Is vitamin D really important in overall health?

The foods that add up to your recommended daily allowance.

By Donna Fleming
It’s best known as the nutrient that, combined with calcium, helps maintain strong bones, but vitamin D is also now thought to be important in overall health. There is accumulating evidence that it may play a role in warding off conditions as varied as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and depression, though it’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions. The best way to boost vitamin-D levels is from sunshine, but good food sources include margarine and fortified cereals.
Banish that beer belly Experts reveal the surprising causes of that spare tyre. This week: Sit-ups
Sit-ups help strengthen your “six-pack” muscles, but they won’t do much for a spare tyre. “There’s no way of ‘spotreducing’ fat from any one part of your body – you need to reduce overall body fat through diet and exercise,” advises personal trainer Andy Wadsworth. “Loads of sit-ups overstrengthens a few muscles in your abdomen and can lead to back problems. And overworking the rectus abdominis muscles (which make up the six-pack) without building up your deeper muscles can make your tummy stick out more.”
Solution: Mix running, cycling or swimming (which burn many more calories than sit-ups) with postural exercises that flatten your stomach and protect your back, he says. Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, push your lower back flat into the floor and tilt your pelvis towards you. Pull your tummy button towards your spine to tighten the transverse abdominal muscle, hold for five seconds, rest briefly and repeat 30 times.
Why you should love your hairy skin
  • Hairy people suffer less from insect bites, according to a recent study from the University of Sheffield. In a study of 29 volunteers, half of whom had one arm shaved, the researchers found that when bed bugs were placed on their skin, the people with the shaved arms were bitten more.
  • Sensitive, fine hairs which cover our bodies seem to allow us to feel insects on our skin as well as creating a natural barrier to stop them biting us, explains study author Professor Michael Siva-Jothy. “The hairs have nerves attached to them and provide us with the ability to detect bugs,” he says.
TRY IT Meditating when you lose your keys. Scientists asked volunteers with memory problems – from age-related loss to early Alzheimer’s – to meditate 12 minutes a day for eight weeks, and found it boosted blood flow in the parts of the brain responsible for recall.
DITCH IT Spending hours on the phone. It makes you less kind to others, according to a US study. Though phone calls make you feel connected to the people on the other end, you’re less likely to seek social connection through altruistic behaviour such as kindness or charity.
SWITCH IT Swap your games console for the great outdoors. A study of 78 children aged nine to 12 found youngsters who play “active” video games – where they move and jump around – get no more exercise overall than those who play sedentary video games. Take them for a bike ride instead.
  • undefined: Donna Fleming

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