UK: Churchill Livingston; 2002.
  12. Van Wyk BE. Food Plants of the World. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2006.
  13. Weimer K, Schulte J, Maichle A, et al. Effects of ginger and expectations on symptoms of nausea in a balanced placebo design. PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49031.
  14. Panahi Y, Saadat A, Sahebkar A, Hashemian F, Taghikhani M, Abolhasani E. Effect of ginger on acute and delayed chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: a pilot, randomized, open-label clinical trial. Integr Cancer Ther. 2012;11(3):204-211.
  15. Pillai AK, Sharma KK, Gupta YK, Bakhshi S. Anti-emetic effect of ginger powder versus placebo as an add-on therapy in children and young adults receiving high emetogenic chemotherapy. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2011;56(2):234-238.
  16. Ryan JL, Heckler CE, Roscoe J, et al. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces acute chemotherapy-induced nausea: a URCC CCOP study of 576 patients. Support Care Cancer. 2012;20(7):1479-1489.
  17. Kalava A, Darji SJ, Kalstein A, Yarmush JM, SchianodiCola J, Weinberg J. Efficacy of ginger on intraoperative and postoperative nausea and vomiting in elective cesarean section patients. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2013;169(2):184-188.
  18. Hu ML, Rayner CK, Wu KL, Chuah SK, Tai WC, Chou YP, et al. Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia. World J Gastroenterol. 2011;17(11):105-110.
  19. Shariatpanahi ZV, Taleban FA, Mokhtari M, Shahbazi S. Ginger extract reduces delayed gastric emptying and nosocomial pneumonia in adult respiratory distress syndrome patients hospitalized in an intensive care unit. J Crit Care. 2010;25(4):647-50.
  20. Van Tilburg MA, Palsson OS, Ringel Y, Whitehead WE. Is ginger effective for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome? A double-blind randomized controlled pilot trial. Complement Ther Med. 2014;22(1):17-20.
  21. Halder A. Effect of progressive muscle relaxation versus intake of ginger powder on dysmenorrhoea amongst the nursing students in Pune. Nurs J India. 2012:103(4)152-157.
  22. Jenabi E. The effect of ginger for relieving of primary dysmenorrhoea. J Pak Med Assoc. 2013;63(1):8-10.
  23. Jiang Y, Turgeon DK, Wright BD, Sidahmed E, Ruffin MT, Brenner DE, Sen A, Zick S. Effect of ginger root on cyclooxygenase-1 and 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrongenase expression in colonic mucosa of a human at normal and increased risk of colorectal cancer. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2013;22(5):455-460.
  24. Zick SM, Turgeon DK, Vareed SK, et al. Phase II study of the effects of ginger root extract on eicosanoids in colon mucosa in people at normal risk for colorectal cancer. Cancer Prev Res. 2011;4(11):1929-1937.
  25. Black CD, Herring MP, Hurley DJ, O’Connor PJ. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise. J Pain. 2010;11(9):894-903.
  26. Cady RK, Goldstein J, Nett R, Mitchell R, Beach ME, Browning R. A double-blind placebo-controlled pilot study of sublingual feverfew and ginger in the treatment of a migraine. Headache. 2011;51(7):1078-1086.
  27. Drozdov VN, Kim V a, Tkachenko E V, Varvanina GG. Influence of a specific ginger combination on gastropathy conditions in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. J Altern Complement Med. 2012;18(6):583-588.
  28. Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Talaei B, Jalali B-A, Najarzadeh A, Mozayan MR. The effect of ginger powder supplementation on insulin resistance and glycemic indices in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2014;22(1):9-16.
  29. Mansour MS, Ni Y-M, Roberts AL, Kelleman M, Roychoudhury A, St-Onge M-P. Ginger consumption enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of satiety without affecting metabolic and hormonal parameters in overweight men: a pilot study. Metabolism. 2012;61(10):1347-1352.
  30. Vahdat Shariatpanahi Z, Mokhtari M, Taleban FA, et al. Effect of enteral feeding with ginger extract in acute respiratory distress syndrome. J Crit Care. 2013;28(2):217.e1-217.e6.
  31. Sritoomma N, Moyle W, Cooke M, O’Dwyer S. The effectiveness of Swedish massage with aromatic ginger oil in treating chronic low back pain in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2014;22(1):26-33.
  32. Maghbooli M, Golipour F, Esfandabadi AM, Youse M. Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of a common migraine. Phytother Res. 2014;28(3):412-415.
  33. Basic Report: 11216, Ginger root, raw. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture website. Available here. Accessed February 23, 2015.

What Is Lycopene?

The important plant-based pigment lycopene is found mainly in tomatoes. This carotenoid is just one of the approximately six hundred members of the family of carotenoid compounds. These beneficial phytochemicals are very good for health and are found in abundant quantities in many common fruits and vegetables consumed daily. The humble tomato and products made from tomato form the best source of lycopene.

The most famous carotenoid is, of course, beta-carotene, found in carrots. This compound has stoked the curiosity of researchers for a long time due to its role as a pro-vitamin A in the body – it undergoes chemical conversion to form vitamin A, whenever the supply of the vitamin runs low. The majority of clinical research has focused on the effects of a few beneficial carotenoids including the much-studied beta-carotene, at the same time, the often ignored lesser carotenoids like lycopene, that does not show pro-vitamin A-like activity, has been sidelined. In previous decades, scientist believed that these other carotenoids like lycopene were mere “junk” carotenoids, which had little purpose in the body other than their role as natural pigments lending color to fruits and vegetables. As time has passed, however, the unique and beneficial roles that carotenoids like lycopene play in the body have been realized following a more thorough clinical investigation. Now, most researchers are of the opinion that lycopene has a much more potent antioxidant effect than beta-carotene in the body; it is also believed to be a strong anti-carcinogen.

tomatoes-heirloomLycopene has been tested on human and animal cancer cells every since the first positive results of its anti-carcinogenic action came out. In these second series of confirmatory trials, the results obtained hold great potential and promise for the future treatment strategies. In clinical reports, the ability of lycopene to suppress the growth of cancer cells from cancerous breast, lung, and endometrial tissues has been announced by the researchers. In fact, the potent effect of lycopene was further confirmed laboratory animals that were fed potent carcinogens, in these animals the administration of high levels of lycopene helped to suppress all the cancerous growths resulting from the forced use of carcinogens. One relationship was clear, the effectiveness of the lycopene in suppressing cancer was greater the higher the doses administered. Researchers have also confirmed the great effectiveness of lycopene in dealing with the chemical carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. In one more study, results indicated that the use of lycopene can possibly give a protective effect to skin against the photo damage from long exposure to ultraviolet light – long exposure to sunlight during a lifetime can increase wrinkles and causes skin cancer in many people.

As a human grows older they become more susceptible to diseases, as the levels of all nutrients in the blood decline with old age. Lycopene supplements are ideal as a potent nutrient for all individuals who are 50 or older, particularly if such individuals do not consume at least one tomato dish on a daily basis. The ideal way to get lycopene in the diet is not by drinking a glass of tomato juice, even consuming a fresh tomato a day will not be sufficient in the long run – supplements must be taken to ensure adequate amounts in the body. The human body does not absorb the lycopene present in tomatoes well, if the vegetable is not heated or mixed with a little fat, like olive oil. Therefore, supplemental lycopene is the best to get adequate amounts of the lycopene.

Studies have established that individuals, who consume diets rich in tomatoes, have a lower risk of suffering from certain types of cancer. The lycopene in the tomatoes seemed to suppress the cancers of the lung, the prostate, and the stomach, particularly well. The effect of lycopene and its preventive role against cancer or its potential use in treating cancers requires further clinical research. One can be certain, that with the beneficial and preventive effect of human diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables is not simply explainable on one single component of the diet.

At the same time, some proponents of lycopene as a supplement claim that it can help reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the hardening of the arteries in the heart, they also suggest that lycopene can preventmacular degenerative disease in old people; this is a common age specific illness leading to blindness. These people also suggest that lycopene plays a role in the regulation of lipid oxidation, a chemical damage that affects normal fat molecules leading to inflammation and disease in some individuals. Lycopene has also been suggested as being capable of lowering the elevated levels of the “bad” cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein – or LDL cholesterol. It is said to boost the functioning of theimmune system and of supporting the body defenses against pathogens. Lycopene may also protect enzymes, DNA, and cellular fats according to some proponents of this supplement. The biggest support for lycopene is for its use in treating cancers of the lung, the prostate gland, the stomach, the urinary bladder, the cervix, and the skin. Some of these claims may have a basis in fact, while other need further study and confirmation.

Based on clinical studies, some researchers are of the view that lycopene may possibly prevents the spread and slows the growth of cancerous tissues in case of prostate, lung, and stomach cancers. The researchers attribute such beneficial effects of the lycopene to its potency as an antioxidant, which are organic compounds that help blocks the action of activated oxygen molecules called free radicals which are released in the cells as a part of normal metabolism – the action of these free radicals can severely damage cells in the body. Indeed, lycopene is a very active and effective antioxidant molecule, with an activity said to be equal or double that of beta-carotene – the other well known carotenoid anti-oxidant that is also believed to be a potent cancer preventing nutrient obtainable from the diet. As nutrient, the lycopene is regarded as being one of the more effective of the antioxidant compounds as it does not undergo chemical conversion to vitamin A in the body, following its consumption. The chemical conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A limits its use as an antioxidant compound.

