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Fighting Obesity and Illness at the Source

February 24, 2009 | 33,312 views

cattle, cowOmega-3 fats are thought to play an important role in reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity and other serious diseases. However, humans are unable to synthesize omega-3 for themselves and must obtain it from meat, fish and dairy products.

Studies have indicated that animal feeds enriched with omega-3 improves the health and fertility of animals, and the nutritional quality of their meat and dairy products.

Obese volunteers eating a diet comprising meat and dairy products derived from animals fed with omega-3-enriched linseed (flaxseed) lost 3 kg in three months, and sustained the weight loss five months later.

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Omega-3 fats are essential for your body and may help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity and other chronic diseases. However, humans are unable to synthesize omega-3 on our own, so we must get it from an outside source.

The above study came from Valorex, a French company that has developed a way of “thermo-extruding” the seeds from the flaxseed plant, and is now marketing them as an additive for cattle feed.

According to studies by Valorex, animals fed a diet enriched with their extruded flaxseed had improved health and fertility, and their meat and dairy products contained higher levels of omega-3 fats.

Obese people with diabetes who then ate a diet enriched with the thermo-extruded flaxseed reportedly had a partial loss of abdominal obesity and a reduction in their triglycerides levels.

Next they conducted a trial in which obese volunteers ate meat and dairy products from animals fed the flaxseed-enriched diet, and found they lost over 6.5 pounds in three months, and kept the weight off five months later. Although control volunteers who ate alternative types of diets also lost the same amount of weight, they had gained some of it back by the end of the study.

Valorex’s enriched animal feeds are already in high demand by food manufacturers and farmers in France, and agreements with factories in Germany, Portugal and Switzerland are already underway.

Could this be the answer to fighting obesity and chronic disease that the world has been waiting for?

Well, I’m all for adding more omega- 3 fats to your diet, but there is something being overlooked here -- the source of the omega-3.

Why You Want to Get Your Omega-3 Primarily From Animal, NOT Plant, Sources

There are three types of omega-3 fats:

• DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
• EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
• ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid)

Most of the health benefits associated with omega-3 fats are linked to the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, not the plant-based omega-3 fat ALA. ALA, which is the type of omega-3 found in flaxseed, is converted into EPA and DHA in your body, but only at a very low ratio.

I am convinced that we all need both plant and animal based omega 3 fats but I have seen many people, primarily vegans, that are strongly opposed to eating any animal products, suffer serious health complications from excluding animal based omega-3 fats.

Even if you eat large amounts of ALA, your body can only convert a relatively small amount into EPA and DHA, and only when sufficient enzymes are present.

This does not mean plant-based omega-3 fats are intrinsically harmful or that they should be avoided. Eating meat enriched with omega-3 is likely a healthier option than eating the typical grain-fed beef available in U.S. supermarkets.

In fact, one reason why I recommend choosing grass-fed beef over grain-fed beef is because it contains higher levels of omega-3 fats. The increased levels of omega-3 come from the cattle’s diet of grass, as 60 percent of the fat content of grass is ALA.

It’s important that the grass-fed beef you choose is really finished on grass, as opposed to being shipped to a feedlot and fattened on grain for the last few months.

Why?

Because as soon as cattle stop eating grass, they begin to lose the omega-3 stored in their tissues, which is why grain-fed beef typically has only 15-50 percent of the omega-3 that grass-fed beef has.

One reason why it’s so important to make sure your beef has higher levels of omega-3 has to do with your ratio of this fat and another called omega-6.

While most people are seriously lacking in omega-3, they are overdoing omega-6, which is found primarily in vegetable oils but also in grain-fed beef.

The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1. Today, though, our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 averages from 20:1 to 50:1!

Research shows that if your ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 exceeds 4:1, you’re at risk for more health problems. This is especially meaningful since grain-fed beef can have ratios that exceed 20:1, whereas grass-fed beef is down around 3:1.

That said, most people don’t eat beef every day, and even if you did an average serving of grass-fed beef would provide only around 88.5 mg of omega-3 fat, according to California State University’s College of Agriculture, which on its own is not very much.

How Else Can You Get Omega-3 Fat?

My favorite source of plant-based omega-3 fats are fresh organic flaxseeds. The key is to buy them organically and grind them fresh immediately before you use them. The fats are highly perishable so it is best to avoid pre-ground seeds or oil as the risk of oxidation of these fats is too high.

When it comes to choosing between animal-based omega-3 options, the primary options are fish, fish oil, cod liver oil or krill oil.

Fish gets crossed off the list right away because much of it is seriously contaminated with heavy metals like mercury and other pollutants. And I no longer recommend cod liver oil, meanwhile, because it can have problematic ratios of vitamins A and D.

That said, I still recommend fish oil in some cases, but I believe krill oil is an even better option for most people. Personally, I take two krill oil capsules every day, especially because of the fact that the omega-3 is attached to phospholipids that dramatically increase its absorption, especially into brain tissue.

What’s also important is that fish oil is weak in antioxidant content, whereas krill oil contains potent antioxidants.

This is a major drawback for fish oil, because as you increase your intake of omega-3 fats by consuming fish oil, you also increase your need for even more antioxidant protection. This happens because fish oil is quite perishable, and oxidation leads to the formation of those unhealthy free radicals. Therefore, antioxidants are required to ensure the fish oil doesn't oxidize and become rancid inside your body.

The antioxidant potency of krill oil is actually 48 times higher than fish oil, and krill oil also contains astaxanthin -- a unique marine-source flavonoid -- that creates a special bond with the EPA and DHA, which allows direct metabolism of the antioxidants, making them more bioavailable for you.

Additionally, your risk of getting any mercury contamination is virtually nonexistent since krill are so small they don’t have the chance to accumulate toxins like mercury, PCBs and dioxins before being harvested.

So by all means, do increase the amount of omega-3 fat in your diet. But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for an enriched animal feed to do it. You can take an animal-based omega-3 supplement right now, and doing so is one of the easiest ways to give your health a boost.


[+] Sources and References

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