Worldwide fat and oil consumption in 1975 was 41 million tonnes. By 1992, that figure had more than doubled and continues to rise. Total fat consumption has risen from 32% of daily calories to more than 42%, with 140-170 grams being the average daily intake of fat per person in the western world. Table fats and oils account for 57%; meat, poultry, and fish, 31%; and dairy products, 7%. Hardly any of this fat consumption includes the essential fatty acids needed for life, not to mention some nagging annoyances that result from excluding them from the diet.
Since oils soften the stools, those prone to constipation have a duel problem. One, they are not obtaining enough of the right kind of oil and, two, constipation usually is the result of a high protein-low fiber diet. Essential oils oppose the protein’s tendencies to constipate.
Acne is the result of consuming too many hard fats, which are found in popular items such as cheese, pizza, ice cream, chocolate, French fries and hamburgers. Sugar also contributes as the body turns the excess into fat. Acne, blackheads, whiteheads, bumpy skin, greasy skin, eczema, and dry skin are all involved in fatty degeneration. Consuming fewer of the products containing these hard fats and eating more of the essential fatty acids will soon rid the body of acne and other skin disorders.
Esential fatty acids can be compared to the nine essential amino acids that are dietary necessities. Essential fatty acids (also known as EFA, Omega oils, and w3’s or 6’s) are made up of two basic groups – LNA (Omega 3) and LA (Omega 6). Technically, they belong to the “F” vitamin family and can be referred to as ALENA by w3 researchers. The ideal ratio for daily consumption is 2:1 to 4:1 of 6’s to 3’s. This does not mean extensive calculations are necessary, it just means eating more of the foods containing Omega 3’s and less of the foods containing Omega 6’s. This may sound to be opposite of what should be done, but this is because the average diet consists of a ratio of 20:1 of w6’s to w3’s. Therefore, less of the oils containing w6’s should be consumed and more of the w3’s in order to attain better health. The most essential of these fatty acids is linoleic acid (LA) because the body uses it as a base to make the others. All are put under the umbrella of polyunsaturated fatty acids since the body does not require any saturated fats at all in order to function.
The human brain needs a consistent balance of 1:1 ratio between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. It is this balance combination which promotes the growth of the cerebral cortex (the frontal lobe responsible for intellect and reasoning). The brain can obtain this ratio from the body, provided that a good ratio of w3 and w6 oils is present in the diet. Fat tissues require a ratio of 5:1 of w6’s to w3’s while other tissues need the ratio of 4:1.
Alpha-linolenic acid (LNA), sometimes improperly shortened to linolenic acid, is found in great abundance in flax, hemp seed, canola, soybean, walnut oils, as well as dark green leaves. Flax seed is considered to be the richest source, containing over 50% of its fatty acids as LNA. Chia and candlenut oils contain about 30%. Hemp seed oil contains about 20%. Pumpkin seed oil varies from as much as 15% to none. Canola contains up to 10%. Walnut oil varies from 3% to 11%. Soybean oil also varies from 5% to 7%. Dark green leaves contain only a little oil, but what there is, is over 50% LNA. For those so inclined, Chinese water snake oil is also a rich source of LNA at 20%.
In the past, plants, fish, and game were rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Today, modern refining has extended the shelf life of fats and oils at the expense of these diet essentials. Foods rich in the Omega 3’s are highly perishable and are, therefore, rejected for commercial use because of consumer demand for a longer shelf life. Consumers also prefer the Omega 6 fatty acids found in fried foods, commercial baked goods, convenience foods, high-fat snacks, margarines, shortenings, and mild-flavored vegetable oils. This leaves virtually no food left on supermarket shelves that would give the necessary omega 3’s needed to offset the huge consumption of omega 6’s – and, the ever-increasing health disorders are the result.
The sea provides more Omega 3’s, while the land (bushes, trees, grasses) provide sources of Omega 6’s. Thus, only in the sea and land interface, especially around river estuaries, is it possible to obtain a rich supply of both essential fatty acids. Land mammals have three to six times more Omega 6’s than 3’s in their flesh. Fish have more Omega 3’s, with cod having the highest ratio of 40 to 1. Dolphins have the same 1:1 ratio as humans.
Believe it or not, hemp oil has the ideal 3:1 ratio. Hemp oil is produced from the seeds of the “marijuana” plant, but neither the seeds nor the oil produced have any of the intoxicating effects found in the leaf. It is only the leaf that contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). (See HEMP). Flax and hemp oils are considered to be nutritionally superior to safflower oil because they contain both essential fatty acids (LNA and LA) and are chemically more active (they contain more double bonds in an equal number of oil molecules). The richest source of LNA is flax oil, but longterm exclusive use of it can result in w6 (LA) deficiency because the LA content is not as high as it ideally should be. This is rarely a problem since most people consume too much of the w6 oils and is only a concern for those who have no other intake of oil than flaxseed. Flax oil is best consumed in addition to another oil that has a higher ratio of w6’s.
