Fibre and cholesterol – not the whole story

Keeping your cholesterol levels low is one of the most important things you can do to keep your heart healthy. Our modern world, however, where fast foods and office work is the norm make this difficult task. Instead of trying to decipher and follow the myriad of advice out there though, staying focussed on a few key elements is your best bet to lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). These include exercise, eating a diet low in saturated fats and making sure you are getting enough fibre from your food.

Lately, there has been a lot of interest in the last of these factors – getting enough fibre. But this begs the question, is fibre enough?

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate present in plants. We aren’t able to digest it, but it is still essential to health, especially in terms of keeping your gut healthy and helping to reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Most plant based foods contain soluble fibre, and if you are eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetable per day, you should be getting an adequate amount. Supplementing fibre on top of this may be helpful, but should never be used as a substitute for a healthy diet.

There are two main types of fibre – soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibre is great for gut health, but has little effect on cholesterol levels. Soluble fibre, on the other hand, takes on a gel-like consistency when mixed with water. This allows it essentially trap food, bile salts and cholesterol in your gut, slowing their digestion and absorption into the blood stream. Bile salts are made from cholesterol, and by stopping them from being reused, your body needs to use cholesterol to make more.

Fibre is therefore safe, natural and part of a healthy diet. Despite this, fibre has a few short-comings, and shouldn’t be used as a stand-alone in reducing CVD risk.

First of all, while cholesterol is the most well-known contributor to heart disease, it is not the only influence. Triglycerides are also a major risk factor. Both cholesterol and triglycerides are types of fat, known as lipids. There are also a few types of cholesterol, the most important of which are HDL and LDL. LDL cholesterol tends to accumulate within arterial walls, contributing to atherosclerosis. This is why it is often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is more easily removed and may help eliminate LDL cholesterol from the arteries, earning it the title of ‘good’ cholesterol.

In terms of your heart health, fibre has only been shown to reduce your LDL cholesterol, and has little to no effect on your HDL and triglyceride levels. The effect on LDL is also only moderate, addressing just two of the factors contributing to high LDL levels – reducing uptake of dietary cholesterol and cholesterol (bile salt) reabsorption efficiency. This means that a high fibre intake can help to reduce LDL cholesterol levels, but does not address other equally important risk factors of CVD, nor all factors causing high LDL.

Second of all, while fibre doesn’t have any major side effects, the high doses needed to significantly affect LDL levels require that a large amount is taken via supplements. This can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort like bloating, gas and constipation, especially if not introduced slowly.

Finally, the mechanisms by which cholesterol and triglycerides become a danger to your health are complex, arising from the simultaneous and progressive influence of environmental factors (such as diet) as well as internal factors like genetics and pre-existing disease. In order to effectively reduce the damaging effects of lipids, therefore, it is necessary to address as many of these factors as possible. This begins with minimising negative environmental impacts and maximising positive ones. Environmental factors aren’t the whole story, however, and in order to keep as healthy as possible, we need to improve the function of core biological pathways that contribute to disease. It is therefore essential to ensure that all underlying pathways are effectively addressed, requiring that multiple molecules in well-designed combinations are used to treat complex disorders.

Instead of relying on a single approach to reducing your risk for CVD, it is thus more beneficial and more effective to focus on a number of key factors to lower your lipid levels. These should include comprehensive lifestyle changes, particularly dietary changes that involve eating a lot more fibre-rich, whole foods, increasing exercise, reducing your intake of saturated fats and complex carbohydrates and taking supplements intended to more comprehensively address the causative factors of raised lipid levels.

At the Medical Nutritional Institute, we have developed a number of resources to make this journey easier and more convenient for you and your loved ones, addressing diet, exercise and a triad of the underlying pathways leading to elevated lipid levels.

Our C.A.P.E meal plan, weekly meal planners and cholesterol lowering guidelines, make it much easier to follow and stick to a healthy diet. These focus on reducing the amount of processed carbohydrates and unhealthy lipids in your diet, while increasing the amount of nutritious foods and healthy fats. They also provide a large amount of fibre which will work towards lowering your cholesterol.

