Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: The Scoop You Didn’t Know

Over the past few years, omega-3 fatty acids have received a lot of attention and promotion. Yet when you pick up your supplements at the local pharmacy or health food store, the label includes omega-3’s, omega-6’s omega-9’s and oh my mega confusion! What is the difference between these essential fatty acids and what is this talk about keeping a ratio? This blog will help demystify the omega-3 fatty acids versus omega-6 fatty acids confusion. Find out if you need to add omegas to your nutritional intake and which omega.

The Difference Between Omega-3 and Omega-6

Both omega-3 and omega-6 are termed ‘essential fatty acids’ (EFA), since our bodies cannot readily produce these, we must obtain them through foods or supplements.

While there are many types, the three most common omega-3 fatty acids are Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), and Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA). DHA and EPA are mainly found in cold-water fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines, while ALA is found in plant sources like canola oil, walnuts, flaxseed, and soybeans. Unlike DHA or EPA, which can be readily absorbed by our bodies, ALA from plant sources like seeds, nuts or vegetable oils are only partially converted (about ten percent) by our bodies into the beneficial forms EPA and then DHA. Studies have shown that the health benefits of EPA and DHA are greater than ALA. Therefore, the goal is to try to get Omega 3 FA’s in the form of DHA and EPA.

Unlike omega-3‘s, omega-6‘s consists of only one type of fatty acid, Linoleic Acid (LA), which is later converted into Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA). As opposed to omega-3‘s, getting omega-6‘s from the foods we eat daily, is rather simple. LA is commonly found in seed oils like corn, canola, sunflower and soy — ingredients found in many of the processed foods Americans typically consume in abundance. The better sources of omega-6’s include raw nuts, like pistachios and seeds like chia. Since Americans typically consume much more of the fatty acid omega-6, it is more important for one to focus on including omega-3 fatty acids in their diet or through their supplement. However, for an individual following a low processed food lifestyle such as a paleo, vegan or vegetarian diet, omega-6’s must be included. A great source of an omega-6 fatty acid is the seed known as chia.

Helpful Hint: Two tablespoons of chia seeds provide a 3:1 ratio of omega-3:omega-6 FA. With 3x more omega-3 than omega-6, adding chia seeds to a diet can help an individual reach optimal health by balancing out the ratio of fatty-acid intake in one’s daily nutrition.

Both Are Beneficial

Omega-3’s have been found to lower the risk factors for heart disease and cancer, as well as have anti-inflammatory properties (whereas some omega-6 can contribute to inflammation). This fatty acid is necessary for brain function, healthy development of nerves and eyesight. Omega-3’s have been linked to the prevention and treatment of several other conditions like arthritis, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, depression, diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis to name a few.

Omega-6’s provide a defense against and can aid in reducing symptoms in diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, allergies and high blood pressure. Studies also show that consuming 5-10 percent of energy from omega-6’s may help decrease the risk of CHD and cardiovascular disease.

Together, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids produce many of the health benefits described above. The catch? Eating them in the right amounts.

As In Most Things, Balance Is Key

In today’s society, the convenience of fast-food and heavily processed snacks makes for a not-so convenient way for us to maintain a balanced consumption of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Most processed foods contain a high amount of omega-6 and data shows that a Western diet may contain too much omega-6 fatty acids. If we recall, some omega-6’s may promote inflammatory properties but too much can result in inflammation. Recent research suggests that this imbalance may contribute to health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and more. One such study shows that while the dietary intake of omega-3:omega-6 ratio should range from 1:1-4 for optimal health, the evolutionary changes in the Western diet has led to an increase in consumption range of 1:10-20. To reach a healthier balance between the two, experts suggest that a lower ratio of omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids is more desirable for reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.

However, just as important as it is to consume a healthy ratio of the two, it is equally important especially for vegetarians and vegans, to consume enough essential fatty acids as to prevent deficiencies. Remember, as remarkable as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids exhibit in aiding our brain development, immune system function and blood pressure regulation, sources should be consumed in healthy moderation!

Take Home Message:
Aim for a dietary intake with a ratio of 1 omega-3 FA : 1-4 omega-6 FA.

The Truth Behind Coffee

The Truth Behind Coffee

For many, there’s nothing like a cup of coffee to start the day. As one of the most widely consumed
beverages in the world, it has long been debated that consuming coffee can lead to health problems.
These misconceptions can often lead to confusion about whether one can enjoy coffee as part of
a healthy diet. As an avid coffee drinker myself, with all the misconceptions about coffee, it is
necessary to dispel the misconceptions, and discover the truth behind coffee.

What are 3 of the most common misconceptions about coffee and health?

