Polyunsaturated Fats Contribute to Asthma
Breastfeeding Found to be Protective Also
Toddlers who consume large amounts of margarine and foods fried in vegetable oil may be twice as likely to develop asthma as their peers who eat less of these foods.
Diets high in polyunsaturated fat -- found in margarine, vegetable and sunflower oils -- boost levels of omega-6 fatty acids in relation to levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids contribute to the production of compounds involved in inflammation and may therefore contribute to inflammation of the airways. Omega-3 fatty acids -- found in fish inhibit inflammation.
The investigators also found that children who were breast-fed in the first weeks of life had a lower asthma risk. They note that previous studies have also linked breast-feeding with lower asthma risk, possibly because breast milk provides immune factors not present in formula.
The authors estimate that a high intake of polyunsaturated fat accounts for 17% of asthma cases in the study, and not breast-feeding can be blamed for 16% of cases.
Thorax August, 2001;56:589-595
DR. MERCOLA'S COMMENT:
Polyunsaturated fats, like omega 6s can clearly contribute to problems in most people as nearly everyone consumes far too many omega 6 fats in their diets. GLA would be an exception to the omega 6 rule, but generally most of us obtain far too many vegetable oils in our diet.
Omega 9 fats, like those found in olive oil, are far safer.
What are the alternatives?
You could eat fish but you will want to be careful here as most fish is so high in mercury that even the federal government advises pregnant women to avoid it as 60,000 kids every year have brain damage from mercury exposure because their moms were eating fish.
Inexpensive options would be cod liver oil. I like the Carlson brand as they have a lemon flavored variety that tastes quite good.
You could also consume grass fed beef as it is very high in omega threes, far safer than fish and about the same price. We should be making that available on the site next week. Grass fed beef also has CLA which is an enormously helpful fat.
As an aside, I suspect that a good portion of the adverse effects of the fats above is also related to the fact that heated omega six fats frequently are converted to trans fat. If you haven't read Dr. Enig's excellent article on Trans Fat below please do to find out why you want to avoid these products.
We Eat Far Too Many Polyunsaturated Fats in the US
By PM Kris-Etherton, Denise Shaffer Taylor, et. al.
Eearly 90% of the polyunsaturated fat is the omega-6 fat linoleic acid (LA). The omega-3 fat linolenic acid (ALA) contributes the majority of the rest of polyunsaturated fat in the diets of the adult population.
Americans consume 0.2 grams (200 mg) of EPA and DHA per day which is less than 2% of energy from polyunsaturated fat.
Sources of Omega-3 Fats in the US Diet
The predominant sources of omega-3 fats in the diet are vegetable oils and fish. Fish are the major source of EPA and DHA, whereas vegetable oils are the major source of ALA. Other sources include nuts and seeds, vegetables and some fruit, and egg yolk, poultry, and meat, all of which collectively contribute minor quantities of omega-3 fats to the diet.
Of the commonly consumed oils in the United States, soybean and canola oil are the primary sources of ALA. The contents of ALA in soybean and canola oil are 7.8% and 9.2%, respectively. Flaxseed oil is a particularly rich source of omega-3 fats (ie, ALA) although it is not a commonly used food oil.
Fats and oils contribute 87% of the ALA in the US diet (7), it is apparent that the contribution of other sources is currently minor.
Purslane, a vegetable used in soups and salads along the Mediterranean basin and in the Middle East, is unique because it is the richest source of ALA of any green leafy vegetable examined (6, 8). Moreover, it is one of the few plants known to be a source of EPA. Although not typically consumed in the US diet, purslane is nonetheless found in all 50 states and certainly could be developed as an important source of dietary omega-3 fats.
Dietary Omega-3 Fats Supplements
A variety of omega-3 fat supplements are available to consumers. Many of these supplements are derived from marine oils and contain 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA per capsule. Another source of omega-3 fats is cod-liver oil in some capsules that contain 173 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA.
Industry estimates indicate that 300 tons of fish oil are used yearly for fish-oil supplements in the United States. The average yearly contribution of EPA and DHA from fish-oil supplements to the US diet is 0.6-0.9 mg/person. Thus, fish-oil supplements currently are not an important source of omega-3 fat in the US diet.
