Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Getting thin–on fatsThe healthy, sure-fire way with omega oils
By Ann Louise Gittleman, MS, CNSSource: Condensation from "Eat Fat Lose Weight", Keats Publishing Publishing Date: 1999
True, it may sound strange. But eating the right kind of fats is definitely where it's at for healthy weight loss. Sadly, many people have been so brainwashed by the fat-free mentality of the past ten years that they still suffer from fat phobia. And although we are slowly emerging from the no-or low-fat craze, the notion that all fats are bad is definitely a hard one to shake.

There are, of course, some fats you should definitely stay away from. Hydrogenated, oxidized, fried or heat-processed fats–typically found in margarine, vegetable shortening or fried foods–are sources of the unnatural and unhealthy trans fats. These are the fats that have been linked to heart disease, cancer and aging. But there are good fats. The essential fatty acids, for instance, are not only necessary for overall health, but are also beneficial for shedding those excess pounds. In fact, they are so crucial to cardiovascular, immune, reproductive and skin health that it amazes me how so-called "experts" could have ever believed otherwise.

The truth is high-quality, protective fats (such as extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, fish oils, nuts, seeds and avocados) can aid in keeping blood sugar levels stable. So you actually feel fuller longer. Translation: You get full by eating less food, which inhibits food cravings and prevents overeating. In addition, some of the healthy fats can trigger fat burning rather than fat storage. And that boosts your body's natural fat-burning ability. So the question isn't whether you should include fats in your diet. The question is "Which ones?"

The fat-free roller coaster rideThanks to the fat-free propaganda of the past decade, Americans mistakenly linked all dietary fats with elevated cholesterol levels, cardiovascular problems and obesity. They reacted by dramatically altering their dietary regimens and removing fats as much as possible from their meals. But without fat–the most potent blood sugar stabilizer–many developed powerful food cravings and wound up substituting unlimited carbohydrates (sugar, fat-free yogurt, cookies, bagels, bread, crackers, rice cakes, etc.) for the missing fats.
Even the most nutritionally conscious health buffs went overboard with these fat-free carbohydrates and became fat in the process! It was all due to their overeating refined, white flour carbohydrates (like bagels and white rice) as well as those highly touted complex carbohydrates (such as whole grain bread, potatoes and corn). These foods can produce a quick spike in blood sugar levels, which raises insulin–the fat-promoting hormone. Plus elevated insulin blocks the body's ability to burn stored fat for energy as well as creates a rapid fall in blood sugar levels, resulting in more hunger.

This roller coaster ride of blood sugar peaks and valleys has ultimately lead to our national problem: weight gain. In fact, more Americans are overweight today than ever before. Over 50% of us fall in the overweight category. And as odd as it may sound, many of these overweight individuals are suffering from a fat deficiency–an essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency to be exact. Essential fatty acids are absolutely necessary for the body's biochemical processes. Without them, your body senses a famine and begins to convert more carbohydrates into fat, turning it into a fat-producing machine.

An essential fatty acid deficiency may also be the cause behind escalating health concerns such as arthritis, diabetes, skin disorders, breast cancer, PMS and menopausal symptoms, low-energy levels, fatigue, allergy, yeast problems, mood swings and depression. Just look at the trends since North Americans started cutting back the fat:
• Heart disease still remains the No.1 killer• The cases of diabetes have tripled in the last 30 years• New health conditions are appearing like puzzling epidemics (chronic fatigue, Candida, food allergies, immune suppressive disorders)• The number of cancer cases has escalated­the chance of survival isn¹t much better than 20 years ago• Hyperactivity among children and adults is on the rise­quite possibly the lack of brain fortifying fat is contributing to numerous cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

So who says cutting out fat is better for your health? Trust me, fat is not the enemy. On the contrary, it can become your best ally. Besides promoting well being, essential healthy fats make you look good by adding luster to brittle hair, strength to cracked or weak nails and healing to skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

The real deal: omegasAmong healthy fats, the "omegas" are probably the most studied. These families of essential fatty acids include omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9. These EFA's provide support for numerous bodily functions, including the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems. Both the omega-3s (in sources such as flaxseed oil, fatty fish, walnuts and pumpkin seeds) and the "good" omega-6 sources (such as borage and evening primrose oil) contain the essential fatty acids your body needs but can't produce on its own. For that reason, they must be taken through food or supplementation.

Current research indicates that the omega 3s have therapeutic benefits in reducing high tryglicerides, lowering hypertension, regulating irregular heart beat as well as assisting in learning disorders, infant brain development and menopausal discomforts. Certain of the omega 6s are outstanding for improving diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS and skin disorders (such as psoriasis and eczema) as well as helping aid in cancer treatment.
In addition to the omega 3s and 6s, there are also omega 9s. Although not considered essential, omega 9s provide substantial health benefits and should still be an intricate part of your dietary lifestyle because of their monounsaturated oleic acid content. Monounsaturated oleic acid plays a protective role in lowering heart attack risk and protecting arterial cholesterol build-up. It is also believed to assist in cancer prevention. Olive oil, avocados and various nuts (like peanuts, almonds and macadamias) are rich omega-9 sources.

Here's how the omegas workAlpha linolenic acid is the principal essential fatty acid in the omega-3 family and linoleic acid takes the lead in the omega-6 series. In a healthy body with sound nutrition, various metabolic conversions take place transferring the raw dietary materials into usable, biologically potent EFAs. The alpha linolenic acid is transformed into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and later into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The omega-6 linoleic acid converts to gamma linolenic acid (GLA). Both the EPA and the GLA synthesized from dietary sources undergo another conversion, resulting in hormone-like biochemical compounds know as eicosanoids. These remarkable substances aid in virtually every body activity, from vital organ functioning down to intracellular processes.

Today, most popular literature suggests that "we get too much omega-6" and should therefore focus on the omega-3s. It is true that the typical North American diet already contains an excess of the omega-6 linoleic acid obtained through many of the cooking oils and pre-packaged foods we eat on a regular basis. However, as with many things in life, the process of converting linoleic acid into beneficial GLA doesn't always go as planned.

Several metabolic roadblocks often hinder the conversion process of creating GLA. Environmental factors (such as pollution) along with aging, daily stress, smoking, viral infections and other illnesses (like diabetes) get in the way. And, according to current research, diets rich in sugar, trans fats (like those found in margarine and processed foods) and alcohol can also block the critical process of creating GLA. Since these impediments to healthy GLA production are so common in the North American population today, it is safe to say that most of us are deficient in GLA, even though we get lots of omega-6 linoleic acid.

Eliminating these factors whenever possible helps your body reap the numerous benefits of the amazing omega oils. The easiest place to start is in reducing or even omitting sugar, trans fats and alcohol. You might also consider supplementing with rich sources of preformed GLA as well as EPA and DHA. borage power: your GLA connection While most consumers are already somewhat familiar with fish oil containing EPA and DHA, GLA has been overshadowed by the more publicized omega 3s. However, GLA is quickly coming into its own as an immune booster, PMS soother and skin beautifier. Although traditionally women have used evening primrose oil as a source of GLA, the richest source of this fatty acid is actually borage oil. This botanical oil has the highest concentration of GLA available (up to 26%), compared to the 15% found in black currant seed oil and only 8-10% in evening primrose oil. So the good news is you need fewer capsules overall to achieve the recommended one-to-two gram daily GLA dosage.

Recognized throughout Europe, the blue, star-shaped flowered borage plant has been sought for its healing properties for over 1500 years. Due to its high GLA levels, borage oil is fast becoming the optimal GLA alternative here in North America. Perhaps the best news yet involves animal studies, which suggest that both omega-3 and omega-6 oils have the ability to halt obesity. A diet rich in fats was fed to lab mice having a tendency toward obesity and diabetes. Even though both test groups had the same amount of calories and fat percentages, the slimmer mice were those given omega-3 oils (fish oil). The fatter mice consumed unhealthy oils (mostly soybean oil) or saturated fat. The difference in their weight equated to that of a 150-pound man versus a 225-pound man. Several good omega-6s (like GLA and conjugated linoleic acid) have also demonstrated an ability to be potent metabolic burners in animal studies and with humans. Clearly the best plan of action for a healthy weight-loss program includes a balanced diet with sufficient amounts of protein and moderate carbohydrates, as well as omega-3s and the omega-6s.
If you want to drop those extra pounds and enjoy vibrant health, put an end to your fat phobia and add healthy fats back into your diet. I've witnessed dramatic and long lasting results with my readers and clients, who were all tired of that weight-loss roller coaster ride. Not only did they feel better, but their skin cleared up, their hair had sheen and they enjoyed more energy–as well as a slimmer body. And guess what? The same thing will happen to you.
Omega-fying Fat Zappers The key to vibrant health and successful weight loss is balanced nutrition. Here's a list of the best dietary sources for each of these healthy fats. But remember: When processed or refined, the nutritional benefits of these oils are dramatically compromised. Omega-type How to Get Them Hot Tips Omega-3s Eat fatty fish 3 or 4 times a week. (Choose from salmon, mackerel, sardines, butter fish, etc.) Or supplement with 1-3 grams of fish oil or flaxseed oil daily.
Omega-3s• wheat germ oil (bottled oil or capsules)• walnuts (raw nuts, bottled oil or capsules)• pumpkin seeds• purslane (dark, leafy green used throughout Mediterranean countries)• hemp seed oil (bottled oil or capsules)• Blend a tablespoon of flaxseed oil in your yogurt, cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. The dairy products' amino acids along with the flaxseed's fatty acids may help combat breast cancer, according to German researchers• Use only unrefined or cold-pressed brands of canola oil, usually found health food stores• Perk up your salads by using walnut oil in your dressing• Hemp oil is a healthy mixture of both omega-3s and omega-6s
Omega-6s Enjoy 1-2 grams of borage oil (liquid or capsules) daily or 3-6 grams of evening primrose oil (liquid or capsules). Other savory omega-6 sources: • black currant seed oil (capsules) • pine nuts (raw nuts)• pistachios (raw nuts)• sunflower seeds (raw seeds)• Conjugated Linoleic Acid--CLA (capsules)• Check labels and avoid products made with partially hydrogenated versions of these oils. You'll find them in a variety of foods, like bread and crackers. Also don't purchase these omega-6 oils, typically sold in a refined, nutrient-deficient form: corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed.

Omega-9s 1-2 tablespoon(s) daily of olive oil. Other tasty omega-9 sources: • sesame oil (bottled oil)• avocado (raw or bottled oil)• peanuts (raw nuts or bottled oil)• almonds (raw nuts or bottled oil)• pecans (raw nuts)• cashews (raw nuts)• hazelnuts (raw nuts or bottled oil)• macadamia (raw nuts)• Only use virgin or extra virgin olive oil. Whenever the label merely says "pure," the nutritional benefits have been reduced.

About Ann Louise Gittleman, MS, CNS Ann Louise Gittleman, MS, CNS, is one of the foremost nutritionists in the United States. The former Nutritional Director at the Pritikin Longevity Center, she currently consults with a broad spectrum of professional organizations and is the author of the best-selling books: Eat Fat, Lose Weight, Super Nutrition for Women, Super Nutrition for Menopause, The 40/30/30 phenomenon, and Why Am I Always So Tired?
Reprinted with permission from the author. To order "Eat Fat, Lose Weight" online, visit or http://barnes&

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