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Oct 11

News: Health Herbal Medicine Research Latest News

News: Health Herbal Medicine Research Latest News

Latest News – For our clients and customers to keep up to date with current health and herbal medicine research and their conditions

  • Prostate Health Ingredient Research, From Tea to Cranberry Friday June 22nd, 2018
    • ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/herbs-botanicals/prostate-health-ingredient-research-tea-cranberry

    Tea Time, with Prostate Benefits

    Emily Fritz, technical service manager at Kemin (Des Moines, IA), says that her company is continually working to better communicate the benefits of its branded and patented tea-based prostate health ingredient, AssuriTea. For the last year, she says, Kemin’s approach to the men’s health space has been to continue educating the public about its existing line of products. “Consumer demand for natural products is increasing,” Fritz says, “which is why we’ve stepped up our marketing of AssuriTea. That’s where most of our energy has been spent when it comes to men’s health.”

    A proprietary blend of water-extracted green and black tea (Camellia sinensis L.), AssuriTea is designed to reduce lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) in men and improve urinary function. One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of AssuriTea followed 46 men between the ages of 30 and 70 who scored at least 8 on the American Urological Association Symptom Score (AUASS) test. Participants were randomized to receive either 500 mg of AssuriTea, 1 g of AssuriTea, or placebo, for 12 weeks. This trial found that taking 1 g of AssuriTea per day for 12 weeks caused a statistically significant increase in urine flow relative to a placebo and improved symptoms of LUTS.1

    A second randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial funded by Kemin examined the effects of AssuriTea on antioxidant concentrations in 43 healthy men between 25 and 70 years of age. Participants were randomly assigned to a placebo or to 250 mg, 500 mg, or 1 g of AssuriTea for 28 days. The study found that a daily 1-g dose of AssuriTea resulted in a statistically significant improvement in cellular antioxidant protection after 28 days relative to the placebo.2

    Fritz notes the significance of these antioxidant findings: “Prostate health issues are often caused by or exacerbated by inflammation and oxidative stress. That’s why AssuriTea provides both the anti-inflammatory benefits of black tea and the antioxidative benefits of green tea.”

    AssuriTea is targeted at the active lifestyle consumer, Fritz says, noting that Kemin’s men’s health ingredients fall under the umbrella of active wellness. She says this is no accident: marketing prostate health products, she says, often requires a circuitous approach.

    “[Prostate health] is something that a lot of men aren’t comfortable talking about, and a lot of household purchasers are female. So, our marketing campaign last year focused on the overall health and well-being angle,” she says. “We talked about how a healthy lifestyle and AssuriTea supplementation work together to provide health benefits.”

    Fritz says the next big evolution of the men’s health and prostate health supplement market will involve a continuing emphasis on safety. She also notes that botanical ingredients are growing in popularity. “Men’s health has been a fairly stable space the last few years, but there’s a larger demand for natural products. The entire [nutritional supplement] market is moving in that direction, so I expect men’s health to move in that direction as well.”

    References:
    1. Katz A et al. “A green and black tea extract benefits urological health in men with lower urinary tract symptoms.” Therapeutic Advances in Urology, vol. 6, no. 3 (June 2014): 89-96
    2. Herrlinger K et al. “A randomized double blind study of a green and black tea agent, AssuriTEA, in healthy male subjects.” Functional Foods in Health and Disease, vol. 5 no. 10 (October 2015): 350-364

    Managing Pelvic Pain with Flower Pollen Extract

    Recent research by urologists in Italy demonstrated the effectiveness of pollen extract as a supplement for men with chronic pelvic pain due to prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate gland. Italian urological and sexual health supplement company IDIPharma recently published a randomized controlled clinical trial examining the effect of Deprox 500, a branded and patented supplement formulated with Graminex LLC’s (Saginaw, MI) branded and patented Graminex flower pollen extract, on prostatitis-associated chronic pelvic pain in 87 males with a mean age of 33.