If you struggle to keep active, our exercise plans are easy, a breeze to follow and will help you to get active without a huge amount of effort.

RyChol, our cholesterol focussed supplement, contains a unique blend of phytochemical (plant-derived) ingredients that have each demonstrated an ability to help regulate blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels via scientifically recognised and different mechanisms. These ingredients work together to achieve a multi-modal pharmaceutical action based on the selective blocking of various biochemical pathways involved in cholesterol absorption and excretion, as well as triglyceride digestion.

  • Phyto, or plant, sterols are naturally-occurring plant fats, structurally similar to cholesterol. Phytosterols are poorly absorbed, and compete with cholesterol for absorption in the gut, meaning that they help prevent the uptake of both dietary and bile salt derived cholesterol from the small intestine.
  • Apple polyphenols help block the digestion of saturated fat, and by doing so, help prevent the uptake of triglycerides from the small intestine into the body.
  • Barberry root extract contains a substance called berberine. Berberine has been demonstrated to lower cholesterol by increasing LDL removal by the liver, leading to the accelerated clearance of LDL cholesterol from the body.
  • Psyillium increases faecal elimination of bile acids via entrapment and absorption, thus aids to facilitate the natural expulsion of cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL contained in bile.

Through addressing the multiple underlying factors contributing to CVD, you, together with MNI, can take control your cardiovascular health today.

Take RyChol every day to stay healthier for longer!

Please contact our experts for more advice or if you have any questions here.

Avoiding Technology Before Your Child’s Bedtime

Sleep is one of the most important parts of staying mentally and physically healthy. Quality sleep is essential to self-regulation, immune function,and cardiovascular health, development of the brain, memory, attention and motivation. Inadequate sleep, has been associated with poor mental health outcomes, including ADHD-like symptoms, low mood, anxiety, depression, poor performance at work and school, and even diabetes and heart disease.

One of the major contributors to poor sleep is digital media. This is especially true in children as they have not developed an ability to self-regulate and are more likely to spend extended periods on their phones, computer, or in front of the TV. Use of technology before bed has been shown to lead to trouble falling and maintaining sleep, less sleep overall, a lower quality of sleep and more sleep disturbances.

Technology leads to negative sleep outcomes for a number of reasons:

  • Light emissions: Light tells your brain that it is day time, and prevents the brain from relaxing and preparing for sleep. One of the major reasons is due to light’s effect on sleep/wake hormones. The blue light emitted from LED screens reduces the synthesis of melatonin – the sleep promoting hormone- and the removal of cortisol, a hormone involved in keeping you awake and alert. Natural sleep-wake cycles therefore become disrupted.
  • Stimulating content: Exciting and stimulating information can cause emotional and hormonal responses (such as release of adrenalin) that do not go away immediately. These cause the brain to remain active and alert even if the light and stimulation is removed. They can also cause bad dreams or anxiety which result in trouble sleeping.
  • Motivation to stay awake: Social media, TV programs and video games are available and active 24 hours a day. There is constantly something to take part in or someone to speak to. The fear of missing out, or the urge to watch just one more program can cause children to stay up long past their bed time, or be woken up in the middle of the night by a message or notification on their phone. Increased use of technology also prevents children from taking part in other activities which lead to healthy sleep, like exercise.

In order to help your children get a better night’s sleep, a number of household rules will need to be put in place. Importantly, these rules should apply to everyone in the house so that children are more likely to adhere to them.Read more on behavioural modelling here.

