Ω Omega: The Great Oil
Weighing the Evidence on Fat in Human Nutrition
Oils that contain Essential Fatty Acids (Omega Fatty Acids) are required, together with other nutrients, to prevent and reverse so-called “incurable” degenerative diseases: heart disease, cancer, and Type II diabetes. The word “omega” literally means “great O” (ō mega, mega meaning ‘great’), as opposed to Omicron, which means “little O” (o mikron, micron meaning “little”). Oils that contain Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) also help reverse arthritis, obesity, PMS, allergies, asthma, skin conditions, fatigue, yeast and fungal infections, addictions, certain types of mental illness, improves insulin sensitivity, lowers inflammation in patients with Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, decreases the risk for cardiovascular events and reduces mortality. Omega-3 fats also appear to decrease the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and many other conditions.
The word “Essential” is used in nutrition as meaning something our body can not produce, and must get from an outside source through diet and supplementation. The EFAs are two of the more important essential elements along with protein, as protein and the EFAs work synergistically with each other. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) like Omega-3 Alpha Linoleic Acid (LNA) and Omega-6 Linoleic Acid (LA) are the building blocks of our health.
EFAs are involved with producing energy in our bodies from food and moving that energy throughout our body. They regulate growth, vitality, and mental health. EFAs are also important in oxygen transfer, hemoglobin production and controls nutrient flow through cell membranes. They shorten recovery time from fatigue and also prevents damage from hard fats. EFAs play a part in almost every function of our body.
You should have a clear, sensible approach to fat consumption in a healthy diet by following these simple guidelines:
- A good balanced diet should contain a ratio of 1:2 between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (1 part omega-3 for every 2 parts of omega-6).
All Fats Are Not Equal
A lot has been said about fats, much of it confusing, some of it misleading. According to researchers, only some fats are bad for you: hydrogenated fats and trans fatty acids, or trans fats. But other fats are good for you, and this is the case with saturated fats and unsaturated fats. These healthy fats come mainly from vegetable and fish products. Unsaturated fats are liquid, not solid. There are two types of unsaturated fats: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.
There are about 24 different saturated fats. Not all saturated fatty acids are created equal. There are differences that have serious health implications. If you avoid eating all saturated fats you will suffer serious health consequences. A misguided fallacy that persists to this day is the belief that saturated fat will increase your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Even though they do raise total cholesterol, since they raise “good” cholesterol as much or more than “bad” cholesterol, you’re still actually lowering your risk of heart disease. Yes, saturated fats can decrease your chances for disease, not increase it. This is just another myth that has been harming people’s’ health for the last few decades. The truth is, saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in your diet, and they provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones. They are necessary nutrients. When you eat saturated fats with a meal, they slow down absorption so that you feel full for a longer time. In addition, they act as carriers for vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are also needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, and for a host of other biological processes. As with everything else, moderation is key.
Hydrogenation is a way of making vegetable oil harden at room temperature. Small particles of nickel or copper are added and the mix is heated to very high temperatures under pressure for up to eight hours while hydrogen gas is injected. This process destroys the essential fatty acids in the oil and replaces them with deformed trans fatty acids. These trans fats formed by hydrogenation are unnatural and as a result the human body is not well-equipped to deal with them. They also compete with essential fatty acids for absorption in the body. This blocks or delays the work of the essential fatty acids, creating deficiencies and imbalance throughout the metabolism, including fatty deposits in the arteries.
Trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, occur naturally in meat but their main dietary source is packaged baked products such as cookies, cakes, breads, and crackers, as well as fast foods and some dairy products. Trans fats were artificially created in the laboratory to provide cheap alternatives to butter. Food chemists found that they could solidify vegetable oil by heating it in the presence of hydrogen. As a result, the structure of polyunsaturated fat (a good fat) becomes more like saturated fat. Thus, solid vegetable fats such as shortening and margarine came into being. Today, trans fats are found not only in solid foods such as these, but also in foods that contain “partially hydrogenated oil.” There is no safe level of trans fats.
Here are some tips on choosing oils for consumption:
- Use only cold pressed nonrefined oils, keep refrigerated, away from heat, and minimize exposure to the light or air.
- No margarine. Margarine is made from hydrogenated fats and refined oils, which is why it is hard.
- No Hydrogenated Fats. HF is made from trans fatty acids.
- No Oils from Typical Supermarkets, they are mostly heated and refined, which means that the EFAs are removed. A transparent bottle means that the oil will not be harmed by light, and that mean that oil does not have EFAs since EFAs are affected by light. If the oil is kept unrefrigerated, that means that the oil does not have EFAs.
- The most dangerous fats are typically found in margarine, shortenings, and heated oils.
The bottom line is that “good fats” are an integral part of heart-healthy diets, especially when they replace hydrogenated and trans fats in our diets. These healthy fats are also a good swap for some of the carbohydrates we eat. The saturated fat found mainly in meat and dairy products has been regularly vilified by physicians and the media, but a new analysis of published studies finds no clear link between people’s intake of saturated fat and their risk of developing heart disease. A number of studies have linked the so-called Western diet to greater heart disease risks; that diet pattern is defined as one high in red meats and saturated fats — but it is also high in hydrogenated and trans fats, refined sugar and other refined carbohydrates like white bread. It’s time to shift the blame to where it belongs: Cheap, synthetic replacements for the natural foods mother nature provides for us.