    Participants were randomized to take either two 500-mg tablets of Deprox per day or, in the case of the control group, 600 mg of ibuprofen (three 200-mg tablets) per day for four weeks.3 After one month, both groups saw improvements in scores on the National Institutes of Health Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index. But the Deprox group saw an approximately 50% reduction in its score, compared to just an approximately 25% reduction for the ibuprofen group.

    Colleen May, public relations representative for Graminex, says this study shows that Graminex’s flower pollen extract is effective at reducing prostatitis-associated pain. Says May: “IDIPharma found that our ingredient decreased the concentration of cytokines, specifically interleukins, in men with prostatitis.”

    May says that pollen extract is gaining popularity as a prostate health supplement thanks to its natural origins and the fact that it represents a complex of compounds found in the raw ingredient, as opposed to, for instance, a pharmaceutical ingredient based on a single isolated compound. May says that she also expects food-based men’s health supplements to continue growing.

    “We’re noticing that a lot of formulators want to put our ingredients into foods,” she says. “We’ve developed our own protein shakes that have pollen in them. A lot of the people taking our product are older active men with prostate issues, so the protein shake is a good way to deliver all the protein and amino acids needed to recover from a workout while also providing prostate health benefits.”

    She notes that product identification is becoming increasingly important as the market for men’s health products grows. The next major innovations in the men’s health niche, May says, will involve further improvements in testing and verifying natural ingredients. “There’s a push in the industry for better identity testing,” she says. “There are a lot of products coming from overseas that claim to be from the United States. We’ve developed a lot of methods in house that we can send to our customers to ensure a product is what people say it is.”

    References:
    3. Cai T et al. “Pollen extract in association with vitamins provides early pain relief in patients affected by chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome.” Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, vol. 8, no. 4 (October 2014): 1032-1038

    Easing Overactive Bladder with Botanicals

    New data is emerging to demonstrate the usefulness of botanicals for addressing urinary issues in men. Tracey Seipel, ND, founder of Australian supplements marketer Seipel Group, says that her company recently published a clinical trial on its branded bladder-control supplement Urox, a patented combination of botanicals like Crataeva nurvala stem bark, Equisetum arvense stem, and Lindera aggregata root.

    The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial followed 150 participants (average age 55) over the course of eight weeks. Participants took either 420 mg of Urox or a corresponding placebo once per day. The trial measured urinary frequency by self-report at weeks zero, two, four, and eight. By the end of the trial, the active supplement group reported a 30% reduction in daytime urinary frequency and a 54% reduction in nocturia. The placebo group saw lower reductions of 5% and 7%, respectively. The active supplement group also saw statistically significant reductions in both urgency and total incontinence relative to the placebo group.4

    Seipel says that the ingredients in Urox may also assist with symptoms of prostate enlargement, but notes that the bladder-related symptoms typically ease before the prostate symptoms do. Seipel, who was one of the study authors, says that the subjects’ improvements occurred in stages. The urinary urgency symptoms saw statistically significant reductions by week two, she says, but the incontinence symptoms took four weeks to improve.

    Seipel Group’s branded and patented Prorox supplement, designed to support overall prostate health, combines the Urox formula with 5-alpha-reductase, lycopene, and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). Seipel says that botanicals will play an important role in prostate health supplements in the future, in conjunction with lifestyle factors.

    “Beta-sitosterol is gaining in popularity right now,” she adds. “More research is needed, which is difficult with natural products because funds are limited. But over time, I see the men’s health supplement market becoming more comprehensive. Prorox looks at prostate enlargement, but also androgens, nutrition, and other factors. We need to move the public toward a more comprehensive understanding of health issues. Exercise helps to raise testosterone in men, which wards off certain health problems.”

