Tag Archives: Omega-6 fatty acid

Omega-3 Blood Test Results


The evening primrose flower (O. biennis) produ...

The evening primrose flower (O. biennis) produces an oil containing a high content of γ-linolenic acid, a type of n−6 fatty acid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have copied below the results of an Omega-3 blood test obtained recently. (I just discovered the availability of this test recently on the internet – the cost was about Can$165). It is interesting to get an indication of my blood levels of Omega-3 since until now, I was guessing as to appropriate intake of Omega-3 supplements. The results show quite high Omega-3 levels and low Omega-6 levels compared to the North American averages. These results seem pretty good and I will probably maintain my current Omega-3 intake (flax seed, flax seed oil and high EPA fish oil).  The cover letter with the results also provides a summary of the benefits of Omega-3s.

The test organization does not suggest a GLA target. My GLA percent is small, but about 30% higher than the North American average. Since I have only recently started GLA supplements, and likely have a long term deficiency, I will probably try to double my intake for another 12 months, and then maybe get another set of test results.

May 16, 2013
Dear Swamiodo,
Congratulations on completing The Vital Omega-3 and 6 HUFA Test™ – the easy, evidence-based way to measure and manage the levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your blood.
There may be no simpler, safer, or more cost-effective path to disease prevention than to adjust your diet to achieve healthful blood levels and proportions of these vital nutrients.
We hope you will use the test results on the following pages – and our explanations of their meaning – to plan and achieve a healthier diet that reduces your risk of ill health.
Introduction: Why Your “Omega Balance” Matters
The acronym “HUFA” stands for Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acids, which are essential food factors that we convert into hormone-like agents that influence inflammation and much more, and have receptors on nearly every cell in the body.
A substantial body of scientific evidence indicates that maintaining a healthful dietary balance of omega-3 and omega-6 HUFA can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and other common, chronic, physical and mental health problems*.
Humans evolved in adaptation to hunter-gatherer diets that contained a roughly equal balance of omega-3s and omega-6s. But modern diets contain much higher proportions of omega-6s, from common vegetable oils (e.g., corn, soy, cottonseed) and the processed foods made with them, as well as from seeds, nuts, grains, and grain-fed meats and poultry.
This historically unprecedented “omega imbalance” matters, for the following reasons (Lands WE 1992):
• Chronic, low-level inflammation promotes cardiovascular disease and many other degenerative conditions.
• Inflammation is controlled in large part by hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which arise from the omega-3 (DHA and EPA) and omega-6 (AA) fatty acids in our cell membranes.
• Omega-3s in our cells (DHA and EPA) mostly yield prostaglandins that tend to moderate inflammation.
 Omega-6s in our cells (AA) mostly yield prostaglandins that tend to promote and maintain inflammation.
 Omega-6s compete with omega-3s for absorption into our cells and the hypothesis that excess intake of omega-6s drives many major diseases rests on persuasive evidence.

1. Your Vital O-Mega Scores™ – Ranking your heart risk
This reveals your Percent Omega-3 in HUFA, your Percent Omega-6 in HUFA, and your estimated heart risk based on those test results.

Omega-3 57%    Omega-6  43%

(US average Omega-3 24%;  Omega-6 76%)

18:2w6   Linoleic (LA)
My reading – 20.19 %
typical US average – 25.10 %
18:3w6  Gamma-linolenic (GLA)
My reading – 0.32 %
typical US average – 0.24 %

Omega-3 Deficit – Dr. Jorn Dyerberg Video


The evening primrose flower (O. biennis) produ...

The evening primrose flower (O. biennis) produces an oil containing a high content of γ-linolenic acid, a type of n−6 fatty acid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A short video on Omega-3, noting that Omega-6 is also essential, but in Western diets, Omega-3 intake is generally too low.

The Reasons for the Drift to Omega-6 Foods


 

A salad platter.

A salad platter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michael Pollan notes that the shift away from Omega-3s is primarily associated with the shift from consumptions of leaves to seeds (by both humans, and the animals eaten by humans), and that this shift may explain most of the health problems caused by the Western diet.  The issue then arises as to why would humans prefer a diet which is manifestly unhealthy?  Susan Allport in the “Queen of Fats” notes that populations will tend to shift to foods with less Omega-3 and more Omega-6 if given the choice.  She suggests that the reason is the desire (whether conscious or not) to reduce the rate of metabolism, and reduce hunger pangs.

In my personal experience, I think this explanation is too subtle, since the reduction in metabolism is probably a long term side-effect of eating seeds, that most people would not immediately be aware of, and thus would not be as significant as factors which are more immediately obvious.  For me, although salads can be tasty, grain products are obviously more satisfying and filling than greens.  Greens have a much shorter shelf life and require refridgeration.  There is a strong cultural bias (linked to our paleothic past?) towards meat and bread (vegetarians are wimps).  In addition, fish are the mainly remaining animal food that eat wild greens, but most fish are either too bland (sole) or too fishy (sardines).   Generally speaking, processed grain foods are cheaper and more convenient to prepare, and have the attraction of added sugar.

Comparing Nutrition Theories


Cover of "The Omega Diet: The Lifesaving ...

Cover via Amazon

It is interesting to compare all the various nutrition books and ideas.  For example, the first book I ever read about diet was Barry Sears book “Enter the Zone” 1995 (which was not a diet, but a “life style” book).  He focused on increased intake of good (low-glycemic carbs) and fat while decreasing bad carbs.  He also touched on the importance of Omega-3 fats.  Some of the ideas in his book are now widely accepted, particularly the importance of avoiding refined foods.  However, his thinking has clearly evolved, and his more recent book (“Toxic Fat”, 2008) has shifted to a focus on increasing the intake of “good” fats (Omega-3s) and decreasing the “toxic” fats.  For those who proselytize about Omega-3s, the use of the “toxic” fat may help emphasize the importance of Omega-3s in the body, although the label is pejorative rather than positive.  The benefits of the Zone may have come more from the reduced refined carb intake, rather than increased fat.