The highest levels of dietary lycopene are found principally in tomatoes; however, other fruits also contain high levels of the compound includingguava, apricots, watermelons, papayas, and pink grapefruit. As tomatoes are readily available and often used as food, they are best food source for lycopene – tomatoes are also cheaper than other costly fruits. In clinical studies it has been confirmed that the lycopene levels in the blood were higher in the blood of people who consumed cooked tomatoes than in the body of those who consumed raw tomatoes or drank tomato juice alone. What this result suggests is that dietary tomato sauce or paste might be the ideal source for the lycopene contained in tomatoes than the consumption of raw tomatoes itself. In most health food stores, the supplements of lycopene are sold in the form of soft gel capsule supplements. The dosages of lycopene differ and different manufacturers may give different dosage regimens in the product label.

The proof that diets high in lycopene leads to a reduced incidence of cancer has come from the long term scientific observation of the nutritional pattern of groups of individuals from many countries across the world. In these populations, a diet high in tomato products translated into high levels of lycopene in the blood is associated with the lowest chance of developing certain cancers. These nutritional studies all suggests that in general diets that are rich in tomatoes might be the possible reason for the reduction in the risks of developing several different kinds of cancer across any population.

Lycopene may also possibly have a beneficial protective effect against the chance of cancers of the cervix and breast in women, and cancers of the mouth, the pancreas, the esophagus, as well as those of the colon, and the rectum in men and women.

Tomatoes in the diet have been linked to lowered risk for prostate cancer in some nutritional studies that observed large groups of people – this is said to be due to the diet high in lycopene from the tomato based foods taken in the diet. This connection between tomato based foods and lowering of prostate cancer risk is disputed by the other researchers, however, in these studies some researchers have found no concrete link between the consumption of large amounts of tomato based food products and a lowering in prostate cancer risk. There may be a genetic factor behind all this, as the results from one recent study show. These results suggests that the form or variation in a particular gene called XRCC1, which codes for proteins that helps repair damaged DNA damage influences the effectiveness of lycopene. This gene may be affecting the chances of whether a high intake of lycopene will influence the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Lycopene in itself may not be the sole agent in tomatoes that lowers the risk for cancer. Many other important nutrients such as vitamins, the mineral potassium, pigments like the carotenoids, and other classes of antioxidants, and many other beneficial compounds are found in tomatoes, these acting alone or affecting a combined effect with the lycopene, may be the agent or agents that induce the protective effects attributed solely to lycopene by some researchers. In studies in which the researchers have analyzed the dietary habits of large groups of people all with varied lifestyles and habits, it might be the case that also the effect in lowered cancer risk attributed to certain diets is induced in fact, by other factors that were never examined in the study.

In a scientific review of a study published in 2004, it was stated that in a study in which eleven observational and ten cases control studies were analyzed, it did seem that tomato based products give a weak but protective effect over the chance of prostate cancer – this results in a lowered risk of prostate cancer according to the conclusion based on the study. It is important to state here, that this analysis of the study results did not involve the use of any lycopene supplements whatsoever, only tomato and tomato based food products were utilized. However, lycopene levels in the blood were indeed considered in some of the individual studies. In the review, the analyst suggested that the protective effect was indeed somewhat stronger when cooked tomato products were consumed. It was also noted that the addition of small quantities of fat improved the absorption of lycopene in the body.

In fact, the role of lycopene possibly preventing or treating cancers completely has been investigated in a few experimental studies. In one of these experiments, animals given supplements of lycopene displayed reductions in the growth rate of induced brain tumors – this is a significant result. Administration of high doses of lycopene to test mice studied in another experimental study showed that the high levels of lycopene in the body of the animal led to the suppression of induced breast tumor growth to a very significant extent. The insight gained from this particular study may not be applicable to human disease states, as at least ninety five percent of all the human breast cancers cases are different to the form of breast cancers seen in mice and other mammals.

In addition, supplements of lycopene have been shown to actively suppress the growth of a variety of human cancer cell lines under laboratory conditions. This ability of lycopene to interfere and disrupt cancer cell growth was particularly potent in cancers that grow in response to the insulin like growth factor I – a growth factor in mammals. Therefore, at least in the animal and laboratory studies, lycopene has shown a certain promise for the treatment of cancer. However, its application to human cancers requires further studies and long term testing, before it can be used on humans.