    4. Schoendorfer N et al. “Urox containing concentrated extracts of Crataeva nurvala stem bark, Equisetum arvense stem and Lindera aggregate root, in the treatment of symptoms of overactive bladder and urinary incontinence: A phase 2, randomised, double-blind placebo controlled trial.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 18, no. 1 (January 2

    Probiotics Plus Cranberry Now Entering the Prostate Health Space

    For many years, “prostate supplements” typically meant “herbal supplements.” But now, other kinds of ingredients are gaining notoriety in combination with other longstanding prostate health ingredients. Dan Souza, health and nutrition category manager for Naturex (Avignon, France), says that probiotics are now entering the men’s health category and being used in interesting combinations with existing prostate-health ingredients. For instance, Souza says, Naturex recently launched a version of its patented Flowens full-spectrum cranberry powder “that is optimized for use in combination with probiotics.”

    “The low-water-activity formulation results in better shelf stability for the probiotics, and when consumed, the microbiome-accessible phytochemicals in combination with targeted probiotics may deliver synergistic benefits,” he says. He adds that ingredients like these also avoid the supply chain challenges facing some more traditional prostate health ingredients like saw palmetto. He notes that maintaining an adequate supply of saw palmetto continues to be an issue for the prostate health industry, and that saw palmetto faces both cost challenges and a growing risk of adulteration as supply-management struggles continue. This is why, he says, the industry is now sourcing different botanicals, like cranberry.

    Naturex’s Flowens, made from cranberry fruit powder, has been shown in clinical trials to reduce LUTS symptoms in men, making cranberries a good candidate for men’s health and prostate health formulations. One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial followed 124 men between the ages of 45 and 70 for six months. All participants were assessed using the International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS) at zero, three, and six months. At the outset of the study, all participants scored between 8 and 19 on the IPSS, indicating that they all had moderate prostate symptoms.

    During the study, participants took a once-daily dose of Flowens at either a concentration of 250 mg or 500 mg, or a placebo. After six months, all groups saw reductions in their IPSS rating, but the 250-mg and 500-mg Flowens groups saw reductions in their IPSS ratings of 3.1 and 4.1 points, respectively, while the placebo group saw a reduction of only 1.5 points.5

    “In their report, the study authors noted that this level of reduction is considered to be clinically relevant under guidelines produced by the American Urological Association,” Souza notes. Flowens has also been awarded six health claims from Health Canada, he adds.

    References:
    5. Vidlar A et al. “Cranberry fruit powder (FlowensTM) improves lower urinary tract symptoms in men: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study.” World Journal of Urology, vol. 34, no. 3 (March 2016): 419-424

    Saw Palmetto Extract as Bioactive as Drug?

    Research on saw palmetto has historically been mixed. While saw palmetto’s efficacy has been called into question by reviews and studies published in The Journal of the American Medical Association6, among other journals, a recent study was much more positively in favor of saw palmetto. This study demonstrated that saw palmetto was as effective as the prescription drug finasteride at relieving the symptoms of enlarged prostate.

    The in vitro study examined the efficacy of both Euromed’s (Presto, PA) branded saw palmetto extract supplement Prosterol and of generic drug finasteride at inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase. Finasteride’s therapeutic effects for enlarged prostate are partly due to the drug’s ability to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase. The study found that a 10 microgram per milliliter dose of the saw palmetto extract resulted in a 91% mean inhibition of 5-alpha-reductase expression. A similar 8-nanometer dose of finasteride resulted in only an 82% mean inhibition, the researchers said.7

    The study also found that Euromed’s saw palmetto extract acted through the same mechanisms as finasteride and was as effective as other industry-leading saw palmetto extracts at inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, but without involving the harsh solvent hexane.

    In a press release, Euromed said that its saw palmetto ingredient also offers several benefits due to its roots as a supplement ingredient. “No doctor’s prescription is necessary to obtain a proven bioactive prostate health dietary supplement; it spares the expense of the medical practitioner’s fees; it spares the high costs of prescription drugs; and, most importantly for health, it eliminates exposure to drug-related side effects.”

    Euromed’s Director of U.S. Sales, Guy Woodman, says that Euromed recently completed construction of a new laboratory facility in Barcelona. New analytical equipment will improve quality-control measures related to Euromed’s saw palmetto extract, an important step that Woodman says is necessary on the heels of 2016’s saw palmetto shortage.

