News and Notes November 2022

    Kelp and weight management

    Kelp is well known for its role in supporting weight management in cases of an underactive thyroid gland. Kelp is one of nature’s richest sources of iodine, which is essential for the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland. However, although many individuals believe that their weight problems are linked to an underactive thyroid gland, few of them have confirmed this with medical testing. It’s important to confirm the diagnosis of an underactive thyroid before taking an iodine or kelp supplement, as too much iodine can be detrimental, especially if the thyroid gland is overactive.

    However, for those with a confirmed underactive thyroid gland, further benefits of kelp in supporting weight management have been highlighted. A team of researchers from Newcastle University, lead by Dr Iain Brownlee and Professor Jeff Pearson, showed that alginate, a fiber naturally found in kelp, can help reduce dietary fat absorption by up to 75%.1 It is believed that alginate inhibits the function of lipase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down dietary fats, resulting in excretion of the undigested dietary fat through the digestive system. Typically, this causes diarrhea, but it seems that the alginate fiber of kelp helps prevent this unwanted side-effect.

    It is interesting to note that alginate from kelp has been under the research spotlight as a source of dietary fiber, as well as in the management of cholesterol in overweight individuals.2,3

    However, while nutritional supplements can play a supportive role in achieving optimal results, the key to healthy weight management and energy metabolism is still a good, balanced diet and exercise programme, as part of a healthy lifestyle.


    1. Seaweed to tackle rising tide of obesity. Newcastle University Press Office. Published 22 March 2010.
    2. Brownlee I, et al. Alginate as a source of dietary fibre. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2005; 45(6); 497-510.
    3. Paxman J, et al. Alginate reduces the increased uptake of cholesterol and glucose in overweight male subjects. Nutr Res 2008; 28(8): 501-505.

    kelp iodine news

    Human brain detects disease in others

    The brain is truly a wondrous and complex organ, this we know; but, did you know that it enables us to detect disease in others and also take protective action on this information?

    Swedish researchers have shown how our sense of vision and smell make us aware that someone is ill even before the disease raises its ugly head. Furthermore, we then process this information and use it to our advantage to give the sick person a wide berth. This is to our benefit as although our immune system is effective at combating disease, a lot of energy is expended in the process – therefore disease avoidance should be an inherent part of our inbuilt survival instinct.

    Says lead researcher Professor Mats Olsson at Karolinska Institute’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience in Sweden: ‘Our study shows a significant difference in how people tend to prefer and be more willing to socialise with healthy people than those who are sick and whose immune system we artificially activated.’ He adds, ‘We can also see that the brain is good at adding weak signals from multiple senses relating to a person's state of health.’

    Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

    Rooibos research gets funding boost

    Scientific research into the health benefits of Rooibos have been boosted with a R4.8-million investment from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). The investment is aimed at unlocking the potential socio-economic value of SA’s favourite tisane. Aligned to its core mandate of supporting research on Rooibos, the SA Rooibos Council (SARC) will match the Department’s investment, taking the combined funding to almost R10-million.

    The Department’s, Sunita Kalan, Director of Sector and Local Innovation, explains that the funding has been made available through the Sector Innovation Fund (SIF) – a programme launched by the DSI in 2013 to increase the competitiveness of various sectors in the economy by way of incentivising increased investment into research, development and innovation (RDI).

    Joe Swart, Research Director for the SA Rooibos Council says: ‘The demand for natural medicinal products in modern medicine as complementary or alternative therapies is on the increase, however, the potential medicinal values of these plants, including Rooibos, are not always properly researched and documented. The additional investment will help the industry to move forward with studies that include human trials – an important next step in the development of therapies containing Rooibos as an active ingredient.'

    For more on Rooibos, see the Health Benefits of Rooibos.

    Rooibos news and notes November

    Prevent Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

    What it is:
    A condition that destroys the eye's macula, a cluster of light sensitive cells in the retina that is responsible for the sharp central vision required to see fine details. The cause remains unknown.

    Who’s at risk:
    People with a parent with the disease; Caucasians; women; and people over 60.

    What to take:
    More than two servings per week of fish rich in omega 3. This is associated with a decreased risk for advanced AMD compared to a no-fish diet, according to the National Eye Institute. Fish oils reduce the oxidative stress that can create cellular imbalances in the macula. Dosage: 1 000 to 1 500 mg of fish oil supplements per day. If you have a healthy weekly consumption of deep-sea fish, such as salmon or tuna, you're probably getting what you need, but most of us don't.

    In addition, a 2009 Harvard Medical School study found that women 40 years and older who supplemented with vitamins B6 and B12 plus folic acid had a 34% lower risk of AMD. Folic acid and B vitamins reduce levels of homocysteine — an amino acid that, when present in the blood in greater amounts, has been linked to macular degeneration and its progression — and protect the eye against AMD.

