You are most likely over consuming omega-6 fatty acids and creating fatty acid imbalance in your body. Refined omega-6 oils, often termed “vegetable oils” or industrial oils, are used in many food products (because they are cheap) and public health messages often encourage the use of these oils without differentiating the “good” from the “bad”.
All of the cells and tissues of your body contain fat and the types and ratios of dietary fats you consume will determine, 1. the fat composition of your cells and 2. how well they function. A cell without a healthy membrane loses their ability to communicate with other cells and hold water and vital nutrients. Loss of cell to cell communication is thought to be one of the physiological events that leads to the growth of cancer. Your overall health is often linked to how healthy your cells are and how well they are functioning… this is often linked to your diet. You are the type of fat you eat.
Many chronic diseases are linked to inflammation in the body. One of the critical pieces necessary to balance pro-inflammatory processes is the ratio of omega-3:omega-6 fatty acids and this includes considering other fatty acid sources such as saturated and monounsaturated fats. The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids should be about 1:1-4:1 (the typical American diet is more like 20-30:1). This ratio, the types of omega-3 and omega-6 dietary sources you choose and other nutritional factors such as, vitamins C & E and quercetin all affect inflammation balance. (For more on omega-3 fatty acids, unhealthy fats and monounsaturated fats or mufas see my other website pages).
There’s one essential (meaning you need to get it in your diet as your body doesn’t produce it) omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid which is linoleic acid, or LA. LA is the basic building block for an important omega-6 called Gamma Linoleic Acid, or GLA which is important for inhibiting inflammation. Small amounts of unrefined, expeller-pressed omega-6 rich oils such as, grapeseed, sesame, sunflower and safflower oils are necessary to help balance inflammation as part of an anti inflammation diet. The body will move towards a pro-inflammatory state if the dietary intake ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is off.
Use small amounts of organic, unrefined, expeller or cold-pressed oils such as, grapeseed, sesame, sunflower and safflower oils in your diet. Refined oils such as soy, corn, “vegetable oils” and food products that contain those oils should be avoided. Certain oils should not be used in high temperature cooking as they are prone to oxidation. Good choices for high heat cooking include, grapeseed, high oleic safflower or raw, untoasted sesame oils. Don’t forget about getting some of these fats in their whole form as nuts and seeds. Since beef fat is the largest single source of an omega-6 fatty acid that promotes inflammation I would suggest no more than 1, 3-4 oz. serving per week.
This is a general guide to omega-6 fatty acids and diet recommendations may need to be modified based on your individual health and healing needs. In general, focusing on the correct balance of fats in your daily diet, including small amounts of quality oils rich in omega-6 is a major step forward in your health and healing process.
Some References: The Institute of Functional Medicine, Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach, 2004; Hyman,M. Ultrametabolism,2006; Alschular, L. et al. The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 2010; The Center for Mind Body Medicine, Food as Medicine conference, 2012
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