    “A global shortage of saw palmetto oil extract opened the door for adulterated products from mainland China to enter the market,” Woodman says. “These adulterated products have the incorrect fatty acid profile and are missing the expected sterols and fatty alcohols. Euromed has been surveying the market and notifying trade organizations and industry stakeholders of this practice.”

    References:
    6. MJ Barry et al. “Effect of increasing doses of saw palmetto extract on lower urinary tract symptoms.” The Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 306, no. 12 (September 28, 2011): 1344-1351
    7. Pais P et al. “Determination of the potency of a novel saw palmetto supercritical CO2 extract (SPSE) for 5α-reductase isoform II inhibition using a cell-free in vitro test system.” Research and Reports in Urology. Published online April 21, 2016.

    Botanicals for Prostate and General Health Support

    Megan Luu, marketing manager for Gencor (Irvine, CA), says that Gencor is currently in the process of branding and trademarking a new men’s health ingredient derived from a plant native to Brazil. She says that Gencor expects this new supplement to receive GRAS status by the middle of 2018. Says Luu: “We’ve developed a new ingredient, an extract from the leaves of Ageratum conyzoides, that has shown 5-alpha-reductase inhibition activity in in vitro studies. This ingredient has also shown good efficacy for prostate health in a human clinical study.”

    That human study—a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial—followed 106 men between the ages of 41 and 76 with medically diagnosed benign prostatic hyperplasia for 12 weeks. Ninety-eight participants completed the study. Participants were assessed on the IPSS scale and were given 250 mg of Ageratum conyzoides or a placebo once per day. Secondary outcomes measured included testosterone and PSA levels as well as participant scores on the Aging Males’ Symptom Score and the Derogatis Interview for Sexual Functioning self-report. The trial showed that Ageratum conyzoides caused a statistically significant reduction in total IPSS score as well as a statistically significant reduction in day- and nighttime urinary frequency.8

    Luu adds that, currently, Gencor’s focus is on diversifying delivery systems for men’s health products. “This space has been lacking in innovation, specifically around delivery systems, and has remained stale,” she says. “Most applications are restricted to softgels. We’ve broadened the delivery system space by bringing in an ingredient that can be used in other delivery forms like tablets, capsules, powders, and sachets.”

    References:
    8. Detering M et al. “Ageratum conyzoides L. inhibits 5-alpha-reductase gene expression in human prostate cells and reduces symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy in otherwise healthy men in a double blind randomized placebo controlled clinical study.” BioFactors, vol. 43, no. 6 (November-December 2017): 789-800

    Beyond the Prostate: New Opportunities in the Wider Men’s Health Market

    Experts say the men’s health supplement market in general, and the prostate health supplement market in particular, aren’t just in the midst of diversifying product lines; the market is also developing a more comprehensive and holistic approach to and understanding of men’s health problems.

    “I see the men’s health market becoming more comprehensive as time goes on,” Seipel says. “There are a few targeted ingredients that tend to dominate the market, and I’d like to see more innovation give way to a more multifaceted approach to men’s health.” Researching how lifestyle factors may affect prostate health is increasingly important, she adds.

    At least one large-scale clinical trial is currently examining the connection between lifestyle factors and prostate health. The trial, dubbed the Men’s Eating and Living Study, is following 464 American men between the ages of 50 and 80 who have early-stage prostate cancer. The phase 3 randomized clinical trial, sponsored by the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, ended last month. Preliminary results are expected soon.9

    Prostate health is one of the most established realms of men’s health for supplement manufacturers to target, but new opportunities for manufacturers of men’s health supplements will likely occur both inside and outside the prostate arena. Gencor’s Luu says that the men’s health niche hasn’t seen much innovation in the last 10 years, and while this makes the niche a fairly reliable space for brands, it also means the industry is overdue for a shake-up.