In one test, to assess the fact about lycopene as the principal cancer fighting compound in tomatoes, animals given lycopene supplements were compared to those given powdered tomatoes as a supplement. The group of laboratory rats were fed tomato powder and analytically compared to rats given just lycopene supplements over a long period of time. There was a significant lowering of risk for cancer in the rats that received tomato powder, while it was notice, that the rats administered only lycopene supplements had no more significant lowering in risk for cancers from the group that was given only powdered tomatoes.

Human tests have also been conducted to check the possibility of lycopene use in the treatment of cancer. In one particular controlled study that checked a small group of men affected by prostate cancer, it was discovered that the use of lycopene supplements seemed to result in a reduction of rapid growth in prostate cancer cells normally seen in such affected men. This result is disputed and a more recent clinical study has indicated that lycopene supplements induced no significant healing effect on prostate cancer affected men who had all failed hormone therapy as part of an earlier treatment. At any rate, human tests of this type are just in the starting stage, and it is necessary to conduct more controlled studies that test larger groups of patients, before the benefits of lycopene in dealing with cancer if any, are known. Currently, individuals with cancer are being tested in a number of smaller studies now underway to check if any tomato products or supplements lycopene can be used in treating cancer states.

Since it is a natural organic compound, there are no safety issues connected to the intake of lycopene from the consumption of fruits and vegetables. High levels of the compound are also not known to induce any significant side effects and lycopene is believed to safe for human use – unless such people are allergic to the fruit or vegetable itself. Supplemental lycopene is a different matter, though the potential side effects of such supplements if any are still not fully known due to the scarcity of reports. Lycopene and its potential side effects were studied in a group of test patients, who all received a supplement rich in tomato based lycopene at doses of fifteen mg two times every day. In these patients, the supplement induced some type of intestinal side effects including spells of nausea and vomiting, persistent diarrhea, indigestion, abdominal gas and bloating of the stomach. Therefore, lycopene supplements are comparatively safe and side effects are considered mild. Consuming large amounts of tomato based products for prolonged periods of time is also known to bring out an orange color in the skin, with no other symptoms.

If they are used during the course of a radiation or chemotherapy regimen, then antioxidant supplements may interfere with the actual killing of the cancer cells in the body – therefore, antioxidants must be avoided during such treatments. This area of research is still unclear and more studies in humans are required to find out the exact manner in which antioxidants might interfere in such cases. It is suggested, however, that supplements of vitamins, minerals, or nutrient supplements taken by cancer patients undergoing therapy must be only under medical supervision, a qualified doctor must be consulted by the patient before such supplements are used to avoid possible problems. On the other hand, fresh fruits and vegetables, which are all high in antioxidants, can be safely eaten by the patient during the radioactive or drug based chemotherapy treatment of cancer without fear of a possible interference in the treatment.

How to Lower High Triglycerides

Triglycerides are the most common fat in the body. Most of the foods that people eat, whether from animal or plant sources, can have an impact on the levels of triglycerides in the blood.

There are many different types of fats, from polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil to the saturated fats found in red meat. They all contribute to triglyceride levels in the body, but they do so in different ways.

When a person eats more calories than their body needs, the body stores these extra calories in the form of triglyceride fats. Then later, when the body needs more energy, it consumes these fats instead of needing more calories.

Triglycerides are important for health, but high levels of triglycerides in the body can lead to conditions such as heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. Taking steps to lower triglyceride levels and reduce other risk factors can decrease a person’s chances of developing heart disease.

It is important to understand triglyceride levels in order to adjust them. The normal range for triglyceride levels is considered to be less than 150 milligrams per deciliter.

At-risk levels are anywhere from 150-199 milligrams per deciliter, and high triglyceride levels range from 200-499 milligrams per deciliter. Anything above 500 milligrams per deciliter is considered very high.

Ways to lower triglyceride levels

List of triglycerides levels.
High triglyceride levels range from 200 milligrams per deciliter and above.

There are many ways to reduce triglyceride levels safely. These can depend on the reasons why triglyceride levels are high in the first place.

If an individual regularly consumes more calories than the body can burn, it will result in an excess of triglycerides in the body. One way to lower triglyceride levels in the blood is to reduce the overall number of calories ingested every day.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), there is evidence that a 5-10 percent weight loss can decrease triglyceride levels by 20 percent. The decrease in triglycerides is directly related to losing weight.