Manipulation of Omega-3 Fats in Animal Products
On the basis of what is known about the effect of diet on the amount of omega-3 fats in animal products, researchers are manipulating animal feed in an attempt to increase the omega-3 content of eggs, milk, and meat. Animal feed enriched with algae, fishmeal, or fish oil correspondingly increases EPA and DHA concentrations in tissues (eg, muscle and egg yolk).
Accordingly, feeding animals diets rich in flaxseed or flax oil, which are good sources of ALA, results in increased amounts of ALA in eggs, milk, pork, chicken, and beef. Major obstacles to this innovative technology include the tendency of these fats to oxidize, producing "off" flavors in food products, as well as the added expense of enriching animal feed with omega-3 sources.
Increasing the vitamin E content of a hen's diet when feeding it omega-3 fats helps control oxidation and off flavors in eggs and meat (19), but increases the cost of feeding the animals.
Of the animal products enriched with omega-3 fats, eggs are currently the only products available on the market.
Eggs were probably targeted first because a large percentage of the omega-3 content of the hen's diet is transferred to the egg yolk. The Flax Council of Canada notes that one omega-3 fat-enriched egg has about the same amount of omega-3 fats as 85 g (3 oz) fish (20).
Changes in the Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fats over Time
Over the course of evolution there appears, on the basis of estimates from studies of Paleolithic nutrition and modern-day diet assessment, to have been a remarkable change in the fat content and fat profile of the human diet (21, 22). The Paleolithic diet was likely much lower in total fat (21% of energy) and saturated fat (7-8% of energy) than our present-day diet (21, 22).
Moreover, the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors contained approximately the same quantities of omega-6 and omega-3 fats (ie, the ratio is thought to have been 1:1).
Sources of omega-6 and omega-3 fats were wild plants, animals, and fish (23, 24). Plant seeds are good sources of omega-6 fats and the green leaves of wild plants are good sources of ALA. The wild animals and birds that ate these food sources were sources of these fats in the human food chain.
Whereas EPA accounted for 4% of fats in the fat of wild animals (18), domestic animals raised for meat production had undetectable amounts of EPA in their tissues.
At the onset of the industrial revolution, 140 years ago, there was a marked shift in the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the diet.
Omega-6 fat consumption increased at the expense of that of omega-3 fats (25). This change reflected the advent of the modern vegetable oil industry as well as the increased use of cereal grains for domestic livestock. In 1935 the omega-6 to omega-3 fat ratio was 8.4:1 (estimated by annual per capita food use 7). From 1935 to 1985, this ratio increased to 10.3 (23% increase).
Meeting Dietary Recommendations for Omega-3 Fats
To date, no official dietary recommendations have been made for omega-3 fats in the United States.
Although the United States has not established official dietary recommendations for omega-3 fat intake, Canada (32) and the United Kingdom (33) have. Canada recommends a total omega-3 fat intake of 1.2-1.6 g/d, which is similar to the recommendation made by nutrition scientists in the United States but does not distinguish between individual omega-3 fats. The United Kingdom does distinguish between omega-3 fats and recommends that 1% of energy be from ALA and 0.5% be from EPA and DHA combined.
Japan (39) has recently changed its recommendation from 4:1 to 2:1 (W Lands, personal communication, 1998).
The recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 2.3:1 and has been made to maximize the conversion of ALA to DHA (40). Because of competition between omega-6 and omega-3 fats for desaturase and elongase enzymes, the quantity of linoleic acid in the diet can affect the extent to which ALA is converted to EPA and DHA in vivo.
The mean ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fat intake in the United States is 9.8:1 which is much higher than that recommended (2.3:1). Sixty percent of the population consumes a ratio of 8-12:1 (Figure 2 ). However, it may be as high as 20-25:1 in some individuals (20).
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71, No. 1, 179-188, January 2000
DR. MERCOLA'S COMMENT:
Hard to believe that the average person in the US consumes less than 1 mg of a fish oil capsule per year. That is less than 1/300 of one capsule in one year.
Clearly, the average person in the US is totally clueless about the importance of omega-3 fats. If they had any idea of the benefits we would be using quite a bit more of fish oil capsules.
Fish oil capsules and cod liver oil are the most effective way to supplement omega-3 oils.
Omega three fats are essential to your health. You can certainly get them from cod liver oil or fish oil.
