The Oils In Your Cabinets May Be Killing You
By: Jayson Hunter RD, CSCS
Many of us know about about the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids and EPA and DHA. Thousands of scientific studies have shown us the multiple ways Omega 3 fatty acids benefit us not only in our cardiovascular health, but improving our metabolism, boosting our immune system, and reducing the risk of certain diseases.
What research also shows us is that we don’t get nearly enough Omega 3 fatty acids in our diets. Food manufacturers tend to remove this from food because Omega 3 fats are susceptible to spoiling, and they want to keep their foods fresh for as long as possible.
We also don’t consume enough foods that contain high amounts Omega 3 fats, such as cold water fish or wild game. Other sources of Omega 3 fats are flaxseed and flaxseed oil, chia seed, walnuts, and almonds.
What we do consume plenty of, and many researchers say too much of, is Omega 6 fatty acids which is another essential fatty acid. Many estimates say we consume more than 30 times more Omega 6 fats than Omega 3 fats. The reason being is that they are in so many common vegetable oils we use in our everyday consumption of food. Some common oils are corn, safflower, and sunflower oils. These oils are packed full of Omega 6 fats.
Consuming large quantities of Omega 6 fats, scientists believe, may trigger inflammation, sensitivity to pain, and thickening of the blood.
Prolonged inflammation, otherwise known as chronic inflammation, can lead to a dramatic shift in the type of cells that are present at the site of the inflammation. This also causes a destruction of the tissue, as well as the body trying to heal the tissue at the same time.
There are a lot of different proteins that are involved in the inflammation process and any one of them is susceptible to genetic mutation, which can impair the normal function of that protein.
This may lead to one of many chronic inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and many others.
It is the many changes in our diet over the last 30 years that have resulted in a dramatic increase in the ratio between Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Scientists believe that it is this increase that has led to an overall increase in whole body inflammation, which causes a higher incidence in diseases such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, allergies, diabetes, and may even impact inflammatory gene expression.
To test this theory and suspicions, researchers fed 27 healthy humans a controlled diet mimicking the omega 6 and omega 3 ratios of early humans for 5 weeks. What they found was that many of the key signaling genes that caused inflammation were significantly reduced when compared to their number in humans that were fed our normal 21st century diet.
These results suggest that by reducing the amount of omega 6 fats and increasing the amount of omega 3 fats in our diet, we may be able to reduce our incidence of inflammatory diseases.
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Weaver KL, Ivester P, Seeds M, et al. Effect of Dietary Fatty Acids on Inflammatory Gene Expression in Healthy Humans. J Biol Chem. 2009;284(23):15400-7.