What to eat

In order to lower triglyceride levels, an individual must watch what they eat and adopt a nutrient-rich diet. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds is a great way to increase the nutrients consumed, while also reducing calories.

A diet that is good for the heart and the blood also includes reducing the amount of sodium, refined grains, added sugars, and what are known as solid fats in the diet.

Fats

Solid fats come from meat, full-fat dairy products, and some tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oil. These foods contain trans fats and saturated fats.

Trans fats and saturated fats raise triglyceride levels, so people should try to replace them wherever possible. Unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), actually lower triglyceride levels.

Omega-3 fats found in cod liver oil, cold-water fish, such as salmon and sardines, and flaxseeds are great ways to add PUFAs to a diet. For example, instead of a steak or hamburger, which are high in saturated fats, people can opt for a filet of salmon or a tuna sandwich.

Animal products, such as lean meats, skinned poultry, fat-free or low-fat dairy, and seafood are also good options.

Carbohydrates

Individuals should limit their total carbohydrate intake to below 60 percent of their recommended daily calorie allowance. Diets with a carbohydrate intake above 60 percent are associated with a rise in triglyceride levels.

Ways to avoid carbohydrates include, for example, choosing lean burgers wrapped in lettuce instead of a high-carb bun. For dessert, opting for fresh or frozen blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries instead of sugary baked goods can reduce sugar cravings while also lowering overall carb intake.

Sugars

The types of carbohydrates in the diet can also contribute to triglyceride levels. Foods high in simple sugars, especially refined fructose, are known to raise triglyceride levels.

A glass full of sugar cubes and a straw.
Added sugars may lead to high triglyceride levels.

Drinks make a large contribution to overall carbohydrate intake. Fruit drinks, soft drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages are some of the main sources of added sugars in the diet. Added sugars should be avoided to help reduce triglyceride levels.

Added sugar comes in many forms, including:

  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Cane juice or cane syrup
  • Corn sweetener or corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Maltose
  • Lactose
  • Sucrose
  • Syrups, such as maple, agave, and molasses

Taking steps to avoid drinks containing added sugars can greatly reduce overall calories. Every 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar. The recommended daily maximum sugar intake for women is 24 grams (6 teaspoons) or 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men.

Instead of drinks that contain high levels of added sugars, people can opt for low-calorie drinks, such as water or tea. On a warm day, instead of reaching for a soft drink, a splash of 100 percent fruit juice to a glass of sparkling water is a better option.

Alcohol also has a direct effect on triglyceride levels in some people. In people with high triglyceride levels, refraining from drinking alcohol is a helpful step to reducing triglycerides.

People should work directly with their healthcare provider to gradually make any changes to the diet, and be certain there are no complications with any medicines they are taking.

Exercise

Physical activity also plays an important role in reducing triglyceride levels. Burning calories ensures that more triglycerides from within the body are being used up.

Any exercise is beneficial, but the effects of exercise will vary based on initial triglyceride levels, the amount of exercise, and the level of intensity of the exercise. A 30-minute walk each day is a great way to begin, as is engaging in low-stress activities, such as cycling or swimming.

The AHA recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, 5 days a week.

Why are triglyceride levels important?

If the triglyceride levels in the body are too high, the risk of certain diseases and disorders is also increased. According to a study posted to the Lancet Diabetes Endocrinology, high triglyceride levels play a role in cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis.

This can happen because high triglyceride levels in the blood can cause a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Plaque is a combination of cholesterol, triglyceride fats, calcium, cellular waste, and fibrin, which is the material the body uses for clotting.

Plaque buildup increases the risk of heart diseases, as the buildup blocks the normal flow of blood in the arteries. Plaque may also break off, and the sudden clot formed can cause a stroke or heart attack. Triglycerides and cholesterol levels make up two of the most important things to monitor for a healthy heart.

There is also an increased risk of damage to the pancreas if the levels of triglycerides get too high.

Causes of high triglyceride levels

The most common causes of high triglyceride levels relate to diet and metabolism. A study posted to Nutrients listed the most common contributing factors of high triglyceride levels. These include:

  • Family genes
  • Obesity
  • High-calorie diet
  • High-fat diet
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Diabetes (mainly type 2)
  • Renal diseases such as uremia
  • Pregnancy
  • Some medications, such as oral estrogen, corticosteroids, antiretroviral drugs, and tamoxifen, among others

Statistically, some groups of people are more at risk for high triglyceride levels than others. These groups include:

  • People who have developed heart disease before the age of 50
  • Women, especially pregnant women or women taking estrogen
  • People who are obese
  • Mexican-American men
  • Native Americans

Papaya: Health Benefits

The papaya, a previously exotic and rare fruit, is now readily available at most times of the year.

