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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Oils, Fats and Health

Fats consumed is important for anyone to manage, much less for folks with multiple sclerosis (MSers). A term you’ll see a lot is essential fatty acids (EFAs). Humans don’t make these, so they have to be consumed. The two EFAs that are important for human beings are alpha-linlenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Some studies seem to show that MSers don’t absorb or transport essential fatty acids (EFAs) properly. Supplementing your diet with EFAs becomes critical.

Whether you have multiple sclerosis (MS) or not, balancing the omega fatty acids is important to promoting good health. Balance omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to promote health. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be 2:1, 3:1, or 4:1. In other words, take 2 to 4 times omega-6 than omega-3.

There are three kinds of EFAs to be aware of: omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9. Omega-3 is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and is in fish oils, flaxseed, canola, soy, perilla seed, walnuts and walnut oil. High omega-3 suppresses inflammatory response. They help reduce heart disease, and lower LDL, the bad cholesterol. They reduce stroke; enhance blood vessel elasticity; and prevent build-up of harmful fat deposits in arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to brain and eye development, prevent cardiovascular disease, and help prevent Alzheimer’s. Fish oils include herring, mackerel, salmon, and sardines. But you can also get vegetarian DHA.

Omega-6 is linoleic acid (LA), which is in evening primrose oil (EPO), black currant oil, sunflower oil and seeds, safflower, peanut, cottonseed, rice bran, corn. and some vegetable oils. Too much omega-6 can be inflammatory and result in heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis and depression. Avoid cooking with them. Omega-6 oils work together with omega-3s, must be in balance (that ratio mentioned above).

Omega-9 is oleic acid - monounsaturated fat, and is , in sunflower, canola, olive, peanuts, pistachios, almonds and avocados. Canola and sunflower are very high in monounsaturated fats. They help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Omega-9s are also produced by the body. They reduce key factors that contribute to heart disease and diabetes. They increase HDL (good) and decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol, and help eliminate plaque in arteries. The US FDA says 1 ½ tbsp per day canola oil can reduce heart disease.

The cell membrane is made up of fats and is constantly being remade. The gut and skin are quickly remade. Bones and cartilage are remade slowly.
Saturated fats make cells stick together. When cells stick together, you get clots, heart attacks, and strokes. Organs made of these cells become hard and inflexible, and result in atherosclerosis or hypertension. These cells are more prone to degeneration which may play a part in MS progression. Unsaturated fats are the building blocks of immune system chemicals, while monounsaturated fats are neutral for immune system.

It’s important to remember which foods and oils fit into which category of fat, so you can keep them in balance. Since fats interact with the immune system and with inflammation, it’s critical to MSers. That’s more than enough about fats for one day! Phew!!

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