Special edition newsletter for 10th anniversary of Careif

As part of my mental health campaigning, I’ve guest edited a special edition newsletter to help global mental health charity Careif celebrate 10 years!

Today, I’ll be at the House of Lords to meet with peers, psychiatrists and senior mental health figures to talk about Careif and my volunteering to produce the newsletter…


Read the full newsletter careif-newsletter-10th-anniversary


Research breakthrough offers improved vision for healthy eyes in Ophthalmology Times Europe


A new breakthrough in ophthalmological research signals major potential implications for motorists, train drivers, pilots and sportspeople

Irish-based research holds out the prospect of even sharper vision for those who already have good eyesight in a study of over 18 years-worth of work with over one-hundred subjects.

While most ophthalmologists focus on restoring sight, a new study has been published that actually improves healthy vision. Titled CREST (Central Retinal Enrichment Supplementation Trials) the research was conducted by the Macular Pigment Research Group at Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI). Based at Carriganore House in Waterford, it’s part of the School of Health Sciences at Waterford Institute of Technology, set in a small city on the south coast of Ireland (like many small centres since the advent of the internet and the consequential levelling of the academic playing field, has developed a worldwide reputation for vision science.)

New ways of seeing are emerging from the first rigidly-designed study of its kind, with results culminating in 18 years’ work, the latest research funded by the European Research Council involved 105 volunteers undergoing complex tests of vision over a 12-month period.

Lead-researcher Professor Nolan has authored over 80 peer-reviewed research papers, with a research focus on the impact of carotenoid supplementation on and his colleague Professor Stephen Beatty has been involved in ophthalmic research since 1994, and has published over 150 peer-reviewed papers.

Today their latest research demonstrates, for the first time, that supplementation can optimize vision in people who do not exhibit eye disease. The results of this study have important implications for those who rely on their vision for professional reasons, such as high-performance sportspeople like golfers, hurlers, cricketers, tennis and baseball players,, motorists, train drivers, pilots, police and military marksmen and those involved in quality control.

Speaking to Ophthalmology Times Europe about his work, Professtor Beatty says: “Of the 105 subjects, 53 received daily supplements while 52 received a placebo (the control group). The outcome unequivocally demonstrates that those receiving macular carotenoids – lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin – enjoyed meaningful benefits to their visual function. The improvement recorded was primarily in people’s contrast sensitivity – how much contrast a person needs to see a target (i.e. how faint an object can you see).”

Whereas most research in this area has focused on corrective action for those who have already suffered vision loss as a result of eye disease, this new study concentrated on those with strong and healthy eyesight, and yet found marked improvements in vision among those who received specific dietary supplements such as MacuShield over a year.

“In other words,” says Professor beatty, “and again for the first time, there is now a robust evidence base in support of supplementation in any attempt to optimize a patient’s vision, and this is especially important for patients eager to achieve maximum vision.”

The improvements in visions were observed after 12 months of supplementation with Macushield/Macuhealth. This formulation (10 mg L, 10 mg MZ and 2 mg Z) is commercially available as Macushield in Europe and as Macuhealth in North America, and remains the only formulation shown by level 1 evidence to confer these benefits in healthy eyes; this observation is unsurprising, given that the formulation (Macushield/Macuhealth) contains MZ, the carotenoid that is dominant in the central fovea where vision is sharpest and where oxidative stress is greatest.

So what’s the science behind eye health supplement Macushield? Professor Beatty tells us: “This finding is consistent with reports in patients with age-related macular degeneration, where it has been shown that continuous supplementation is required for best results.[7]  The observed improvements are realised, we believe, as a consequence of the filtering properties of macular pigment (this pigment is located at a pre-receptoral level, and it screens visible blue light, thereby attenuating the vision-degrading impact of blue light [i.e. chromatic aberration and light scatter]) and as a consequence of macular pigment’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (thus facilitating neural efficiency and the visual cycle).  In fact, these findings are unsurprising, given the macula’s evolved ability to selectively accumulate just 3 of the 60 carotenoids in a human diet.  In other words, it is no accident of nature, and we now know that these carotenoids are located at the macula in order to optimise vision.”

Prof Stephen Beatty adds that there are also significant quality of life implications emanating from the research findings – “There has been an understandable focus in research to date on aiding those with failing eyesight as a result of disease. What this latest work demonstrates is that people who are free of eye disease (especially if they are lacking the nutrient in the eye) will experience improved vision as a result of appropriate supplementation. Clearly this will enhance one’s quality of life in everyday activities, such as enjoying a pleasant view, but these improvements in contrast sensitivity will also make it easier to read printed text, thereby easing eye strain and fatigue in the workplace and at home. In short, these findings have important implications for those seeking maximum visual performance, whether for work or leisure.”

In the context of a double blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial (i.e. level 1 evidence), that supplementation with a formulation containing lutein (L), meso-zeaxanthin (MZ) and zeaxanthin (Z) in a ratio (mg) of 10:10:2 results in improvements in contrast sensitivity (i.e. appreciation of faintness) at two spatial frequencies (i.e. target sizes) in healthy subjects.  These improvements in vision are equivalent to a full line of vision at those spatial frequencies, and are therefore clinically meaningful.  This intervention, which consists solely of naturally occurring nutrients already in the human food chain, represents the first means of improving eyesight in normal subjects since the invention of spectacles.

Prof John Nolan, Principal Investigator for the CREST study and founder of the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland, added: “All of us involved in this research are tremendously excited about the outcome – not only from a scientific perspective but also because of the significant benefits it will have for a wide range of people. Many people may already consider themselves to have ‘good’ eyesight, but now we know that many of these would benefit from appropriate supplementation. To take the example of drivers on our busy roads, improvements in contrast sensitivity, such as we have seen in our study population, would allow for earlier and more accurate detection ofmoving and non-moving objects in our field of view, and will therefore improve driving safety. Sportspeople – especially those in fast ballgames – also stand to benefit greatly, and we were delighted to have Noel Connors, the Waterford senior hurler and All-Star undergo testing at our vision research centre.”

“This is a game-changer for eye care professionals,” concludes Professor Beatty. “Put simply, if a patient asks his/her ophthalmologist/optometrist “Is there anything else I can do to make my eyesight better?”, the eye care professional can now confidently invoke this level 1 evidence base and reply “By taking appropriate supplements that contain lutein, meso-zeaxanthin and zeaxanthin.””

Read the full version with graphs in print here: ote1016_016-019_macushield

Sale at Sotheby’s helps restore sight in Ophthalmology Times Europe (cover story!)


A Gerhard Richter painting donated to CBM by an anonymous donor has raised 44,500 Euros at a Sotheby’s auction.

The artwork exhibits German painter Richter’s familiar layered and squeegee technique – a cool, colour photographic landscape with a spell of speedy, but splendid brush strokes spanning the surface and distorting the vision.

The sale of the piece last month will go toward cataract surgeries in developing countries, the secret art admirer donating the artwork to the German charity Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) for a good cause. The proceeds will finance sight-saving surgeries for 1,483 people who were blind due to cataract.

The inspiration behind the auction of Richter’s artwork is German ophthalmologist Dr. Omid Kermani. He and his colleagues from the eye-clinic Augenklinik am Neumarkt in Cologne already support the work of CBM. The ophthalmologists started a project called “eyes for eyes” to fund cataract surgeries in Nepal. For every cataract operation he and his colleagues perform they donate the money for an operation in Nepal. In the CBM – supported hospitals in Lahan and Biratnagar (Nepal), a staggering 97,000 people received cataract operations in 2014 and regained their sight.

