From the January 2007 Idaho Observer:
What oils/fats are you consuming? Understanding essential fatty acids
by Ingri Cassel
Last month we talked about the importance of oxygenating our bodies as a key to health, specifically by inhaling hydrogen peroxide (H2O2 - 3%) through a nasal mist sprayer. However, even when our bodies have plenty of available oxygen, we may not be able to utilize that oxygen at the cellular level.
A body contains literally trillions of cells, each with an estimated 300 to 500 mitochondria (the little engines in cells that do the work). The cell walls must be in a condition that will allow respiration at the cellular level. Chemist and Nobel Prize Winner Otto Warburg found that cells having an intake of less than 65% of required oxygen for normal cell respiration will turn cancerous within hours. Believe it or not, a key component is the lack of healthy, oxygen-carrying fats in our diet, fats that can actually help transfer oxygen into the cells.
Due to our modern processed food supply being adulterated with transfats, hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats (oils), the cells are left in an oxygen-deficient state. Without the proper balance of healthy fats (known as essential fatty acids ó EFAs) in our diet, oxygen is no longer able to transfer through the outside cell wall. These chemically and heat-altered fats that have often been hydrogenated have also changed molecularly. These fat molecules are now so small they are able to pass through the walls of our arteries and form a plaque of low density lipoproteins (LDLs) often referred to as cholesterol. This buildup of plaque is one of the main causes of high blood pressure.
Mainstream medical sources repeatedly tell us that too much meat (saturated fats) can contribute to artherosclerosis and heart disease. What is not publicized is the contribution of hydrogenated fats (margarine) to artheriosclerosis and heart disease as well as such harmful fats such as canola and soybean oils. There continues to be much debate over what constitutes healthy fats and how to maximize on the intake and assimilation of EFAs. Our aim is to educate our readers regarding the importance of healthy fats in our diet to basic physiological functions in our body.
Fats as sources of energy
Fats are the most concentrated source of energy in our diets with each gram of fat supplying 9 calories versus each gram of protein or carbohydrate supplying only 4 calories to the body. Fats also act as carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K. The availability of calcium and other minerals to body tissues is dependent upon the absorption of vitamin D, and it is fats that convert carotene into vitamin A.
But not all fats are alike. It is the EFAs that must be obtained through the diet that are essential for proper brain and nervous system function, hormone balance, digestion, and the vital task of carrying oxygen into the cells.
What is an EFA?
In researching the importance of quality fats in the diet, I have found that new discoveries are ongoing as scientists probe deeper into exactly how the body responds to dietary sources of saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, unsaturated fats and polyunsaturated EFAs.
Pam Rotella has written an excellent article summarizing the importance of dietary sources of EFAs, the telltale signs of EFA deficiency, and a clear breakdown of terminology and dietary sources. Excerpts below are from Pam Rotellaís article, Healthy Fats Ė Essential Fatty Acids.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are necessary fats that humans cannot synthesize, and must be obtained through diet. EFAs are long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from linolenic, linoleic, and oleic acids.
There are two families of EFAs: Omega-3 and Omega-6. Omega-9 is necessary yet "non-essential" because the body can manufacture a modest amount on its own, provided essential EFAs are present. The number following "Omega" represents the position of the first double bond, counting from the terminal methyl group on the molecule. Omega-3 fatty acids are derived from Linolenic Acid, Omega-6 from Linoleic Acid, and Omega-9 from Oleic Acid.
How "essential" are they?
EFAs support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. The human body needs EFAs to manufacture and repair cell membranes, enabling the cells to obtain optimum nutrition and expel harmful waste products. A primary function of EFAs is the production of prostaglandins, which regulate body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility, conception, and play a role in immune function by regulating inflammation and encouraging the body to fight infection.
EFAs are also needed for proper growth in children, particularly for neural development and maturation of sensory systems, with male children having higher needs than females. Fetuses and breast-fed infants also require an adequate supply of EFAs through the motherís dietary intake.
EFA deficiency is common in the United States, particularly Omega-3 deficiency. An ideal intake ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is between 1:1 and 4:1, with most Americans only obtaining a ratio between 10:1 and 25:1. The minimum healthy intake for both linolenic (Omega-3) and linoleic (Omega-6) acid via diet, per adult per day, is 1.5 grams of each. Because high heat destroys linolenic acid, cooking in linolenic-rich oils or eating cooked linolenic-rich fish is unlikely to provide a sufficient amount.
EFA deficiency and Omega 6/3 imbalance is linked with serious health conditions such as heart attacks, cancer, insulin resistance, asthma, lupus, schizophrenia, depression, postpartum depression, accelerated aging, stroke, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, ADHD, and Alzheimerís Disease.
Omega-3 (Linolenic Acid)
Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) is the principal Omega-3 fatty acid, which a healthy human will convert into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and later into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and the GLA synthesized from linoleic (Omega-6) acid are later converted into hormone-like compounds known as eicosanoids, which aid in many bodily functions including vital organ function and intracellular activity.
Omega-3s are used in the formation of cell walls, making them supple and flexible, and improving circulation and oxygen uptake with proper red blood cell flexibility and function.
Omega-3 deficiencies are linked to decreased memory and mental abilities, tingling sensation of the nerves, poor vision, increased tendency to form blood clots, diminished immune function, increased triglycerides and "bad" cholesterol (LDL) levels, impaired membrane function, hypertension, irregular heart beat, learning disorders, menopausal discomfort, itchiness on the front of the lower leg(s) and growth retardation in infants, children, and pregnant women.