    Says Luu, “The men’s health supplement market has excellent growth potential, not just in prostate health, but also in healthy aging, active lifestyle, and andropause.”

    Graminex’s May adds this: “The market looks different depending on whether you’re targeting older men or younger men. With older men, you’re talking prostate health ingredients. But with younger men, the products are more oriented around sports health—protein products, amino acids, etc.”

    As the men’s health market continues to diversify, new opportunities will call for new formulations and products to meet evolving consumer demands. Manufacturers and brands can capitalize on growing awareness of men’s health issues with innovative formulations, strong research, and targeted marketing campaigns that reach household decision makers.

    Also read: Drug-Supplement Interactions: Consumer Safety Remains a Priority

    Prostate health supplements are a popular remedy for men who are facing age-related prostate difficulties. But the jury is still out on whether it is safe for men who are taking certain prescription medications to also take prostate supplements.

    According to Harvard Medical School’s health publishing division, herbal remedies like saw palmetto may interact with drugs like naproxen or anticoagulants to increase the risk of bleeding in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia.10 However, many of the concerns around saw palmetto and its interactions with prescription drugs stem from isolated case reports and experimental studies of unknown clinical relevance.11 Further research is needed to clarify the mechanisms of interaction, if they exist, and to determine whether or not saw palmetto causes interactions with antiplatelets, anticoagulants, or NSAIDs.

    ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/herbs-botanicals/prostate-health-ingredient-research-tea-cranberry

    Source: Nutritional Outlook

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  • Precautionary Recall – Children’s Blackcurrant Cough Syrup Wednesday June 20th, 2018

    We are working with Bell Sons and Co (Druggists) Ltd to recall own-brand blackcurrant cough syrup due to possible mould.

    Published 20 June 2018
    From:
    Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency

    People should check bottles of some own-brand children’s blackcurrant cough syrup to see if they need a replacement.

    A problem with one of the ingredients in these medicines has been identified which could cause them to allow mould to grow. There is a low risk that the mould could make the child unwell or cause a reaction, although to date we are not aware of any cases where this has happened. As a precaution it has been decided to recall affected batches.

    Only a small number of batches from 8 different products are being recalled. No other cough syrups are affected.

    Dr Sam Atkinson, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) Director of the Inspection, Enforcement and Standards Division said:

    Check if you have any of the listed cough syrups and if you do, please don’t use them. Take them back to where you bought them from.

    The mould is not always visible, so return any of the affected cough syrup bottles, even if it looks okay to use. “If your child has recently taken one of these cough syrups, and, in the unlikely event that they have become unwell or had a reaction, please speak to your GP, pharmacist or other healthcare professional.

    Our highest priority is making sure the medicines you and your family take are safe. This is why, even though there is a low risk of a reaction, we have asked the company to carry out this recall and why we want people to check their medicine cabinets.

    As with any medicine, we strongly encourage anyone to report any suspected side effects to us via our Yellow Card Scheme.

    Notes to Editor
    Brand and Product Description Batch Number(s) Expiry Date

    Asda Children’s Dry Cough Syrup Glycerol Blackcurrant Flavour 274V1, 276V1, 278V1, 283W1 27/09/2017, 31/10/2017, 02/01/2018,19/02/2018

    Bell’s Children’s Cough Syrup Blackcurrant Flavour 280V3 04/01/2018

    Morrisons Children’s Dry Tickly Cough Glycerin 0.75g/5ml Oral Solution 282W1 30/01/2018

    Numark Children’s Dry Cough 0.75 g/5 ml Oral Solution 280V1, 288W1 04/01/2018, 27/04/2018

    Sainsbury’s Children’s Dry Cough 0.75g/5ml Syrup 275V1 11/10/2017

    Superdrug Children’s Dry Tickly Cough Glycerin 0.75 g/5 ml Oral Solution 280V2, 284W1 04/01/2018, 24/03/2018

    Tesco Children’s Dry Cough Syrup 277V1, 278V2, 281W1 31/10/2017, 02/01/2018, 30/01/2018

