Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The rabbit hole: Omega Fatty Acids

I was just talking to a friend who has some troubles with inflammation.  I have been studying metabolism this term, and have finally figured out what exactly these Omega Fatty Acids are all about:

Omega 3's and 6's are the fundemental fats in the production of arachidonic acid.  The concise story on this is that arachadonic acid's actions (via it's offspring) are in regulating inflammation.  

So if inflammation is a major problem, it is likely that your fatty acid balance is off. It is possible that your ratio of 6's to 3's is as much as 3 or 4 times too high. The ratio should be about 3:1 (O6:O3), but the average american has a ratio of about 15:1. This translates to much higher inflammation rates throughout the body.  

low ratio - low inflammation, strong bowel mucosa
high ratio - high inflammation, a host of other problems in the long run, such as atherosclerosis, etc.

Here's the problem:  trying to get back to a healthy ratio basically requires traveling back in time to before industrial farming destroyed the fat chemistry of our foods.  You can get good foods, but you must be vigilant.  

If you are a strait veggie, invest in some flax seed oil (in the dark thick bottles) and have a teaspoon with dinner, or use it in dressing and the like.  This should be kept back in the cupboard, as flax seed oil is touchy when exposed to light.

if you eat eggs, milk and meat, you must only eat from pastured animals (i.e. grass-fed beef/milk cows, and pasture chickens).  When animals are fed grain their fatty acid ratio goes out of whack.  Pasture raised, grass finished beef is the best, as it has a nearly perfect ratio, and it has a lot of great healthy fat.

a lot of people recommend good fish oil also, but this should probably not be consumed in high quantities.  Or just eat some good fish.  

From what I have read, problems with inflammation can be reigned in tremendously by simply altering the O6:O3 ratio.  

So, if you have allergies, constant inflammatory conditions, atherosclerosis, etc etc, you may find some benefit to altering the diet to bring the Fatty Acids under control.  

Where to shop:  Farmer's markets.  The eggs, meats and milk are mostly from pastured animals.  Look here for farms near your area.

No comments: