A natural way to help SAD

SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder

I’m looking out of the window and it’s a grey, cold, overcast day. Just the sort of day that encourages Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

SAD is associated with a lack of energy and depression. In some 8% of people it’s serious enough to need treatment, but in some degree it affects at least a quarter of us. And almost all of us feel less upbeat after a spell of gloomy weather.

SAD – or the ‘winter blues’ – is caused by insufficient sunlight. The result is a general lethargy and, in some people, sleep problems, lower libido and an urge to overeat. There’s even a charity devoted to helping victims of SAD.

The connection with mood is because light passes through the eye to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls the production of many of your hormones – including oxytocin, the ‘love’ hormone.

Lack of sunlight in winter months leads to insufficient vitamin D

Lack of sunlight is responsible for even more serious conditions than a general feeling of malaise.

If you are like the majority of people in our modern world, you work indoors almost all the time. Then you go home, cook and relax by reading or watching TV – so you continue to be indoors.

The result is that you don’t get enough sunlight and therefore you don’t get enough vitamin D. Yet we are evolved to absorb sunlight and when we do not get enough, our bodies don’t function well.

Vitamin D plays a major role in maintaining overall health. It regulates over 1,000 different genes – upregulating health-promoting genes and downregulating health-threatening genes.

Vitamin D and cancer

Research shows that sub-optimal levels of vitamin D3 in the blood are linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, possibly multiple sclerosis and an increased risk of various forms of cancer, including breast, colon and prostate cancer.

Significantly, researchers have tracked mortality rates from breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon, and ovarian cancer and found them lower in the sunnier states of the USA.

Cells in your body have vitamin D “receptors”, and the presence of these specific receptors mean vitamin D is actually a hormone, rather than a vitamin.

 We know that vitamin D plays an important role in how cells develop. So it is perhaps not surprising that when vitamin D is directly applied to ‘D receptors’ in the laboratory, cancer cells stop growing and multiplying, according to research published by the National Cancer Institute in America.

Although all males who lack adequate levels of vitamin D are more vulnerable to prostate problems, males originally of African origin are especially at risk of prostate cancer.

Optimum vitamin D lowers risk of dementia and heart disease

Sub-optimal levels of vitamin D can be injurious to health generally and they are also linked to dementia. In fact, a 7 year study published in the US National Library of Medicine shows that low levels of vitamin D increase the risk of dementia almost 20 times!

Vitamin D deficiency is also very common in people with cardiovascular disease. A 2010 survey showed that almost all people with heart failure have reduced D levels. So much so that low vitamin D status is now acknowledged as an independent predictor for arterial diseases, including heart attacks and strokes.

There are dozens of studies that show you need vitamin D to maintain your cardiovascular health. But in the winter it’s virtually impossible to get the level you need from sunlight. And few foods can provide enough to make up the difference.

Take a vitamin D3 supplement

A supplement of vitamin D3 – the natural version that is created by sunlight – is the answer.

But it’s important to make sure you’re taking the proper dose. Studies of cardiovascular patients who take only an average of 500 IU a day generally show little benefit, whereas those taking 2,000 IU do.

Vitamin D and diabetes

People with diabetes have lower levels of vitamin D than the general population. A vitamin D deficiency makes you almost twice as likely to progress to insulin resistance, the pre-cursor of diabetes or ‘pre-diabetes’. And more than doubles your risk for progressing to type II diabetes (see references).

On the other hand, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a supplement level of vitamin D3 at 2,000 IU a day slows the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes.

When overweight, non-diabetic adults supplemented with 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D or a placebo for 16 weeks, the vitamin D group had significantly improved insulin secretion and glucose clearance from their blood. The control subjects saw a worsening of these markers.

Ensuring that you have an optimum intake of vitamin D is essential to combat SAD and protect against cancer, heart disease, dementia and diabetes.

One a day vitamin pills with just the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA/RNI) are sub-optimal, as the RDA/RNI in the UK and EU is inadequate, particularly for winter.

You can get a free report by Dr Paul Clayton and Colin Rose on the case for optimum vitamin D and advice from this link. http://www.nutrishield.com/the-products/vitamin-d/


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Read it here online or see the website www.healthdefence.com for excerpts and links to buy direct from the publisher.

See online here for delicious recipes from the Health Defence Cookbook incorporating healthy foods featuring in a Mediterranean Diet. Combined 3 courses strip


Serum vitamin D deficiency as a predictor of incident non-Alzheimer dementias: a 7-year longitudinal study. Annweiler C, Rolland Y, Schott AM, Blain H, Vellas B, Beauchet O. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2011;32(4):273-8.

Vitamin D deficiency and myocardial diseases. Pilz S, Tomaschitz A, Drechsler C, Dekker JM, Marz W Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Aug;54(8):1103-13

Vitamin D status and peripheral arterial disease: evidence so far. Chua GT, Chan YC, Cheng SW.. Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2011;7:671-5.