Please remember that nearly all fish are contaminated with mercury and should ideally be avoided. You will want to identify a clean source of fish oil.
If you already have significant sun exposure then you should not take cod liver oil as you will run the risk of overdosing on vitamin D.
You should then take fish oil capsules. The standard fish oil capsule is 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA. You should take approximately one capsule for every ten pounds of body weight, preferably in two divided doses.
So if you weigh 160 pounds you would take 8 capsules twice a day. If you have problems with belching them up, you will want to consider taking them on an empty stomach.
Cod liver oil has the benefit of providing you with vitamin D and A. A reasonable dose for cod liver oil is one teaspoon for every 30-40 pounds of body weight. If you use cod liver oil during your summer you will need to be careful of vitamin D toxicity and I suggest you review the information on vitamin D testing.
When you take fish oil supplements or cod liver oil in the doses I recommend please be sure and take an one vitamin E 400 unit supplement per day as this will help serve to protect the fat from oxidation. This is less of an issue with the cod liver oil as the vitamin D itself is a very potent anti-oxidant.
You will also need extra amounts of the "fourth and unforgotten" oil soluble vitamin, vitamin K. If you are juicing plenty of green vegetables and taking the cod liver oil or fish oil with the juice you should absorb the vitamin K in the vegetable juice. However, if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia, you will want to consider adding an extra 1000 mcg ( 1 mg ) of vitamin K per day.
Generally our diet contains far to much omega 6 fats. Experts looking at the dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids suggest that in early human history the ratio was about 1:1. Currently most Americans eat a dietary ratio that falls between 20:1 and 50:1. The optimal ratio is most likely closer to the original ratio of 1:1. For most of us this means greatly reducing the omega-6 fatty acids we consume and increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Please recognize that we get ALL the omega-6 and omega-9 fat we need from food. We do NOT need to take any supplements for these fats. Many of the omega fat supplements you see in health food stores will only serve to worsen your health, not improve it as they contain omega 6 fats which will worsen your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.
I strongly recommend avoiding sunflower, corn, soy, safflower, canola, or products that contain these oils. That is no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, no margarine, no vegetable oil, no shortening. These oils are chock full of omega-6 fats and will only worsen your omega 6:omega 3 ratio.
Acceptable oils will be a high quality extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and organic butter, or better yet grass-fed organic butter.
Another way to improve your omega 6:3 ratio is to change the type of meat you are eating. You could consume more game meat like venison, or other game animals that are raised exclusively on grass type foods. However, these are hard to find and generally more expensive than beef.
Since nearly all cattle are grain fed before slaughter, if you eat most traditionally raised beef, it will typically worsen you omega 6:omega 3 ratio.
Normally a good ratio for omega 6:3 in fish is 2 or 3 to 1. The lower the better. Grassfed beef from Grassfed Organics is much higher in Omega 3 than fish, with a 6:3 ratio of 0.16 to 1. This information is from a study done at Iowa State University in August 2001.
To get the necessary Omega-3 fatty acids, you should consider eating meat that is allowed to "free-range", or in the case of cattle, to be grass-fed. Unfortunately, you cannot buy this grass-fed beef at your local grocery store.
You must also be careful as many stores will advertise grass-fed beef but it really isn't. They do this as ALL cattle are grass fed, but the key is what they are fed the months prior to being processed.
Most all cattle are shipped to giant feed lots and fed corn to fatten them up. You will need to call the person who actually grew the beef, NOT the store manager, to find out the truth.
The least expensive way to obtain authentic grass fed beef would be to find a farmer who is growing the beef who you can trust and buy a half a side of beef from him. This way you save the shipping and also receive a reduced rate on the meat.
An inexpensive, yet effective way to determine if the meat is really from a grass fed animal is to purchase the ground beef. Slowly cook the beef till done and drain and collect all the fat. Grassfed beef is very high in omega-3 fats and will be relatively thin compared to traditionally prepared ground beef.
It will also be a liquid at room temperature as it has very few saturated fats which are mostly solid at room temperature.
However, most of us live in large urban areas and do not have the time for this process. Just as it would be ideal to have an organic garden and grow your own vegetables, most of us elect not to do that for time or space reasons.
