Recent news reports on the relationship between red meat, processed meat and cancer has gotten a lot of attention. Is it true? Probably, but one of the reasons may be related to how our meats are grown. Our industrial agriculture system produces meats that are loaded with antibiotics, hormones, and omega-6. Natural meats from grass fed animals are much lower in all of potential cancer causing factors.
There are many factors involved in the development of cancer. The inflammation-damage repair process is one of those factors. The more often we activate that inflammation and damage repair system, the higher the probability that it will go haywire. Omega-6 is a major stimulator of that inflammation-damage repair system. In addition, the form of omega-6 in meats (arachadonic acid) is the form that gets turned directly into inflammatory hormones in our bodies. Natural grass fed meat has a balance of omega6 and omega-3 that maintains a balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory hormones.
Personally, I think the high level of omega-6 in our diets, which comes from both plant and animal sources, is behind far more medical problems than just cancer. The form of omega-6 we get from meats is just one step from being turned into inflammatory hormones, but the amount we get from many plant based sources is much higher and may be just as important.
A diet high in fruits and veggies is healthy as long as we do not alter them by adding lots of omega-6. I do not believe that grass-fed red meats are nearly as likely to cause cancer as the industrial agriculture produces meats we find in most grocery stores. Adding seafood to increase your omega-3 help balance that omega-6 and reduce your probability of getting cancer and many other medical problems.
My idea of a healthy diet is a diet high in fruits and veggies, a significant amount of seafood, a moderate amount of meat and low in refined carbs.
Diet, what we eat from day to day, can affect our health in many different ways. On top of that, differences in our genes can lead to differences in how we respond to different diets. Some of these differences in genes can make certain foods or nutrients more or less important in our diet and different foods can beneficial to some and harmful to others. Yet with all these differences, there are many similarities and nutritional requirements that are the same for all of us.
We all need vitamins and minerals, but that is where some of the differences in genes begin to make our dietary needs different. For example, there are some genes (MTHFR) that make adsorption of folic acid difficult–called folate maladsorption which can lead to a number of other problems. Some of lack the genes to digest lactose which causes lactose intolerance. Our immune systems can also respond differently to different foods and cause food allergies, like nut allergies or shellfish allergies.
We all need 21 essential amino acids to build the proteins in our bodies and we all need the two essential fats omega-3 and omega-6. These essential fats and amino acids serve the same functions in all of us. All of the proteins in our bodies are made from these essential amino acids–amino acids that our bodies cannot make and that we must get from our diet. The essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 must also be obtained from our diet. These essential fats make up our cell membranes and turn into hormones that control very basic cellular signaling functions controlling inflammation, clotting, allergic reaction, vaso-constriction and even hormones that affect our appetite.
The ratio of these two essential fats is where our diets have gone off the rails in the past 50 years and has lead to dramatic increases in a wide variety of diseases related to the hormones made by these essential fats. We are eating way too much omega-6 and nowhere near the amount of omega-3 we would need to balance the omega-6 we eat. The high levels of omega-6 we are eating is causing high levels of inflammation and clotting or plaque formation leading to heart disease, diabetes, autism, obesity, cancer and even mental problems such as bipolar disorder and depression.
My book, The Oil Change Diet will help you balance your essential fats and show you where all of the omega-6 in your diet is coming from and how you can reduce it.
We hear those terms thrown around all the time by dietitians and nutritionist, but most people do not really know what these terms mean–even a lot of dietitians and nutritionist. First of all, these things are not single compounds, they are all groups of different compounds and yet they can all be referred to as the same thing–fats or lipids.
Fatty acids are the basic unit here, but there are many different fatty acids. They are simply a chain of carbon molecules with a carboxylic acid group at one end. The length and structure of the chain is what makes them different. The simplest fatty acid is vinegar with just 2 carbon atoms. Very long chain saturated fatty acids (longer than 22 carbons) are too long to be metabolized by our mitochondria and are associated with medical problems. Saturated fats (or fatty acids) are fatty acids with no double bonds in the carbon chain. Mono-unsaturated fatty acids have a single unsaturated link (a double bond) in the carbon chain. Poly-unsaturated fatty acids have more than one double bond in the carbon chain. The term Omega refers to the distance or location of the first double bond relative to the methyl end of the fatty acid ( the end opposite the carboxylic acid group.
Fatty acids do not exist as free fatty acids in our bodies, they are usually bound to a glycerol and are known as triglycerides. Triglycerides have three different fatty acids bound to the glycerol backbone. The fatty acids on a triglyceride may or may not be the same fatty acids, so triglycerides can be quite varied with fatty acids of different lengths and containing both saturated and unsaturated fats. Fatty acids can also be bound to a phospholipid where a glycerol containing two fatty acids is bound to a phosphorus molecule which is also bound to an organic molecule like choline. These phospholipids make up the lipid bilayer that forms our cell membranes. The phospholipids containing Omega fats are an important part of our cell membranes where they are used to make important hormones like prostaglandins.
We often hear that saturated fats are bad, but that is not always true. High levels of certain saturated fatty acids in our cells is harmful, especially palmitic acid ( a 16 carbon saturated fat). However, many shorter fatty acids and a few longer saturated fatty acids can be beneficial. Short and medium length fatty acids (sometimes referred to as medium chain triglycerides) can be used for energy in our mitochondria and when we use them for energy they do not produce free radicals like glucose does. Also, it seems like most dietitians and nutritionist believe that the only way we get saturated fats is from eating them. That is absolutely not true–most people nowadays are actually getting most of the saturated fats (and cholesterol) from eating carbs because our bodies make them when we have excess energy. In fact, the saturated fat our body makes is the one that is bad for us–palmitic acid!.
High levels of triglycerides and saturated fats in our bodies generally come from eating too much or eating more than we burn. One of the things that make us over eat is excessive omega-6. Getting the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 down to near 1 to 1 will significantly help reduce your tendency to over eat. Eating more good saturated fats, like coconut oil can help keep you feeling full longer as well. Reducing your intake of carbs can also help with many inflammatory diseases like arthritis as well as reducing your chances of developing Alzheimer’s.