Recruitment and results of a pilot trial of vitamin D supplementation in the general population of Australia. Tran B, Armstrong BK, Carlin JB, et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Dec;97(12):4473-80.

Lipoprotein lipase links vitamin D, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes: a cross-sectional epidemiological study. Huang Y, Li X, Wang M, et al. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2013;12:17.

Effects of vitamin D and calcium supplementation on pancreatic beta cell function, insulin sensitivity, and glycemia in adults at high risk of diabetes: the Calcium and Vitamin D for Diabetes Mellitus (CaDDM) randomized controlled trial. Mitri J, Dawson-Hughes B, Hu FB, Pittas AG.. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug;94(2):486-94.

Reduce senior moments

mature woman looking troubledHave you ever forgotten a place name or even your PIN number? Walked upstairs for something – but then forgotten what you went for?

We call these temporary memory lapses ‘senior moments’, and they do become more common with age. But what’s happening? Should you be worried? Can you reverse the process?

Researchers at Columbia University in New York have some positive news. This type of memory problem is reversible in mice and probably reversible in humans.

It is mostly caused by a reduction in the level of a protein in the brain that commonly occurs as we get older. When this protein is increased, the risk of this type of memory loss is reduced or possibly even eliminated.

Protein RbAp48 is key

Called RbAp48, this key protein is found in your brain’s hippocampus. Your hippocampus is part of an area of the brain called the limbic system – a region that regulates emotion and is involved in memory.

“It’s been known for a long time that our memory declines just by the normal wear and tear of the aging process,” says Dr Scott Small, co-author of the study and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Columbia University NY.

“Our study provides compelling evidence that age-related memory loss is a syndrome in its own right, apart from Alzheimer’s.”

Not necessarily a sign of future dementia

So senior moments are not necessarily a sign of future dementia – the two have different causes. Alzheimer’s is linked to the build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain’s neurons, and to inflammation in the brain’s fatty tissues, whereas memory loss due to natural ageing is linked to the RbAp48 protein.

The Columbia study initially looked at eight post-mortem brains from humans with no history of a brain disease, ranging from ages 33 to 88. They found that as a person’s age increased, levels of the protein RbAp48 (also called RBBp4) slowly decreased.

Researchers then found that when they decreased the protein in young rodents they experienced the same type of memory loss that older mice suffered.

The good news was that their memory was restored, once levels of RbAp48 were brought back to normal. Better still, when researchers increased RbAp48 in the brains of old mice, their memory improved within days.

“The fact that we were able to reverse age-related memory loss in mice is very encouraging,” says lead researcher and Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel. “At the very least it shows that this protein is a major factor. Unlike with Alzheimer’s, there is no significant loss of neurons.”

How can you increase RbAp48?

Almost inevitably Big Pharma is off and running looking for drugs. But there may be natural ways to enhance the RbAp48 protein in particular, and brain function in general. Here are our recommendations:

1. Ensure adequate protein intake

Studies show that as a person ages, their absorption of protein declines. So it may be beneficial to increase your overall intake of protein, as you can’t selectively just increase the RbAp48 protein outside the laboratory.


Moroccan Chicken Tagine from the Health Defence Cookbook

In a 2014 study of elderly Japanese residents over a period of 7 years, men who consumed higher levels of animal protein in their diets were 39 percent less likely to have mental and physical decline as they aged. The results were less pronounced for women.

This was supported by a 2012 study which found that amongst people aged 70 to 89, individuals with the highest protein intake had a reduced risk of cognitive decline of 21 percent.

Increased protein intake may have other benefits. A 2014 study published in Cell Metabolism examined the diets of nearly 7,000 individuals between 50 and 90 years of age. The group over the age of 60 had a 62% lower risk of developing cancer and a 28 percent lower risk of death when they ate a diet high in protein.

However, since younger individuals make more proteins, increased food intake of protein could lead to excess protein in the body – and there are indications that people under the age of 60 should keep their protein consumption below 20% of calorie intake.

How much protein? According to a 2006 study conducted by the McGill Nutrition and Food Science Centre in Canada, elderly persons should consume about 0.45 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. This is about 90 grams for a 150 pound (68 kg/10st 10lb) adult.

salmonA younger person should aim for about 0.45 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight – about 68 grams of protein for a 150 pound (68 kg/10st 10lb) person.

An 8-ounce steak contains about 60 grams of protein, a 3 ounce chicken breast 24g of protein and 3 oz of salmon or sardines a similar amount. An egg contains about 6 grams.

eggEggs have another brain benefit. They (along with liver and soybeans) contain choline which is a precursor to the production of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter and key molecule for brain health. Acetyl L-Carnitine is an amino-acid that can beneficially effect the production of acetylcholine.

2. Can we turn on the genes that produce RbAp48?

We are now finding that certain nutrients can turn genes on (and off). It’s called gene expression.

