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Health Facts

Nutrition and Your Body

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the best natural source of Vitamin D which we need for good bone health and immune function. However, Australia’s high UV intensity makes over-exposure to the sun very easy. You might think that prolonged sun exposure will cause your Vitamin D levels to increase further, but not only does it NOT increase your D levels, but it also leads to significant skin health issues.
Your diet can improve your ability to withstand sun damage

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the best natural source of Vitamin D which we need for good bone health and immune function. However, Australia’s high UV intensity makes over-exposure to the sun very easy.

You might think that prolonged sun exposure will cause your Vitamin D levels to increase further, but not only does it NOT increase your D levels, but it also leads to significant skin health issues.

There are two main kinds of UV exposure:

Acute UV exposure – which can happen after even a short time in the sun, and can result in many cellular changes in the skin, the most obvious being sunburn or suntan. It can cause more significant changes which can disrupt the skin’s structural integrity within as little as 5 to 15 minutes. These changes activate collagenases which begin degrading the collagen framework within the skin and also make the skin less supple.

The same acute, or high intensity, exposure can also cause more aggressive damage. It has the ability to suppress our immune system, which can allow mutagenic cells (cells caused by a physical or chemical agents that changes the genetic material) to thrive and become cancerous, ultimately causing DNA lesions in the skin that cause skin cancers.

Chronic UV Exposure – Continued exposure to the sun, especially from childhood, is the leading cause of skin cancers. More commonly, however, prolonged sun exposure will result in ‘photo aging’, where visible skin changes will alter the skins appearance.

More than 80% of facial aging is attributed to chronic exposure to the sun, and can take a couple of distinct forms:

  • the appearance of small blood vessels across the skin and a wasted appearance – called 'Telangiectasia'
  • 'Milan's citrine skin' - characterised by deep wrinkles, fragility and laxity, dyspigmentation, blister formation and a compromised ability to heal wounds.

Minimising the Impact

Currently daily use of sunscreens and other manual forms of sun protection are the most common and most effective means of preventing skin ageing and skin cancers. However, recent photobiology studies conducted by the ARI have found that increasing our lycopene intake by just 10 mg/day significantly increases a person’s resistance to UV damage. Lycopene can be found in orange/red foods such as watermelon, tomatoes, guavas, papaya, grapefruit, red cabbage, and mango.

By adding approximately 3 tomatoes or 2 slices of watermelon each day to your diet, you may be providing an extra protective benefit to your skin and slowing down your ageing!

Written by Dr Ross Grant, April 2015

Snack Ideas

We all enjoy nibbling between meals from time to time, but it is important to ensure our snacks are on the right side of healthy. We need to be choosing the right snacks and portion sizes to keep our energy levels up, but our weight in check.

There are many healthy snack ideas that will help to keep you fuller for longer, and provide you with sustained energy throughout the day.

For those who enjoy savoury over sweet, snack on:

  • Wholegrain crackers with cheese and tomato
  • A tub of low fat yoghurt
  • A handful of mixed raw nuts.

For those with a sweet tooth snack on:

  • A piece of fruit
  • A handful of dried fruit and nuts
  • A kid sized low fat smoothie
  • A slice of raisin toast

Planning your snacks can help avoid making spontaneous and unhealthy choices. Make sure you include a big glass of water with your snacks to keep hydrated and alert.

Written by the San Dietitians, April 2015

The importance of keeping both mum and bub healthy during pregnancy

We all know that an expectant mother’s lifestyle during pregnancy – what she does, her behaviours, emotional state, diet and sleep – can have lifelong effects on the baby’s health. A mother’s lifestyle during pregnancy can influence the epi-genome (the instructions that tell genes to be switched on or off) of the baby, which can affect development of the baby’s brain, kidneys, and the cardiovascular system; and even determine their risk of developing future degenerative disease, excess weight, or even anxiety later in their life. It does not mean that they will definitely end up with a disease, but it does mean their ‘programming’ may predispose them to it if certain other factors contribute throughout their life.

But did you know that during pregnancy a mother’s lifestyle can have lifelong effects on her own health?

Pregnancy is a time of great joy, however it also represents a time of significant physiological stress for mums to be. There is such a high metabolic demand on a pregnant body that it results in increased oxidative stress. This is because the mother is now providing for herself as well as her growing baby and her body is biologically wired to automatically prioritise the baby’s needs over her own, often leaving her deficient. Research has suggested that increased oxidative stress can accumulate damage within the mother’s tissue and lead to premature aging; and can also increase the risk of the mother developing pregnancy-related diseases and complications.