The next book was delivered to me by mistake (ordered by someone in Florida).  I took this as a sign, and read “Eating Well for Optimum Health” by Andrew Weil several times.  It has a chapter devoted to Omega-3s and lots of suggestions for a healthy diet.  However,  I think the Omega-3 message was lost in all the other information that he discusses in his book, although it is very interesting.

After a long hiatus, a friend introduced me to”The China Study” by Colin Campbell.  I really enjoyed this book.  The writing is clear, and very convincing in supporting a vegetarian (more correctly, vegan) lifestyle, eliminating animal products and especially milk and animal protein and fat from the diet.  It is hard to argue with the moral and ethical arguments in support of eating no meat.  Even Einstein believed in vegetarianism.  However, another friend commented that the statistical studies quoted in the book do not actually support a completely vegan diet, but instead a diet with a small amount of animal protein.  The vegans argue that a vegan diet supplies all the protein anyone could require.  In any event, my attempts at veganism (not a 100% commitment) resulted in high triglygeride blood levels and higher blood sugar levels.   A Google search suggested fish oil supplements to lower triglycerides, and a further search of references to Omega-3s led to purchasing “The Omega Diet” on Amazon.com.  Then, a few weeks later, Amazon suggested I might be interested in “The Queen of Fats” since I was interested in Omega-3s(!).

Neal Barnard (“Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes“) and Dr. John McDougall are committed to low fat vegetarian diets as the way to improved health.  Although vegans argue that they are statistically more healthy, for me, veganism was not the entire solution.  For me personally, the emphasis has to be on increasing Omega-3 intake as the first priority.

Dr. McDougall has an email subscription service that argues against a lot of conventional medical opinion.  He notes that medications intended to control cholesterol and blood sugar levels have not actually resulted in provable improvements in health.  In a recent post (July 12, 2010) he disputes many of the conclusions of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recent report.  He says “Saturated fat and cholesterol are synonymous with meat, dairy, and egg products. Ample evidence establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the consumption of animal products are a major player in the cause of” many diseases.  He cites many reasons for his alternate recommendations, for example, that “the preponderance of scientific evidence recognizes animal foods, high in acids and protein, as damaging to the bones. The human body neutralizes dietary acids by releasing alkaline materials (carbonates, citrates, and sodium) from the bones. The chronic acidosis caused by consuming usual quantities of cheese, meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish is the primary cause of osteoporosis.”

Dr. McDougall suggests saturated animal fats are harmful to health.  However, there is evidence that in the last few decades saturated fat consumption has decreased in the USA, but health has arguably decreased (perhaps mainly due to increased Omega-6 consumptions and a worsening O6:O3 ratio).  However, the body can store infinite amount of fat, and overconsumption of fat will inevitably lead to obesity.   The potential benefit of Omega-3s is that they may increase body metabolic rates, and catalyze increased fat burning.  On the other hand, the health populations deprived of animal products in World War II very quickly improved after that imposed change in diet.

I fully support the concept of veganism, but I think that the priority should be more focused to (as suggested by Michael Pollan) simply greens, real foods, and eating moderately.  I have tried to cut back my milk product intake (although I have a weakness for Swiss cheese) and increase my consumption of greens, as well as eliminate non-wild meat and only eat moderate amounts of wild meat (and fish oil) and refined grains.  With regard to grains, sprouted grain flour may be easier to digest than white flour, but it is still a processed food.  I do not yet know whether 1/2 cup of ground flax seed and greens and fresh vegetable juice every day would supply enough of the essential Omega-3s for my needs, without supplementation with fish and fish oil.  I recognize that the current rates of fish consumption in the world are not sustainable in the long term, just as we are using up all the remaining oil resources at an unsustainable rate.  However, for the moment I accept that a lifetime of Omega-3 deficiency requires significantly increased Omega-3 intake, at least until the total amount of fat stored in my body reaches the optimum ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3.

It is important to realise that the goal is to achieve a balanced ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6, not to eliminate Omega-6s (and other fats) from our diets.  It is just that the modern diet supplies an unhealthy amount of Omega-6s compared to the Omega-3s.  Inquiring minds will ask what would be the symptoms of overconsumption of Omega-3s?  There is very little research on this topic, and very little can be said with certainty.  However, as noted in “The Queen of Fats” by Susan Allport, the Greenland Eskimos (with a diet high in fish and seal and whale blubber) were known to have no arterial diseases, but instead died of infections and tuberculosis.  In addition, their blood took about twice as long to clot as the Danes, and they were known to suffer from nose bleeds.  Since the  Greenland population had virtually no access to green vegetables, and consumed high amounts of saturated fats, it is difficult to know whether, (if susceptibility to infection is associated with high omega-3 intake) that susceptibility to infection could be reduced by increased antioxidant consumption and decreased saturated fats.  However, at the very least, too frequent nose bleeds would be a signal to reduce Omega-3 intake.

The “Omega-3 Connection” by Andrew Stoll focuses on the studies which show that Omega-3 fish oils can alleviate depression and bipolar disorder.  In a review on Amazon.ca, Patrick Quillin refers to the fact that fish oil contains primary nutrients missing from the Standard Amercian Diet (SAD).