Vitamins and Minerals that Support Healthy Skin

Having good skin isn’t all about topical creams, nor is it all about genetics. In fact, nutrition is one of the most effective ways to improve skin quality. What we see on the surface of the skin are cells that were made deeper in the dermis. These skin cells are pushed up, layer by layer, until they reach the surface. This process takes around 4 weeks and so changes in the diet that affect skin quality might take a while to be noticeable.

Nearly all nutrients will play a role in skin health but I have picked out a few whose role is especially important;

Omega 3 Fats

Each cell is surrounded by a phospholipid bilayer, which simply means two layers of fats that make up the cell walls, which incorporate dietary fats. The most important of these fats is omega 3, not only as they form part of the structure but also because they have anti-inflammatory properties.

As omega 6 fats can crowd out omega 3 we can tip the balance by focusing on omega 3 foods as well as using less of the omega 6 where possible. Aside from reducing inflammation, omega 3 fats can reduce insulin-like growth factor, also known as IGF-1, which may help to reduce spots and blemishes.

The foods to focus on are walnuts, linseeds, pumpkin, chia, hemp, leafy green vegetables, corn and soya beans. Don’t forget that there is also purslane, which is officially a weed, but can be grown very easily in any garden or window box.

Supplements – Vertese® Ahiflower® Oil and Algal Omega 3.


Fat metabolism is enhanced by biotin and so helps reduce the incidence of dry skin. It is rich in hazelnuts, almonds, Swiss chard, tomato, avocado, soy beans and sweet potato. In practical terms, getting enough biotin could be as simple as having a baked sweet potato with tofu and hazelnuts.

Supplements – Vertese® Multivitamin & Mineral offers 100% of the suggested intake of biotin in every capsule.

Vitamin C

The formation of collagen, the flexible structure that helps skin elasticity, relies on vitamin C, which also has antioxidant properties. Found in many foods including berries, peppers, kiwi, citrus, kale and papaya, most vegetarian and vegan diets tend to be naturally rich in vitamin C foods. However, as the nutrient is water soluble and can be flushed away, make sure to eat vitamin C rich foods daily.

Supplements – Vertese® Berry C Complex delivers 600mg of vitamin C in two capsules.


Zinc has antioxidant properties and can also help reduce inflammation. It can also help healing, and along with omega 3, can help reduce inflammation in the skin.

For vegetarians and vegans, the best zinc-rich foods to look out for are sesame and pumpkin seeds, lentils, tofu, chickpeas, cashew nuts and quinoa.

Supplements – Vertese® Sea Mineral Complex offers 25% of the NRV of zinc in one capsule.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A can help control sebum production, which in excess can encourage blemishes and break-outs. In addition vitamin A acts as an antioxidant.

Foods that are rich in vitamin A include sweet potato, spinach, carrots, kale, greens and squash.

Supplements – Vertese® Multivitamin & Mineral offers 100% of the NRV of vitamin A in every capsule.


Don’t Forget your Carbs

Carbs have come in for a bit of a bashing in the last few years, but as you may know, not all carbs are equal. Cakes, biscuits and some cereals might contain sugar and have low levels of fibre, but complex carbs – those are the ones that are largely unprocessed – tend to be rich in minerals, fibre and contain some protein too. Typified by wholegrains, complex carbohydrates definitely have a place in a healthy diet. Here are a few you might add to your menu;


Not technically a grain, amaranth is part of the Chenopodiaceae family which includes quinoa and beetroot and thus contains no gluten. It cooks like rice and can also be popped in oil like corn kernels. Unusually rich in magnesium, calcium and iron but also a good source of lysine, an amino acid most often found in animal protein so great for vegetarians and vegans.


Barley is especially rich in soluble and insoluble fibre, especially beta-glucan, which binds to cholesterol in the gut preventing it from being absorbed. Rich in selenium, B1 and magnesium, barley helps blood glucose management and so is ideal when combined with a little protein for reducing appetite and achieving consistent energy levels.


Despite the somewhat confusing name, buckwheat is a seed, not a grain and contains no wheat and thus no gluten either. Buckwheat is the richest food source of rutin, a flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential that is great for heart health.

Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur is a composite of groats, themselves the husks of several wholegrains. It’s richer in fibre than most other grains (18g per 100g) and also contains gluten so not for everyone.


Made from young green wheat, freekeh has a firm texture with a smoky dark flavour. As it is essentially wheat it contains gluten and so might be used in recipes if a stronger flavour is called for.


Millet is similar to wheat in most aspects except that it contains no gluten and is a decent source of magnesium and potassium.


The original superhero amongst grains, oats are a concentrated source of minerals and have a favourable balance of protein to carbohydrates. Oats contain beta-glucan that binds to cholesterol in the intestines preventing it from being absorbed into the blood. Oats are gluten free but do contain avenin, a first cousin of gluten but still suitable for coeliacs when processed in a wheat free environment.


Unlike most grains quinoa (technically a seed) is a worthy source of protein as it has the full complement of amino acids making it a rare grain-based complete protein. All grains contain flavonoids, but quinoa contains two – quercetin and kaempferol – that can discourage inflammation.


Rye is part of the wheat family and so contains gluten. It is a richer source of lignans than most other wholegrains, a substance that can lower the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women and cardiovascular disease in the general population.


From the same family group as wheat and rye, spelt offers a slightly different mix of proteins that makes it more suitable for people with a sensitivity to regular wheat although it does contain gluten.


This tiny North African grain has a gentle yet slightly sweet flavour and has a slightly higher concentration of minerals than most other wholegrains including vitamin C, which is rarely found in grains.

Wild rice

Harvested from a type of grass so not technically a grain, wild rice has twice as much protein as regular rice and offers a nutty flavour with a chewy texture.


What’s the Best Way for a Vegetarian to Lose Weight?

In these weight obsessed times it seems almost normal, at least if certain elements of the media are to be believed, to see fat as bad and thin as good. Therefore it seems almost normal to make decisions about what we eat based on whether said food or meal is going to help us lose or gain weight.

But for those people who have made a decision to follow specific food plans for whatever reason, which includes a vegan or vegetarian diet, managing weight isn’t always the first priority. After all, it’s quite possible to have a 100% vegetarian diet but eat poorly and gain weight, so what’s the best way for a vegetarian to lose weight?

The rules of weight loss don’t change for vegetarians, and despite what some experts might have you believe, it really is down to calories. But eating less might result in only temporary weight loss as too little forces the body into famine mode and can encourage muscle breakdown. The most effective method is to lose weight slowly, and eat in a way that doesn’t make you so hungry that you have to use will power to stick to your chosen plan (after all, we all know that will power can be limited).

Calorie intake differs for men and women, level of fitness and activity, but as a rule of thumb, 1200 – 1400 for a woman and 1400 – 1600 for a man should be about right for sensible and sustainable weight reduction. I generally don’t like counting calories as it can make eating rather joyless, but if you download an app on your smartphone and enter what you eat it does help guide you. It’s an easy process and helps give you an idea of how many calories are in that handful of nuts we can all grab without thinking about it.

An easy way to reduce hunger is to eat small portions of food at regular intervals, each containing complex carbs, protein and a little fat. By combining the food groups you can take advantage of the way that the human body breaks down food to make energy. The food groups break down at different speeds, and so mixing them up provides short and medium term energy. By the time the body has digested the food and used up the glucose created from it you should find that you are naturally hungry. By eating little and often you won’t have to rely on your will power and hope that you can be ‘good’ today and not ‘break the diet’.

Here’s a typical day;


  • Small bowl of porridge (complex carbs)
  • Apple (carbs and fibre)
  • Palmful of walnuts (protein and omega 3 fats)

Mid morning snack

  • Almond butter (protein and fat)
  • Two oat cakes or one rye cracker (complex carbs)


  • Hummus (fat and protein)
  • Granary bread (complex carbs)
  • or lentil and tofu salad (protein and fibre)
  • Pumpkin seeds (fat and protein)


  • Half a small avocado (fat and protein)
  • Mixed seeds (protein and fat)
  • Crumbled oat cake (complex carbs)


  • Roast vegetables (fibre)
  • Mixed bean curry (protein and complex carbs)
  • Brown rice (complex carbs)
  • Soy yogurt and fruit (protein and fibre)

You might have to really watch quite how many nuts and seeds you use to stick to the ideal calories count, but remember that the fat is useful for several reasons, not least managing appetite and increasing satiety.

I am not an exercise expert (just as most personal trainers aren’t nutrition experts) but my best advice is not to overdo it and exercise every day for hours, instead to find something that you enjoy and that you can manage on a regular basis. Don’t just do cardio, it’s important to do weight bearing exercise as well, as toned muscles use up glucose and help maintain metabolic rate even when you are sitting on the sofa. Exercise doesn’t have to be gym based, as sports, walking briskly uphill and even bouncing on a trampoline will do just as well so don’t feel obliged to break out the Lycra.


Eat Your Heart Healthy

The nutritional advice covering how to maintain a healthy heart and cardiovascular system sits very well with both a vegan and vegetarian diet. But within the foods that we might be advised to eat, there are some that stand out as having really great benefits.

Spinach – Homocysteine is an amino acid produced naturally in the human body usually in response to eating protein. Raised levels are linked with narrowing of the arteries and thus increased blood pressure. Folate, found in spinach (and other dark green vegetables) can help reduce homocysteine levels.

Beetroot – research shows that drinking 250ml of beetroot juice daily supplies a healthy dose of nitrates that can help counteract hypertension. High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease as the increased speed of blood through a weakened artery can lead to aneurysm, or a bulge, in the aorta.

Kiwi fruit – Vitamin C is a major component of collagen and contributes to elasticity of the arteries combatting hardening. Kiwi, peppers, kale, sweet potato and citrus are all useful sources of vitamin C.

Garlic – Polysulfides, found in garlic, help increase flexibility of blood vessels, which can help guard against high blood pressure. Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties and so can protect against atherosclerosis, a process in which fats build up in the arteries forming hard plaques.

Nuts – you may be surprised to know that cholesterol levels can be improved by eating 30g of nuts daily. The two main types of cholesterol are both required ideally in the right ratio. The low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, delivers cholesterol to where it is needed whilst another high density version (HDL) mops up the excess. Nuts contain a good balance of fibre and fats that help keep a favourable ratio. Almonds with their skin on are ideal as are hazelnuts, Brazil and walnuts.

Extra virgin olive oil – cholesterol is a fat and as such is more prone to being damaged by free radicals. Olive oil contains antioxidants in the form of vitamin E and phenolic acid that help protect the cholesterol.

Oats – a rich source of beta-glucan, a fibre that binds to cholesterol in the intestines and prevent reabsorption into the blood. Just 3g daily can reduce both total and LDL cholesterol by 5-10% and so one oatcake offers around 1g whilst a small bowl of porridge serves up well over the 3g daily dose.

Tomato puree – tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid with antioxidant capabilities offering some protection to damaged arteries and may also inhibit inflammation of the arterial wall. Lycopene is more easily absorbed after heating and so ketchup or tomatopaste are useful additions to the diet.


Useful Tips for Following a Sugar Free Diet

We all know we should be aware of how much sugar we eat, but if you are someone who has a sweet tooth you’ll know that cutting down on sugar isn’t always simple. Here are some simple pointers to help you on your way to following a sugar free diet, or at least reducing how much sugar you eat.

Check labels

If you have a bigger theme for your eating plan, such as following a vegetarian or vegan diet, or perhaps you are gluten free, then that will obviously be your main focus. It’s easy to overlook other elements in favour of maintaining the bigger picture so start to check labels and look for sugar in the list of ingredients. You may see it listed as glucose, sucrose, cane sugar, molasses, fructose – anything with an ‘ose’ at the end is a sugar.

The higher up the list an ingredient appears the more of it there is, so if there are any sugars listed amongst the ingredients, then they really should be towards the very end.

Origins don’t matter

Organic, fair trade, natural, farm fresh – all nice to have but if its sugar you want to avoid then where it comes from doesn’t make a difference in this situation. If the sugar in the recipe is organic or fair trade then it will still behave exactly the same way in the body as the cheapest refined white sugar.

What else is in it?

You might read that some sources of sweetness are great sources of this or that, which sounds alluring and makes them far more appealing. For example, both black strap molasses and palmyra jaggery (palm sugar) are often touted as being rich in minerals. Whilst this is true one doesn’t need or use very much of either to get sweetness and so mineral content is irrelevant. There are far more minerals in vegetables and nuts, so don’t be fooled into thinking you are helping your nutrient status by having something sugary.

What about honey?

There is a lot of talk about honey being natural, but when you think about it so are many sugars – they come from a field after all! People often say that honey is antibacterial and antiviral but in truth that is applicable if the honey is applied to burns and its contribution to gut bacteria is minimal because we don’t consume it in meaningful quantities. If you are looking to reduce or cut out sugar then be mindful of how much honey you have, it still counts, and has as much fructose (fruit sugar) in it as high-fructose corn syrup, the type that is commonly used to sweeten fizzy drinks in the US.

Is there anything I can eat to help cut sugar cravings?

We tend to crave carbohydrates such as sugar when levels of glucose in our blood are low. Glucose is created from the food groups, but it’s carbohydrates that are broken down to release their glucose most rapidly. Protein is slow to break down, as is fat, so eating small meals combining a little protein, fat and complex fibrous carbohydrates every time creates an even feed of glucose – a drip drip if you like. The result is reduced appetite and fewer sugar cravings.

Are there any supplements that can help sugar cravings?

Chromium, a trace mineral, is found in a few foods including broccoli, lettuce and oats and can help encourage the cells to absorb glucose more readily meaning that it helps us manage the glucose levels in the blood. In turn this might reduce sugar cravings, but eating small meals at regular intervals each with fibre, protein and a little fat helps too. Chromium is also found in the Vertese Multivitamin and Mineral, especially formulated for vegan and vegetarian diets.


Following a gluten free diet

Did you know that whilst 1% of the population has gluten intolerance, or coeliac disease, some 19% of the population believe that they have a problem with gluten and follow, to some extent or another, a gluten free diet?

Rather than pass comment on whether someone is or isn’t really gluten intolerant, let’s look more closely at what gluten is and how it can affect us.

What is gluten?

Gluten is made from gliadin and glutenin, both proteins which, when combined, create a gooey bond that gives baked goods flexibility, volume and texture. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye and whilst it used to be thought that oats were also a potential source, they contain a protein, which is, if you like, a second cousin once removed of gluten and so tolerated by many people who are gluten-intolerant.

What does it do?

For people living with coeliac disease, gluten causes the villi in the intestines to atrophy, or flatten, which vastly reduces the surface area available for nutrient absorption. Thus a coeliac eating gluten can experience nutrient deficiency which can present in a great number of ways ranging from failure to thrive in children to urgent diarrhea, dry skin, depression and severe discomfort in both adults and children alike.

Can gluten intolerance be tested for?

Yes but ideally you’d have to be eating gluten for a test to be effective. Genetics plays a role in coeliac disease and any predisposition can be tested for as specific genes are found in over 97% of adults with coeliac disease but only 40% of the general population. Additionally blood tests can identify the presence of two types of antibodies produced when the ceoliac is eating gluten.

By the way, the tests one sees advertised online or in health food shops are not usually the same type and look for different antibodies. If these are raised then the assumption is made that the individual is gluten intolerant, a controversial conclusion that is not accepted in the mainstream.

Does it matter if a coeliac has gluten?

Yes, it does matter. They can have unpleasant and immediate physical reactions, but even if they don’t, which is possible, the villi in the intestines will be flattened with continued exposure which will reduce nutrient absorption leading to deficiency problems in the longer term which can be cumulative and more subtle.

For a non-coeliac who has gluten it is hard to say if it matters, as their reasons for avoiding gluten might be non-specific.

Are gluten free foods always healthier than the regular versions?

No, although it could be said that marking a food as ‘gluten-free’ has started to become synonymous with ‘good for you’. Yet taking the gluten out of a familiar food means replacing it with other elements to replicate the familiar texture and feel. Higher levels of fats and sugars are not uncommon which may be a fair price to pay for a ceoliac but isn’t what the other consumers had in mind when they thought they were making a healthier choice.

I feel better when I cut gluten out of my diet, does that mean I am gluten intolerant?

It doesn’t, no, simply because you might be making better food choices as you’ve imposed boundaries on your usual diet. For example, you might not be having biscuits or sandwiches during the day, instead taking lunch from home. Bear in mind that for the GP to successfully test you for gluten intolerance you’d have to be eating gluten, which is a conundrum.

Of course the decision to avoid a food is yours but if you choose to follow a gluten free diet be sure to do your research first, so you can understand the full impact to your health.


Eating for energy

January can be a tough month to get through and it can be hard to get back into the swing of things especially after the excesses of the festive season. Nutrition is a powerful tool in boosting energy levels so changing the way you eat can be an easy way to beat the January blues.

Everything we eat and drink will be used to provide fuel for energy and nearly every nutrient is involved in the process of making energy somewhere along the line. Many factors can help with maintaining energy levels including regular exercise and consistent sleep patterns. However others can interrupt the process, notably caffeine and refined sugar which might help in the very short term but the benefits can diminish with overuse.

There are a few key nutrients that you might focus on when eating to promote energy levels;

Chromium, the trace mineral, can help with managing blood sugar levels and metabolising carbohydrates. Chromium isn’t widely available in the diet compared to some other nutrients although it is found in raw onions, tomato, black pepper, broccoli and pulses.

The B group of vitamins are utilised in the whole process of making energy. No one B vitamin is more important than others and most are found in a wide range of foods including wholegrains, avocado and dark green vegetables. However vitamin B12 is found in animal sourced foods and so can be lacking in a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Iron is one of the more familiar nutrients but according to the World Health Organisation, ‘iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world’. Iron is required for the formation of red blood cells and so closely associated with energy production. Dietary iron comes in two forms – heam and non-heam. The former, found in animal flesh, is very easily absorbed whilst the latter, found in vegetables and dairy, less so but can be found in chickpeas, beans, peas, Beetroot, chard, spinach, dried apricots, tomato paste and ginger.

Within the Vertese® range there are two standout products that are ideal for supporting energy levels;

Multivitamin & Mineral offers B vitamins, including B12 as well as chromium and iron together with calcium, magnesium and copper, all of which contribute to normal energy yielding metabolism.

Beetroot, B12 and Iron Complex, a supplement specifically designed to support energy levels, offers B12, iron and vitamin C to help iron absorption and support normal energy yielding metabolism.

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Setting your nutrition goals for the New Year

Setting goals for the year ahead is a smart way to stay more mindful about what you eat, as well as address minor (or major) issues that cause you discomfort or anxiety. Setting nutrition goals is increasingly common although most tend to be triggered by a desire to lose weight, which is as good a reason as any to improve your diet.

Like all New Year resolutions, its easy to set goals that may be positive, but so ambitious that even the most hearty might find them difficult to achieve. When it comes to nutrition or weight loss goals, my advice is to be kind to yourself as well as specific about what you want.

For example, rather than promise that this year is going to be the year that you get fit and lose weight instead decide what being fit might feel like to you. Make a list that suits you – it could be weight related, such as I want to lose x kilos or something related to a biochemical marker, such as blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Chart the weight loss and set goals that still challenge you but are realistic, such as losing 1kg this week and 2k next.

When it comes to fitness, have a wish list but build in points at which you can enjoy your progress. Maybe you’d like to take part in a local 10k run this year so chart your progress and manage your goals by running, say 10 metres one day this week. Then increase to 100m next week and then 1k next month, so that you can enjoy your increasing abilities.

For someone who is starting on a vegan or vegetarian diet for the first time you may wish to get support online as there are some wonderful resources available. Rather than embark on a new plan without planning its best to research the area before starting so that you are comfortable with what you are doing. I suggest writing down a menu for two or three typical week days and a whole weekend, including where to buy the food and what preparation might be involved. This will give you a good template for the first few days, which can be confusing.

You might consider investing in a consultation or two with a nutrition professional who can guide you through everything from menus to alternatives, weight loss to cholesterol. They will also be able to advise you on which – if any – supplements you might benefit from. Together you can set specific goals and your consultant will show you how to achieve them.

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How can you tell if you may need to adopt a free-from diet?

There are many reasons why someone might choose to adopt a free-from diet and we do have to remember that for most people who do, it is a choice. That’s not to say that someone doesn’t have a food intolerance but for the time being the biochemical testing methods aren’t that accurate and many are simply unproven and unreliable which is unhelpful, I know.

The first step in this process is not to assume that you do have an allergy or intolerance. That said it does seem that health bloggers and celebrities espouse avoiding this or that, giving the more ‘popular’ ones a bad reputation, often undeserved and that does bring the language of food intolerances into everyday conversation.

As I said, some of the tests are unreliable as well as expensive, but they are very believable and official-looking so how do you find out if you are amongst the tiny minority living with a food intolerance?

The first stop is your GP as what you think might be food related may have other simple explanations. They may order a blood test to check the number of antibodies for specific foods but this is unlikely as even if antibodies are present for a food, it doesn’t mean you are intolerant, simply that you’ve eaten it. In other words, have a handful of, say, walnuts now and then every day for five days, do a blood test and there will most likely be increased numbers of antibodies for walnuts.

You may wish to see a nutrition professional in person who can guide you through the process. But I would be wary of seeing one who thinks everyone has an intolerance, instead try and find a more balanced starting point and feel free to ask them questions by way of an email before you meet.

Intolerances can have a multitude of signs, ranging from bloating and digestive discomfort to dry skin to frequent colds and infections and a nutrition professional is the perfect person to guide you on exactly what to eat, potential pitfalls and easy swaps that you may not have thought of.

There are many resources online and you may find that there is a society or just a Facebook group dedicated to helping you avoid said food. Most of these groups are casually run and so there may be a lot of anecdotal chat but the official websites tend to have added extras such as book recommendations, recipes, travel advice and general support.

If you are about to start a free-from diet then here’s a simple way to keep a track of how you feel. List your most pressing symptoms and grade them from 0 – 10 with 0 being a rare occurrence and 10 being something that is debilitating and happens frequently. Then put the list away and revisit it in ten days, rescoring the symptoms. I find that it helps people gauge any improvements as feeling a bit better’ might be welcome but hard to measure.


Introducing Free-From diets

We are increasingly aware of what we eat and many people follow a free-from diet. Some people have food intolerance and avoid a common ingredient accordingly whilst others simply choose to avoid some foods. Ten years ago we didn’t seem to hear much about free-from diets but now food products for a variety of free-from plans have their own aisle in the supermarket. Combined with social media, it seems that we all know someone who is avoiding something, but what are the most common free-from diets and what benefits do they have, if any?


Gluten is made from gliadin and glutenin, both proteins which, when combined, create a gooey bond that gives baked goods flexibility, volume and texture. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye.

Gluten intolerance is known as coeliac disease which is thought to affect 1 in 10 of us. When a coeliac has gluten the specific proteins aren’t tolerated in the gut and reduce the ability of the body to absorb nutrients. This can lead to diarrhea, bloating and dry skin as well as symptoms often linked to IBS.

A gluten-free diet means having alternatives to regular foods, such as pasta or bread, made from flours that are naturally free from gluten. For example, pasta or breads made from rice or lentil flour.


Wheat is the most commonly avoided grain but some people choose to avoid wheat only, not gluten, so they can eat foods that are naturally wheat free such as rye bread rather than the standard loaf, or rye crackers in place of the more familiar wheaten crackers.

Some people feel that wheat ‘irritates’ the lining of the digestive system, which can cause discomfort. Whilst this may be a rare condition wheat free diets are increasingly common. As they are not as restrictive as a full gluten free diet, a wheat free one is easier to maintain as there are more choices.


Dairy intolerance can be to the whole food or to the presence of a milk sugar known as lactose. If it’s the latter then they can choose to have dairy made from lactose-free milk but if it’s a wider intolerance to all dairy, then there are now alternatives. Dairy is found in the obvious places but sometimes in confectionery, condiments and prepared foods so avoiding it can be challenging at first.

Dairy-free milks, yogurts and ice creams can now be easily found, made from nut, soy or rice milk, all of which are suitable for anyone on a dairy-free plan.

If you are on a dairy-free diet then do remember that calcium may be in many other foods, but calcium from dairy is in an especially easily absorbed form.

If you get a free-from diet right then there is no reason why it can’t be as nutritious as the best diets, but do take advice from a nutrition professional to guide you through the early stages. And during that period you might want to take a good multi-vitamin and mineral whilst you get used to what you can and can’t eat.

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