Dietary sources of Omega-3
Flaxseed oil (flaxseed oil has the highest linolenic content of any food), flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, hempseed oil, hempseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, avocados, some dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, purslane, mustard greens, collards, etc.), wheat germ oil, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, albacore tuna, and other fish are sources of Omega-3 oils.
One tablespoon per day of flaxseed oil should provide the recommended daily adult portion of linolenic acid, although "time-released" effects of consuming nuts and other linolenic-rich foods is being studied, and considered more beneficial than a once-daily oil intake.
Flaxseed oil used for dietary supplementation should be kept in the refrigerator or freezer, and purchased from a supplier who refrigerates the liquid as well.
Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid)
Linoleic Acid is the primary Omega-6 fatty acid. A healthy human with good nutrition will convert linoleic acid into gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which will later be synthesized, with EPA from the Omega-3 group, into eicosanoids.
Some Omega-6s improve diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, skin disorders (e.g. psoriasis and eczema), and aid in cancer treatment.
Although most Americans obtain an excess of linoleic acid, often it is not converted to GLA because of metabolic problems caused by diets rich in sugar, alcohol, or trans fats from processed foods, as well as smoking, pollution, stress, aging, viral infections, and other illnesses such as diabetes. It is best to eliminate these factors when possible, but some prefer to supplement with GLA-rich foods such as borage oil, black currant seed oil, or evening primrose oil.
Dietary sources of Omega-6
Flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, hempseed oil, hempseeds, grapeseed oil, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds (raw), olive oil, olives, borage oil, evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil, and chestnut oil are all sources of Omega-6 oils (there are many other sources as well).
Avoid refined and hydrogenated versions of these oils.
Corn, safflower and sunflower oils are also sources of linoleic acid, but are usually refined and may be nutrient-deficient as sold in stores.
Omega-9 (Oleic Acid)
Essential but technically not an EFA because the human body can manufacture a limited amount, provided the other EFAs are present in sufficient quantity.
Monounsaturated oleic acid lowers heart attack risk and arteriosclerosis, and aids in cancer prevention.
Dietary sources of Omega-9
Olive oil (extra virgin or virgin), olives, avocados, almonds, peanuts, sesame oil, pecans, pistachio nuts, cashews, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts contain Omega-9.
One to two tablespoons of extra virgin or virgin olive oil per day should provide sufficient oleic acid for adults. However, like Omega-3 oils, the "time-released" effects of obtaining these nutrients from nuts and other whole foods is thought to be more beneficial than consuming the entire daily amount via a single oil dose.
High heat, light, and oxygen destroy EFAs, so when consuming foods for their EFA content, try to avoid cooked or heated forms. For example, raw nuts are a better source than roasted nuts. Donít use flaxseed oil for cooking, and never re-use any type of oil.
Replace hydrogenated fats (like margarine) and poly-saturated fats (common cooking oils) with healthy EFA-based fats when possible. For example, instead of margarine or butter on your warm (not hot) vegetables, use flaxseed and/or extra virgin olive oils with salt. If an oil is needed for cooking, try cold-pressed coconut oil. (Afterall, margarine is just hydrogenated oil with salt.)
Sprinkling flaxseed meal on vegetables adds a slightly nutty taste. Whole flaxseeds are usually passed through the intestine, absorbing water only and not yielding much oil. Also, itís best not to use huge amounts of flaxseed in its meal (ground seed) form, as it contains phytoestrogens. The oil is much lower in phytoestrogens.
In many recipes calling for vegetable shortening, replacing the shortening with half as much virgin olive oil, and a very small pinch of extra salt, often yields similar results.
Adding flaxseed and/or virgin olive oil to salads instead of supermarket salad oil is another healthy change. Replace oily snack foods, like potato chips and corn chips, with nuts and seeds.
Cholesterol is a produced in the body and is a normal component of most body tissues, especially those of the brain and nervous system, liver and blood. It is necessary to form sex and adrenal hormones, vitamin D, and bile which is needed for the digestion of fats.
However, there appears to be two kinds of cholesterol: Low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). The type of cholesterol that the body forms as plaque on arterial walls is from LDL and is associated with high blood pressure. By consuming plenty of healthy fats, HDL is formed that literally grabs onto the LDL or "bad" cholesterol and transports it to the liver. However, it must be remembered that the microscopic lesions in the walls of our arteries form as a result of a deficiency in ascorbates and that the LDL "patches" on the arterial wall are formed to keep us from literally bleeding to death. Therefore we must take steps to change our lifestyle eating habits so our miraculous body can incorporate the nutrients from living foods into vitally healthy cell structure while eliminating unhealthy cell structures such as cancerous cells.
After researching this topic for the last two weeks, I have found that the best information out there on good and bad fats is in the book by Udo Erasmus, Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill. It is in its 14th printing and is considered the Bible on fats and oils by many nutritionists and researchers. Greg Ciola, publisher of The Crusador, arguably the most cutting-edge health news publications available, ran an excellent interview with Erasmus in 2004 that is now posted on his website at www.healthtruthrevealed.com under "blogs". If you do not have access to the Internet, send $5 to The Idaho Observer and we will be happy to send you the article.
It also appears that Dr. John R. Christopher, Ann Wigmore, Herbert Shelton and countless other raw foodists and natural hygienists are right once again. There simply is no substitute for soaking our grains, nuts and seeds overnight and, with grains, low-heat cooking them. Nuts and seeds are delicious to eat "as is" after soaking in water overnight, and can be processed into nut/seed "milks" or incorporated into creative dishes. The raw food and juice fasting movement is growing since it is the least expensive and most natural way to heal modern-day plagues and, by extension, our planet.
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