The Hormonal Effects of Omega FatsDecember 11, 2023
Hormonal Effects of Omega 3 Fats Compared to Saturated Fat
One of the "Great Dietary Transitions" of humans with the advent of civilization occurred in the 1950s, and no one noticed. All of our animals were moved from pastureland to feedlots. That fundamentally changed the fat content in their meat. Examination of feedlot-fed beef versus grass-raised deer shows a roughly 5-fold increase of omega-3 fats in the grass-raised animals. That suggests that we humans living in "advanced societies" where agriculture has become big business, run on corporate profit principles, have lost about 80% of our dietary intake of omega-3 fats. In fact, we seemed to have liked that transition. That marbled beef was juicy and rich with fat that tasted good. We didn't really think about what that fat was made from. Even though it tastes the same, not all fat is the same. That feedlot, corn and bean fat, is saturated fat with only traces of omega fats left in it.
Every indigenous society examined has always valued fat over protein. We naturally seek it. It makes our food taste good. The weakness we have, as humans, is that our inclination to seek fat can't tell the difference between valuable, natural omega-3 fats, and less valuable omega-6 fats found mostly in seeds and grains. Seed oils like corn, soy, and canola all taste good too.
And then there is the balance. Throughout most of human history as hunter-gatherers, or herders, and even recently with cows in the pasture, our ratio of omega-3 fats in our diet to omega-6 fats has been between 1-1 and 1-3. Now, with our transition in the last 75 years, our omega-3/omega-6 ratio has plummeted to 1-20. Is that a problem?
Well, yes! Omega 6 fatty acids are the precursor molecules for all the inflammatory eicosinoids. Omega-3s are the precursors to anti-inflammatory eicosinoids. Our body needs both and the ratio of 1 to 2 is just about the sweet spot. There is now abundant literature demonstrating that we can repair the damage caused by that abnormal abundance of omega-6, inflammatory fats by substituting DHA and EPA which has been deficient.
The problem with saturated fat in the meat we eat is that it acts like LPS molecules (lipopolysaccharide) in our gut and makes for leaky gut and inflammation emanating from that. And to make things worse, our massive increase of vegetable oils in the last hundred years which are rich in omega-6 fats tilts the scale even further to omega-6 dominance.
Do we have evidence of that being a problem? Yes, now we do. If you compare the diets of Japanese, Koreans, Icelanders, and Americans, you find a linear inverse relationship between omega-3 intake, ocean fish intake, and coronary artery disease. Icelanders eat a lot of haddock, which tends to have little omega-3 fat but they also consume grass-raised lamb, which is omega-3 rich. Their heart disease is less than that of Americans, more than Koreans and Japanese.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is the bane of younger women wanting to get pregnant. With high testosterone, borderline diabetes, and irregular periods, something is wrong. Bench research with PCOS rats shows that marine fish oil largely improves the rat PCOS. Several studies have been done in humans, unfortunately only lasting 6 months or so. One randomized study of pregnancy success in women with PCOS showed statistically valid increased pregnancy.
Pregnancy, and heart disease all speak to a fundamental defect in our metabolism. The DHA (omega-3) in fish oil is readily replaced by arachidonic acid (omega-6) on the sn-2 position of plasmalogens. This speaks to an alteration of our membranes about which we don't understand clearly.
What we do know is that there has been a change. Our internal endocrine environment has been altered. Our feedlot animals aren't giving us the same food we are biologically used to. Hints around heart disease and PCOS are just the tip of the iceberg. We can show the same effect with incipient schizophrenia. Adminstration of high-dose fish oil (omega-3) prevents the progression to full-blown schizophrenia. The list goes on.
www.What will Work for me. Several studies have shown that the supplementation of fish oil doesn't do much good whereas eating the native wild-caught fish does. It may be that we can't overcome the fat in that bacon cheeseburger if we don't substitute the feedlot fats out. Olive, avocado, walnut, and sesame oils are pretty safe. Corn, soy, and canola just aren't. Ocean-caught fish is expensive but worth it. It's an eternal battle to reverse that trend away from omega-3 fats. Flax seed is one rich vegetable source. The Japanese are living some 7-8 years longer than we are. There is good reason to ascribe some of that benefit to the fats they eat. With the understanding that omega-3 fats make up a critical component of plasmalogens, the science of membrane health will mature. I want to witness that.
1. The fat in a cow raised on corn and beans is primarily what? Answer: Saturated fat.
2. A grass-raised cow's milk will have all the normal omega fats in it to feed its baby. T or F. Answer: False. There is a dramatic difference in purely grass-raised cheese to feedlot cheese. Three and four-fold changes in omega-3 fats.
3. This stuff is hard to understand? T or F. Answer. Whew, true. Thank you for recognizing that.
4. Grass raised, good. Feedlot, bad. T or F. Answer: True
5. Olives? Answer: Good. They are mono-unsaturated and fits into the myelin-plasmalogen, also necessary for your brain. Common threads come together.