Named “Untitled (23 ‘Jan. 2015)” the artwork is an oil on colour photograph, sized 11.1 cm by 16.4 cm and was auctioned in the “Contemporary Art Day Auction” in London on the 11th of February. “This artwork helps us to save eyesight! A cataract surgery improves lives sustainably,” said CBM-Director Dr Rainer Brockhaus. “We thank the donor and the acquirer of the painting very much”. Sotheby’s also contributed to the good cause, by arranging all the logistics, including transportation, free of charge and waiving their commission, enabling all profits to go directly to the charity.

Worldwide, there are approximately 20 million people who are blind due to cataract. It costs just 30 Euro to perform a cataract surgery at CBM-projects in developing countries. Ophthalmologist Dr. Kermani adds: “Eyesight is so precious. It costs so little to give it back.”

See the full article here

Crocs the dignified footwear of choice

We all know that owning a pair of Crocs is your entry pass to being uncool. Who can forget the viral image stating that the holes in Crocs are where your dignity seeps out? But what is cool? Is there an item you can own that will make you the envy of your friends? How about a fridge always stocked with Vintage Cristal or a Chanel makeup bag stuffed with Mac cosmetics?


The truth is that cool and its definition can be tricky but need not cost the Earth. Cool can be found in the history of the swinging Sixties, with its round John Lennon shades and freaky hair. It’s through the eyes of the filmmaker who pans her camera over a Parisian street at midnight. Kelis got it right, too – we can find cool in a milkshake!

Trends come and go but cool is timeless and meaningful to the wearer. One of the things I was taught at Chelsea College of Art is that cool, like good art, is always personal. Being cool is being yourself and not following everyone else.

I’ve heard it said that “if you stand still long enough you always come back into fashion”.

So maybe I’ll just put my Crocs at the back of the wardrobe for now.


You never know when the embarrassing item you hide under your bed might be in Vogue again and if you keep hold of it for the future you can always say you started a trend next time round!

{Since writing this for CoolFashionStyles.com designer Christopher Kane has put Crocs on the catwalk for SS17 – see image…}

Celebrate Your Golden Years With A Once In A Lifetime Trip Across India’s Golden Triangle

15660624310_a9370db820_kThere are many awe-inspiring trips to take that you may not have had time for until you reach retirement. So now that you are here what’s holding you back? One of the great rewards of retirement is that you are given the luxury of more time to devote to yourself. Why not turn fantasy into reality with a breathtaking trip to India’s Golden Triangle? More and more we see retirees of all ages taking these trips of a lifetime and breathing a new lease of life into their soul.

What Is The Golden Triangle?

The Golden Triangle is a captivating tour that takes in the fascinating Indian cities of  Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. India is an outstanding country of diversity and contrast, history, and culture and exotic tastes and scents. Taking a luxury package tour across the Golden Triangle is the perfect way to see many of the fascinating temples and palaces only available in northwest India. Many of the jewels in India’s crown are located in the Golden Triangle, and it’s an ideal way to get that first taste of India.


Delhi is both frenetic and elegant. It is a heady combination of history, architecture, delightful markets and authentic cuisine. New Delhi is the best place to stay rather than opting for Old Delhi. The Claridges Hotel is a good choice. And if you want lots more ideas on things to do and see you can visit the India travel forum for lots of extensive information. In Delhi, you’ll get to see the city’s most famous landmark, the Red Fort. It’s a beautiful reminder of the Mughal emperors who once ruled India, and every night there is a one hour sound and light show highlighting the fort’s history. You’ll also find the Jama Masjid mosque here, India’s largest. The courtyard holds 25,000 worshippers. Climbing to the top of this beautiful building will give you stunning views over Delhi.


From Delhi, you will travel to Agra, where, of course, the highlight of your trip will be a visit to one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. This incredible white marble mausoleum was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shan as a memorial to his wife, Queen Mumtaz Mahal. Her marble tomb is the focal point of this breathtaking monument. When visiting the Taj Mahal, avoid taking a large backpack, food, chargers, pens and camera tripods. Security here is tight. The queue is often shorter after 8.30 am when the first rush of people have gone in. Agra also offers two other World Heritage monuments. These are the magnificent Agra Fort and deserted red stone city of Fatephur Sikri.