Papayas grow in tropical climates and are also known as papaws or pawpaws. Their sweet taste, vibrant color and a wide variety of health benefits are just a few reasons to add them to your diet.

The possible health benefits of consuming papaya include a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, aiding in digestion, improving blood glucose control in diabetics, lowering blood pressure, and improving wound healing.

Possible health benefits of consuming papaya

Papaya
Papayas are an excellent source of vitamin C and one single medium fruit provides 224% of your daily needs.

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like papayas decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality, diabetes, heart disease and promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, overall lower weight.

Age-related macular degeneration: The antioxidant zeaxanthin, found in papaya, filters out harmful blue light rays and is thought to play a protective role in eye health and possibly ward off damage from macular degeneration. A higher intake of all fruits (3 or more servings per day) has also been shown to decrease the risk of and progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Asthma prevention: The risks for developing asthma are lower in people who consume a high amount of certain nutrients. One of these nutrients is beta-carotene, contained in foods like papaya, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and carrots.

Cancer: Consumption of the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene (found in papayas) has been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in the Japanese population.

Among younger men, diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective role against prostate cancer, according to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition.

Bone health: Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk of bone fracture. Adequate vitamin K consumption is important for good health, as it acts as a modifier of bone matrix proteins, improves calcium absorption and may reduce urinary excretion of calcium.

Diabetes: Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels. One medium papaya provides about 4.7 grams of fiber.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21-25 g/day for women and 30-38 g/day for men.

Digestion: Papayas contain an enzyme called papain that aids in digestion and can also be used as a meat tenderizer.

Papaya is also high in fiber and water content, both of which help to prevent constipation and promote regularity and a healthy digestive tract.

Heart disease: The fiber, potassium and vitamin content in papaya all help to ward off heart disease. An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium intake is the most important dietary change that a person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

Inflammation: The choline is a very important and versatile nutrient in papayas that aids our bodies in sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.

Skin and healing: When used topically, mashed papaya appears to be beneficial for promoting wound healing and preventing infection of burned areas. Researchers believe that the proteolytic enzymes chymopapain and papain in papaya are responsible for its beneficial effects. Ointments containing the papain enzyme have also been used to treat decubitus ulcers or bedsores.

Papaya is also great for your hair because it contains vitamin A, a nutrient required for sebum production that keeps hair moisturized. Vitamin A is also necessary for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair.

Adequate intake of vitamin C, which papaya can provide, is needed for the building and maintenance of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair.

Nutritional breakdown of papaya

One medium papaya has approximately 120 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrate (including 5 grams of fiber and 18 grams of sugar) and 2 grams of protein.

Papayas are an excellent source of vitamin C and one single medium fruit provides 224% of your daily needs. Papayas are a good source of folate, vitamin A, magnesium, copper, pantothenic acid, and fiber. They also have B vitamins, alpha and beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, vitamin K and lycopene, the powerful antioxidant most commonly associated with tomatoes.

How to incorporate more papaya into your diet

Papaya fruit salad
You can incorporate more papaya into your diet by making a tropical fruit salad or adding a few slices to your favorite dish.

Look for fresh papayas with reddish orange skin that are soft to the touch. One of the best ways to enjoy a papaya is as is. Just cut like a melon, scoop out the seeds and enjoy. The seeds of the papaya are actually edible but have a bitter, peppery taste.

Make a tropical fruit salad with fresh papaya, pineapple, and mango.

Muddle papaya into your glass of lemonade, iced tea or water for a burst of fresh fruity flavor.

Make a fresh salsa with papaya, mango, jalapeno, red peppers and chipotle pepper. Use as a topper for your favorite fish tacos.

Add a few slices of frozen papaya to your smoothies. Combine with pineapple juice, half a frozen banana and Greek yogurt for a sweet tropical treat.

Potential health risks of consuming papaya

If you have a latex allergy, you may also be allergic to papaya because papayas have chitinases, often causing the cross-reaction between latex and the foods that contain them.

It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to consume a diet with variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.

Raspberries: Health Benefits, Nutritional Information

Known as nature’s candy, wild raspberries have been gathered for consumption by humans for thousands of years.

With their rich color, sweet juicy taste, and antioxidant power, it is no wonder raspberries remain one of the world’s most consumed berries.

Raspberries can range in color from the popular red and black varieties to purple, yellow, or golden. Each color berry has a unique composition of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

This article will address the health benefits of the most widely consumed red raspberry. It provides a nutritional breakdown of a raspberry and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more raspberries into your diet, and any potential health risks of consuming raspberries.