    Wilko Tickly Cough 0.75g/5ml Oral Solution 275V2 11/10/2017

    MHRA is responsible for regulating all medicines and medical devices in the UK. All our work is underpinned by robust and fact-based judgments to ensure that the benefits justify any risks. MHRA is a centre of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency which also includes the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) and the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). The Agency is an executive agency of the Department of Health. www.mhra.gov.uk
    Link to Yellow Card Scheme

    Source: MHRA

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  • How the secret to a longer life is at your feet Tuesday June 19th, 2018

    We worry about our waistlines, get our eyes tested and make dreaded dentist appointments. But what about your feet? Chances are you don’t spare them much thought.

    But, increasingly, research suggests we should be paying them more attention — with experts pointing out that our feet really are the foundation of our health. Keeping them in tip-top shape, they argue, could improve posture, prevent injuries and ward off aches and pains.

    Perhaps most important, looking after our feet could prevent life-threatening falls.

    One in three adults over 65 will have at least one fall a year — and they are the most common cause of injury-related deaths in people over 75, according to the . This is because they can lead to fatal hip fractures and head injuries.

    ‘The feet are a neglected part of the body,’ says Dr Ralph Rogers, a consultant in sports and orthopaedic medicine at The London Sports Injury Clinic. ‘Nobody thinks about them until something goes wrong.

    ‘But with just a little bit of regular maintenance and consideration, millions of people could be saved from future problems,’ he says. Here, we bring you the expert guide to training your feet — just as you’d train any other muscle in your body — and explain why it’s so vital.

    WHY YOUR FEET NEED A WORKOUT

    ‘Great posture starts with your feet,’ explains Dr Rogers. ‘The foundation of a building provides a base of stability that supports the entire structure, therefore a weak foundation leads to collapse. The same happens with your feet.’

    Each foot should function almost as a tripod, with the big toe, the little toe and the heel forming the three points that hold the ankles, knees and hips in perfect alignment above the foot when it is flat on the floor with the outside edge of the foot in contact with the ground. (The inside edge will not usually be flat on the floor because of the natural arch.)

    But, as Dr Rogers points out, when that tripod is not perfectly balanced — because the foot’s arch is naturally too high or too low — or through ill-fitting footwear, injury or muscular weakness — it affects the ankles, knees, hips, back and shoulders.

    ‘It creates dysfunctional movement and can lead to hip, back, and neck pain and can even be the cause of headaches,’ he says. ‘For instance, if you’ve hurt your big toe, you’ll change the way you walk. This can mean the calf muscles take extra pressure, which can have a knock-on effect on the ligaments that join your knees to your hips, causing pain in these joints.

    ‘Similarly, changes to the way your hips are moving will affect your back, and the back muscles which connect to the muscles around your head. If they are tight, that can cause headaches.’

    YOUR FEET HAVE ‘CORE’ MUSCLES, TOO

    A 2009 study published in the Journal of Clinical Biomechanics which measured people’s foot strength found the weaker certain foot muscles were, the more likely they were to have a fall.

    Physiotherapists and fitness experts often talk about our ‘core’ muscles, meaning the muscles in the pelvis and abdomen that keep you upright and help protect your back from injury.

    However, the foot has ‘core’ muscles too. And they perform a similar function.

    The term ‘foot core’ only came into medical parlance recently, thanks in part to a 2015 paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in which a group of U.S. academics argued that the core muscles of the foot — the muscles in the sole of the foot where both ends are joined to bones within the foot — are ‘largely ignored by clinicians’.

    Treatments, they said, for complaints such as plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the ligament that runs along the sole of the foot, which causes heel pain) and other foot injuries are ‘more often directed at externally supporting the foot rather than training these muscles’.

    However, they believe ‘a stronger foot is a healthier foot’ and suggest strengthening these muscles could help improve ankle stability and balance and potentially even reduce injury.

    SO JUST HOW FIT ARE YOUR FEET?

