Soluble corn fiber may improve women’s bone health

According to new research from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, daily soluble corn fiber supplementation significantly helps build and retain calcium in bone for women in their teens and postmenopause.
[Female skeleton]

Adolescent and postmenopausal females can benefit significantly in bone health from supplementing with soluble corn fiber, study finds.

Soluble corn fiber (SCF) is a nondigestible carbohydrate used in foods and beverages such as cereals, baked goods, candy, dairy products, frozen foods, carbonated beverages, and flavored water.

SCF helps create packaged food products that have lower sugar contents, while providing a valuable source of dietary fiber.

Evidence suggests that SCF has many of the same health benefits associated with intact dietary fiber found in grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruit. SCF may improve intestinal regularity and has prebiotic properties. Moreover, SCF supports healthy blood glucose control and supports bone health by increasing calcium absorption.

The daily recommended fiber intake for adults in the United States is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. However, most Americans consume around half of the recommended amount. Fiber-enriched foods help bridge the shortage of fiber in the diet without significantly increasing calorie content.

In the new research, the team aimed to evaluate how the dose of SCF affected calcium absorption, bone properties, and gut microbiome in adolescent and postmenopausal women.

“We are looking deeper in the gut to build healthy bone in girls and help older women retain strong bones during an age when they are susceptible to fractures,” says Connie Weaver, distinguished professor and head of nutrition science.

“Soluble corn fiber, a prebiotic, helps the body better utilize calcium during both adolescence and postmenopause. The gut microbiome is the new frontier in health,” she adds.

Tate & Lyle Ingredients America LLC funded the research, and they produce Promitor Dietary Fiber, which is a soluble prebiotic fiber made from corn that is labeled as “soluble corn fiber” or “maltodextrin” on the packaging.

Findings from the study on postmenopausal women were published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, while the findings on adolescent women were published in Journal of Nutrition.

Weaver and colleagues found that after prebiotic fiber passes through the gut for the microbes in the lower gut to digest, the SCF is broken down into short-chain fatty acids, which assist in the maintenance bone health.

Supplementation helped build and preserve bone

In the postmenopausal study, 14 healthy postmenopausal women consumed 0 grams, 10 grams, or 20 grams of SCF every day for 50 days. The women in the groups that received 10 grams and 20 grams – amounts that are found in supplement form – displayed bone calcium retention improvement by 4.8 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

“If projected out for a year, this would equal and counter the average rate of bone loss in a post-menopausal woman,” says Weaver, an expert in mineral bioavailability, calcium metabolism, botanicals and bone health.

In the adolescent study, 28 girls aged between 11-14 years old consumed either 0 grams, 10 grams, or 20 grams of SCF every day for 4 weeks, while maintaining their regular diet. The females in both the 10 gram and 20 gram SCF groups saw an increase in calcium absorption by around 12 percent, which would build 1.8 percent more skeleton per year.

Gastrointestinal symptoms were minimal in both studies and the same was seen in the control groups.

“Most studies looking at benefits from soluble corn fiber are trying to solve digestion problems, and we are the first to determine that this relationship of feeding certain kind of fiber can alter the gut microbiome in ways that can enhance health,” Weaver said. “We found this prebiotic can help healthy people use minerals better to support bone health.”

Few people meet the daily recommended intake of 1,200 milligrams of calcium for healthy bone mass.

Weaver says that while SCF can help people better utilize calcium for bone health, this finding does not mean the recommendation to drink milk and follow a well-balanced diet should be ignored. SCF can, however, help individuals that are not consuming the whole recommended amount of dairy.

“Calcium alone suppresses bone loss, but it doesn’t enhance bone formation. These fibers enhance bone formation, so they are doing something more than enhancing calcium absorption.”

Connie Weaver

Further studies by the team will examine the mechanisms behind how SCF boosts calcium absorption and retention, and if the prebiotic fiber benefits the body in other ways.

Read about how a diet high in fiber alters bacteria to protect against food allergies.

Courtesy: Medical News Today

No Comments Nutrition

Coffee intake depends on gene variation, study suggests

How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? According to a new study, the answer might depend on your DNA. Researchers suggest people with a DNA variation in the gene PDSS2 drink fewer cups of coffee than those without this variation.
[A cup of coffee]

Drinking less coffee may be down to a genetic variant, researchers suggest.

