Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Eat Fat to Save your Life. Essential Fatty Acids

Essential Fatty Acids. For Brevity we will limit this discussion to Omega 3 and Omega 6. Saturated Fats which have their beneficial place will have a separate topic.

Image courtesy of Miscela

They're everywhere in the news, todays Rockstar, Omega 3.
but just how good are they for you and why?
Should you supplement them or just eat more Omega 3 rich food?

Omega 3 and 6 are Essential, meaning our body needs them, and cannot produce them on its own.

Omega 3's are reported to 

  • Lower Triglycerides
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Help Prevent Alzheimers and Depression
  • Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Improve Heart Health
  • Improve Sleep
  • Improve Energy
  • Improve Memory
  • Reduce Inflammation
  • Improve Healing
Quite the impressive list.

Heres a Report that explains that its not simply for the above benefits...

Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15/1-16.7/1. Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established. Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today's Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects. In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a ratio of 4/1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality. A ratio of 2.5/1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer, whereas a ratio of 4/1 with the same amount of omega-3 PUFA had no effect. The lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk. A ratio of 2-3/1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and a ratio of 5/1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10/1 had adverse consequences. These studies indicate that the optimal ratio may vary with the disease under consideration. This is consistent with the fact that chronic diseases are multigenic and multifactorial. Therefore, it is quite possible that the therapeutic dose of omega-3 fatty acids will depend on the degree of severity of disease resulting from the genetic predisposition. A lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies, as well as in the developing countries, that are being exported to the rest of the world.
PMID: 12442909 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

in Short, we get FAR too many Omega 6's and not enough Omega 3's to compensate.

Balancing this out  lowers inflammation, and  may protect us from heart attacks, sudden cardiac death, strokes, diabetes and even cancer. In addition, affects Brain Growth and Immune System function.

The Common Opinion is an Ideal Ratio is around 1:1 Omega 3 to 6. 
Lets give you an idea of how difficult a ratio this is.

Heres a very helpful table I found over at Slanker's Grass Fed Beef.

This is a Launching point, even Slankers admits the data may not be wholly accurate.
Dig more on the data to learn about the foods you enjoy. Or feel free to ask about specific foods and why they may or may not still be healthy or worthwhile anyways because of portion ratio etc.

you can quickly see the Glycemic Load of most of these Foods, which is more important than the Index because of instances such as Watermelon. Where the Index is very high, but the actual fruit is mostly water and therefore elicits a small insulin response overall.

This table also includes a Inflammation column, showing foods that may be bad for inflammation.

What this table lacks is a Omega Load Cross reference, perhaps this is something in the future that I may build out or get lucky and find. Something that shows just how much Fat is in a standardized quantity and then the ratio. Because who cares if Produce X has an incredible ratio if you have to eat 50 lbs of it to get a couple MG of your Omega 3's

You can also quickly see how foods thought to be "Healthy" have high amounts of Omega 6, or are very Inflammatory.
Things like Whole Grains and Wheat are terrible Ratios, Terrible for Insulin and Terrible for Inflammation. But Wheat and Grains deserve much more attention in a separate thread. Suffice to know for now, I avoid Sugars and Wheat and its the first thing I recommend to anyone looking to make a positive change for their health and/or weight.

The second thing is to eat more Fish/Omega 3 Food... and just as importantly eat Less of the Omega 6 rich foods. You have less balancing to do if you eat right to begin with.

Naturally Fed Meat, meaning Wild Fish, Free Range Chicken and Grass Fed(and finished) Beef not only tastes Much better, but they all have better 3-6 ratios than their poorly fed counterparts.

In todays society, even eating right it would be ridiculously difficult to reach an idea ratio without a little help or eating tons of fish and flax. Not exactly Ideal.

Look for Omega 3 Supplements that show clearly that they include EPA and DHA, a ratio of these 2 Essential Omega 3's  of about 1.5-1 

I personally use a 800mg EPA 500mg DHA Fish Oil and take 4 a day when not eating Fish and 2 on days I am eating fish.


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