In his book, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, Udo Erasmus (udoerasmus.com) does a great job of making a dry technical subject more readable. This book is jammed with over 400 pages of great information. Some of the early parts of the book are very technical when he gets into the biochemistry of fats and oils. He believes it is necessary to have a basic grasp of these molecules to get a better understanding of why some fats are vital to your life and others are killers. I will try to keep our discussion simple and you can refer to the book if you are interested in all the molecular structures.
Fats That Heal
There are between 50-90 (depending on who you ask) nutrients that you need to consume in your diet every day to be healthy. These include 15 vitamins, 8-11 essential amino acids (more for infants and children), 2 essential fatty acids and the rest are minerals. The essential fatty acids (EFA's) are Alpha Linolenic Acid (LNA- an Omega 3) and Linoleic Acid (LA- an Omega 6).
The EFA's have numerous
functions in the body. They help with: energy production, oxygen transfer,
hemoglobin production, major component of cell membranes, recovery from exercise,
natural anti-inflammatory, growth enhancement, lower elevated blood fats and
blood pressure, keep body fats fluid, important in cellular division, virtually
all skin problems, enhances immune function, are natural anti-fungals, are
required for a child's brain development, reduces platelet stickiness, aids
in mineral absorption and increases overall vitality in your body. They also
are the building blocks for prostaglandins (PG). These are short-lived hormone-like
chemicals that regulate the cells. PG-1 and PG-3 create most of the positive
effects listed above. PG-2 create inflammation and promote clot formation.
LNA is usually the fatty acid that is deficient in our diets. We consume about 1/6 the amount of LNA today as we did in 1850 but about 2 times as much LA. Some of this has been due to the change in processing of the oils we use every day. LNA is very unstable and spoils quickly when exposed to light, heat or oxygen. Modern oil processing plants usually allows all three factors in the processing of oils. Since LNA spoils easily it makes the oil smell bad so it then gets deodorized. Oils are deodorized by chemicals similar to gasoline and heat, then processed to the point that there are no nutrients left in the oil. This gives them more of a shelf life because the oil is already dead.
*LNA's are found
in flax, hemp, chia, kukui, canola, walnut, soybean and dark green veggies.
Pumpkin seed oil contains from 0-15% of its oil as LNA.
*Stearidonic Acid (SDA) is formed from LNA by an enzymatic process. It is also found in black currant seeds.
*Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) are further down the metabolic chain from LNA. They can also be found in the oils of cold water fish and marine animals. Salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, eel, seal, polar bear, whale and Chinese water snake oil. Among land animals, brain, eyeballs, adrenal glands and testes have large deposits of EPA and DHA. Anyone for Rocky Mountain oysters?
*LA's are found in
safflower, sunflower, hemp, soybean, walnut, pumpkin, sesame and flax. The
"high oleic safflower or sunflower" seeds contain only small quantities
*Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is found in meat and whole milk. It cannot be manufactured in the body but is shown to reduce body fat, increase insulin sensitivity, promote muscle tone and bone density. Only grass fed cattle have the CLA in their meat and milk. Most cattle are instead raised on grains so CLA is missing in our diets but it can be added by food supplements.
*Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) is derived from LA by an enzymatic process. It is also found in borage, black currant seed and evening primrose oil.
*Dihomogamma-linolenic Acid (DGLA) is the next step on the metabolic chain from GLA and is found in mother's milk. PG1 prostaglandins are made from DGLA.
*Arachidonic acid (AA) is the next step and it is also found in meats and other animal products. It produces PG2, which causes inflammation. High levels of DGLA prevent the release of AA and suppress PG2.
PG production and the changes from the EFA's to the other oils on the chain require many of the essential vitamins and minerals we talked about earlier. The ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 in our diet is heavily in favor of the Omega 6's. The ratio should be 3:1 (Omega 6:Omega 3) or less. The optimal daily requirement is about 9 grams LA and 6 grams LNA. Oleic Acid (OA) is not an EFA because it is produced in our body. OA is found in large quantities in olive, almond, avocado, peanut, pecan, cashew, filbert and macadamia oils, land animal fats and butter. The usual source of OA is olive oil. Olive oil has very little of the EFA's but it has other healthy ingredients that help protect our arteries and lower our risk for heart disease. Virgin olive oil is the only mass produced oil that is not degummed, deodorized refined or processed. If it doesn't say "virgin" then it has been processed. If any other type of seed oil doesn't say "unrefined" then it has been refined and is worthless for your health. You should also only buy olive oil in dark bottles or cans so that the light hasn't started to degenerate it.
Are found in meats, butter, cocoa butter, coconut, peanuts, palm and palm kernel. These are also the best oils to use when frying since they are more stable. Though saturated fats get labeled as being "bad" it is only the longer fatty acid chains that cause problems. Also fats like butter and coconut oil are better for frying then oils. Sugar and low fiber carbohydrates like syrups and white flour are converted in the body to saturated fats. So if you are a vegetarian and a sugar-holic, junk food junkie, you are still getting tons of saturated fats. An excess of saturated fatty acids can crowd out EFA's from the enzyme system that dehydrogenates them and will cause an EFA deficiency. Saturated fats are vital to give our cell membranes structure and stability because they are solid at body temperature. Cholesterol is so important that our bodies make more each day than we could ever eat. It is used to make vital hormones like estrogen and testosterone and bile salts for digestion.
Fats That Kill
With the increase of hydrogenation in the 1930's, we can produce margarine and shortenings from cheap oils. Hydrogenation uses nickel and aluminum as a catalyst with hydrogen gas at a high temperature to turn the refined oils into completely or partially hydrogenated products. Some of these metals remain in the hydrogenated oils not to mention the pesticide residues from non-organic nuts and seeds. According to Dr. Erasmus, " Hydrogenation randomly attacks double bonds within oils. It destroys w3s (Omega 3's) very rapidly, and w6s (Omega 6) only slightly more slowly. It is impossible to control the chemical outcome of the process. We cannot predict the quantities of each different kind of altered substance that will be produced. We never know what any given batch of partially hydrogenated oil product contains...With the reduction of EFA's and the increase in altered trans-fatty acids in our diet, fatty degeneration (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.) has risen to epidemic proportions." Dr. Enig's research in 1978 showed that fat from meat showed a decrease in cancer risk and fat from vegetable sources, mostly altered oils, showed a significant increase in cancer risk and heart disease. These products are found in chocolate, candy, baked goods, margarine, vegetable spreads, salad dressings, soybean oil, shortenings and shortening oils.
So eat your flax, cold water fish, nuts, seeds, virgin olive oil, grass-fed or free range meat and butter. Stay away from the processed foods, margarine and partially hydrogenated oils if you want to get healthy and stay healthy!
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