The richest source of LA is a non-processed safflower oil – which is hard to come by (see oil processing). LNA is five times more sensitive to destruction than LA. LA oils are not “bad” oils. The problem lies in eating them exclusively and omitting the LNA oils. Today, most of the industrialized world’s diets have a ratio of Omega 6 (LA) to Omega 3 (LNA) of from 10 to 1 to 30 to 1. This alone is an important contributor to disease.
Omega oils create a variety of chemicals called “eicosanoids,” which are body regulators. One of the most important groups of eicosanoids is “prostaglandins.” There are more than a dozen known prostaglandins. Imbalances can lead to the body’s inability to protect itself. To change essential fatty acids into prostaglandins is a three-step process requiring: 1) special enzymes plus zinc (which can be blocked by excess fats, cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, processed vegetable oils, and alcohol), 2) special enzymes with Vitamin B6, and 3) special enzymes with zinc, B3, and Vitamin C. If one co-factor is missing or in short supply, prostaglandin production is slowed or not completed.
Omega 3 fatty acids are the second most essential fatty acid required by humans (w3’s can be manufactured from w6’s; therefore, w6’s are the most important – the right kind, that is). Omega 3’s are so named because they have theee double bonds and have fewer hydrogen atoms than Omega 6’s. They are sometimes referred to as superunsaturated to distinguish them from the polyunsaturated w6’s. Northern plants, in response to cold weather, produce more Omega 3 oils than do southern plants, which tend to have higher concentrations of Omega 6’s. Omega 3’s help to keep cell membranes fluid, permitting them to function instead of freezing. They are mainly found in northern “wild” fish, but are also found in flaxseed, hemp, pumpkin seeds, canola, soybean; dark leafy greens; walnuts; and wheat germ.
Omega 3 is best known by the parent, alpha linolenic acid (LNA), which produces:
1) Stearidonic acid [SDA](18:4w3) is found in hempseed and black current seed oils.
2) Eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA](20:5w3) is manufactured by the body to make series 3 prostaglandins.
3) Docosahexaenoic acid [DHA](22:6w3), and EPA are found in cold water fish and marine animals. Salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, and others are the riches sources of these fatty acids containing up to 30% combined. Among the land animals, the brain, eyeballs, adrenal glands, and testes are the richest sources of these two fatty acids, which explains why primitive tribes prized these organs and ate them raw immediately after a kill.
The proper name for LNA is: allcis-w3,6,9-octadecatrienoic acid.
Its cofactors are Vitamins B3, B6, C, magnesium, and zinc and deficiencies of these nutrients can mimic an EFA deficiency. Cofactors are vital in order for the nutrient to be assimilated into the body so that its effect can cause proper functioning.
The loss of Omega 3’s in the diet is caused by:
a) white flour production, which removes the germ and bran from the grain and is sold as animal feed
b) beef consumption, that has become more popular food than fish, fowl, game, and pork. Beef is a very poor source of Omega 3 fatty acids.
c) hydrogenation of oils, which destroys EFA turning them into harmful trans fatty acids
d) making of margarines, creating even more trans fatty acids.
LNA deficiencies include: growth retardation, weakness, visual impairment and learning ability, motor incoordination, tingling sensations in arms and legs, behavioral changes, high blood pressure, sticky platelets, tissue inflammation, edema, dry skin, mental deterioration, low metabolic rate, some immune dysfunction, and high triglycerides (not considered classic but responds well to fatty acid treatment. Triglycerides store the extra essential fatty acids, but an excess can increase the risk of heart disease. They are produced by overeating and by diets high in refined sugars and fats with too few antioxidants).
Omega 6 fatty acids have 2 double bonds and are often referred to as polyunsaturated. Omega 6’s are best known by the parent, linoleic acid (LA) (18:2w6) found in safflower, sunflower, hemp, soybean, walnut, pumpkin, sesame, and flax oils. New genetic varieties of high oleic safflower and high oleic sunflower now contain only small quantities of LA, whereas before, they were the richest sources. The cofactors, or helpers, for these EFA are zinc, magnesium, Vitamins C, B3, and B6 and must be present in order for the fatty acids to be assimilated into the system.
1) Gamma linolenic acid [GLA] (18:3w6), found in primrose, borage leaves, and spirulina, but it can also be made by the body through conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (LNA). Gamma-linolenic acid is almost totally absent from mother’s milk, despite claims to the contrary. Human milk does contain DGLA (dibomogamma-linolenic acid), from which the body produces series 1 prostaglandins. Borage is the richest source at more than 20%. Black currant oil contains about 15% and evening primrose oil consists of 9% GLA.
