This article, http://www.lipidmaps.org/update/2011/110501/full/lipidmaps.2011.13.html shows the importance of another fatty acid balance in our bodies. Oleic acid ( a mono-unsaturated fat) can protect our cells from damage caused by palmitic acid (a saturated fat) which our bodies can make or obtain from our diet. When we overeat carbohydrates, our cells make palmitic acid as the first step in storing fat. We can also get it directly from our diet. Excessive amounts of palmitic acid in the cell can cause cell death. The palmitic acid can also be turned into ceramide which contributes to insulin resistance. This article shows how the excess of palmitic acid in our cells contributes to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It also points out that oleic acid and eicosanoic acid (also known as the omega-3 fatty acid, EPA) can prevent the damage caused by palmitic acid by preventing the formation of ceramide.
This explains at least one way fish oil works to prevent both heart disease and diabetes, but it also shows that oleic acid will work as well. Real butter has both oleic acid and palmitic acid ( http://www.webexhibits.org/butter/compounds-fatty.html ), but the oleic acid content is over twice as high as the palmitic acid. That explains why the saturated fat in real butter is not as harmful as might be expected.
The fact that our bodies make palmitic acid when we consume an excess of carbohydrates and then turns that into the ceramide that causes insulin resistance also explains how a low fat (high carb) diet contributes to diabetes.
I have a niece that has MS, so I looked at the relationship between Omega-3 and MS. There are some small studies that found benefits but they were not statistically significant at the 95% level (only at the 90% level –p=.07). Her are several links to articles on the effects of omega-3 on MS:
One of the reason many of these studies come out uncertain is the fact that they do not control for omega-6. Omega-3 and omega-6 compete! The starting level of omega-6 in the subjects will alter the outcome of the test–so will the concurrent intake of omega-6. Some of the foods recommended in the article above as containing omega-3 contain way more omega-6, eating foods with a 6/3 ratio of 4 to 1 (like walnuts) will only improve your ratio if your ratio is higher than 4 to 1 –like 10 to 1. Even then the best it can do is 4 to 1 which is still bad.
Foods like olive oil, do contain oleic acid which helps reduce the conversion of linoleic acid (short omega-6) to arachadonic acid (long omega-6)–the real precursor of inflammatory hormones, but they still have way more omega-6 than omega-3. It is better to avoid them until you get your ratio down to less than 2 to 1. The biochemistry of these essential fats is complex, but it is clear that countries where the omega-6/3 ratios in people are closer to 1 to 1 have lower rates of heart disease, MS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases that are associated with the high ratios typically found in the US.
When will researchers learn that it is the ratio that is important and should be controlled in these studies? –Maybe never if drug companies have their way, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get our ratio down to improve our health.
One of the things mentioned in the article is the effect of saturated fats. Not all saturated fats are the same. Saturated fats from coconut oil are shorter than the saturated fats from animals. The medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil are metabolized as ketones. When our cells use ketones for energy the process does not produce the free radicals that are produced when our cells use glucose (our cells can only use either glucose or ketone to generate energy). Free radicals generated when we use carbs (glucose) for energy cause damage and inflammation. Both carbs and saturated fats can only be used in the body as an energy source, we should not consume more of either source than we burn in exercise.
There are lots of diet choices now days. Many people have medical problems that require specific diets, like a diabetic diet or allergies that require avoiding certain foods like a gluten free or nut free diet. Most people are on diets that they choose for the purpose of loosing weight, like Weight Watchers, Atkins or South Beach. Some people choose a diet for health or or even philosophical reasons like a vegetarian, vegan or Paleo diet.
Even more important may be the choices within a diet. We can even follow multiple diet guidelines at the same time, like a gluten free Weight Watchers diet. Now matter what diets we choose, there are nutritional needs like vitamins and minerals that we need to make sure we obtain within the foods we choose. One of those nutritional needs are the essential fats, omega-6 and omega-3. We cannot live without them, but it is not difficult to get enough of these essential fat, what is difficult and very important is getting a balance between the two.
As our diets and food choices have changed over the recent decades, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 has increased dramatically, often exceeding 10 to 1. It needs to be balanced or even slightly less than 1 to 1. The dramatic increase in the ratio of these essential fats is behind many if not most major medical problems we have, especially in the USA. Heart disease, Alzheimers, autism, diabetes, blood pressure, arthritis, cancer, colitis, COPD, depression, ADHD, are all associated with high levels of omega-6. Why are so many different medical problems associated with high omega-6? It is because omega-6 is the precursor to hormones that cause inflammation, clotting, allergic response.
Processed foods, fast foods and snack foods are a big source of these high omega-6/3 ratios, but there are many “healthy” foods that are very high in omega-6. That is where my book can help. The Oil Change Diet (http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Change-Diet-Ph-D-Emile-Lores/dp/1312364556/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429100270&sr=8-1&keywords=Oil+Change+Diet+Lores) shows you the amount to omega-6 in common foods and provides examples of recipes and menus that will help you balance your essential fats no matter what diet you may choose.
Here is a seminar on the effects of omega-3 on our brains and our behavior. Amazing effects on kids and even criminals.