Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Omega-3 : Friend or Foe?

Omega-3s : What Are They?

It seems like everybody these days is telling you that you need to get omega-3 fats in your diet.
What are they? And is it true?

Now, I must confess that I have always been a little reluctant about recommending omega-3 supplements. It just didn't make sense to me that this stuff that is found only in very small quantities in the diets of people living long healthy lives, should be so important for us to make sure we get plenty of.

It has also bothered me that people are being encouraged to consume large amounts for omega-3 fats, because they are polyunsaturated oils, and therefore detrimental to the human body in large quantities.

So, I decided to do more research to find out just how much of these fats we really need, and what are they good for.

Well, omega-3 fats are fatty acids that have in common a final carbon–carbon double bond in the n−3 position; that is, the third bond from the methyl end of the fatty acid.

The omega-3 fatty acids talked about for nutrition are ALA, EPA, and DHA.

ALA is the important one, because the body can use it to create the other two, if it needs them. They are basically involved in inflammatory response mechanisms in the body.

It turns out that these fats are NOT essential. The body can make them if it needs them from other sources. It also turns out that these fats are not needed very much, or in very large amounts. Also we can get plenty of them from eating normal food. Green leafy veggies are a great source.

So what about the research that is encouraging people eat lots of these?

Well, it stems from research done on Inuits in Alaska. It was discovered that these Eskimos, who ate large amounts of fat, were safer from heart disease than many other people.

The researches, knowing that saturated fats were bad for your heart, decided that it had to be the omega-3 fats that were helping them. They didn't know that the research that shows that saturated fats are bad for you was just as bad, or worse, than their own research.

Further studies have been done on omega-3 fats, and the results have been very confusing. Some show improvement, some show decline. It is now almost unanimous that large amounts of omega-3 fats should not be given to cardiac patients. But most doctors will still tell heart patients that they should take some omega-3 fats.

So, I decided that I would look a little deeper.

It turns out that the studies that I could find that say that omega-3 fats are good for the body, in any way, are studies that did not use omega-3 fats exclusively. For instance they would combine a diet with omega-3 fats with vitamin and mineral supplements, and then give any or all credit of positive outcomes to the omega fats. Yet the studies were not designed to actually measure the goodness or badness of omega-3 fats.

Any study I could find that actually used omega-3 fats in a way that could detect the effects of their use, was either a negative outcome or a confusing outcome.

Next, I went to a biochemist that I trust to get his take on omega-3 fats. He insisted that nobody should take extra supplements of omega-3 fats. He went on to say that studies show omega-3 fats are particularly detrimental to mitochondria in the body. Here is a link to his research.

Mitochondria are the things that allow cells to be energized. It turns out that omega-3 fats are particularly detrimental to the lungs and the eyes.

Anyone with lung or eye problems should be extra careful to make sure that there are no omega-3s or any other polyunsaturated oils in there diets.

In fact I would recommend that everyone cut out any omega-3 supplements from their lifestyle. As far as I can see, they can only cause harm.

Fish oils are an important first thing to eliminate. Fish oils are usually already rancid before you take them, and if they are not, they go rancid as soon as they get into the body. They are so easily oxidized, that is just the way they are.

People encouraging the use of fish oils have been led down the wrong path by researchers who either didn't take the bother to think through their research projects, or were paid to achieve a particular outcome.

I recommend stopping all fish oil supplements of any kind.

This does not mean however that you need to cut out green leafy veggies from your diet. This is because in the green leafy form these fats are balanced out with many other nutrients that help the body to be balanced. Plus eating green leafy stuff makes sure that your body does have small amounts of these substances when it does need them for certain special purposes.

Remember that health in the human body, is all about balance. And the best way to find that balance is to eat a variety of fresh whole foods nature can use to keep the balance that only nature's God understands fully.

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