Use some of the following as tips for improving sleep quality in your household:

  • Prevent digital media use before bed time. Set a ‘black-out time’ and enforce it. The TV should be switched off and cell-phones placed in an inaccessible location at least 30 minutes before bed time. For more highly stimulating activities, like video games, this should be at least an hour. As parents, keep in mind that children model what their parents do. If they are not allowed to watch TV but you are they will put up more of a fight. Background noise of the TV while trying to fall asleep can also be distracting.
  • Replace use of digital media in this time with less stimulating activities. These can be reading, board or card games, family discussions, bath time, playing music, art or writing. These activities will prevent your children from becoming bored and craving digital media, help them develop other skills and family relationships, as well as allow their brain to relax before bed.
  • See the bedroom as a sanctuary for sleep. Remove all technology from the bedroom where possible and don’t allow your children to take their phones to bed. This will also help you keep better track of their screen time and what they may be doing while online.
  • Encourage exercise and other activities in place of digital entertainment, especially during the day. Exposure to daylight and use of energy will help train your children’s sleep-wake cycle, as well as use up extra energy that may be available to keep them awake at night.
  • Talk to your children, especially teenagers, about the benefits of good sleep, and set the example. If they are sporty, explain how it will impact their performance, if academic: how their grades are suffering, or if social: how good sleep helps them look healthy and attractive.


Sleep is extremely important to your child’s mental and physical health. Through following these techniques you and your children will have better quality sleep, and as a result, a better quality of life.

SleepVance Kids has been developed to optimise sleep quality, duration and sleep patterns.  It contains a unique blend of plant derived (phytochemical) ingredients and nutrients involved in regulating the sleep cycle.

An Organised Work Space Reduces Homework Time

Procrastination, or the delay of tasks that need to be completed, can be affected by both internal (personality, motivation and concentration and so on) and external (a distracting or disorganized environment) factors. The ability to concentrate is also highly dependent on what is going on around someone when they sit down to try work.

It is important to address all these issues if your child has difficulty focusing on or getting started with their work. While internal factors can take a lot of work to improve, optimizing the environment in which your child does their schoolwork can have much more immediate results and is fairly easy to address. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is to ensure they have a specific homework space conducive to all of their needs.

To start with, designate an area where your child can sit and complete homework. This area should be away from household traffic, quiet and free of distractions. It should also be comfortable, well-lit and visible or easily accessible to you as a parent. Importantly, the area should be work focused, with only items that will be needed for study. Feel free to decorate the area so it is not boring. Creating this will help set up a routine in their work, associating this space with getting things done and minimizing distractions. It will also help you monitor them and provide assistance easier than if they are sent to their room to do homework.

Once you have decided on a space, make sure it is stocked with all the stationary that may be required by a child, including pencils, scissors, glue, calculators, dictionaries,paper and textbooks. By ensuring everything they need to finish their homework is available within arm’s reach, you will minimize the time spent trying to find things all over the house. Ensure you keep track of what is being used and restock appropriately. Make sure the desk is well organised so that objects can be easily found and accessed.

Creating opportunities for your child to organize their work can also be very useful, especially in terms of what tasks still needs to be done and what tasks have been completed. For instance,two baskets can be used, with one basket containing work that needs to be completed, and the other the work that has been completed. Due dates and important events can be organised on a calendar or check list. A pin-board with one half labelled “to do” and the other “done” can also be used. Notes with tasks that need to be done can be written down as soon as your child gets home from school and pinned up in “to do”, and then moved over to “done” as they are finished.All of these techniques make it easier for you and your child to keep track of what needs to be done, as well as allow your child to feel a sense of accomplishment as they fill their basket or board with finished work. As the work would always be visible to the child, they would be less likely to forget about it.

The last step of homework should be tidying up. Help your child keep the area organised and tidy. This is both a useful skill and will ensure their workspace remains optimized for concentration.

Through allocating a designated area to do homework and ensuring it contains everything that your child will need to do their work, you will be helping introduce structure in their work routine, minimizing time wasted and distraction as well as helping them learn to stay organized and keep track of goals. For more helpful tips on improving your child’s concentration, motivation and performance, read some of our other articles such as how to Help Your Child Break Tasks Into Small Manageable Sections Or Parts.

NeuroVance kids and NeuroVance Focus has been developed to optimise concentration, brain function and calmness and combat the effects of stress on your immune system.