Fast facts on raspberries

Here are some key points about raspberries. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Some researchers believe raspberries hold a number of health benefits
  • Raspberries contain powerful antioxidants
  • A certain component in raspberries may protect the eye from sun damage
  • There is limited evidence that raspberry ketones help increase weight loss

Possible health benefits of consuming raspberries

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions.

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like raspberries decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

Brainpower

Several animal studies have shown a positive correlation between intake of flavonoids in berries and memory improvement; they may also decrease the decline in cognitive ability related to aging.

Heart health

A recent report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition-associated the intake of flavonoid-rich foods like raspberries with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. They stated that even small amounts of flavonoid-rich foods may be beneficial.

One group of flavonoids in particular – anthocyanins – have been shown to suppress the inflammation that may lead to cardiovascular disease.

raspberries
Raspberries can range in color with each color berry having a unique composition of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

The high polyphenol content in raspberries may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing platelet buildup and reducing blood pressure via anti-inflammatory mechanisms.

Aedin Cassidy, Ph.D., MSc, BSc, a nutrition professor at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, led an 18-year study with Harvard Public School of Health that tracked 93,600 women aged 25-42.

She states that their study was able to show “for the first time that a regular, sustained intake of anthocyanins from berries can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 32 percent in young and middle-aged women.”

The potassium in raspberries supports heart health as well. In one study, participants who consumed 4,069 milligrams of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1,000 milligrams per day).5

Cancer prevention

Raspberries contain powerful antioxidants that work against free radicals, inhibiting tumor growth and decreasing inflammation in the body. Those same potent polyphenols that protect against heart disease also help ward off or slow many types of cancer, including esophageal, lung, mouth, pharynx, endometrial, pancreatic, prostate, and colon.

Diabetes management

Any plant food with skin has lots of fiber – and raspberries have lots of skin! Eating high-fiber foods help keep blood sugar stable. Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipid, and insulin levels.

Digestion, detox, and disease prevention

The fiber and water content in raspberries help to prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract. Adequate fiber promotes regularity, which is crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool. Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation; consequently, this decreases the risk of inflammation-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Kentucky, high fiber intake is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases.

Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.

Women should aim for about 25 grams of fiber per day, and men should aim for about 30 grams. One cup of raspberries provides 8 grams of fiber.

Easy on the eyes

Foods high in vitamin C like raspberries have been shown to help keep eyes healthy by providing protection against UV light damage.

Raspberries also contain the antioxidant zeaxanthin, which filters out harmful blue light rays and is thought to play a protective role in eye health and possibly ward off damage from macular degeneration.

A higher intake of all fruits (3 or more servings per day) has also been shown to decrease the risk of, and progression of, age-related macular degeneration.

Nutritional breakdown of raspberries

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of raspberries (about 123 grams) contains 64 calories, 1.5 grams of protein, 0.8 grams of fat, and 15 grams of carbohydrate (including 8 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar).

Eating one cup of raw raspberries will provide 54 percent of your vitamin C needs, 12 percent of vitamin K, 6 percent of folate, 5 percent of vitamin E, iron, and potassium, and 41 percent of manganese needs for the day as well as lesser amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper.

Raspberries contain the antioxidants alpha and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline.

Raspberries are also a good source of polyphenols such as anthocyanin, flavonols, and ellagitannins, which decrease oxidative damage from free radicals and have shown potential in animal and human studies for preventing or reducing the risk of chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease.

How to incorporate more raspberries into your diet

raspberry smoothie
Keep a bag of frozen raspberries on hand for adding to smoothies and oatmeal.

Raspberries are available fresh, frozen, freeze-dried, and in jellies, syrups, and jams. Most raspberry jellies, spreads, juices, and wine have added sugars, which tack on additional calories.

When looking for jellies or jams, go for all-fruit spreads without the added sweeteners and fillers.

Make sure to check the label of frozen and dried raspberries, which may also have added sugars.

People who tend to eat at least three servings of berries per week see the most benefits. The best way to eat raspberries is fresh, right out of your hand (after washing of course).

Here are some other tips to help increase your raspberry consumption:

  • Always keep a bag of frozen raspberries on hand for adding to smoothies and oatmeal
  • Forgo the syrupy sweetness of canned fruit cocktail and make your own fresh fruit cocktail with raspberries, pineapple, sliced peaches, and strawberries
  • Add raspberries, grapes, and walnuts to your chicken salad
  • Slice raspberries and add them to plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of agave nectar and sliced almonds
  • Top whole grain waffles or pancakes with fresh raspberries or fold them into muffins and sweet bread
  • Blend raspberries in a food processor with a little water and use as a fresh syrup to top desserts or breakfast foods
  • Mix raspberries into a spinach salad with walnuts and goat cheese

Possible health risks of consuming raspberries

Each year, the Environmental Working Group produces a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue. Raspberries are 23rd on the list of produce that they suggest should be bought in its organic form to ensure a lower risk of pesticide exposure.