One candidate for possibly turning on the production of the RbAp48 protein is epicatechin – found in green tea, black grapes, blackberries, cherries – and dark cocoa powder.

3. Reduce sugar intake

A 2013 study published in Neurology found that high blood sugar levels have a negative effect on cognitive health. High levels of blood sugar in the brain shut down normal insulin response, which can lead to impairments in memory and cognition, as well as the development of type 2 diabetes.

Carbohydrates are metabolised as sugar inside the body, so a high carb diet can be detrimental to brain health.

4. Eat more healthy fats

avocado-CHealthy fats – and especially Omega 3 fish oil – provide essential nutrients that protect the brain and memory. Healthy fat sources include virgin olive oil, nuts and avocados. High intake of Omega 3 is linked to lower levels of depression.

These fats need to be combined with anti-oxidants as the brain is a fatty organ and prone to free radical damage unless it is protected with anti-oxidants.

Leaf of Sea lettuceVery recent research indicates that combining Omega 3 fish oil with marine polyphenols is ideal. Marine polyphenols (polyphenols are health protective compounds found in fruits and vegetables) – are found in seaweed and act as both anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.

5. Increase dietary fibre

When ‘friendly bacteria’ ferment dietary fibre in your gut and combine with salt, it produces a fatty acid called sodium butyrate. This is a potent detoxifier of neurotoxins and is thus brain healthy.

6. Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins B12, B6 and betaine – along with folic acid – are known to reduce the level of an amino acid called homocysteine. Raised levels of this amino acid have been associated with reductions in cognitive function and memory loss – and also heart attacks.

shrimpZinc deficiency is also known to lead to cognitive impairment, and seafood and whole grains are a good source of zinc.

Recent research also links higher levels of vitamin D to improved mental health. A study at Exeter University found that severe vitamin D deficiency correlated with a 100% increase in Alzheimer’s risk [meaning that risk was doubled].

The mechanisms are not yet clear, but since vitamin D is a key nutrient for the immune system, some of the beneficial effects on the brain may come from its role in enhancing the immune system and in reducing inflammation – which is a known element in Alzheimer’s and dementia.

7. Exercise

Numerous studies show that continuing to be active is essential for brain health. That’s also true of getting at least 8 hours of sleep

8. Keep the blood flowing

The risk factors for heart disease, stroke and brain deterioration are surprisingly similar. They include obesity and high blood pressure and atheroma – the accumulation of fatty deposits and scar tissue, which lead to restriction of the circulation.

the-results-of-inflammation-graphicUnderlying these health threats is a common problem – called ‘chronic, sub-clinical inflammation’ that increases over the years. Indeed New Scientist recently confirmed that this type of internal unseen and unfelt (and therefore especially dangerous)  inflammation is involved in:

“… muscle wasting and glaucoma, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, osteoporosis and arthritis, heart failure and high blood pressure, cancers, and lung, liver and kidney and skin disorders.”

9. Supplements can help

From the above it appears as though a comprehensive supplement containing not just a full range of vitamins and minerals, but betaine, Omega 3, green tea extract, grapeseed extract and polyphenols should help keep those ‘senior moments’ at bay.


If you enjoyed this article, please share it with family and friends (see buttons below).

CTA Register NewsletterAnd register now for a free e-newsletter on the latest in nutrition and health research.

You can follow us on www.facebook.com/nutrishield or www.twitter.com/colinrose40 for daily headline health tweets.

Dr Paul Clayton designed NutriShield as a comprehensive healthbutton-2 supplement with OPTIMUM levels of essential nutrients. See more detail elsewhere on this site or click on the button.

Health Defence bookDr Paul Clayton’s best-selling book Health Defence is available from most good bookstores. See the website www.healthdefence.com for excerpts and links to buy direct from the publisher.

See online here for delicious recipes from the Health Defence Cookbook  incorporating healthy foods featuring in a Mediterranean Diet. Combined 3 courses strip


Pavlopoulos E, Jones S, Kosmidis S, Close M, Kim C, Kovalerchik O, Small SA, Kandel ER. 2013. “Molecular Mechanism for Age-Related Memory Loss: The Histone-Binding Protein RbAp48”. Science Translational Medicine. 5 (200)

Zhang Q, Vo N, Goodman RH. 2000. “Histone Binding Protein RbAp48 Interacts with a Complex of CREB Binding Protein and Phosphorylated CREB”. Molecular and Cellular Biology. 20 (14): 4970–8.

Lu et al. “REST and stress resistance in ageing and Alzheimer’s disease.” Nature, doi:10.1038/nature13163, 2014.

Andrade C, Radhakrishnan R. “The prevention and treatment of cognitive decline and dementia: An overview of recent research on experimental treatments.” Indian J Psychiatry. 2009 Jan;51(1):12-25. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.44900.