It is important for expectant mothers to not only look after their baby during pregnancy, but really look after themselves to help prevent the damage that the additional metabolic demand of pregnancy can cause. Living a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy (eating well, resting and exercising appropriately) is not only good for the baby but can have positive effects on a mother’s future health.

The ARI is currently researching what mums can do to contribute to their health during pregnancy. Click here for more information.

Written by Dr Ross Grant, April 2015

Finding the right balance of Omega-3 : Omega-6

There are two essential fatty acids (EFAs) that your body needs to function normally, but cannot produce on its own. These EFAs are the Omega-6 fatty acids and the Omega-3 fatty acids, and they need to be consumed through our diet.

Omega-6 fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in good health. Omega-6s produce inflammatory signalling molecules, which help to protect and repair our bodies from infection and injury. Omega-3s produce anti-inflammatory signalling molecules, which are great at helping to prevent over-activation of the immune system and therefore can be helpful in treating chronic inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis and may even reduce some pain symptoms. Because omega 3s produce anti-inflammatory molecules they also reduce the risk of developing blood clots and may reduce the processes that cause narrowing of arteries in people at risk of heart disease. Omega-3s are also important in maintaining the membrane of brain cells which are thought to help them communicate more efficiently. This is probably part of the reason for why there is a strong links between increased Omega-3 consumption and a decrease in depression in both adolescents and adults as well as improvement in attention spans in children with Attention Deficit Disorder.

While we need both Omegas (3&6) in our diets, too much of one and not enough of the other can actually be harmful to our health. Current western diets include lots of Omega-6s but not enough Omega-3s. This is because products we commonly consume, such as vegetable oils, are mostly high in Omega-6s. The Omega 3 molecule is a different structure and products such as Linseed Oil (which are high in Omega-3s) have a much shorter shelf life, so these products tend to be less commercially available or used.

The problem is when we consume too much Omega-6s the body will over produce inflammatory signalling molecules, and inflammation and its symptoms are much more likely to produce disease. Therefore, we need to consume adequate amounts of Omega-3s in order to produce enough anti-inflammatory signalling molecules to help shut down some of the inflammatory effects. The ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is 1:1, but having a ratio of <4:1 is thought to be ok unfortunately a majority of the australians tested have ratios >8:1.

To increase your Omega-3 intake you may need to take a good quality Omega-3 supplement that provides at least ~ 500-1000 mg EPA + DHA a day. You can also increase your Omega-3 intake by taking ½-1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil or Chia seed oil a day.

If you want to have your Omega-3 levels tested, simply visit the ARI website to find out how.

Written by Dr Ross Grant, March 2015

Healthy Eating Out

We all love catching up at a restaurant with friends and family, or the convenience of take away when we have no time to cook. But how do you make a healthy choice when presented with many tempting food options? Some places make healthy choices easy by displaying the amount of energy present in each meal. However, the healthiest choice is not always that obvious. To choose what is best for you when eating out follow these healthy tips:

  • Select grilled items over battered, crumbed or fried
  • Select tomato based dishes over cream based dishes
  • Pick balsamic vinaigrette over a creamy dressing
  • Choose an entrée size instead of a main size
  • Ask for sauces or dressings on the side
  • Request no added salt
  • Drink water or diet soft drink instead of high calorie drinks
  • Replacing hot chips with extra vegetables
  • Share a dessert

These choices can turn an unhealthy meal into a healthy one, still allowing you to enjoy a meal outside the home and socialise over great food.

Written by the San Dietitians, March 2015

Winter Warmers

As the days are getting shorter and cooler, it’s a perfect time to experiment with recipes to keep you warmer in the winter months. Start your day with a warm bowl of porridge, or a delicious dish of baked beans and a poached egg on wholegrain toast. For lunch, enjoy a toasted wrap or a bowl of minestrone soup with a crusty wholegrain roll. Slow cooked casseroles or curries are great choices for dinner. When making these dishes, experiment with legumes such as kidney beans and lentils, and seasonal vegetables such as cauliflower, pumpkin, celery, leeks or parsnips. Don’t forget to treat yourself every so often with some homemade stewed apple and rhubarb compote, and make sure you stay hydrated with a hot cup of green tea.

Written by the San Dietitians, March 2015

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