There is a misconception that coffee causes heart disease, should be omitted during pregnancy
and may influence the development of breast cancer. However, recent research reveals that
despite coffee consumption being associated with increased blood pressure and plasma
homocysteine levels, it is not directly related to heart disease. As for omitting coffee during
pregnancy, although women are often advised to follow this by their obstetrician or gynecologist,
studies show that coffee intake equal to 3 cups or 300 mg coffee daily does not increase risk for
impaired fetal growth. Moreover, according to the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and
Health Study, there is no correlation between coffee intake and increased breast cancer risk. In
fact, coffee may even help to prevent breast cancer. While there may be minimal associations and
even benefits to drinking coffee, it is not recommended to start drinking coffee, if you don’t
already.

Can drinking too much coffee cause heart problems?

Recent research reports coffee drinkers are not at a greater risk for heart disease. While a mild
stimulant in coffee, caffeine, has been shown to increase heart rate, blood pressure, homocysteine
levels, and cholesterol levels, most people do not experience heart problems from drinking coffee—
even if they consume up to 6 cups daily. If you have heart disease or heart problems, it is best to
consult your doctor about drinking coffee.

In addition, it is important to pay attention to what is being added to the coffee; whether it is
whole milk, sugar or even whip cream. Remember, in this day and age specialty coffee drinks are
extremely popular and research studies black coffee, not Frappuccino’s.

What are the top 5 benefits of drinking coffee?

An increase in coffee consumption is typically associated with a lowered risk of Diabetes Type II,
but does not prevent Diabetes Type II. Research also suggests coffee consumption may help prevent
Parkinson’s disease, liver disease (cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma), reduce the risk of
Alzheimer’s disease, and improve endurance performance in physical activities such as cycling and
running.

Is there such a thing as drinking too much coffee?

Typically, I educate my clients to keep their intake at 2 or less cups a day. More than 2 cups of coffee
can be counter-productive during a fitness workout. Recent studies indicate that there have been
no harmful effects with intakes at 4 cups equivalent. For adults consuming moderate amounts
of coffee (3-4 cups/d providing 300-400 mg/d of caffeine), there is little evidence of health risks
and some evidence of health benefits. In addition, currently available evidence suggests that it
may be prudent for pregnant women to limit coffee to 3 cups/day ( prevent any increased probability of spontaneous abortion or impaired fetal growth. People with
hypertension, children, adolescents, and the elderly, may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects
of caffeine.

Do the benefits differ between decaf and regular coffee?

In terms of Diabetes, other than the difference of 2-4 mg caffeine between regular and decaf,
there are no beneficial differences between the two. Surprisingly however, decaf coffee has been
associated with acid reflux and gastric ulcers.

Love Your Heart With Oats

Love Your Heart With Oats

The oats found in oatmeal are a rich source of beta-glucans which provide a source of dietary fiber to the body. The beta-glucans found in oats and other grains such as barley and rye contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and can also regulate blood glucose levels due to the way it is digested in the body. The insoluble fiber helps keep your bowel movements regular! Beta-glucans have also been claimed to boost immunity.

 

5 Tips for Getting the Grains:

Add oats to a cookie or muffin recipe.

Include barely in soups and stews.

Swap sprouted barely bread for other sandwich breads.

Hide oats in your turkey meatloaf.

Start your day with hot oat bran cereal and slivered almonds.

Recipes to Rave About:

American Heart Association’s Oat Recipes – http://bit.ly/y8KOq9

Heart Healthy Living has a list of 21 oat and oatmeal recipes so you can have a nutritious breakfast that never gets boring. (Oatmeal also makes a great snack!)

http://www.hearthealthyonline.com/cholesterol/lower-cholesterol/healthy-oatmeal-oat-recipes_ss1.html

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Happy Heart Month (and Day) Part 2

You need to love yourself, in order to take care of yourself. On this Valentine’s Day, learn to how to keep your heart healthy. Get you cholesterol and coconut questions answered!

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE

Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services

www.MomDishesItOut.com

Q)   Does eating cholesterol really impact cholesterol level?

We have know for years that saturated fat is the true culprit to raising LDL production by our body. One should decrease their saturated fat intake to decrease their LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein- aka bad cholesterol). Many people have misunderstood this for years. The focus should not be on a cholesterol free product such as palm oil but rather a lower saturated fat and higher monounsaturated fat like almonds. Decreasing dietary cholesterol intake lowers your LDL about 3-5% where as decreasing your saturated fat intake decreases your LDL by 8-10% as reported by the National Cholesterol Education Program.

