Essential Fatty Acids & The omegas
I remember drinking whole milk and using real butter when I was young. While Mom rarely fried our food, she did use natural butter and oils. Sometime in the 70's, we started hearing on the media that the 'experts' decided that whole milk, lard, and real butter were bad for the heart, and that hydrogenated fats like margarine would make us all healthier. In the 90's, suddenly all fats were bad for us -- coconut oil became enemy # 1 and movie theaters stopped using it to make their popcorn. In the last 10 years or so, milk has become the new enemy. To this day, even our doctors will tell us to cut out the fats from our diets and stop drinking real milk. Just last week, my doctor told me to switch to soy or almond "milk". Sadly, those recommendations were, and are, seriously flawed and have caused a great many more health issues for millions of people. Many people and many doctors are unaware that scientists now recognize that we need saturated, unsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats in our diets. Today, we'll learn about the two Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) found in these fats that we MUST consume because our bodies don't make them and discuss the importance of their Omega classifications.
The two Essential Fatty Acids are Linoleic Acid (LA) and Alpha-Linolenic Acid (referred to as ALA or LNA). They are called essential because we have to ingest them in order to survive. The cells in our bodies consist of 60% fat for brain cells and 50% fat for all other cells. So fats are some of the nutrients needed to keep every cell healthy. Other Fatty Acids can be made by our bodies when we eat the proper foods, but LA and LNA are not made by our bodies, and must be eaten to help produce metabolic compounds that are required to get nutrients to all of our cells. These two EFAs are polyunsaturated, have polar opposite functions in the body, and need to be balanced!
Linoleic Acid is found in meats, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils. Grape-seed, Corn, Evening Primrose, Sunflower, Safflower, and Soybean oils are all high in LA. In the oils, LA is more stable (takes longer before spoiling) than LNA, so companies making processed foods (like chips) prefer to use oils with a higher LA content. This is important because LA is a pro-inflammatory, Omega 6 fatty acid. If you read my last several blogs, you know that we need inflammation - it's the way the body protects and heals itself, and that the inflammation process includes swelling and resolution of swelling. Internally, Linoleic Acid promotes the inflammation portion of the inflammatory process -- it supports the metabolic processes that cause inflammation in response to a threat, injury, or invasion. Topically, LA supports the barrier function of our skin -- it keeps harmful invaders out. Yet, it also supports the passage function -- it absorbs easily and brings nutrients and moisture deep into the layers of the skin. LA helps keep our skin healthy and moisturized.
Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)(LNA) is found in sardines, mackerel, fish oils, wild salmon, navy beans, hemp seeds, edamame, flax seeds, whole wheat, walnuts, avocados, chia seeds, perilla, oatmeal, etc. Oils high in LNA include Flax, Chia Seed, Kiwi, Perilla, Sea Buckthorn, Sacha inchi, Camelina, Rosehip Seed, Kukui Nut, Blueberry, Cranberry, Red Raspberry, Hemp Seed, Blackberry, and Walnut. LNA is not as stable as LA, so products made with a high percentage of LNA will spoil more quickly. LNA is an anti-inflammatory, Omega 3 Fatty Acid. It promotes the reduction of inflammation by supporting the metabolic processes that resolve inflammation once the affected body part is healed. Internally, LNA supports circulation, heart health, eye health, and blood pressure, and is useful in the prevention of obesity, arterial, rheumatic, and autoimmune illnesses. In infants and children, it helps with brain and eye development. Current studies are showing the possibility that when properly combined with Linoleic Acid, LNA could lower the incidence of respiratory infections in children. Topically, LNA is essential to maintain skin health. Its anti-inflammatory properties can ameliorate irritation, redness, and itchiness. It can reduce inflammation in the skin cells, repair those cells, and help them regenerate. It moisturizes the skin and improves the skin barrier. With the proper amount of LNA, skin will look better and feel smoother.
You may have noticed the mention of Omega 6 and Omega 3 Fatty Acids during the discussion of LA and LNA.
Huh? Omegas? What are you talking about?
I'm so glad you asked!
I'm talking about a chemistry thing with fixed (or carrier) oils. It involves the location of the first double bond in the fatty acid molecule. I know, TMI, right? Well, yes and no. This is essential chemistry for those of us who are formulating products for others. For the purposes of this blog, I won't go into the chemistry, rather, I'll talk about two (of several) Omegas we need to watch for when we use fixed oils. You already know I'm talking about Omegas 3 and 6, and that the key Fatty Acids that have these designations are LNA and LA.
Omega 6 FAs are pro-inflammatory while Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory,
Just as too much Omega 6 can cause cause chronic inflammation and lead to a variety of inflammatory-based diseases (i.e. Alzheimer's, Type 2 Diabetes, etc), too much Omega 3 may lead to higher levels of LDL cholesterol, impair the immune system and white blood cell function, and cause bleeding. Consequently, it's important to keep these two Fatty Acids balanced. Currently, 3 parts Omega 6 to 1 part Omega 3 is considered optimal.
Yes, a 3 to 1 ratio is correct. (I've seen other blogs erroneously say differently, but checked with my course professors to verify the correct ratio.) At most, a
5 to 1 ratio is considered to be within acceptable levels. In the west, the average person typically ingests a 16 to 1 (or higher) ratio. Is it any wonder the incidence of Diabetes, Heart Disease, High Cholesterol, and a host of other inflammatory diseases have become so prevalent?
This is why nutritionists may recommend using Olive Oil or Canola Oil - they have that approximate 3 to 1 balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Peanut Oil, on the other hand, has about 33% Omega 6 but no Omega 3. It may add great flavor to food, but needs a counterbalance (i.e. salmon) that is rich in Omega-3 FAs. Hemp Seed Oil also has the "perfect balance" of Omega 6 to Omega 3, but it can't tolerate heat. So Hemp Seed Oil is good for oil and vinegar dressings, and it's great to use topically.
Is it possible to have too little Omega-3 in our bodies?
What happens if we don't have enough Omega-3? Are there signs or symptoms?
Difficulties with vision, feeling weak, leg pain and/or difficulties walking, high cholesterol, lots of inflammation, and skin that feels scaly are all caused by, and may be symptoms of, a deficiency in Omega-3 Alpha-Linolenic Acid.
The final take away from this is to educate yourself on what your body truly needs nutritionally. It may take some time to find the information you need, but you'll feel better and be healthier in the long run.
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https://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/04/us-omega-6-and-omega-3-fat-consumption.html, Accessed May 28, 2019
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