Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Omega fatty acids

First off, I tried to come up with a better title! Something witty, smart, with a pun, but then I remembered that it's 5:30 I got dinner on the go and there is big box of apricots that either I will deal with or the fruit flies will. So I got stuff to get done and therefore you will just have to put up with a boring title today.
About six months ago, all I knew about omega fatty acids was that they put the number 3 ones in some eggs and it was implied that this was a good thing! I have since learned a bit more about them and I have come to two conclusions about this topic: 1. It is worth knowing about and 2. It's not all that complicated.
So if you want the skinny on the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, READ ON!
The omegas are essential fatty acids, meaning the body can't make them and we need them. There are omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids and I'll focus on the 3s and 6s. Below is an image from the book Anticancer written by David Servan- Schreiber M.D., Ph.D. It gives you a good impression of the importance of the omega balance.

So omega-6s cause inflammation, coagulation and stimulation of cell growth. All bad news for healthy hearts, losing weight and not growing tumors. Omega-3s balance out these effects and since we need both of these essential fatty acids all is well if we keep the balance intact. In other words a 1 to 1 ratio of the two is perfect.
However, the average North American diet contains 20-30 times more omega-6s than omega-3s! And this is not just because of what we eat, it's also what is eaten by what we eat. Confused? Hang in there! A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that eggs from chickens that were fed a diet of corn, which is a universal practice today, contained twenty times more omega-6s than omega-3s. The same is true for cows, who are fed corn and soy vs. being grass fed, their milk and all subsequent milk products are high in omega-6s and of course their meat is as well. However, if cows are fed a diet that is supplemented with flaxseeds then their milk becomes balanced in terms of omega-3s and Omega-6s. So as it turns out, "what goes around comes around" applies to how we treat our food!
Ok, I think this topic might be suitable for a bit of a mini series. So stay tuned for some more info on this tomorrow. Don't worry I'll give lots of tips to help you get a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!

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