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This month our nutritionist Anna's newsletter includes information on fish oil supplements, coeliac disease testing and easy aromatic chicken recipes.

Are fish oil supplements a no-no?

An attention-grabbing piece on RTE recently claimed that fish oil supplementation increases the risk of prostate cancer. It made for a great headline but the truth is, the study did not identify a causative effect of this very common cancer.   A group of men with aggressive prostate cancer had their blood levels of omega 3 tested and they were found to be higher than the healthy control group. Many people with a diagnosis of cancer start fish oil supplementation as studies have shown this actually decreases mortality.   Cancer may also affect the way the body metabolises omega 3. A previous study of men taking fish oil concluded there was no change to risk of developing prostate cancer from taking fish oil supplements (find the study in the link below). A factor not considered in any of the studies was the quality of the fish oil supplements used.   I ask my clients to throw their cheap brands of fish oils in the bin as these are high in contaminants such as mercury and PCBs, which are known carcinogens.   The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (2001) analysed popular, inexpensive brands available in supermarkets as well as high-grade supplements and found that, surprise-surprise, the cheap ones were high in toxic contaminants. You really get what you pay for in supplements. The best thing you can do is to eat your 3 servings of oily fish every week and a diet high in antioxidants (fresh fruit, veg, herbs, spices, raw nuts and seeds and their oils) to keep the oils in your body from oxidation (going rancid!).   If you need extra omega 3, take a high grade supplement and ensure you are getting enough antioxidants like vitamin E and C in your diet. Good supplementation means going for brands with stringent testing and quality control. Biocare, Nordic Naturals and Eskimo 3 are some brands with unimpeachable reputations. Read about the prostate cancer study

At last, a test that can definitively rule out coeliac disease

Do you or a family member have an unexplained, hard-to-shift fatigue, infertility or an inflammatory or auto-immune condition? Inflammatory conditions include allergies, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, dermatitis herpatiformis, colitis, Crohn's and MS.   Undiagnosed coeliac disease could be the cause. Irish people have the highest rate in the world. Only 1 in 5 people with coeliac disease has any digestive symptoms. Tests currently offered by Irish and UK hospitals are notoriously unreliable. Although they can definitively give a diagnosis they also give many false negatives, allowing the suffering of many patients to continue unexplained, often for decades. At last, genetic testing for coeliac disease is now available to Irish patients . There are 2 genes that increase your likelihood of being coeliac. If you do not have these 2 genes then you cannot be coeliac. I have just taken this genetic test. It's incredibly easy and is available to my patients as of this week. Read about the condition and the tests

Read my NEW recipe blog: www.annaslarder.wordpress.com

In consultations where I teach people about eating to enhance their health, people often ask me what I eat myself.   So I've decided to start photographing my meals and sharing the recipes with you on my brand new food blog. I am adding new recipes and meal ideas on a weekly basis. Sometimes a posting is as simple as a snack, a nice summer drink or a brilliant new product I have come across. More often it's an energy-giving breakfast, lunch or dinner recipe. I'd welcome any feedback you have on the recipes - just post a comment on the blog itself. You could also let me know any special requests for recipes using a particular ingredient.   If you forget the name of my food blog, annaslarder.wordpress.com, you can find it by entering my website www.annacollins.ie and clicking on the link. Read food blog

Chicken pieces in aromatic spices & garlic

In my blog, annaslarder.wordpress.com I describe how you can incorporate oven-baked mediterranean vegetables into this lovely recipe to make a one-dish dinner. Here I omit the oven-roast veg and serve the chicken on a bed of raw baby spinach leaves, with steamed green beans sprinkled with fresh lemon juice. The paste keeps for a week in an airtight glass jar in the fridge. You can anoint white fish kebabs or fillets with it prior to baking or grilling. Or use the paste instead of butter or virgin olive oil to drizzle on a baked sweet potato. The chicken pieces are best if left sit in the paste for an hour or overnight in the fridge. I usually forget to do this and slather it on just before cooking. Using a miniature food processor gives a really creamy texture.

2 whole chicken legs, small breasts on the bone, or fillets, ideally organic

12 (yes 12) large cloves garlic, peeled

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon, juiced

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¾ tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

A good pinch of cayenne pepper

To serve:

2 small handfuls of washed, dried baby spinach or rocket

4 cupfuls green beans or broccoli florets

Half a lemon to drizzle over the beans/broccoli

Optional: baby boiled potatoes or 2 small scrubbed, sliced, steamed sweet potatoes (if you want to lose weight, don't eat starchy foods like this after 3pm).

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gm 6.

2. Blitz all the spice paste ingredients together in a small food processor (this gives the clingiest, smoothest paste). Otherwise crush the garlic and mix well with the other ingredients.

3. Slather enough of the mix on the chicken to coat well and place on a wire rack in a roasting dish.  

4. Bake for 45-50 minutes in the oven or until the chicken juices run clear when the meat is pierced with the point of a knife. Chicken fillets cook faster (especially if small) so check these after 25-30 minutes.

5. While the chicken is cooking, place a handful of leaves on each plate. Cook your sweet potatoes or baby potatoes if using. When the chicken is nearly done, steam the broccoli or green beans and sprinkle over a little lemon juice and black pepper when done.

5. Serve the chicken pieces hot on a bed of raw baby spinach or rocket leaves with the steamed broccoli or green beans on the side.

Variation: Substitute my tabbouleh recipe (on my blog: annaslarder.wordpress.com) for the steamed green beans/broccoli and potatoes.

Dietary note:

Garlic and spices in your diet are a fantastic health booster - for liver and skin health, immunity and delaying the effects of ageing. If your liver function is enhanced, this also helps hormone balance, helping prevent PMS and menopausal symptoms. If you cannot source organic chicken then its best to avoid fattiest part of the bird (legs, thighs, skin) and eat only the breast. Battery chickens are routinely dusted with pesticides which congregate in the fatty tissues of the bird. Avoid storing oily/fatty foods or sauces in plastic, which leaches toxic bisphenol A into oils/fats with which it comes into contact. Bisphenol A is what makes plastics flexible and is linked to breast and prostate cancers and hormonal imbalance.

For an appointment with Anna, contact The Littlejohn Centre on 01-4560300 or for more information see Anna's website www.annacollins.ie