Study co-author Dr. Nicola Pirastu, from the Usher Institute at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, and colleagues publish their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

It goes without saying that the U.S. is a nation of coffee drinkers; more than half of Americans drink coffee daily, consuming an average of three cups a day.

But while some people are happy with a never-ending supply of the hot stuff, others are content with a single cup of coffee to wake them up in the morning.

Previous research has suggested these disparities in coffee consumption may be down to differences in the way a person’s body responds to caffeine – the main stimulant in coffee – but precisely what is behind these differences has been unclear.

Some studies have suggested certain genes may play a role; a 2014 study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, for example, identified a number of genetic variants associated with caffeine metabolism.

Now, Dr. Pirastu and colleagues say they have identified another genetic variant that may explain why some people drink less coffee than others.

One less cup of coffee daily with PDSS2 DNA variation

To reach their findings, the team analyzed the genetic data of 1,213 people from Italy. Of these, 843 were from six villages across north-east Italy, while 370 were from a small village in south Italy.

All participants completed a survey that disclosed how many cups of coffee they drank each day.

The team found that coffee consumption was lower for subjects who had a DNA variation in the PDSS2 gene; they drank an average of one less cup of coffee daily, compared with those who did not have the PDSS2 DNA variation.

In a further study of 1,731 individuals from the Netherlands, the researchers were able to replicate their findings, though they note that the effect of this gene variant on reduction of coffee consumption was not as strong.

The team speculates that this might be due to differences in coffee drinking styles between the two populations; people from Italy tend to consume smaller cups of coffee, such as espresso, while individuals from the Netherlands are more likely to drink larger cups of coffee that contain more caffeine.

Explaining the possible mechanisms behind their findings, the researchers suggest that the DNA variation in the PDSS2 gene lowers cells’ ability to break down caffeine following coffee consumption, prolonging the amount of time the stimulant remains in the body.

As a result, individuals with this genetic variant do not need to drink as much coffee in order to get the same caffeine hit as those without the variant.

“The results of our study add to existing research suggesting that our drive to drink coffee may be embedded in our genes. We need to do larger studies to confirm the discovery and also to clarify the biological link between PDSS2 and coffee consumption.”

Dr. Nicola Pirastu

The authors note that Italian coffee company Illy took part in the study, but they did not provide any funding.

Read about how coffee could prevent exercise-induced eye fatigue.

Courtesy: Medical News Today

No Comments Nutrition

Concussions and brain injury – can omega-3 intake aid in brain health recovery?

The treatment of concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a clinical challenge. Clinical studies thus far have failed to identify an effective treatment strategy when a combination of targets controlling aspects of neuroprotection, neuroinflammation, and neuroregeneration is needed. According to emerging science and clinical experience, aggressive intake of omega-3 fatty acids (n-3FA) seems to be beneficial to TBI, concussion, and post-concussion syndrome patients. This research is presented in Concussions, Traumatic Brain Injury, and the Innovative Use of Omega-3s, a review article from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, official publication of the American College of Nutrition.

Research suggests that early and optimal doses of omega-3 fatty acids (n-3FA) have the potential to improve outcomes from traumatic brain injury. The article reviews preclinical research and cites three brain injury case studies that resulted from a mining accident, a motor vehicle accident, and a drowning accident. Each instance showcased evidence of safety and tolerability, wherein the patients who sustained life-threatening brain injuries recovered brain health with the aid of omega-3 fatty acids (n-3FA).

Growing clinical experience by numerous providers is that the brain needs to be saturated with high doses of n-3FA in order for the brain to have the opportunity to heal. Without an optimal supply of omegas, healing is less likely to happen. It is well recognized that n-3FAs are not a drug and not a cure and every situation is different. Clinically, some patients respond better than others. However, there is no downside to providing optimal levels of nutrition in order to give a patient the best opportunity to regain as much function as possible following a TBI.

Article author Michael D. Lewis, a retired Army Colonel and physician, is the author of the highly anticipated book, When Brains Collide: What Every Athlete and Parent Should Know About the Prevention and Treatment of Concussions and TBI, that will be available on Amazon in September 2016. Dr. Lewis concludes, “n-3FA should be considered mainstream, conventional medicine, if conventional medicine can overcome its inherent bias against nutritional, nonpharmacological therapies.”