The Golden Triangle tour finishes in the spellbinding ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur. Rajasthan’s capital is a historical city abundant in color, camels, rickshaws and majestic palaces. The city offers a fabulous insight into India’s bygone era. The old walled city is known as the Pink City after every building was painted in pink hues to welcome the Prince of Wales to India in 1876. Inside you will want to see the City Palace and the Hawa Mahal. And of course, Agra is also home to the spectacular Amber Fort, a building rich in Hindu-Muslim architecture. A must do here is to take an elephant ride across the Fort.

10 amazing places to see in India’s Golden Triangle published in Metro

India is a culture-filled, spiritually-steeped country as vast as it is colourful.

Cities burst with energy, rickshaws speed through crowded streets and crumbling ancient history neighbours tropical paradises.

Here’s 10 must see stops in and around Delhi, the Golden Triangle and the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur.

1. Old Delhi, Delhi

Serving as the symbolic heart of Delhi, this walled city was founded by a Mughal Emperor in 1639. Today, it’s a burst of the brightest people and buildings.

10 amazing places to see in India's Golden Triangle
Old Delhi (Picture: Getty)

2. Red Fort, Delhi

Overlooking the river Jamuna, the Red Fort was built when the Mughal Empire was at its peak, between 1638-1648. It houses a number of museums so you can take in some more splendid history.

10 amazing places to see in India's Golden Triangle
Red Fort (Picture: Getty)

3. Taj Mahal, Agra Fort

The world’s most famous temple and not without good reason. Its white marble exteriors will have you awestruck.

10 amazing places to see in India's Golden Triangle
Taj Mahal reflected in the Lotus pool (Picture: Getty)

4. ‘Baby Taj’, Agra

Also known as the “jewel box” and sometimes called the “Baby Taj”, the exquisite tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg is often regarded as a template of the Taj Mahal.

10 amazing places to see in India's Golden Triangle
The Baby Taj Mahal (Picture: Getty)

5. Amber Fort, Jaipur

A honey-hued fortress palace in the Aravalli Hills, Amber Fort is perfect for those who love forts and old monuments. It boasts a chamber of mirrors and the interiors are covered in decorative arts. You can also visit for the striking views of the gorge.

10 amazing places to see in India's Golden Triangle
Amber Fort, Jaipur (Picture: Getty)

6. Fatehpur Sikri, Agra District of Uttar Pradesh

This magnificent fortified ancient city was the capital of the Mughal Empire between 1571 and 1585, during the reign of Emperor Akbar and abandoned on the emperor’s death.

10 amazing places to see in India's Golden Triangle
Fatehpur Sikri (Picture: Getty)

7. Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

This majestic building is known as the Palace of the Winds and was built by King Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799.

10 amazing places to see in India's Golden Triangle
Hawa Mahal (Picture: Getty)

8. Raj Ghat, Delhi

Resting along the banks of the Yamuna River, and just South of the Red Fort, a simple black-marble platform marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated following his assassination in 1948. It’s inscribed with what are said to have been Gandhi’s final words, Hai Ram (Oh, God).

10 amazing places to see in India's Golden Triangle
Raj Ghat (Picture: Getty)

9. Qutab Minar, Delhi

The tallest stone tower in India stands 238 feet tall. Built between 1193 and 1369 it symbolises Islamic rule over Delhi and commemorates the victory of Qutab-ud-din over the city’s last Hindu king. The tower is made from two distinct stones for an artistic feel – red sandstone, and the upper two, white marble.

10 amazing places to see in India's Golden Triangle
Qutab Minar (Picture: Getty)

10. Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi

One of the most majestic tombs built in Delhi during the Mughal rule, is the Humayun’s Tomb. It’s a feat of Persian architecture. Commissioned in 1526, it come into being nine years after the death of Humayun, by his widow Hamida Banu Begum.

10 amazing places to see in India's Golden Triangle
Humayun’s Tomb (Picture: Getty)

You can take in all these sites on the Taste of India 7 day tour with Virgin Holidays. Prices start from £999pp for September 2016.

14 of the best mindfulness retreats published in Metro


You don’t have to travel to India if you want a spiritual epiphany anymore.

There are mindfulness retreats all around the UK (as well as the more typical far flung destinations), so whether you’re looking for a day of mindfulness or a whole holiday of it, there’s something for you.

So bend into your best yogic position and get ready for a piece of peace with a handful of the best mindful retreats.

1. Kagyu Samye Dzong, London


Provides inner harmony and tranquility with meditation, Buddhism, and holistic therapies through classes, workshops and retreats.

2. Karuna Bhavan, Lesmahgow



Karuna Bhavan is an eco-farm run by the Hare Krishna community in Scotland.

As well as bhakti yoga, it’s a holistic spiritual centre to help re-establish the sacredness of life via Hindu meditation, singing and dancing.

3. Gaia House Buddhist Meditation, Newton Abbott

A silent Buddhist Meditation Retreat Centre that offers retreats all year.

Come here for a sanctuary of contemplative calm set in the remote and quiet woodlands of South Devon.

4. Una, St Ives


Visit Una for one of the made for life by Spiezia Organics rituals, named Mindful Moments. These include a guided meditation to give you the ultimate in relaxation.

5. Shreyas Silent Retreat, India



Take a break from the stresses of modern day living and embrace the art of mindfulness at Shreyas Silent Retreat in India.

Experience a range of meditation and yoga classes, from Pranayama to trataka (candle meditation) and private yoga nidra sessions.

6. Longevity Mindfulness, Portugal

Spirit yourself away to a secluded beach in Portugal at Longevity Medical Spa with mindfulness sessions from resident teacher, Shantidevi.

7. Champneys, Hertfordshire 


‘Unplug Meditation’ is a guided meditation/ mindfulness studio that offers 30 and 45 minute drop-in classes.

The face behind Unplug is former Vogue editor Suze Yalof Schwartz, whose ambition was to create a SoulCycle for meditation.

8. Will Williams Retreats, Sussex


This 4 day retreat focuses on a rounding experience, constituting three main parts – asana (yoga), pranayama (breathing) and meditation.

9. VIVAMAYR Altaussee, Austria

Set amid the Austrian Alps and nestled by Lake Altaussee, VIVAMAYR Altaussee combines one of the most advanced medical centres in the world with a modern and luxurious spa to provide a retreat for those looking for rest, relaxation and health through mindfulness.

10. Sol Beach House Hotel, Ibiza



The hotel is a far cry from the usual party scene – going so far as to actually offer wellbeing and yoga retreats.

And if the relaxation gets a little boring, there’s always the in-house 60s ‘flower power’ island bus to whisk you to the nearest bar!

11. Platinum Healing retreats, Sussex & Lincolnshire

Visit for one of several signature Juice Detox Retreats.

You will also enjoy many types of mindfulness including private meditation, Pranayama (Yogic Breathing) and use of the Jacuzzi for good measure.

12. Plum Village, near Bordeaux in France

The largest international practice centre in the Plum Village tradition, and the first monastic community founded by fabled Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) in the West.

13. Mind Space, Cannock Chase


The Hermitage in Cannock Chase provides you with a peaceful space where you can explore the mind.

All retreats are suitable for beginners and are run by experienced meditator Adam Dacey.

14. Sally Stubbs, The Lake District


This therapist’s mindful technique is called Authentic & Permanent RAPHA Therapy Cure which is as relaxing as the countryside she works from.

If you can’t afford a full retreat, why not visit her website for a DVD or audio retreat in your own home?