Omega Fatty Acids #3: What’s the Proof?

April 28, 2009

Omega Fatty Acids #3:  What’s the Proof? 

 Competency # 13  Fats                    Reference: Minireview, Center for Genetics, Nutr and Health, 2008 

 All right, we are clearly out of balance in our diets in the last 150 years.  A whole raft of new illnesses have shown up that we haven’t seen before.  Is that because we are just living longer and have the ability to diagnose with modern testing, or are these illnesses more common on account of the changes in our environment and in our food? 

 Key Concept #7:  Our food is our medicine.  We take a pill with great reverence and with clear intent.  We endow it with the ability to heal a malady.  We don’t think of the taste.   Our food, however, we eat because we are hungry and it tastes good.  Food cures the malady called hunger.  We don’t think of the chemical reactions our food causes, or the mix of internal messages and signals that occur.  Omega fatty acids bridge that gap.  Because we can’t make them ourselves, they really are critical to our healthy survival.  The amount we eat, and the balance of what we eat matters.  

Our food (omega fat) is our medicine.  Indigenous societies have known that for centuries.  What are fascinating are the repeated findings that primitive societies have always fed their newborns and children the highest quality foods that contain the most essential omega fats.  For example, did you know that the Inuit catch a lot of fish that they eat boiled?   What part would you suppose they set aside as a treat for their children?  The heads.    And why?  The brains and eyeballs have omega fats.  They didn’t know the science, but they knew and observed their children thrived when they ate them.  

Can you remember your grandma feeding you cod liver oil?   How about fish heads? The scientific evidence for omega fats is beginning to accumulate.  But it’s messy and not as clear as the strong advocates would like it to be.   Heart disease may be the biggest target where the best evidence has been accumulated.  Comparing a typical Swedish diet with a 5:1 ratio of omega 6s to omega-3s with the Mediterranean Diet, ratio 2:1, has shown a decrease in vascular endothelial growth factor, platelets, and white cells.   Zampelas has shown that C-reactive protein goes to normal when you have a 1:1 ratio.  Weber has shown that omega 6:3 ratio in platelets had a direct relationship to mortality from cardiovascular disease.  And Freese has shown that platelets take up omega-3s and their adhesiveness changes as the ratio of 6:3 comes down. 

 One clear clinical study that dramatically reduced heart disease 70% was the Lyon Heart Study.  Their ratio was 4:1.  They achieved that by substituting olive oil for corn oil.  Olive oil has very low omega-6 (8%).  Corn oil is 60% omega-6.  The GISSI trial from Italy gave an extra 850 mg of omega-3 fatty acids to traditional Italian diet.  The extra omega-3 group had a 45% decrease in sudden death.  They didn’t measure blood levels. 

 WWW: What will work for me?  Sounds like a 4:1 ratio is readily achievable and has huge benefits.  If I’m doing nothing right now but eating what’s put in front of me, I’m at 15:1 living in America.  I can change and it sounds like the evidence is starting to accumulate.   Next week:  The nitty-gritty on how to get to balance.

The column was written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5300)