Article: Concussions, Traumatic Brain Injury, and the Innovative Use of Omega-3s, Michael D. Lewis, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, doi: 10.1080/07315724.2016.1150796, published online 25 July 2016.

Courtesy: Medical News Today

No Comments Nutrition

Vitamin cocktails: An ethical dilemma of supply and demand

There is a big difference between access and excess. Having access to something doesn’t necessarily mean you need it, especially when others need it more. Take, for example, the use of intravenous vitamin therapies (IVT), also known as vitamin drip treatments, which have gained popularity in recent years.
Vitamin drip

For the recreational user, IVT commonly involves four to six weekly sessions in which a personalized “cocktail” of vitamins and minerals are delivered via intravenous tube directly into the bloodstream.

Today, IVT has moved beyond the trendy Hollywood health scene and is now more accessible than ever. The problem, however, is that the IV drugs that are now being offered recreationally are in short supply for those chronically and critically ill patients that depend on this therapy as their sole source of life-saving nutrition.

For the recreational user, IVT commonly involves four to six weekly sessions in which a personalized “cocktail” of vitamins and minerals are delivered via intravenous tube directly into the bloodstream.

Promising everything from instant relief from fatigue and depression to stimulating your metabolism and immune system, IVT providers are everywhere and can be seen in the unlikeliest of places. There is even a “clinic” in the Las Vegas airport marketing the elixir as the perfect hangover cure.

A national debate currently exists over the scientific merit of IVT. It certainly sounds alluring; the idea of simply popping into your doctor’s office for a maximum dose of the vitamins and minerals you just can’t seem to get enough of from your daily diet. But the reality is there has not been enough significant research conducted to back up the elaborate claims.

However, beyond the efficacy argument is a more urgent ethical dilemma. Currently, critical nutrients such as zinc, selenium, copper, multiple vitamin infusion, potassium, sodium, and vitamin K, many of which are now being given at these pop-up IVT centers, are in short supply.

The problem seems to be a breakdown in distribution regulations. Under U.S. law, IV hydration solutions, electrolytes, vitamins, and trace minerals are prescription drugs rather than food, dietary supplements, or supplies. Their use and distribution are regulated by law for medical purposes only.

To acquire and prescribe IV drugs, you must be a licensed medical provider. While many of these “medical spas” and boutique clinics are registered and owned by a licensed provider, it is unclear whether the providers are involved in the actual delivery of the therapy.

But the obvious question is how these rogue clinics are procuring the IV drugs when more credible medical establishments are doing without. The unnerving answer is we simply don’t know. Most of these boutique businesses are unwilling to disclose the sources from which their products are purchased or prepared.

Regardless of whether they are going through black market suppliers or legitimately acquiring the IV drugs, the fact remains these recreational IVT sites are supply competitors with the clinical care facilities serving patients who have no other nutritional options.

Intravenous nutrition methods were never intended to be used recreationally. They are, however, vital to the medical community, keeping patients who are too sick to eat, or who suffer from the adverse effects of nutritional deficiencies, alive. Members of my organization, the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN), utilize this procedure every day in order to expedite healing for seriously ill patients.

Ultimately, mainstream IVT is unproven, potentially unsafe, and – given the IV drug shortage – seemingly unethical. Once you’ve observed how patients truly depend on intravenous nutrition to survive and thrive, it seems to trivialize the method to use it for trendy, recreational purposes. Such an invasive IV approach should be viewed as life-saving clinical care, not an easy fix for a few too many martinis.

Gordon Sacks, PharmD, BCNSP, FCCP, is the Immediate Past President of the Board of Directors for the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) and currently leads the Department of Pharmacy at Auburn University.

Courtesy: Medical News Today

No Comments Nutrition

Nine hydrating drinks that are healthier than water

The only drink that’s actually healthier than water doesn’t exist; that would be the one from the fountain of youth, a mythical form of water that many of us wish existed. It’s hard to beat the whole zero-calorie, guilt-free, drink-as-much-as-you-want persona that water has going on – but there are certainly alternatives to a glass of plain old tap water that can add to its benefits.
Fruit water

We live in a great time for fruit-infused water; you can make your own or you can buy a pre-bottled version.