    Like any muscles, your foot muscles need exercising.

    This becomes even more important as we age because we naturally lose muscle strength and muscle mass.

    This muscle loss can start as young as 30 but tends to accelerate after 50 and, while lean muscle mass generally contributes up to about 50 per cent of your body weight as a young adult, it’s closer to 25 per cent by the time you get to 75 to 80.

    This means the muscles in our feet also weaken with age, so ensuring that they are in fighting form is essential if we’re to prevent falls (and other problems).

    But foot ‘core’ strength is just one aspect of foot ‘fitness’.

    Although good foot core strength ensures the bones of your feet are held in the correct place and your body is aligned properly, foot health is also about making sure that supporting structures, such as the ligaments, are functioning as they should, that you have the correct amount of flexion and mobility in your ankle to make sure your foot is functioning normally.

    Then there is proprioception. This is your awareness of where the different parts of your body are in time and space, even when you can’t see them. Good proprioception in your feet improves balance, and reduces the chance of falls.

    Your brain receives messages from special sensors called proprioceptors in every one of your muscles and tendons, these communicate information about what your body is in contact with and how balanced you are, but they need training. Luckily, there are simple exercises you can do at home to improve all of these elements (see below).

    WHAT ABOUT FLAT FEET?

    The foot arch is generally maintained by the muscles of your foot’s core. Flat feet or fallen arches mean the instep that is usually raised when your foot is on a flat surface remains in contact with the ground.

    As the instep normally provides the correct spacing between two points of the ‘tripod’, this can mean the foot is unstable and the knees roll inwards.

    In young children, you normally can’t see an arch due to ‘puppy fat’, but by the age of around six, the arch should have developed. However, around one in 20 people will never develop an arch — and this may simply be genetic.

    In many cases this won’t cause a problem, but if it does — typically pain in the knees or hips — orthotics or insoles which create an artificial arch can be worn in shoes to correct the problem, although this is unlikely to force the arch to form so most people who need orthotics will have to wear them for life.

    You can also ‘lose’ your arches as an adult — and it’s not ‘one of those things’ that happens with age. You can, and should, protect against it, as losing your arch can put you at greater risk of a fall.

    TRENDY GYM CLASS MAY BE BAD FOR FEET

    High-Intensity interval training (HIIT) — short, sharp bursts of intensive exercise that can involve sprinting or impact exercises such as squat jumps — is now very popular.

    However, Dr Ralph Rogers, a consultant in sports and orthopaedic medicine at The London Sports Injury Clinic, says he has noticed a rise in patients with plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the ligament that runs from the heel along the sole of the foot) and is convinced the exercise trend is partly to blame.

    ‘HIIT is not for everyone,’ he says. ‘If you’re new to exercise, you need to build up slowly.

    ‘Gradually increase the load by around 10 per cent each time, which will avoid suddenly putting excessive pressure on your joints and soft tissues, including the soft tissues in the feet.’

    ‘One of the most common causes of adult-acquired flat feet is posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD),’ explains Rebeca Gomez, a podiatrist and clinical podiatry lead at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. ‘This is where one of the ligaments on the inside of the ankle that helps support the arch loses function.’

    This can lead to instability, deformity of the foot and degenerative changes in the surrounding joints in the form of osteoarthritis.

    PTTD can be the result of overuse, or a sprained ankle which didn’t heal properly, but risk factors also include diabetes (as high blood sugar levels can damage tendons) hypertension (which reduces blood flow to the ligaments that keep the arch in place) and obesity (as the load the feet are supporting is increased).

    To protect your arch, Patrick McKeon, an associate professor in exercise and sports science at New York’s Ithaca College and co-author of the 2015 ‘foot core’ paper, recommends a simple exercise to contract the muscles that pull the arch of the foot upwards.

    Sit down with your foot flat on the floor and attempt to shorten your foot by lifting the arch, without scrunching up your toes or moving your leg.