But don’t worry if you can’t find organic; the nutritional benefit of eating conventionally grown (non-organic) produce far outweighs the risk of not eating the produce at all.

Of note, raspberries in supplement form are also being studied for their ability to help with weight loss and combat obesity. Research remains in the early stages, and there have been no human studies to date to prove the effectiveness of supplements like raspberry ketones and extracts, which often have stimulants like hoodia and caffeine added.

There is no doubt that incorporating low-calorie, high nutrient foods like raspberries as part of an overall healthy diet will support weight loss, but the ability of concentrated formulas in the form of a supplement to help with weight loss is uncertain at best.

It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.

Eat Breakfast to Improve Your Heart Health

A new study appears to confirm that when you eat is just as important for health as what and how much you eat.

US researchers asked men to complete questionnaires about what they ate and when they ate it, then tracked their health for 16 years. Those who said they skipped breakfast were found to have a higher risk of heart attack or fatal coronary heart disease.

Lead author Leah Cahill, of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), and colleagues, write about their findings in a July 23rd issue of the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

In a statement, Leah Cahill, who is a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of nutrition at HSPH, explains what may lie behind the findings:

“Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time.”

For their study, the researchers analyzed food frequency questionnaires completed by 26,902 male health professionals aged between 45 and 82 years and tracked their health for 16 years from 1992 to 2008. The men were free of heart disease and cancer at the start of the study.

Over the follow-up, 1,572 men experienced non-fatal heart attacks or died of coronary heart disease.

When they analyzed the data the researchers found men who said they did not have breakfast had a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than men who said they ate breakfast.

Men who skipped breakfast had other risk factors

The men who said they skipped breakfast tended to be younger, single, smokers, who worked full time, did not do much exercise and drank more alcohol.

The researchers also found when they adjusted the results to take out the effect of body mass index, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, the links between skipping breakfast and higher risk for heart attack or death from coronary heart disease became much weaker: they were no longer statistically significant.

They note this suggests “eating habits may affect the risk of coronary heart disease through pathways associated with these traditional risk factors.”

They also found no links between how many times a day the men said they ate and risk of coronary heart disease.

Eating late at night linked to heart disease

They did find a link, however, between eating late at night and coronary heart disease. Compared with men who said they did not eat late at night, among those who did, there was a 55% higher risk of coronary heart disease.

But the authors note that judging by the few men in the study who ate late at night, this was unlikely to be a major public health concern.

Leah Cahill says the message from the study, which reinforces previous research, is: “Don’t skip breakfast.” Eating a healthy meal at the start of the day is linked to lower risk of heart attacks.

Breakfast tips

Incorporate many types of healthy foods into your breakfast, Leah Cahill advises – as this is “an easy way to ensure your meal provides adequate energy and a healthy balance of nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.”

Bowl of breakfast cereal
Adding nuts and chopped fruit to cereal is “great way to start the day,” the authors say

If eating a bowl of cereal, try adding nuts and chopped fruit, or steel-cut oatmeal. This is a “great way to start the day,” Leah Cahill adds.

Senior author Eric Rimm, associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, says the team has spent decades looking at the effects of quality and composition of diet on health, and now this new study suggests overall dietary habits should also be considered in lowering risk of heart disease.

At a conference in 2012, UK scientists presented a study that explained why people who skip breakfast tend to find high-calorie food more appealing later in the day: their brain circuits may be primed toward seeking it when fasting.

Comments from heart health charity

The British Heart Foundation’s senior dietitian, Victoria Taylor, has responded to the current research news on breakfast benefits. She says:

“In the morning rush it can be all too easy to skip breakfast, but this study suggests this could have a bigger impact on our health than we might think.

However, these researchers only looked at men aged over 45, so we would need to see further research to confirm that breakfast has the same impact on the heart health of other groups of people.”

Victoria Taylor adds:

“What we do know is that a healthy and filling breakfast can make that mid-morning biscuit less tempting, as well as give you another opportunity to widen the variety of foods in your diet.

“Wholegrain toast or cereals like porridge with low-fat milk are a good way to start the day. Try a sliced banana or dried fruit on top and you’ll be on your way to five-a-day before you’ve even left the house.”