    Prevent Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

    Spotlight on arnica

    Arnica is probably one of the most well-known remedies available and has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s. It is also known as bruisewort, leopard’s bane and wolf’s bane and belongs to the Compositae or daisy family.

    Arnica can be applied to the skin in the form of cream, ointment or salve, or taken as a homeopathic tincture. The arnica herb should never be ingested, but only be used topically and never on broken skin.

    For medicinal purposes arnica tincture is made from the whole fresh plant or dried flower, including the root. The homeopathic remedy is not dangerous as it is prepared in a diluted form, is safe and very effective. When used homeopathically, arnica also acts on a mental and emotional level.

    Common clinical uses for arnica include:

    • Injuries, i.e. falls, sprains, blows, bruises and fractures
    • Black eye
    • Bruising
    • After surgery
    • Septic conditions such as painful recurrent boils
    • Inflammation from insect bites
    • During and after childbirth
    • Exhaustion from overexertion
    • Altitude sickness
    • Shock
    • Sprains
    • Painful joints
    • Influenza with a sore, bruised sensation

    3.6 MILLION allergic to workplace in SA!

    Of the 1 300 survey respondents, polled nationally, more than a quarter said their allergies worsened when at the office and almost half (42%) took time off work because of their allergies.

    Both the printer and photocopier emit fumes that could be harmful to your health. Almost half (47%) of respondents that participated in the survey indicated that they sit less than one metre away from a printer and 33% sit in close proximity to a photocopier. A staggering 77% said their offices aren’t well ventilated. Dust mites thrive on carpets, blinds, curtains and other soft furnishings.

    Books too can collect dust mites. More than 55% of respondents said their workplace has carpeted floors and 35% have open bookshelves.


    Stress management

    Stress creates a huge burden in people’s lives, and can lead to relationship trouble, workplace issues and more. Stress also affects the adrenal glands, which are important for mood stabilisation and many other important functions in the body. Unstable adrenal glands can lead to depression, blood sugar regulation issues, hormonal imbalance, fatigue, thyroid dysfunction and more. Digestive health, skin, and many other areas of the body are also affected by chronic stress.

    There are many holistic methods you can use to manage stress, including acupuncture, Bowen therapy, massage and other body work, counselling sessions (often people mistakenly feel there has to be something seriously wrong before going to see an emotional therapist), breathing exercises, meditation, talking to someone, and sometimes even just going for simple walks in nature!

    Health tip from Dr Ameet Aggarwal

    Stress management

    Lots of bacteria mean healthy sinuses

    The more bacteria we have in our sinuses the less chance we have of developing sinusitis. Simply put, the health of the sinuses, just as with the health of the intestinal tract and other tissues, is based on microbial diversity (lots of a variety of bacteria).

    Unfortunately, many doctors are quick to prescribe antibiotics for sinusitis, which interfere with this valuable microbial diversity.

    What colour is your pee?

    A surprising number of factors can impact urine colour. Red urine shows up after drinking beetroot juice or having a vit B12 injection. Drugs taken for UTI’s or blood thinning can colour your urine orange. If the urine is golden brown, dark, or reddish brown, you may have haemolytic anaemia which means breakdown of your red blood cells. This condition can be caused by various popular drugs, including some that reduce cholesterol. If you take vitamin B2 or a multivitamin that contains some riboflavin, you will pee in neon yellow! Now if your urine is dark yellow, it could be due to dehydration or certain medications.

    However, dark urine that is unusual, or in excess, could indicate liver disease. Specifically, the presence of bile makes its way to the urine and tinges it darker yellow, brown or orange. If you eat a bag of black liquorice, it will make you pee green! So will asparagus, and your urine will have a weird, unpleasant smell too!

    Dark, cloudy yellowish-green urine may indicate the presence of a UTI. Medications can cause green urine, one is cimetidine (Tagamet) sold over-the-counter for acid reflux, and promethazine, a prescription drug used for nausea, vomiting and sedation. A medical condition called familial benign hypercalcaemia, a rare inherited disorder, is sometimes also known as ‘blue diaper syndrome’ because children with the disorder have blue urine.

    Urine that appears very cloudy and white could be the result of kidney stones or high calcium or phosphorus excretion. Black urine is sometimes associated with melanoma. It can occur when red blood cells are being destroyed at a dangerously rapid pace, so you can see it sometimes when you treat a person for malaria.

    The colour of your urine may be related to something you consumed or a medication you’re on… but it could be a clue your body is giving you that something is wrong.

    urine colour

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