This page is being added to on a continual basis, so do keep coming back! Some of these definitions warrant much more detail so are linked to glossary articles. If there is something you would like to see added, just contact us.
Symptoms may include faded colors, blurry vision, halos around light, trouble with bright lights, and trouble seeing at night.This may result in trouble driving, reading, or face recognition. Poor vision may also result in an increased risk of falling and depression. Cataracts are the cause of half of blindness and 33% of visual impairment worldwide.
(Cataract pic by Rakesh Ahuja)
Calcium is a macromineral which is needed for bones, teeth, blood clotting, nerve signal transmission, muscle contraction, and maintaining health blood pressure. It has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. Calcium is found in fish (especially sardines), meat, dairy products and leafy green vegetables.
Calcium needs to be balanced with magnesium, so don’t supplement one without the other. Why? Well, excessive amounts of calcium without accompanying magnesium can result in a heart attacks, strokes and sudden death! It’s the same message for all nutrients really – they need to work with one another either to make them work properly and effectively or to make sure there aren’t bad side effects.
A calorie is the amount of energy required to raise one cubic centimetre of water by one degree Celcius. It’s used to give an idea of how much energy there is in any given food or drink and is often expressed in kcal (kilocalories – equal to 1,000 calories) or Cals (big C). One kcal is also equivalent to approximately 4.184 kilojoules (kJ).
There are about 4kcals to a gram in carbohydrates and proteins, 7kcals in alcohol and 9kcals in fats.
You will often see ‘lose weight’ guides saying to cut calories; for example, by eating less of everything, cutting out fat, switching to a Jaffa cake rather than a digestive biscuit, or having a banana instead of some cheese. This is totally missing the fact that our bodies are not enclosed systems, that our BMI uses most of the energy we eat, and that different sources of calories behave differently as soon as we eat them.
That means, make your calories count! Eat protein at each meal, top up with fat and if you want to eat carbs, go for colourful vegetables. Keep sugars, white potatoes and bread for occasional treats.
Campesterol: One of the types of steroid. (See below.)
Carotenoids are natural fat-soluble red, orange, or yellow pigments found in many plants. They work as antioxidants. Beta-carotene (or β-carotene) is a common carotenoid found in plants such as carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes that colors them orange; it is the previtamin/precursor to vitamin A.
NOTE: Studies show chronic high doses of beta-carotene supplementation increases the probability of lung cancer in cigarette smokers. This means, if you are going to take it as a supplement, it must be part of a multisupplement. You’ll get plenty of vitamin A from orangey plants and animal fats and liver, anyway, so go down that route rather than supplements if you can.
Cholecalciferol: The name for vitamin D. (See below.)
Cholesterol is a vital lipid (see below) present in all parts of the body including the nervous system, skin, muscles, liver, intestines, and heart. It is used in cell membranes, the production of hormones, bile acid, and vitamin D and more.
Animal fats are complex mixtures of triglycerides, with lesser amounts of phospholipids and cholesterol. This means all animal fats contain cholesterol to varying extents with the best sources being cheese, egg yolks, meat, fish, shellfish and breast milk also contains significant quantities of cholesterol.
It is also made by the the liver.
In the blood stream, cholesterol combines with fatty acids to form high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). LDLs are considered the ‘bad cholesterol’ since they can stick together to form plaque deposits on the walls of your blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis. However, it is the tiny, oxidised LDL particles that cause the damage, not all of the LDL family. HDL elevation is considered a sign of good health.
Unless someone has hugely high levels of cholesterol (because they suffer from the genetic disease hypercholesterolaemia), higher levels of cholesterol are nothing to worry about; indeed, people with lower levels of cholesterol have a higher risk of dying early.
Cobalamine: The name for vitamin B12. (See below.)
Copper is a trace element needed to help absorb, store and use iron. The symptoms of a copper deficiency are similar to iron-deficiency anaemia.
Dietary minerals (See ‘Minerals’, below)
Dietary supplements (See ‘Supplements’, below)
Fats are an essential part of our diet. The term includes ‘oils’ which are fats that are runny at room temperature. Fats are used for energy, to make cell membranes, and as a supply of vitamins A, D, E and K. More about fats…
Fats are made from fatty acids; generally they are put into three major groups, but each group has many different types of that type with it. The main groups are saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. More about fatty acids…
Lipds are a group of organic compounds which include fats, triglycerides, oils, waxes and sterols (inclduing cholesterol – see above). Lipids are a vital part of living cells.
This describes a cluster of problems – if you have 3 or more of these, you have metabolic syndrome:
- A large waistline (abdominal obesity).
- A high serum (blood) triglyceride level; these are a type of fat
- A low serum HDL (high density lipoprotein) level
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High fasting blood sugar
Your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke increases with the number of metabolic risk factors you have.
Dietary minerals (also known as dietary elements or mineral nutrients) are the inorganic chemical elements required by living organisms.
Minerals are used in bones, blood and cell functions. Minerals that we need to eat in larger quantities (such as magnesium*) are called macrominerals, and those we need in small quantities (such as iron**) are called microminerals.
*Magnesium is needed in bones, nerve transmission, protein synthesis and enzyme activation; it is found in green leafy vegetables, sea foods and more.
**Iron is needed to make haemoglobin, to assist in neurological development in embryos and vitamin A and DNA synthesis, and as a co-factor in many redox reactions.
A dietary supplement is intended to provide nutrients that may otherwise not be consumed in sufficient quantities. They can include vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, fibre, fatty acids and amino acids, and more. Depending on the countryt you are in, they can be defined as foods, drugs or other products.
Take dietary supplements only when really necessary – get as much as you can from your diet. Remember all nutrients need to work with one another either to make them work properly and effectively (and to make sure there aren’t bad side effects), so just taking one in isolation probably won’t help; if in doubt, ask your nutritionist or doctor. An exception may be vitamin D if you have lower levels of sunlight (eg, if you live in Nordic countries).