2) Arachidonic acid [AA] (20:4w6). AA was once given its own category, along with LA and LNA, but it was later found to be manufactured from LA. Therefore, it is now classified as a derivative. AA is found in animal fats. Despite claims, it is not the same acid found in peanut oil. There is sometimes a confusion with the name arachidic acid which is found in peanuts.
The proper name for linoleic acid is: allcis-w6,9-octadecadienoic acid, and is required for maintaining the integrity of cellular membranes. Human deficiency was not discovered until the early 1970’s when hair loss, scaly skin, and poor wound healing was noted in a group of hospitalized patients fed fat free IV fluids. Chronic users of mineral oil and those with chronic diarrhea, as in cystic fibrosis, are also prone to this type of deficiency.
GLA is a confusing topic since some believe that there is no difference between LNA and GLA, while others confuse the functions of both. Still others think that there is only one linolenic acid when in fact there are two forms (GLA and AA). GLA is the precursor of DGLA (the parent of PG1 prostaglandin family), of AA (arachidonic acid), and also of PG2, the damaging member of the prostaglandin family.
GLA and LNA are almost identical, contributing to the confusion that they are the same. Both are fatty acids, both have an 18 carbon atom in their chain, both have three double bonds, both have double bonds in the w6 and w9 positions, both their double bonds are methylene interrupted, and both are useful in treating degenerative diseases. The only difference between the two is that GLA has a double bond between carbons 12 and 13 while LNA has a double bond between carbons 3 and 4. This may seem like such a small difference, but to the body, it is a major distinguishing factor involved in its various funtions.
GLA is found in evening primrose (9%), borage (20%), hemp, safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, sesame, poppy, pumpkin, wheatgerm, waltnuts, and black currant oils (15%). Greer and Woodward issue a warning about supplements that have a high GLA content because they contain the undesirable erucic fatty acid. Euric acid is a toxic monounsaturated fatty acid containing twenty-two carbon atoms, found in rapeseed and other vegetable seed oils and in the plant family Cruciferae, particularly Brassica (mustard). The oils from rapeseed and mustard seed are particularly high in erucic acid at 20-55%. A variety of rapeseed developed that produces erucic acid – free oil is canola.
Several factors can block, slow down, or interfere with the enzyme delta-6-desaturase, that catalyzes the conversion of LA to GLA. These include:
1) excess cholesterol, which is common in diets rich in meat, eggs, and dairy
2) excess saturated and monounsaturated long chain fatty acids which constitutes 85-93% of all fatty acids in the western diet
3) processed vegetable oils which make up over 90% of all oils sold
4) trans fatty acids from margarines, shortenings, shortening oils, and partially hydrogenated oils
5) heated oils from food preparation that involves frying or deep frying
6) alcohol use
7) ageing which causes enzymes to function less efficiently
8) zinc deficiency, since zinc is a cofactor in the enzyme catalyzed conversion of LA to GLA
9) viral infections as a result of weakened tissue strength and immune system brought on by poor nutrition
10) diabetic and prediabetic conditions brought on by excesses of sugars, saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids
11) deficiencies of essential fatty acids, zinc, chromium, and other minerals
12) high sugar consumption.
Obviously, this list includes the majority of the population! According to this list, most are unable to convert LA to GLA, producing the inevitable deficiencies that lead to diseases that “most” have.
As with flax oil, there are disadvantages to taking one exclusive oil over a combination. Many are fans of evening primrose oil to obtain their EFA. There are many benefits to it. The biggest problem with it is that it addresses only half of the EFA conversion problem since evening primrose oil contains only w6’s. If the conversion of w6’s (LA to GLA) is blocked, the conversion of w3’s (LNA to SDA) is also blocked since the same enyzme converts both EFA to their respective derivatives. Therefore, since EPO contains only w6’s, it cannot address the w3 function. The same problem occurs with taking flax or borage oils exclusively. Black currant seed oil contains both w6 and w3 and can convert both essential fatty acids. In order for evening primrose oil to be effective, it must be combined with an oil containing w3’s. Hempseed oil is the only one that is in perfect balance according to what the human body needs – 3:1.
LA deficiencies include: eczema-like skin erruptions, hair loss, liver degeneration, behavioral disturbances, kidney degeneration, excessive sweating accompanied by thirst, the glands dry up, more susceptible to infections, wound healing failure, male sterility, female miscarriages, arthritis-like conditions, heart and circulatory problems, growth retardation, and depression.