Understanding Omega Oils
AKA omega 3 fish oils, omega 3 oils, essential fatty acids, efa, omega 3 fatty acids, fatty acids.
Up until the early 1900's, most diseases were caused by infectious contamination such as: the black plague, TB, small pox, diphtheria, typhoid, etc. The cause was identified easily because they were acute, called so because they attacked quickly. They spread rapidly due to poor hygiene and a lack of understanding germs (bacteria and virus).
Today most diseases are usually chronic conditions. Now we battle: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, arthritis, allergies, Celiac Disease, ADD, MS, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, body dysmorphia, self cutting, etc. These diseases are not recognized as plagues because they usually develop over years and are caused by toxins and/or deficiencies.
As we introduced processed foods, nutrients were sacrificed for shelf life and convenience. This gave birth to maladies, as those mentioned above, unknown to earlier generations. This, coupled with the new fear of fats, led to low-fat diets and foods depleted of vitamins and minerals causing a nutrient deficient yet obese generation.
It is not commonly talked about but poor nutrition causes diseases. Examples being:
All of these conditions were virtually cured by ingesting the missing substance.
Our bodies are miraculously and wonderfully created, and are quite resilient. As a matter of fact, the body can manufacture all vitamins but C and 20 different amino acids. There are some nutrients called "essential". They are called essential because they are both "essential" for good health and because they must be ingested as the body can not produce them.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's), aka Vitamin F, are needed by every cell and function of the body. It is often underestimated how much of these oils our bodies need. The dry weight of our brain alone is made up of 70% fatty acids.
Like the B vitamins, there are several members of the Vitamin F family. Let's take them one by one: the Omega brothers, i.e. Omega 3, 6 and 9. They are given their number because of their pairing of Carbons. Fatty acid molecules form in a chain of carbons "C" to which is attached Hydrogen "H" and Oxygen "O".
Saturated fats are where there are no missing hydrogen and are no double bonds. These fats are straight and unbendable.
Unsaturated fats, either mono (one) or poly (many) can contort to different shapes. The category of the fat, Omega 3, 6 or 9 can be understood if you think of an unsaturated fatty acid chain as a centipede, and to each of its section where the leg comes out the centipede is wearing a sneaker.
These 3 centipede triplets, look very much the same except they have all lost sneakers on their legs starting on different sections of their body. That is how you tell them apart.
If you start at their head and count back 3 and notice the first centipede is lacking 1 pair of sneakers starting on his 3rd section, he then binds them together to keep his balance. He is Omega 3.
Omega 3 Omega 6 Omega 9
Now visualize the centipede as molecules. The sections of their body are Carbons. The legs are a place that can bond onto something and their sneakers are hydrogens.
Omega 3 oil (aka linolenic acid) is named because the first carbon lacking a hydrogen is the 3rd carbon. Since there is only one pair of hydrogens (MONO) missing it is categorized as a Mono Saturated fat. In other words, it's saturated with hydrogen except for one pair.
Since the carbons do not have a hydrogen to attach to they double bond with each other. Notice the two lines in the chain below circled in red.
Unlike the oils, where no carbons are lacking a hydrogen (making it saturated and solid or semi solid at room temperature) …. Mono saturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature. Omega 6 oil (aka linoleic acid) is called a poly unsaturated fat because the first missing hydrogen is at the 6th carbon and it is lacking at least one other pair missing later on.
Likewise, the Omega 9 (aka oleic acid) oil, the first carbon lacking a pair of hydrogen is the 9th carbon.
Forced Hydrogenated oils, such as shortening or margarine, are saturated fats. Since they are unable to alter shape, the cell they attach to becomes rigid. Unlike their natural counterparts, omega oils, being flexible, keep the cell it attaches to supple.
If the saturated oil attaches to the cell membrane it becomes rigid and the cell has a harder time pulling in nourishment and expelling toxins. Supple cell membranes can freely exchange both. Likewise, when a bad fat attaches to a cell, it inhibits good fat from adhering to that cell. So, not only is taking in good fats important, but avoiding the bad fats are equally important.
What does this mean in our bodies?
Our diets often have enough Omega 6 oils. So, the need of supplementing them is typically less than the other Omega oils. The optimum ratio between Omega 6 and Omega 3 are 4:1 or less.
There was a study which indicated that flaxseed oil can contribute to prostate cancer. I believe this study was flawed, but I would rather error on the side of caution. So for men, I suggest Evening Primrose Oil. However, since Flaxseed Oil has a ratio of 3:1 which is the richest source of plant omega 3’s, this is one of my favorite oil for women.
Whenever a person eats a plant source of omega oils, such as flaxseeds, their body has to extract and convert the oils into EPA dn DHA so they can be used. When taking fish omega oils, the fish’s body has already done the extraction and is therefore more bio-available.
There are many people who are taking oil based supplements who are not getting the full benefit from them. When taken without a protein the oils can actually cause stress on the liver.
The reason for this is that fats are oil soluble and the blood is water soluble. To understand the significance of this, think about trying to wash oil off of a pan. The water can't transport the oil. Soap is needed to emulsify (make the oil particles smaller), so that the water can wash away the oil.
So it is with the blood and oil supplements. To remedy this, take oil soluble supplements with a protein so it encourages the liver to produce and release bile salts (much like the soap) which will then help emulsify the oils so the blood can transport them to the tissue instead of them settling in the liver. Good sources of protein are: Nuts, Seeds, Legumes/ Beans, Meats, Eggs.
Liver function is pivotal for the digestion of fats into particles small enough for the body to use them. Sometimes it is necessary to supplement with the enzymes and bile salts that the liver is too weak to produce.
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