Click here for nine hydrating drinks that are healthier than water.

Water itself is the ultimate hydrator, and there are many hydration hacks that involve tweaking water ever so slightly. What we’d like to provide you with now, however, is a list of some potable alternatives to water that contain healthy components regular water does not.

While there is no fountain of youth-type drink in the following list, each entry contains more health-promoting things such as antioxidants and amino acids that aren’t found in water alone.

While adding a (clean) lemon to your water is a great health tip, the following beverages benefit from having a bit more flavor than that provided by a squeeze or two of citrus.

From probiotics to vitamins and minerals typically excluded from the standard American diet, the healthy components in the following drinks make them, to some extent, “healthier” than water.

Courtesy: Medical News Today

No Comments Nutrition

Improving food quality by studying the microbial composition of raw milk

Findings from a new study, reported in the journal mBio, may help food companies improve the quality of dairy products. The researchers have discovered that bacteria in raw milk arriving at dairy processing facilities are highly diverse and differ according to season, but still contain a core microbiota.

“The ultimate goal in all of this research is to get dairy products with longer shelf life, less spoilage, and less waste. We don’t know what kind of influences the environment has on the microbiome on our foods, and this study is a step forward in that direction,” said Maria Marco, PhD, associate professor, Department of Food Science & Technology, University of California-Davis, and lead author of the paper. “If we can better understand and control the microbes coming into processing facilities, we can avoid some food waste.”

The microbial composition of raw milk has an impact on the quality, shelf life, and safety of processed milk and other dairy products. While harmful bacteria rarely reach the consumer, because they are destroyed during pasteurization, other bacteria can cause spoilage issues or defects in the product, such as off-flavors in cheese, which can result in product being thrown away. While scientists have intensively studied the microbial ecology of fresh produce and animal products, little is known about the influences of storage, transport, and processing facilities.

In the new study, researchers set out to identify the microbiota of raw milks collected for large-scale product manufacturing in California. California is the largest producer of milk in the United States, producing 20% of the total U.S. milk production. The scientists analyzed the bacteria in raw milk arriving in 899 tanker trucks at two different dairy processors in the California Central Valley in the fall of 2013 and the spring and summer of 2014.

Bacteria varied by season and were highly diverse, with roughly 50% of the taxa present at less than 1% relative abundance. As a comparison, roughly 20% of human fecal communities are composed of taxa below 1% relative abundance. Milk also had a core microbiome composed of 29 different taxa, including Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and unidentified Clostridiales.

Another important finding was what happened to the milk after it got into the dairy processing plant. “We saw this interesting shift of the types of bacteria that are dominant in the milk when it goes from the truck to silos where the milk is stored before pasteurization,” said Dr. Marco. The effects of the processing facility outweighed the raw milk microbiome and the microbial composition changed distinctly within some, but not all silos, a short time after transfer.

By knowing the types of microbes present in foods, scientists can devise ways to manage or get rid of spoilage microbes, so they don’t make their way into the final product and cause quality problems. “This study was an exploratory mission to find out what types of bacteria are in our raw milk and what happens to them when they reach the built-environment,” said Dr. Marco. “We now need to tackle the bigger problem of how can we control those microbes in an effective way.”

Article: The Core and Seasonal Microbiota of Raw Bovine Milk in Tanker Trucks and the Impact of Transfer to a Milk Processing Facility, Mary E. Kable, Yanin Srisengfa, Miles Laird, Jose Zaragoza, Jeremy McLeod, Jessie Heidenreich, Maria L. Marco, mBio, doi: 10.1128/mBio.00836-16, published online 23 August 2016.

Courtesy: Medical News Today

No Comments Nutrition

Being overweight, obese linked to increased risk of eight more cancers

A new study strengthens the link between obesity and cancer, after identifying a further eight cancers that are more likely to develop with excess weight, including stomach, pancreas, and liver cancers.
[A man standing on a scale]

Researchers have associated excess weight with a further eight cancers.

But there is some good news; researchers say losing the excess weight and preventing further weight gain can help lower the risk of these cancers.

Dr. Graham Colditz, of the Washington University School of Medicine, and colleagues publish their findings in The New England Journal of Medicine.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980, affecting more than 600 million adults in 2014.

As a result, these individuals are at increased risk of other health conditions, including some forms of cancer.