Q)   Will this depend on other nutrients that the food contains? If it’s not, what does impact cholesterol levels then?

Yes, levels of saturated fat, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, exercise, stress and genetics all effect our cholesterol levels. A favorable fat profile of a food should look like this >Monounsaturated fats> Polyunsaturated Fats> Saturated Fats (need more research as to which saturated fats may be more beneficial).

 Q)   What about coconut oil and is it true it may help you to lose weight?  

The American Dietetic Association does not recommend consuming tropical oils such as Coconut oil. According to the Natural Medicines Database, ”there is insufficient evidence to rate the effectiveness of coconut oil for weight loss, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, chronic fatigue, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and thyroid conditions.”

 Q)   From the types of saturated fats such as stearic acid, lauric acid, etc, are there any with health benefits?

Per the research I have found, there are not saturated fats with absolute health benefits. To be prudent, one should continue to limit their saturated fat intake at this time and replace them with unsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. For additional reference there is a chart that clearly identify the roles of saturated fat on medscape: Role of Different Dietary Saturated Fatty Acids for Cardiometabolic Risk, By David Iggman; Ulf Risérus Posted: 04/28/2011; Clin Lipidology. 2011;6(2):209-223. © 2011 Future Medicine Ltd.

 

 

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Happy Heart Health Month – Part One

OMGoodness there are so many mixed messages about heart health. Read on tho make sense of sugar and saturated fat as it pertains to our heart health. Lets prevent Cardiovascular Disease (aka CVD).

Q) There are experts who are now saying that the evidence between saturated fat and CVD may have been biased because research didn’t take into account the sugar content of the diet.  Is sugar the real culprit?

Added sugar is associated with increased TG levels and increased LDL cholesterol (hyperlipidemia being a risk factor for CVD). However, there is an inverse relationship with increased intake of healthier carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, meaning the more you eat these foods, the less likely you are to increase your risk for CVD.  Saturated fat remains a part of the picture. Now the question is which type of SFA may be more closely associated with the increased cholesterol-raising effect of cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors. More research is needed to clarify. Most importantly focus on including fruits, veggies and whole grains and limit added sugars.

 

Q) What is the role of saturated fat in CVD risk?

Saturated fat is associated with CVD. Studies show an increase in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol after eating a meal high in saturated fat. However, recent studies are examining the different roles of the specific types of saturated fats: Short chain, medium chain and long chain SFA.  This means continue to minimize your intake of saturated fat like the visual lard on a steak until more research is available. A simple guide: choose products with < 2 grams/ saturated fat per serving. Rather focus on including monounsaturated fats like olives and avocado. 

 

Q)  There are studies that show total blood cholesterol is not a reliable indicator of CVD. If it’s not, what are the indicators then?

Total Cholesterol is not a biomarker of CVD rather one’s ratio of Total Cholesterol to HDL ratio.  HDL also known as high density lipoprotein is the good cholesterol (h for helper) and LDL, low density lipoprotein (l for want less of) the bad cholesterol. The greater your HDL and the lower your LDL, the more favorable your cholesterol profile will be and the decreased chance of cardiovascular disease. Studies indicate a Low HDL, High LDL and High TG are associated with risk for CVD. You must ask the doctor for your cholesterol breakdown and the ratio with a goal < 5.  Always ask for a copy of your blood work.

 

Q)  If a higher sugar intake may be dangerous, why aren’t  triglycerides (blood levels) more important when assessing the risk of CVD, since this marker has a good correlation with simple carbohydrates intake?

TG’s are a good indicator of risk for CVD and it should be included in the lipid profile to assess for CVD risk. However, the ATP III report issued by the NIH, encourages using TG’s as a marker for other lipid and nonlipid risk factors that ultimately raise the risk for CVD. Ask Your medical doctor for your TG level and aim for < 150 mg/dl. 

 

Check back for Happy Heart Health Month Part 2 or like Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services on Facebook to get weekly nutrition updates.

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Defy Aging with the ABC's of Youth

Defy Aging with the ABC’s of Youth

A is for anti inflammatory foods. Almonds and avocados contain monounsaturated fats that help to increase our good cholesterol, HDL. HDL functions as an anit inflammatory agent in our body!

B is for brain food. Fight aging with omega 3 fatty acids like salmon or cod liver oil. The omega 3 fatty acid known as DHA has been shown to improve memory as reported in the Chicago Health and Aging Project.

C is for cereal grains. Cereal grains like whole wheat berries, rye berries and quinoa are low glycemic grains. Prevent blood sugar and insulin peaks by choosing these grains. This can help you to decrease your risk of high insulin levels, diabetes and ultimately Alzheimer’s disease.