The constantly changing dietary guidelines and recommendations are very confusing to most people. Many dietary studies are simple studies comparing a few different options and do not look at the chemistry or mechanisms involved. Many dietary recommendations are based on subjective and often misleading information. The dietary guidelines in the US are written by the USDA by a board of people that are not necessarily interested in your health or trained in science. The real function of the USDA is to protect and promote agriculture!
Biochemistry is just way over the heads of most people, but biochemistry is a very solid and sound science. Biochemistry is very complex, there are many different pathways and control mechanisms involved in the body’s processing of even simple food components like carbohydrates, proteins and fats. It is the understanding of these pathways and controlling mechanisms that really lead to drugs and treatments for various medical problems. There is still much to be learned about the biochemistry of the human body, but our dietary guidelines could be improved significantly if they paid more attention to the biochemistry of essential fats.
Essential fats are far more important than the typical simple fats in our food. Simple fats like the ones our body can make or store and then use for energy do not have dramatic effects on our health unless we overeat and have too much of it. Essential fats, the omega-6 and omega-3 fats that we cannot make and must get in our diets can have dramatic effects on our health. They are essential for life and a good balance between these two essential fats can do more for preventing health problems than most people and even dietitians or doctors are aware of.
The biochemistry of these essential fats, the hormones they produce and their functions has been the subject of three Noble Prizes. In 1935 Ulf von Euler identified the hormone prostaglandin that is one of the key hormones produced from essential fats. Ulf von Euler, Sir Bernard Katz and Julius Axelrod received the Nobel Prize in 1970 for their work on neurotransmitters and the mechanisms that control them. In 1971, Sir John Robert Vane showed that aspirin and other drugs can inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins. In 1982 John Robert Vane, Sune Bergstrom and Begnt Samuelsson received the Nobel Prize in medicine for their work on prostaglandins and related substances. In 1990, E.J Corey received the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on the synthesis of prostaglandins.
In 1993 William Lands published the first of his articles on the relationship between hearth disease death rates in various countries and the ratio of essential fats in their tissues. Additional studies have since confirmed and extended that information to include a formula to estimate the conversion rates of the 18 carbon essential fats to the more important 20 and 22 carbon precursors of these important hormones. I used the software he developed using that formula to calculate the percent omega-6 that the foods and recipes in my book will produce and help people eat a diet that will balance their essential fats (http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Change-Diet-Ph-D-Emile-Lores/dp/1312364556/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424186644&sr=8-1&keywords=oil+change+diet.)
The importance of the balancing our essential fats is due to the fact that there is a dramatic difference in the function of the hormones like prostaglandin depending on whether it is made from an omega-6 fat or and omega-3 fat. Prostaglandins made from omega-6 promote inflammation and pain while the prostaglandins made from omega-3 are anti-inflammatory and reduce pain. There is a series of hormones that control inflammation, clotting, pain, allergic response, blood pressure, heart rhythm, neurotransmitters and mood, The physiology of these compounds affect all of us the same way, but there are differences how often and in how much of these compounds our bodies produce as well as the ratio of the essential fat precursors that they are made from.
In my case, I developed arthritis in my late 20s. It is an auto-immune disease that increases the production of prostaglandins by my cells. The fact that my diet was producing a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in my cells caused me a lot of pain over the last 40 years, but when I learned about how these essential fats work and set out to change the ratio of these fats in my body, it only took 3 weeks to almost completely eliminate the pain from my arthritis.
You may not have a medical condition that causes high production of these hormones, but every time you do get a stimulus to produce them, if your essential fat ratio is like most Americans, you will produce a lot more of the inflammatory prostaglandins than the anti-inflammatory ones. The same principle applies to all the other hormones made from these essential fats like the ones that promote clotting and allergic reaction. Over time the effects of these hormones produce problems like heart disease, depression, and even cancer. If you balance your essential fats, you will have less damage from inflammation to accumulate over time, less clotting and plaque forming hormones to block your arteries, less severe allergic reactions and a healthier life. You will be less likely to develop cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression and many other medical problems.
Biochemistry should play a greater part in dietary recommendations than it does.