In previous research, Dr. Colditz and team identified a link between excess weight and increased risk of colon, esophageal, kidney, breast, and uterine cancers. Now, the researchers have added another eight to the list.

‘It’s time to take our health and our diets seriously’

The team’s findings come from an in-depth review of more than 1,000 studies conducted by the WHO’s International Agency for Cancer on Research (IARC), which assessed the link between weight and cancer risk.

The researchers found sufficient evidence to suggest excess weight can increase the risk of eight cancers, in addition to the five already identified. These cancers include:

Fast facts about obesity

  • Worldwide in 2014, 39 percent of adults were overweight and 13 percent were obese
  • 41 million children aged 5 and under were overweight or obese in 2014
  • Cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes are some other health conditions associated with obesity.

Learn more about obesity

For the majority of these cancers, the researchers found that the higher an individual’s body mass index (BMI), the higher their cancer risk.

These findings, says Dr. Colditz, show that overweight and obesity is a higher burden for cancer risk than previously thought.

“Many of the newly identified cancers linked to excess weight haven’t been on people’s radar screens as having a weight component,” he adds.

What is more, he says the results highlight the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle.

“Significant numbers of the U.S. and the world’s population are overweight,” notes Dr. Colditz. “This is another wake-up call. It’s time to take our health and our diets seriously.”

“Lifestyle factors such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising, in addition to not smoking, can have a significant impact on reducing cancer risk. Public health efforts to combat cancer should focus on these things that people have some control over.”

Dr. Graham Colditz

He admits that, for many people, losing weight is challenging, but these individuals should not be disheartened.

“Rather than getting discouraged and giving up, those struggling to take off weight could instead focus on avoiding more weight gain,” he adds.

While the study did not identify the precise mechanisms for the link between excess weight and cancer, the researchers note that excess body fat can cause overproduction of the hormones estrogen, testosterone, and insulin, which can trigger inflammation and fuel cancer growth.

Read about how the duration of being overweight or obese can affect cancer risk.

Courtesy: Medical News Today

No Comments Nutrition

Could fish oil reverse negative effects of a fatty diet?

A recent study, published in
The Journal of Physiology, shows that fish oil supplementation might have the power to prevent the detrimental metabolic effects of a high-fat diet, such as type 2 diabetes.
[Fish oil supplements]

Fish oil supplements reveal their potential to protect against metabolic changes.

A high-fat diet comes with a broad selection of negative health consequences.

These problems include weight gain, increased cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance.

From there, it is a short walk to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

As researchers delve into the science behind these changes, a number of specific pathways have been found to be important.

An intricate web of chemical players conspire to generate the metabolic disorders caused by a high-fat diet. Some of the most important molecules and pathways include:

  • Adiponectin – which regulates glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown
  • Adipokines – a cytokine (cellular messenger) produced in adipose tissue
  • Interleukin-6 – a cytokine involved in inflammation
  • Tumor necrosis factor-alpha – a cytokine involved in inflammation
  • De novo lipogenesis – a process that converts excess carbohydrate into fatty acids
  • Lipolysis – the breakdown of fats to produce fatty acids.

The power of fish oil

Over recent years, fish oil has been heralded as a panacea for all ills; claims have been made regarding its ability to induce weight loss, increase fertility, improve skin health, and increase energy. Not all of its claims are backed by rigorous research, but its ability to modify metabolic pathways is gaining more evidence.

Fish oil is high in long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid; these have long been known to improve insulin sensitivity and to have potent anti-inflammatory, hypolipidemic (lipid-lowering), and body weight reducing effects.

A team of researchers from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, set out to investigate how fish oil supplementation might influence the metabolism of mice fed on a high-fat diet.

The researchers fed mice fish oil supplements for 4 weeks before starting them on a diet that included high levels of both fat and fish oil.

Once the diet was completed, they collected and analyzed body fat samples from the mice. The samples were compared with fat samples from mice that had received a high-fat diet but no fish oil.

Fish oil and metabolic change

The team measured a number of factors that have an influence over metabolism, such as insulin resistance and fat deposits from different parts of the body.

As expected, the high-fat diet caused significant changes in a number of pathways; these included glucose uptake and secretion of adiponectin, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-6, lipolysis, de novo lipogenesis, and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

This range of metabolic alterations, however, did not arise in the mice that received the fish oil supplementation. In other words, negative metabolic effects produced by high-fat intake were halted by fish oil.

