To understand how fats affect health, we must
begin by realizing that there are two opposite stories about fats.
There are fats that kill, which we should avoid. And there are fats
that heal that we must obtain from our food.
Much has been said about the fats that kill.
They are associated with deaths from cardiovascular disease (43%),
cancer (23%), diabetes (2%), and other degenerative diseases that
kill 68% of Western populations. Only a 100 years ago, this was
rare indicating that these deaths are from diseases of lifestyle,
The problem with our focus on the killer fats
is that it is an inadequate focus. If we were to remove all bad
fats from our diet, and do it perfectly (100%) we would still die
if we did not bring in and optimize the fats that heal. This is
because we cannot live without the fats that heal, and removing
the bad fats makes no guarantee of obtaining the good ones.
The story of the fats that heal, the good
fats, the essential fatty acids is therefore the more interesting
and important story by far. To bring the neglected good fats into
our diet, we must identify their sources, their functions, and the
signs of their deficiency.
Certain fats are defined as 'essential' because:
- The body cannot make them;
- They are required for normal cell, tissue, gland, and organ
function, for health, and for life;
- They must be provided from outside the body, through food
- They can come only from fats (hence fat-free diets cannot
- Their absence from the diet will eventually kill;
- Deficiency results in progressive deterioration, can lead
- Return of essential fatty acids to a deficient diet reverses
the symptoms of deficiency and results in a return to health.
According to the above definition of essential,
there are only two essential fats (technically called essential
fatty acids or EFAs). One is the omega 3 (omega-3) EFA, called alpha-linolenic
acid. The other, the omega 6 (omega-6) EFA, is known as
The body converts the omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs into
several omega-3 and omega-6 derivatives with important functions
in the body. The best known derivatives of omega-3 are EPA and DHA,
which are made by the body and are also found in high fat, cold
water fish. DHA is the major brain omega-3. Derivatives of omega-6 include
GLA (found in evening primrose oil), DGLA (found in mother's milk),
and AA (found in meat, eggs, and dairy products, as well as in fish).
AA is the major brain omega-6.
From the omega-3 derivative called EPA, the body
makes hormone-like series 3 eicosanoids, and from
two omega-6 derivatives called DGLA and AA, the body makes hormone-like
series 1 and series 2 eicosanoids, respectively. Eicosanoids
regulate many functions in all tissues on a moment-to-moment basis,
from conception until death. A more comprehensive look at EFAs,
derivatives, and eicosanoids is found on page 20 of Fats That
Heal Fats That Kill.
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Most of the health problems usually blamed on fats should
be blamed on the destructive processing of fats, normally
used to obtain longer shelf life and greater convenience
for manufacturers and consumers.
EFAs are sensitive to destruction by light, air (oxygen),
and heat. These three destructive influences produce
molecules that have been changed from natural and healthy
to unnatural and toxic.
Light produces thousands of free radicals in oils, and
leads to random changes in oil molecules. Exposure of
oil to air or oxygen produces oxidation and rancidity
with its unpleasant odor. Heat speeds the damage done
by light and oxygen, and at high temperatures, does it
own unique kinds of damage.
Because of their sensitivity, EFAs need to
be pressed, filtered, packaged, stored and used with care. They
need protection from light, air, and heat. If this protection is
not given, EFAs and the oils containing them cannot retain the health
benefits that they confer when treated with care.
EFA-rich oils should be made with health in
mind, rather than for long shelf life. When this care is not taken,
oils and EFAs are damaged, and then they damage our health.
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Essential fatty acids have many functions throughout the
body. They are involved in:
Energy production. In a
study with athletes in Denmark, we showed that within one month
of giving athletes one tablespoon per 50 pounds of body weight
per day of an oil blend with an omega-3: omega-6 ratio of 2:1, stamina
increased by up to 40 or even 60%. Athletes could exercise longer
before reaching exhaustion, recovered more quickly from fatigue,
could exercise more often without over-training, healed quicker
from injuries, built muscle faster, and had less joint pain.
Energy improvement is also seen in non-athletes
and older people. The EFA blend also improves mental stamina.
