Excerpted from the book “UNDERSTANDING FATS And OILS” by Michael T. Murray ND, and Jade Beutler RRT, RCP.
The adulteration of poly-unsaturated oils caused by mass commercial refinement of foods containing fats and oils has effectively eliminated the essential fatty acids from our food chain. In addition, there’s been a tremendous increase in the amount of unnatural fats and oils added to our diets in the form of trans fatty acids and partially hydrogenated oils.
Trans fatty acids result when poly-unsaturated oils are subjected to excessive heat, light, oxygen or other refining methods –often to preserve shelf life. The term “trans” literally means that the formerly C shaped (cis) poly-unsaturated fatty acid is (trans)formed to an unnatural straight-shaped fatty acid molecule. Hydrogenation is caused when liquid poly-unsaturated fatty acids are infused with hydrogen molecules causing an occupation of the formerly unsaturated to bond with hydrogen.
The result is a semi-solid or solid fat substance not duplicated anywhere in nature. Margarine is the ultimate representation of a hydrogenated fat substance containing both hydrogenated and trans fatty acids.
Early in the 20th century, Americans consumed about 125 grams of fat a day. Today the consumption is closer to 175 grams –a 40% increase or about 50 extra pounds a year. Proportionally our ingestion of saturated fats has remained relatively stable. Our ingestion of unrefined poly-unsaturated oils rich in the disease-preventing essential fatty acids has decreased dramatically.
Conversely, our ingestion of refined adulterated poly-unsaturated oil products has risen sharply, correlating with the dramatic rise in many degenerative conditions including cancer, heart disease and stroke.
These refined and processed compounds actually inhibit the body’s ability to use the essential fatty acids that are consumed. And because synthetic fats have been prevalent in the diet for only about 100 years, our bodies have not yet had time to evolve to the point where we can handle those deadly compounds.
There are three main factors contributing to our current essential fatty acid deficiency:
1. Unavailability of quality oils rich in essential fatty acids because of mass commercialization and refinement of fats and oils.
2. Transformation of helpful Omega-3 and Omega-6 oils into toxic compounds (hydrogenated and trans isomers).
3. Metabolic competition between hydrogenated and trans fatty acids with essential fatty acids.
Recognizing Essential Fatty Acids Deficiency
The signs and symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiency may be overt or chronologically nagging –ranging from mild fatigue to a fatal heart attack. Most orthodox Health Care practitioners will never make the association between a health problem and essential fatty acid deficiency because they’re not trained in nutrition, and the laboratory analysis to measure essential fatty acid is not widely available or appreciated.
In addition, the symptoms of essential fatty acids efficiency are not as obvious as with many other nutrients deficiencies. The consequences of this lack of knowledge can be deadly. And even if the essential fatty acid deficiency were recognized, few orthodox clinicians would know how to treat it. The symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiency can be so vague and broad that they are usually written off as having some other cause.
Here are the signs and symptoms typical of, but not exclusive to, EFA deficiency:
aching joints, angina; chest pain, arthritis, constipation, cracked nails, depression, dry lifeless hair, dry mucous membranes, dry tear ducts and mouth, dry skin, fatigue, malaise, lackluster energy, forgetfulness, frequent colds and sickness, high blood pressure, history of cardiovascular disease, immune weakness, indigestion, gas; bloating, lack of endurance, and lack of motivation.
Surveys suggest that most Americans are obtaining only about 10% EFA’s of what they need for optimal health. This is why the authors of this book believe that every one, regardless of health status, should take essential fatty acid-rich flax seed oil. The following guidelines should help you recognize your personal essential fatty acid (EFA) status.
Some Practical Advice
Here are four recommendations to achieve better health and more optimal levels of essential fatty acids in body tissue.
1. Reduce the amount of saturated fats and total fat in your diet. There is much research linking saturated fats to numerous cancers, heart disease, and strokes. Both the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association recommended a diet containing less than 30% of calories as fat. The easiest way for most people to achieve this goal is to eat less animal products and to eat more plant foods. With the exception of nuts and seeds, most plant foods are very low in fat. And though nuts and seeds do contain high levels of fat calories, the calories are derived largely from poly-unsaturated essential fatty acids.
2. Eliminate the intake of margarine and other foods containing trans fatty acids and partially hydrogenated oils. During the manufacturing process of margarine and shortening, vegetable oils are hydrogenated; that is, a hydrogen molecule is added to the natural unsaturated fatty acid molecules of the vegetable oil to make it more saturated. This change in structure of the natural fatty acid to many “unnatural” fatty acid forms interferes with the body’s ability to utilize essential fatty acids properly.
3. Take one or two tablespoons of flax seed oil daily. Organic, unrefined flax seed oil is considered by many to be the answer to restoring the proper level of essential fatty acids. Flax seed oil is unique because it contains both essential fatty acids –alpha linolenic (omega-3) and linoleic (omega-6) in appreciable amounts.
Flax seed oil is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids. At a whopping 58% by weight, it contains over twice the amount of omega-3 fatty acids as in fish oils. Omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively studied for their beneficial effects on high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack, angina, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory skin disorders and inhibiting cancer formation and metastasis.
4. Limit total dietary fat intake to no more than 30% of calories consumed (400 to 600 calories a day, based on a standard 2000 calories a day diet).
Make a strong effort to incorporate healthful fats in the form of essential fatty acid-rich oils such as flax seed oil in place of dangerous trans, hydrogenated and saturated fats. Watch for these “stealth” fats by reading food labels carefully before you choose.
Excerpted from the book “Understanding Fats And Oils” by Michael T. Murray ND, and Jade Beutler RRT, RCP.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Michael T. Murray N.D is one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine and has written several best selling books and articles.