Being The Ideal Role Model For Your Children

Children learn behaviour in a number of ways, two of which are what they are told to do and what they see others do. Out of these, observational learning, or mimicking how others act in certain situations, appears to be by far the most influential. Mimicking solidifies both behaviour, as well as less tangible traits, such as thinking styles, motivations, and moral values. This is not only on a psychological basis, but biologically too. Neurological research has identified mirror cells in the brain, which strongly react when a behaviour is copied, forging neurological connections and further solidifying behaviours.

Essentially, this means that no matter how much you tell your children what is right and what is wrong, how they should behave and why certain traits are important, this will not be internalized nearly as much as your behaviour. In other words, every day, whether you are conscious of it or not, you are teaching your children both positive and negative behaviours, attributes and skills based only on how you act around them. This concept, called modelling, is one of the most important tools you have at your disposal to ensure your child leads the kind of life and develops into the kind of person you wish them to. By displaying positive behaviours, morals and coping skills, you will be integrating these into your child’s personality, values and outlook on life in a much more deep set and powerful manner than verbal instructions could ever achieve.

Try to incorporate some of the following strategies in your daily interactions with your children.

    1. Act out and model what you want your children to do

      This should be everything from more apparent things like saying please and thank you, to less obvious things like expressing gratitude, helpfulness and being polite. Importantly, these behaviours should be modelled to not only your children, but also to your partner, friends,family and strangers. This will teach children that these rules apply to everybody. The behaviour should also be performed both inside and outside the house, so that children do not believe they apply only in certain settings.

    2. Stay conscious of your example

      It is impossible not to model behaviour. To ensure you are not unconsciously modelling negative behaviour, try to actively think about each action you take. Consider how you handle stress, frustrations with others, problems in your environment, failure, competition and responsibilities. Write down a list of values you want to see in your children, go over these regularly and decide whether they correspond to your behaviour.

      Another useful tip, especially for young children, is to role play. Ask your child to act as you would in a certain scenario, with you taking on the role of the other person, be it your child a waitress or a family member. This can be a very powerful way to gain insight into what habits your child is picking up from you.

    3. Be consistent

      Inconsistency in what you expect from your children and in what they observe in your behaviour can reduce the effectiveness of what you are trying to teach them, cause confusion about what is actually expected of them and result in discipline problems.Children will not respect rules and may begin to pick and choose behaviours, or look to other sources for an example.

      Of course, not everything that is appropriate for adults is appropriate for children. For example, wearing makeup or drinking alcohol. This can create an inconsistency in their minds even though what you are doing is not actually wrong. In these cases it is best to acknowledge the inconsistency, and explain to children that although it is not appropriate now, it may be when they are older.

    4. Use your own mistakes to teach children how to act when they make their own

      We are all human, so knowing how to act when you do something inappropriate is important. The first step is noticing that something you have done has set a bad example. Instead of seeing this as a bad thing, view it as an opportunity to teach your children that no one is perfect, and how to act when they make a mistake. Start by acknowledging that your behaviour was not the correct way to act, and discussing why this is the case. Apologize to the affected person, or discipline yourself in a manner similar to which you would your children. Discuss or model ways that the situation could have been handled better, and make sure to do that if the situation arises again. Try and model the appropriate response to the behaviour – if you showed disrespect, model apologizing, if you made a mess and didn’t clean it up, offer to tidy up and do one or two additional chores.

    5. Teach your children about positive role models

      Both fortunately, and unfortunately, parents are not children’s only role models. You cannot teach your child everything and cannot avoid other role models surfacing in their lives. Rather than feeling anxious or trying to isolate them from the world, both of which will be unhealthy for your child, teach them about the qualities a good role model should have. Have faith that your own example will reflect in the things that matter.

      If you are concerned about one of your child’s role models, be it someone in their immediate environment, a sportsman or celebrity, banning this person from their lives is seldom effective. It is more productive to instead explain that everyone has good and bad qualities, and that they do not have to do everything that person does to achieve the same successes. Only if influences are highly negative (such as drug use, etc.) should you more actively discourage their association. These observations are also true for your children’s friends. Bear in mind that friends are more likely to influence every day behaviour, like fashion choices, rather than their deep set morals.

Together with a strong relationship and consistent, positive modelling, your example will be the one that your children adopt when it really matters.

Parental Anxiety – Is Your Stress Affecting Your Children?

Childhood is an incredible time of growing, learning and adjusting to new experiences but today’s children seem to be carrying increasing burdens of stress which can impact their development. There is a disturbing trend in which children as young as eight years old are showing high levels of anxiety and parents could be underestimating how their own stress may be affecting their children. [1]

How Stress is Impacting the Family

Research findings show that many families are facing a continual cycle of high stress and then attempting to handle their situations in unhealthy ways.[2] In our fast-paced society, a growing number of parents experience excessive stress that puts them at risk for developing chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and depression.

As parents, continual stress can have deep implications on children who are keenly aware of their parent’s behaviour and it can impact them on both psychological and physical levels. Studies have shown that excessive, chronic activation of the stress response in the body and brain can have damaging effects on healthy childhood development. [3]

3 Kinds of Stress Responses

An important aspect of any child’s growth is learning to deal with adversity and overcoming the challenges of life. When children face normal stressful situations and they are in a supportive environment, the result is the development of healthy stress response systems. But, if a child is exposed to extreme and chronic stress and their environment lacks supportive relationships, the result can be weakened bodily systems and impaired brain function. [3]

It is helpful to define three types of stress responses and the affects on the body [3]:

  1. Positive

    This type of stress response is perfectly normal and involves a brief increase in heart rate and temporary hormone elevations that are needed to deal with the challenging event. For a child, these situations could include the first day at school or pre-match jitters.

  2. Tolerable

    When a sudden or terrifying event occurs such as a severe injury or the loss of a loved one occurs, the body’s stress response goes into a high gear in order to cope with the emotional and physical effects of the situation. If the stress activation response is relatively short-lived and the child has the support of adults who can help him or her adapt to the circumstances, the brain and other organs are able to recover.

  3. Toxic

    This occurs when a child goes through severe, repeated and/or prolonged stressful circumstances including abuse, neglect, violence or even the accumulated burden of an unhealthy family environment without the needed buffer of supportive relationships. This kind of chronic stress activation can increase the likelihood of stress-related illnesses, cognitive dysfunction and health problems later in life.

Recognizing Signs of Stress in your Child

Every child reacts to stress in their own way and it is important for parents to be alert to possible signs of stress such as changes in behaviour, emotional eruptions, withdrawal, difficulty coping at school or chronic health problems. It is vital that parents dialogue with their children to understand how they are responding to stress and give them the needed support and encouragement. Teaching children about how to identify and manage their stress in healthy ways will help them to learn good behaviour patterns which they will benefit from in later life. [4]

Stress Management

As role models for their children, parents need to recognize their own stress and take action when circumstances are leading to toxic stress responses in the family. Even when the current situation cannot be changed there are steps that can be taken to alleviate the stress symptoms and assist the body and brain to handle pressurized situations. Lifestyle changes that can play an important role include eating a diet that is nutrient-rich, participating in regular exercise, ensuring everyone in the family gets sufficient rest and making a point of setting aside time for relaxation and family time.

Should the stressful circumstances be too overwhelming or if a parent is concerned about their child, professional counselling and support may help change perceptions of stress for a more positive outlook.

Complimentary Medication

Together with making lifestyle changes, it is beneficial to make use of nutrients, vitamins and botanical compounds that are proven to assist with mental fatigue and alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety and despair in difficult circumstances.

NeuroVance is your 2 in 1 solution for stress and mental exhaustion as it contains individual plant-derived ingredients to help support healthy brain function and assist with mood regulation and concentration. The unique combination of natural compounds have few side effects making it ideal to be taken by adults and children over 12 years and no prescription is needed.

Stress doesn’t have to rule your life and take it’s toll on your family. Take action! Try NeuroVance today: 

Find out how serious your stress levels are with our FREE stress test here: