Major Trouble Ahead If You Don't Fix Omega-3 Fat Deficiency
January 12, 2012
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By Dr. Mercola
An article in the British Journal of Nutrition reports the results of an extensive search of the available scientific literature regarding the role of omega-6 fats, omega-3 fats, and trans fats in the diet.
They found that for both non-fatal myocardial infarction and death from heart disease, the risk reduction for a mixed diet of both omega-3 and omega-6 fats was 22 percent.
On the other hand, diets higher in omega-6 fats and lower in omega-3s resulted in a 13 percent increase in the risk.
According to the study:
"Risk... was significantly higher in [omega]-6 specific PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acid) diets compared to mixed... diets...
Advice to specifically increase [omega]-6 PUFA intake... is unlikely to provide the intended benefits, and may actually increase the risks of... death."
It is information like this that makes it all the more astonishing that the American Heart Association (AHA) is still recommending that you increase your intake of omega-6 fats.
The results of this study represent even more evidence that the AHA has drawn incorrect conclusions about omega-3 and omega-6 fats, and they are making potentially dangerous dietary recommendations, as a result.
How Could the AHA be So Confused about Omega-6 Fat?
In January 2009, the AHA published a "scientific advisory" in their scientific journal with the following conclusion:
"Aggregate data from randomized trials, case-control and cohort studies, and long-term animal feeding experiments indicate that the consumption of at least 5 percent to 10 percent of energy from omega-6 PUFAs reduces the risk of coronary heart disease relative to lower intakes. The data also suggest that higher intakes appear to be safe and may be even more beneficial (as part of a low–saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet).
In summary, the AHA supports an omega-6 PUFA intake of at least 5 to 10 percent of energy in the context of other AHA lifestyle and dietary recommendations. To reduce omega-6 PUFA intakes from their current levels would be more likely to increase than to decrease risk for coronary heart disease."
There are three serious problems with this recommendation.
This statement runs counter to a large body of research suggesting the converse—specifically, that reducing omega-6 fatty acids (and increasing omega-3) is beneficial for your heart. For example, the journal Nature Neuroscience published a study showing that increased levels of omega-6 contribute to confused behavior and Alzheimer's disease, stating that it appears to interfere with your brain's nerve cells and cause over-stimulation, and that lowering omega 6 levels can allow those cells to function normally.
A wide range of health problems have been linked to omega-3 fat deficiencies, including:
- Increased inflammation
- Depression and violence
- Weight gain and diabetes
- Allergies and eczema
- Memory problems and dyslexia
If you go to the omega-3 fat page on GreenMedInfo.com, you will see a list of scientific studies supporting the benefits of omega-3s for 255 different diseases, which is powerful proof of their reach.
The American Heart Association continues to completely ignore the nutritional science showing the stark differences between processed fats and unprocessed fats. If the fats you consume are coming from processed foods, you're not doing your health any favors, no matter WHAT your ratio omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is. PUFAs are very chemically unstable and prone to oxidation. Therefore, the type and form of fats you choose to consume are extremely important. The AHA never addresses this.
The AHA also neglects to mention that you should strictly avoid ALL genetically modified (GM) fat sources, which includes the vast majority of omega-6 oils used in processed foods (corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, margarine, shortening, etc.).
Two Dietary Oils, Two Sets of Benefits
You need both types of fat in your diet—omega-3 AND omega-6. It isn't that one is "good" and the other is "bad." Both perform distinct biological functions and offer their own unique health benefits. (For a complete discussion of the differences between types of dietary fat, omega-3 versus omega-6, DHA, EPA, PUFAs, etc., please refer to this comprehensive fatty acids overview.)
The major challenge is when you have excessive amounts of either one of them. Most experts agree that the omega 6:3 ratio should range from 1:1 to 5:1. The sad reality is that it now ranges from 20 to 50:1 for most Americans. They are getting far too many omega-6 fats, this is especially pernicious as they are getting them in the form of highly processed vegetable oils that exclude most of the original nutrients. The processing also introduced aberrations like trans fats. The final insult is that most of these oils are genetically engineered, like soy, corn and canola that makes them loaded with dangerous antigens and herbicides like glyphosate.
You also need both plant-derived and animal-derived fats for optimal health.
Ninety percent of the money Americans currently spend on food is for processed foods, so this is obviously a real challenge for most Westerners today.
There is no question in my mind that you need to eliminate MUCH of the omega-6 fats in your diet, but the fats you need to eliminate are the processed fats that have been refined and heated and become useless—and even worse, potentially very harmful to your body. We should have about equal or twice as many omega-6 fats as omega-3 fats. This is still a relatively small amount of oil, amounting to about three grams or four 750 mg capsules per day, for a 150-pound adult. Regardless of the exact ratio, the most important point is that they come from the right sources.
The Best Food Sources of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats
The best way to improve your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is to eat the following types of high-quality foods:
- Unprocessed organic oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and avocado oil, and organic butter—or better yet, raw butter from grass-pastured cows. Raw milk is also a good source of highly bioavailable omegas.
- Raw nuts andseeds, such as fresh organic flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and English walnuts, which are also high in omega-3s (ALA).
- Meat from animals that are free ranging and/or grass fed, which are higher in beneficial omega-6s, such as natural CLA. If you have access to them, game meats such as venison are very high in beneficial fats. The article “Better Beef,” written by California rancher Dave Evans, gives a great in-depth view of the many benefits of grass-fed beef.
- Egg yolks from pastured hens are rich in beneficial omega-3s.
- Coconut oil, although not an omega-3 or omega-6 fat, is also an extremely beneficial dietary fat with an “embarrassment of riches” for your heart, metabolism, immune system, skin and thyroid. Coconut oil’s health benefits derive from its special MCFAs (medium-chain fatty acids).
Your BEST Source of Animal-Based Omega-3s
In a perfect world, you'd get all of the animal-based omega-3s you need from eating fish and seafood, the animal products richest in omega-3 (EPA and DHA). But the sad reality is that industrial pollution has contaminated most of the world's fish and seafood with a variety of dangerous toxins like mercury and PCBs. The one exception is krill oil, my favorite omega-3 fat supplement. Krill does not generally have this contamination.
I take krill oil every day because I believe it's the best omega-3 source for the following four reasons:
- Highest Bioavailability: The omega-3 in krill oil is bound in a phospholipid structure, making it far more bioavailable than fish oil. In fact, nearly 100 percent of the DHA and EPA in krill oil are immediately available to your body.
- Highest Stability: Unlike ordinary fish oil, krill oil naturally contains the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin, which prevents the perishable DHA and EPA from oxidizing and going rancid.
- Highest Sustainability: Krill is the largest biomass in the world, and krill harvesting is one of the best regulated on the planet, with strict catch regulations that are reviewed regularly to ensure sustainability.
- Greatest Potency: Krill oil works at a much lower dose than fish oil. Because krill oil is so potent and used so efficiently by your body, you may only need one 500 mg capsule per day.
For more in-depth information about the advantages of krill oil over fish oil, please see my interview with industry expert Dr. Rudi Moerck.
Sources for High-Quality Grass-Fed Beef
Dave Evans suggests the following ranchers as good sources for high quality grass-fed beef:
Fats to Avoid!
The following are the primary sources of highly processed, highly refined and highly oxidized oils used in processed foods:
- Corn oil
- Canola oil
- Soy oil
- Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats
- Margarine and shortening
Just look at the labels on the foods and condiments you buy and you'll see just how common these oils are. It's very difficult to find any kind of processed or prepackaged food that does not contain one of them. I strongly recommend you avoid ALL of these,as they will only deteriorate your health.
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