The team was led by Prof. Maria Isabel Alonso-Vale, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

“‘Our research suggests that fish oil supplements may be used in addition to other strategies as a preventative measure for insulin resistance and obesity.”

Prof. Maria Isabel Alonso-Vale, lead investigator

The current study was carried out on a mouse model; as such, before the theory can be confirmed, it must be tested on human subjects. As Prof. Alonso-Vale continues: “More research will need to be done so we can have a better understanding of the effect of fish oil in humans.”

The findings are intriguing and will, no doubt, attract follow-up investigations. Effective pharmacological interventions for metabolic disorders using fish oil extracts could be just around the corner.

Learn how omega-3 fatty acids might reduce the risk of death from heart attack.

Courtesy: Medical News Today

No Comments Nutrition

Sir Bani Yas near Abu Dhabi recreates African safari experience

  • Sir Bani Yas is a remote island set just off the coast of Abu Dhabi
  • It creates an ‘African safari experience’ in the United Arab Emirates 
  • There are 14,000 animals on the island, most of then a long way from home

What the Sheik desires, the Sheik will have — the tallest skyscraper in the world? No problem. A Louvre-like gallery in the desert? The architects and auction houses will do the rest.

Just over 100 miles south-west of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is an island retreat that demonstrates a different kind of ambition; one that even by the standards set in this part of the world is a little barmy.

Sir Bani Yas recreates the African safari experience in the heart of the Middle East.

Different: Visitors look at scimitar-horned oryx at the Sir Bani Yas game reserve in Abu Dhabi

Different: Visitors look at scimitar-horned oryx at the Sir Bani Yas game reserve in Abu Dhabi

Big cat: Cheetahs, those fixtures of the African plains, can be seen on the island

Big cat: Cheetahs, those fixtures of the African plains, can be seen on the island

A 30-minute flight from the skyscrapers of Abu Dhabi (you can also drive and take a short boat ride) lands you in the middle of a safari, where we instantly spot gazelles and peacocks.

Then we see the heads of giraffes peering our way. And that’s just the start.

There’s hardly time to admire the villa assigned to us before we are met by Kate from Ross-on-Wye and jump in her jeep.

We drive past Arabian oryx, with their distinctive white coat, and the equally endangered scimitar-horned oryx, brought to the island from Morocco as protection from hunters who use their keratin-rich horns for nail and hair treatments.

The island has one of the largest breeding herds in the world.

All the species come from somewhere else — blackbuck antelope from the Indian sub-continent, crowned crane (Uganda’s national bird) and the elegant giraffe.

The President of Sudan presented Sheikh Zayed with eight; now there are 36.

Suddenly, Kate looks worried. She tells us to look over our shoulders, where Gilbert and Gabriel, two cheetahs, have ambled onto the Tarmaced road — but they seem just as relaxed as we are.

Then we catch sight of the flightless blue-necked ostrich — the fastest bird on land (whose legs turn pink during the mating season).

Necks best thing: Sir Bani Yas has a population of African giraffes

Necks best thing: Sir Bani Yas has a population of African giraffes

Creature comforts: There are 14,000 animals on the island, looked after by a large team

Creature comforts: There are 14,000 animals on the island, looked after by a large team

There are 14,000 animals on the island, looked after by a large conservation team. 

This is the most unnatural of nature reserves, but it works spectacularly well — a safari park drawn up like a sudoku grid.

It is all meticulously planned, from the import of the animals and the staff, the water systems and the luxury.

Under British rule, this was a forgotten patch of desert.

During the Fifties and Sixties, before Britain handed the emirates to local leaders, the island was used as a training range by the Army.

The odd used shell can still be found on some of the paths.

In 1971, while Abu Dhabi and Dubai were still small, sleepy towns, the founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, was so enamoured of the island that he decreed it should become a nature reserve.

He set about two tasks — importing a range of exotic animals and creating the conditions that would allow them to survive and reproduce.

Short hop: Sir Bani Yas game reserve is a 30-minute flight from the skyscrapers of Abu Dhabi

Short hop: Sir Bani Yas game reserve is a 30-minute flight from the skyscrapers of Abu Dhabi

To achieve his goal, he ordered in zoological experts from around the globe. World leaders, keen to impress him, presented him with local species as gifts.

