Among healthy fats, the "omegas" are probably the most studied. These families of essential fatty acids include omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9. These EFA’s provide support for numerous bodily functions, including the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems. .
The real deal: omegas
Both the omega-3s (in sources such as flaxseed oil, fatty fish, walnuts and pumpkin seeds) and the “good” omega-6 sources (such as borage and evening primrose oil) contain the essential fatty acids your body needs but can’t produce on its own. For that reason, they must be taken through food or supplementation. .
Current research indicates that the omega 3s have therapeutic benefits in reducing high tryglicerides, lowering hypertension, regulating irregular heart beat as well as assisting in learning disorders, infant brain development and menopausal discomforts. Certain of the omega 6s are outstanding for improving diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS and skin disorders (such as psoriasis and eczema) as well as helping aid in cancer treatment.
In addition to the omega 3s and 6s, there are also omega 9s. Although not considered essential, omega 9s provide substantial health benefits and should still be an intricate part of your dietary lifestyle because of their monounsaturated oleic acid content. Monounsaturated oleic acid plays a protective role in lowering heart attack risk and protecting arterial cholesterol build-up. It is also believed to assist in cancer prevention. Olive oil, avocados and various nuts (like peanuts, almonds and macadamias) are rich omega-9 sources.
Here’s how the omegas work.
Alpha linolenic acid is the principal essential fatty acid in the omega-3 family and linoleic acid takes the lead in the omega-6 series. In a healthy body with sound nutrition, various metabolic conversions take place transferring the raw dietary materials into usable, biologically potent EFAs. The alpha linolenic acid is transformed into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and later into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The omega-6 linoleic acid converts to gamma linolenic acid (GLA). Both the EPA and the GLA synthesized from dietary sources undergo another conversion, resulting in hormone-like biochemical compounds know as eicosanoids. These remarkable substances aid in virtually every body activity, from vital organ functioning down to intracellular processes.
Today, most popular literature suggests that “we get too much omega-6” and should therefore focus on the omega-3s. It is true that the typical North American diet already contains an excess of the omega-6 linoleic acid obtained through many of the cooking oils and pre-packaged foods we eat on a regular basis. However, as with many things in life, the process of converting linoleic acid into beneficial GLA doesn’t always go as planned.
Several metabolic roadblocks often hinder the conversion process of creating GLA. Environmental factors (such as pollution) along with aging, daily stress, smoking, viral infections and other illnesses (like diabetes) get in the way. And, according to current research, diets rich in sugar, trans fats (like those found in margarine and processed foods) and alcohol can also block the critical process of creating GLA. Since these impediments to healthy GLA production are so common in the North American population today, it is safe to say that most of us are deficient in GLA, even though we get lots of omega-6 linoleic acid.
Eliminating these factors whenever possible helps your body reap the numerous benefits of the amazing omega oils. The easiest place to start is in reducing or even omitting sugar, trans fats and alcohol. You might also consider supplementing with rich sources of preformed GLA as well as EPA and DHA. Stay tuned for part 3 next month!
For more information please contact www.annlouise.com where advice and inspiration are given freely 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Visionary, health guru, diet/detox expert, and natural foods icon Ann Louise Gittleman is the award-winning author of 30 books on health and healing including the New York Times bestsellers The Fat Flush Plan and Before The Change. Her most recent release is The Gut Flush Plan.
For the past two decades she has been considered one of the foremost nutritionist in the United States.
Latest posts by Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman (see all)
- Take Control of Your Allergies: Get Natural Relief Now (Part 2 of 2) - March 23, 2010
- Take Control of Your Allergies: Get Natural Relief Now (Part 1 of 2) - March 16, 2010
- Getting thin—on fats! (Part 2 of 2) - March 9, 2010