- Brain Function. In our
work with the blended oil, we have seen consistent improvements
in brain function, and research with EFAs from other sources
has also shown brain benefits. Among these are elevated mood,
lifted depression, increased calmness, better handling of stress,
less hyperactivity, better focus, better mental processing,
faster learning, increased intelligence, better concentration,
and improved motor coordination.
Among the mentally ill, EFAs can decrease
hallucinations in schizophrenics, elevate mood, lift depression,
improve symptoms in bipolar and obsessive-compulsive disorder,
and improve brain function in Alzheimer's disease and autism.
EFAs are also required for vision.
- Skin, Hair, and Nails.
EFAs are required for healthy skin and hair, and are required
for normal nail growth. They moisturize skin and prevent dryness.
omega-3 EFAs lower cancer risk.
- Cardiovascular Disease (CVD).
omega-3 can decrease most CVD risk factors, including high triglycerides
(blood fats), blood pressure, platelet stickiness, fibrinogen,
and lipoprotein(a). Omega-3 also keep the inside of our arteries
smooth. Omega-3 and omega-6 keep the heart beat regular.
EFAs are required for insulin function. Omega-3 make diabetics
- Weight Management. Omega-6 slightly and omega-3 more effectively help reduce fat production
in the body. They also increase fat burning and heat production
in the body, and shift the body from burning glucose to burning
fats. Saturated, monounsaturated, and trans- fatty acids do
not help to manage weight. Sugar triggers increased fat production
in the body. Starch can also lead to overweight.
EFAs improve gut integrity, decrease gut inflammation, and
decrease 'leaky gut' that can lead to allergies.
EFAs reduce symptoms of allergies. They work best if digestive
enzymes rich in protein-digesting protease are also used.
omega-3 reduce inflammation. Digestive enzymes are also helpful.
- Autoimmune Conditions.
omega-3 dampen the over-response of the immune system in autoimmune
conditions. Again, enzymes are also helpful.
EFAs speed the healing of injuries.
- Bone Minerals.
omega-3 improve bone mineral retention, thereby inhibiting the development
EFAs, by optimizing serotonin production, improve response
to stress. People report feeling calmer, getting stressed
less easily, dealing with stressful situations more calmly,
and losing their temper less often.
EFAs improve sleep in some people.
EFAs improve hormone functions. Hormone levels may decrease,
yet the effects of hormones remain normal. EFAs thereby ease
the work load of glands.
EFAs are required for liver and kidney function.
EFAs are required for sperm formation, the female cycle, and
The short answer is: Every part of the body
gradually deteriorates and falls apart. No cell, tissue, gland,
or organ can function normally without them. Here is a longer list:
- Dry skin
- Low energy levels
- Brittle hair and hair loss
- Poor nail growth
- Deterioration of liver and kidneys
- Behavioral changes due to brain
- Glands dry up
- Immune system deteriorates,
resulting in more infections, poorer wound healing,
and increased cancer
- Digestion problems, inflammation,
bloating, allergies, autoimmune conditions
- Bone mineral loss
- Reproductive failure: sterility
in males and miscarriage in females
- Retarded growth of children
- Tingling in arms and legs due
to nerve deterioration
- Vision and learning problems
- Insulin resistance
- Increased risk of overweight
- Increased cancer risk
- Increased cardiovascular risk
- Decreased ability to cope with
- In mental illness, increased
- Decreased lung function
- Decreased tissue oxidation
Essential fatty acids are distributed through the same vehicles that carry
cholesterol throughout the body. They are found in chylomicrons,
VLDL, LDL, IDL, HDL and the other carriers. In fact, a molecule
of essential fat has to be hitched to a molecule of cholesterol
to transport cholesterol in these vehicles.
Fat is carried in a watery system (our blood stream) by adding
lecithin. Lecithin allows oil and water, which normally don't mix,
to mix quite readily. This is because one end of the lecithin molecule
is water-soluble while the other is oil-soluble. It therefore forms
an interface between water and oil.
Proteins and minerals are also involved as carriers in the transport
of fatty acids throughout the body.
When you get more than 12-15% of total calories as omega-3s, there
is a fat "burn-off" based on increased metabolic rate.
Other than exceeding liver capacity and getting nauseous, or not
sleeping because of too much energy because you took it too close
to bedtime, it doesn't appear so.