I used to have an organic garden, but my schedule just would not allow me to have that luxury anymore. So, if you are convinced, like I am, that grass-fed beef is better for you and you would like the convenience of being able to order it over the Net, you can buy grass-fed beef online, shipped overnight to your door, at Grassfed Organics.
Are Saturated Fats Really Dangerous For You?
By Stephen Byrnes, PhD, RNCP
This article is one part of a series of articles, which is a revision of an older article that we had previously posted on our site. You can find the original article here. Additionally, please see the rebuttal to this article, by Dr. Michael Janson.
Part 6 of 15 (Previous)
Myth #6: Saturated fats and dietary cholesterol cause heart disease, atherosclerosis, and/or cancer, and low-fat, low-cholesterol diets are healthier for people.
This, too, is not a specific vegetarian myth. Nevertheless, people are often urged to take up a vegetarian or vegan diet because it is believed that such diets offer protection against heart disease and cancer since they are lower or lacking in animal foods and fats.
Although it is commonly believed that saturated fats and dietary cholesterol "clog arteries" and cause heart disease, such ideas have been shown to be false by such scientists as Linus Pauling, Russell Smith, George Mann, John Yudkin, Abram Hoffer, Mary Enig, Uffe Ravnskov and other prominent researchers (49). On the contrary, studies have shown that arterial plaque is primarily composed of unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated ones, and not the saturated fat of animals, palm or coconut (50).
Trans-fatty acids, as opposed to saturated fats, have been shown by researchers such as Enig, Mann and Fred Kummerow to be causative factors in accelerated atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, cancer and other ailments (51).
Trans-fatty acids are found in such modern foods as margarine and vegetable shortening and foods made with them. Enig and her colleagues have also shown that excessive omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake from refined vegetable oils is also a major culprit behind cancer and heart disease, not animal fats.
A recent study of thousands of Swedish women supported Enig's conclusions and data, and showed no correlation between saturated fat consumption and increased risk for breast cancer. However, the study did show,as did Enig's work, a strong link between vegetable oil intake and higher breast cancer rates (52).
The major population studies that supposedly prove the theory that animal fats and cholesterol cause heart disease actually do not upon closer inspection. The Framingham Heart Study is often cited as proof that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat intake cause heart disease and ill health. Involving about 6,000 people, the study compared two groups over several years at five-year intervals. One group consumed little cholesterol and saturated fat, while the other consumed high amounts. Surprisingly, Dr William Castelli, the study's director, said:
In Framingham, Mass., the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person's serum cholesterol ... we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, [and] ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active. (53)
The Framingham data did show that subjects who had higher cholesterol levels and weighed more ran a slightly higher chance for coronary heart disease. But weight gain and serum cholesterol levels had an inverse correlation with dietary fat and cholesterol intake. In other words, there was no correlation at all (54).
In a similar vein, the US Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT), sponsored by the National Heart and Lung Institute, compared mortality rates and eating habits of 12,000+ men. Those who ate less saturated fat and cholesterol showed a slightly reduced rate of heart disease, but had an overall mortality rate much higher than the other men in the study (55).
Low-fat/cholesterol diets, therefore, are not healthier for people. Studies have shown repeatedly that such diets are associated with depression, cancer, psychological problems, fatigue, violence and suicide (56). Women with lower serum cholesterol live shorter lives than women with higher levels (57). Similar things have been found in men (58).
Children on low-fat and/or vegan diets can suffer from growth problems, failure to thrive, and learning disabilities (59). Despite this, sources from DR Benjamin Spock to the American Heart Association recommend low-fat diets for children! One can only lament the fate of those unfortunate youngsters who will be raised by unknowing parents taken in by such genocidal misinformation.
There are many health benefits to saturated fats, depending on the fat in question. Coconut oil, for example, is rich in lauric acid, a potent antifungal and antimicrobial substance. Coconut also contains appreciable amounts of caprylic acid, also an effective antifungal (60). Butter from free-range cows is rich in trace minerals, especially selenium, as well as all of the fat-soluble vitamins and beneficial fatty acids that protect against cancer and fungal infections (61).
In fact, the body needs saturated fats in order to properly utilize essential fatty acids (62). Saturated fats also lower the blood levels of the artery-damaging lipoprotein a (63); are needed for proper calcium utilization in the bones (64); stimulate the immune system (65); are the preferred food for the heart and other vital organs (66); and, along with cholesterol, add structural stability to the cell and intestinal wall (67).
They are excellent for cooking, as they are chemically stable and do not break down under heat, unlike polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Omitting them from one's diet, then, is ill-advised.
With respect to atherosclerosis, it is always claimed that vegetarians have much lower rates of this condition than meat eaters. The International Atherosclerosis Project of 1968, however, which examined over 20,000 corpses from several countries, concluded that vegetarians had just as much atherosclerosis as meat eaters (68). Other population studies have revealed similar data. (69)
This is because atherosclerosis is largely unrelated to diet; it is a consequence of aging. There are things which can accelerate the atherosclerotic process such as excessive free radical damage to the arteries from antioxidant depletion (caused by such things as smoking, poor diet, excess polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet, various nutritional deficiencies, drugs, etc), but this is to be distinguished from the fatty-streaking and hardening of arteries that occurs in all peoples over time.
It also does not appear that vegetarian diets protect against heart disease. A study on vegans in 1970 showed that female vegans had higher rates of death from heart disease than non-vegan females (70). A recent study showed that Indians, despite being vegetarians, have very high rates of coronary artery disease (71). High-carbohydrate/low-fat diets (which is what vegetarian diets are) can also place one at a greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer due to their hyperinsulemic effects on the body (72). Recent studies have also shown that vegetarians have higher homocysteine levels in their blood (73). Homocysteine is a known cause of heart disease. Lastly, low-fat/cholesterol diets, generally favored to either prevent or treat heart disease, do neither (74).
Studies which conclude that vegetarians are at a lower risk for heart disease are typically based on the phony markers of lower saturated fat intake, lower serum cholesterol levels and HDL/LDL ratios. Since vegetarians tend to eat less saturated fat and usually have lower serum cholesterol levels, it is concluded that they are at less risk for heart disease. Once one realizes that these measurements are not accurate predictors of proneness to heart disease, however, the supposed protection if vegetarianism melts away (75).
It should always be remembered that a number of things factor into a person getting heart disease or cancer. Instead of focusing on the phony issues of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and meat-eating, people should pay more attention to other more likely factors.
These would be trans-fatty acids, excessive polyunsaturated fat intake, excessive sugar intake, excessive carbohydrate intake, smoking, certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and obesity. These things were all conspicuously absent in the healthy traditional peoples that Dr. Price studied.
Please see next week's issue of the newsletter for our continuation of this article. To read the rebuttal of the above article, please click here.
DR. MERCOLA'S COMMENT:
Many thanks to Dr. Byrnes for compiling such an outstanding resource to help us understand that excluding animal protein from one's diet can result in quite devastating health consequences.
Dr. Michael Janson is past-president of both the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) and the American Preventive Medical Association (APMA), and he founded and directed the first complementary-alternative medical center in New England, in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1976.
He is a life-long vegetarian. He is firmly committed to that lifestyle for a number of reasons which he will expand on. He has been kind enough to offer a rebuttal to Dr. Byrnes' series so we can witness the debate. I will, of course, provide my comments to both.
Not a month goes by where I don't see one or more new patients who have chosen to be a vegetarian and have suffered a loss of their health. Typically, they are able to rapidly recover their health after including animal protein back into their diet.
Let's be quite clear that I am a huge fan of eating vegetables. I believe that we should consume about one pound of vegetables a day for every fifty pounds of body weight. Ideally, these vegetables should be organic and eaten raw. One really needs a large amount of raw, uncooked food in their diet if they hope to achieve ideal health.
The simplest way to obtain this is by juicing vegetables.
Vegetarians also correctly identify that there are huge problems with most commercial meat sources. We were not designed to eat cattle that were raised on grain and fed hormones and antibiotics to maximize their grower's profits.
However, there are other meat sources available, such as grass-fed beef, organically raised poultry and wild game that do not violate these principles and are important contributors to optimal health.
In my experience though, most people are better off from a health perspective eating reasonable quantities of animal protein, even though it is less than ideal, than eating large amounts of grains.
Many have an emotional issue about killing animals for food. I have used EFT a number of times to help people in this area.
You can review the articles below for further details about the dangers of excluding animal protein from one's diet.
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