Polyunsaturated Fat

By: Ron Lagerquist

“The rise of polyunsaturated fats in the modern diet has contributed to a unhealthy imbalance in the proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.”

Back in the 1950s, nutritionists and doctors alike began recommending a switch from animal fats like butter and lard to polyunsaturated vegetable oils like corn oil or safflower oil margarines and cooking oils. This switch promised to lower cholesterol and saturated fat, therefore curtailing the rise in cardiovascular diseases. “High in polyunsaturated fat” was labeled on products like a vitamin. It is true that polyunsaturates do lower LDL cholesterol but what was not understood is that polyunsaturates also reduce the much-needed HDL, those little boats that remove cholesterol to the liver for elimination. But polyunsaturates have an even more sinister side, undiscovered until recently.

Remember we talked about the importance of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids? Well, there is more to the story. Not only is it important that we have good sources of these fats, but they are needed in proportion to each other. Omega-6 is plentiful and present in many foods including meat and poultry. Omega-3, on the other hand, is not so easy to find because of changes in how food is grown and processed.

Animals cannot produce these fatty acids on their own and must derive them from ingesting plant foods. Grass and dark green leafy vegetables are full of omega-3s. When grass is replaced with grain so meat is more tender and fatty, the result is disproportionate amounts of omega-6 to omega-3s in meat. Additionally, polyunsaturates, other than flax, pumpkin and hemp oils, are full of omega-6 and deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. Our ancestors ate foods containing equal proportions of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, but today the ratio in many foods is somewhere between twenty and forty to one. This dramatic change is having a stunning impact on our health.

Omega-6 and omega-3 serve a very different purpose in the body. Omega-6 promotes cell proliferation, blood clotting and inflammation; omega-3 has the opposite effect, promoting its important role as an anti-inflammatory. A higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 will result in a greater risk of cancer, blood clots and inflammatory autoimmune diseases. This is why victims of arthritis have great success when increasing intake of omega-3.

The rise of polyunsaturated fats in the modern diet has contributed to an imbalance in the proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.

Related Article: Healthy Monounsaturated Fat

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