From that point, the island was transformed. Some 2.5 million trees — from palms to acacia bushes — were planted in straight lines.

To irrigate the desert, a desalination plant was built on the mainland, and pipes built under the sea.

Across the island, 80 miles of thin blue plastic irrigation pipes nestle among the sand and acacia bushes.

The island is 34 square miles, large enough to get lost, but with the heat and the roaming animals, guests are not encouraged to stray from their guides.

We go on a wadi walk for a geological tour and visit the site of a Christian monastery, which dates back to AD 600, and a 100-year-old cemetery with headstones facing towards Mecca.

Visitors are mainly expats and locals from Abu Dhabi and Dubai; some like us come from further afield, combining the crazy noise and bling of the cities with the barren beauty of the island.

Yes, of course, this is a rich man’s folly — the manufacturing of a wildlife paradise by the command of a Sheik.

For a few days of escapism, it works spectacularly well. But for how long? 

Travel Facts: Plan your own break in Abu Dhabi

Emirates (, 020 3564 6725) flies from Gatwick to Abu Dhabi from £548 return. At Abu Dhabi, take a water taxi to Sir Bani Yas.

Doubles at the Anantara Al Sahel cost from £285 per night B&B and at the Anantara Al Yamm from £320 per night B&B.

Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

No Comments All Natural Blog

Boutique beauty, but at quite a price – a night at Blakes Hotel, an expensive London institution 

  • Blakes has been an accommodation delight in Chelsea for some 30 years
  • It is the brainchild of the interior designer and actress Anoushka Hempel
  • It has a chic vibe, but the cost – including for dinner – may not be ideal  


Blakes is often called Britain’s original boutique hotel. Which is not a bad moniker to have. It’s been around some 30 years and until three years ago was owned by Lady Weinberg.

The new owners have kept things going along the same chic, bohemian lines as her ladyship, investing most recently in the refurbished dining room and slinky bar on the ground floor.

Blakes Hotel: Big on style, but the cost may leave you a little down in the wallet

Blakes Hotel: Big on style, but the cost may leave you a little down in the wallet

Elsewhere it’s looking rough around the edges, while still commanding prices to make you think the world’s gone mad. You won’t bag a room here for much less than £250.

Lady W — also known as one-time Bond girl and B-movie actress Anouska Hempel — is still the main influence behind the hotel’s design.

From the dark grey exterior to the opium-den lobby where the scented candles provide the only real lighting, self-confidence wafts through the building — and the staff clearly have been hired based on their looks as much as their efficiency.

Our room (501) is out the back and down some stairs. It’s small and dark — fine at night, but dreary by day.

The TV is hidden behind oriental screens that stutter open at the press of a button.

Next to the hairdryer and shoe cleaning sponge is a small black pouch containing a Durex condom.

The bathroom is the best part. There’s a huge tub, wet-room style shower, two butler sinks and mirrors everywhere.

Emerging from our black bunker, we make for the bar and order margaritas, made with great gusto but disappointing.

The ricotta ravioli with black truffle starter comes recommended. It’s starchy and over-sauced.

Then I go for the ‘wild salmon’, which tastes like farmed salmon, while my wife has the slow-cooked lamb, a dish that fails to justify its £26 price tag.

Where we get into real difficulties is over the wine. We order a couple of glasses of the cheapest (£8) white and red. What arrives is a soupcon. Three or four sips and it’s gone.

‘This is absurd,’ I tell the waitress. I ask to see the manager. He, too, is sympathetic but says the decision was taken to serve 150 ml glasses as standard ‘because some of our guests might be pregnant’.

Then he insists that the 150ml worth of wine only looks so paltry in the bulbous and delicate glasses they use here. He goes as far as showing us what the same measure looks like in different glasses.

Breakfast is delicious, with light streaming through the dining room — although £4 for a cup of tea or coffee is harsh. Blakes clearly knows its market: it caters mainly for an international crowd who don’t know what a pint of milk costs. 

Travel Facts: Plan your own stay 

Blakes Hotel

33 Roland Gdns



0207 3706 701

Doubles from £250 per night, room only. 


Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

No Comments All Natural Blog