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Diet > Fats That Make Us Well

Essential fatty acids give us energy, stamina and contribute to our all round health and well being. Does the continuing degradation of faffy acids in popular diets do more harm than good? Udo Erasmus discusses his concept of the 'Right Fat Diet' in a recent issue of the International Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicne.

Udo Erasmus has a Bsc in Zoology with a major in Psychology. Poisoned by pesticides, he began a lourney back to health by taking an increasing interest in the field of nutrition. He has published a popular book on healthy nutrition, Fats and Oils.

Udo Erasmus argues that as some fats kill and others heal we should avoid the first and ensure that the second are a part of our diet. The fats we should avoid are the well publicised heart strainers. The receive plenty of negative media attention, but this can smear the reputaion of the fats we require, the essential fatty acids (EFAs).

Essential fatty acids increase the oxidation rate, raise energy levels and stamina and aid recovery after exercise. When the body's essential fatty acid intake is balanced the ability to metabolize oxygen is enhanced.

This means that you

  • feel more energetic
  • get tired less quickly when exercising
  • recover faster from physical exertion
  • stay alert later in the evening
If you have the correct balance of fatty acids this can make a positive difference to your energy levels. EFAs can be of considerable benefit to the elderly or unfit. This energy will be from the body's natural store rather than an artificial burst of energy such as that from coffee.

By increasing the metabolic rate essential fatty acids can aid weight loss. They also aid weight loss directly by increasing energy levels and therefore physical activity. They can decrease cravings which may be based on nutrient deficiency and help elevate the mood.

In addition to increasing the metabolic rate they make the kidneys function more effectively and rid our tissues of excess water.

The calories in EFAs should not be thought of as a potential weight gain because they are seldom burnt by the body as fuel. In fact, they encourage the burning of other fats.

Erasmus points out that "instead of being used as fuel they play a role in cell membranes and are converted into hormone-like prostaglandins. These fats keep us slim".

50% of our brain is made up of essential fatty acids. Getting the fat balance righ can help alleviate learning problems dyslexia, hyperactivity and attentior deficit disorders.

The mentally ill may experience improved mental functioning and it may even help prevent criminal behaviour.

When the brain is deprived of its fuel it decreases concentration levels and raises irritability levels. A small trigger may be enough to sbt off antisocial behaviour.

In a study of the inmates of a US prison Erasmus found that the re-offending rate could be cut from 80% tc 20% if prisoners were taught how to prevent low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia).

Another researcher, Dr Donald Ruden, has found that unresponsive juveniles can become consolable when treated with omega 3 rich oils.

Much antisocial behaviour may occur simply because the brain is simply not functioning comfortably. Getting its fuel right is a vital step towards improving brain function and behaviour.

Dry skin is an early indicator of an EFA deficiency. As essential fatty acids are important to major organs like the brain and liver the skin tends to get the last call on them. When we have too little EPA in our body the skin misses out.

Erasmus says that the role of essential fatty acids in maintaining the condition of our skin, hair and nails can be a vital one. "They form a barrier in our skin against loss of moisture and thereby protect us from dehydration, a cause of many problems that involve histamines, prostaglandins and inflammation. The barrier function of essential fatty acids also helps to prevent constipation and the toxic conditions based on it."

An adult dose of about two tablespoons of oil rich in essential fatty acids can help alleviate eczema, acne, psoriasis and other skin conditions. The skin should become smooth and velvety. This can aid tanning and reduce the risk of sunburn.

Other benefits
Our inner organs - liver, kidneys, adrenals and pancreas - require EFAs to function properly, as do our glands. In our digestive system they help prevent 'leaky guf syndrome and food allergies. Sperm production requires them and in women they can help prevent premenstrual syndrome," reports Erasmus.

"In our cardiovascular system cholesterol transport requires EFAs. Omega 3 EPA lowers high triglycerides Dy up to 65% (better than drugs) without side effects - except that you feel better."

EFAs can also help prevent heart attacks and strokes. They assist the production of hormone-like prosta-glandins that make our platlets less sticky. This decreases the chances of a blood clot forming.

EFAs boost the immune system in a manner similar to vitamin C. Omega 3 has an antioxidant-like function in the oody's oil-soluble system, just as vitamin D does in the body's water-soluble system. Antioxidants are chemically active and protect the body's cells by attracting substances that might otherwise damage our cell structure.

The antioxidant properties of EFAs can help treat fungal infections such as athletes foot and candida. They also help the skin detoxify, and fight back against foreign invaders. This can reduce reliance on external treatments.

What to have
Omega 3s and 6s compete for enzyme space in our cells. Too much of one can lead to deficiency in the other. When taking oils for their EFAs it is important to make sure you get a balance of omega 3s and 6s.

Unrefined oils and nuts are usually a good source. Check the balance of 3s and 6s before you buy.

Some oils such as linseed oil (flax oil) are unbalanced. Linseed oil is rich in omega 3s but can lead to omega 6 deficiencies because its omega 3s dominate. On its own it is an insufficient EFA supplement.

Erasmus says that for therapeutic impact a dominance of omega 35 is often best due to western dietary habits. For long-term health however, try to keep the balance in favour of omega 6s.

Always use unprocessed products. Processing oils can damage them turning them into killer fats. Light, air and heat have a destructive effect on EFAs. For this reason they should not be used for frying. Frying can in fact turn them into the wrong sort of fat - the killer kind.

Research shows that there can be widespread health benefits from getting enough EFAs. "EFAs are required for the function of every cell, tissue, gland and organ in the entire body," notes Erasmus. Because of their impact on everything from brain functioning and behaviour, through to the look and feel of our skin, EFAs are a vital component of our diet.

Problems Associated with essential fatty acid deficiency

Omega 6
Flax seed oils providing a vegetarian source of secondary Omega-3 & Omega-6.Eczema-like skin problems, hair loss, kidney malfunction, susceptibility to infection, male sterility, miscarriage, slow healing of wounds, arthritis like aches, dry skin, eyes and hair, water loss through skin, fatty infiltration of the liver, growth retardation, behavioural changes.

Omega 3
learning problems, weakness of vision, tingling in the arms and legs, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, sticky platlets.

Tissue inflammation, oily skin, low metabolic rate, immune system dysfunction, growth retardation, behavioural changes.

This article was provided by; OPEN FORUM ON HEALTH

Yogic Slim
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