    It’s a very small motion — like pelvic floor exercises but for your foot — if you’re doing it right if you can see your arch lift and your foot get slightly shorter. Aim to do this 20 times in a row, two or three times a day, before progressing to the same exercise standing up.

    To see a detailed demonstration, go to youtube.com and search ‘developing the strength of the foot core’.

    WHY HAIRY TOES ARE A GOOD SIGN

    Rebeca Gomez suggests doing a quick assessment of your own foot health.

    ‘Is the skin dry? Are there any calluses or corns that may indicate any areas of excess pressure or abnormal foot mechanics?’ she asks. ‘Is the skin intact? How about in between the toes? Hard skin build-up on the toes and soles are a warning that the foot’s mechanics are not quite correct. Footwear may be a component, but either way it warrants professional assessment.’

    ‘Hard skin on the tips of the toes or calluses on the sole at the base of the toes can suggest you’re shoes are too big as it indicates your toes are clawing to keep your shoes in place,’ she says.

    ‘Similarly, hard skin on the heels can suggest your calves are very tight, possibly as the result of wearing high heels.’

    Other, more quirky factors can be good indicators of foot health. ‘Do you have hairy toes? This is good as it suggests the circulation is good, as to grow hair on your toes you need a big supply of oxygen and nutrients.’

    Check your circulation by pinching the fleshy bit of your big toe until it goes white. When you let go, time how long it takes to go pink again.

    You’re basically temporarily cutting off blood flow and timing how long it takes for blood to flow back. ‘It should take less than five seconds,’ says Rebeca Gomez.

    Poor circulation could be an early warning of diabetes, blood pressure issues or blocked arteries so booking in to see a podiatrist, who may refer you to your GP, is a good idea. This is even more important past the age of 50.

    The feet can act as an early warning system, so Rebeca Gomez recommends a yearly check-up, or more frequently if issues are identified.

    This is likely to be a private consultation as unless you have a diagnosed foot condition, you are unlikely to see a podiatrist (the modern name for a chiropodist) on the NHS.

    The College of Podiatry can help you. Go to scpod.org/find-a-podiatrist/ or call .

    THE ULTIMATE FOOT WORKOUT

    PODIATRIST Rebeca gomez suggests trying these exercises on a daily basis to improve your all-round foot health…

    Exercise 1: Stand behind the sofa and place a tennis ball between your ankle bones. Rest your hands on the back of the sofa and rise up onto your tiptoes rapidly without dropping the tennis ball.

    With the ball between your ankles, return heels gently to the ground. This works an important ligament on the inside of the ankle which helps maintain the arch of the foot. It also strengthens the calves and ankle stability, reducing the risk of sprains and falls.

    If you can’t do this without pain or dropping the ball, this is an indicator that your tendon is weak and your arches may be at risk of falling.

    Start with five repetitions per day and work up until you can easily carry out 20 a day.

    Exercise 2: Try balancing on one leg (near a wall for safety). This forces special sensors in the muscles and ligaments of your feet which send signals to your brain — known as proprioceptors — to work harder as your body calculates where your limbs are and how to balance.

    Try it for a slow count of 30 without wobbling, then on the other leg. Now try it with your eyes closed — this will test what your feet can feel even further. Repeat the exercises two to four times a day. The goal is to stand on each leg with eyes closed for at least 30 seconds, without wobbling or needing to touch the wall for support.

    Exercise 3: Place a thick book on the floor. Put the front of your feet on the edge of it, keeping your heels on the ground and tilt your feet slightly outwards towards the little toe.

    Tuck your bottom in. You should still be able to stand up straight, and feel a stretch through your calf.

    Aim to hold this stretch for two minutes twice a day. This helps ensure your calf can stretch enough so when you’re walking, your heel can strike the ground first and propel you forward.

    It also ensures the leg can be brought forward directly underneath the body rather than swinging it around the outside of the body.

    The body often takes these ‘lazy’ shortcuts, but it can cause knee and hip problems.

    Source: Daily Mail

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