Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Sea Connection

  I am going to come out and say it upfront, if you are not consuming some kind of fish oil, stop reading this post and get out there to your local drug store and purchase a good quality fish oil supplement. A 100 capsules bottle retails for about $12. This is one of the most important supplement that is missing from our Standard American Diet (SAD). Even paleo folks most likely are not getting enough of this nutrient. Why am I so passionate about fish oil? Please read on and see why this nutrient is so important for our well being.

Have you ever sat on a beach and gazed out at the ocean? Most people find this very calming and relaxing. Oh, by the way, this calming effect does not work with children around...:-) We are awed by the vastness of the sea and our humble abode in this gigantic cosmos. The sea reminds us of our beginning and of the time when there was nothing, and we were suspended in nothingness. Humans have a deep connection with the sea. We are essentially sea creatures. What does that mean? Essentially life started in the water billions of years ago. We swam in the water for millions of years evolving into multicellular beings and then eventually few of us ventured out of the sea onto the dry land. One of my favorite cartoons from Gary Larson explains this concept in one simple picture...:-)

 Once we were on land, the evolution continued for many more millions of years, until we reached where we are today. Surely there is plenty of debate in the religious and secular circles about the concept of evolution, but there is no denying that we humans are designed to progress slowly throughout our lives. Then it is only natural to deduce that we evolved slowly into our present form going through gradual incremental progressions. Another proof is before our eyes everyday, as we see a birth of a new baby. The evolution movie is repeated inside a mother’s womb in nine months as the baby grows from a single cell (sperm) to a multicellular (baby). The billion year evolution movie is fast forwarded in nine months inside the womb. We all have gotten this crash course inside of our mother’s womb. Our long lost sea connection is what connects us to fish oil. The essential fats contained in the fish oil are the same fats that are contained in our body and make up more than 60% of the tissues and cellular membranes. Before we jump on to the benefits of fish oil, let’s examine it in more detail and clear up most of the nutritional lingo. The lingo that seem to confuse everyone. I am going to try to describe it as clearly as possible.

Lipids_____Triglycerides (Fats and Oils)
| |____Fatty acid
| |___Saturated
| |___Monounsaturated (MUFA)
| |___Polyunsaturated (PUFA)
| |
| |___Omega 3
| | |___ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid)
| | |___EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
| | |___DHA (Dicosahexaenoic Acid) 
| |
| |___Omega 6
| |___Linoleic Acid
| |___ARA Arachidonic Acid
| |___Lecithin
Omega 3 and Omega 6 are grouped under polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). Polyunsaturated fats are also called essential fats. Which means, body is unable to synthesize these fats on its own. This is probably due to our lost connection with the sea. When we were sea creatures, the sea provided plenty of Omega 3 fats in our diet, and once we became land dwellers, the omega 3 connection was severed. We must consume these fats through diet, and the best source of omega fats is through sea food diet. What exactly are omega 3 and omega 6? Omega (ώ) is the last letter in the Greek alphabet. The two polyunsaturated fats are designated by this Greek letter. Omega 3 means, that the third carbon in the long carbon fatty acid chain from the methyl end is missing an hydrogen atom and forms a double bond, and Omega 6 means the 6th carbon atom in the long carbon fatty acid chain is missing an hydrogen atom from the methyl end forming a double bond. There maybe more omegas discovered in the future. The 5 well known omegas are as follows:
  • ALA (alpha linolenic acid) is found in plants and it is the most abundant of omega 3 fats in nature. ALA is found in salad greens, flax, and canola seeds. ALA is a short chain 18 carbon long acid with three double bonds. The first double bond occurs in the 3rd carbon from the methyl end. ALA is not preferred food for the body, the brain and tissues prefer the long chain omega 3 acids (discussed in the next two bullets). The healthy cereal brands proudly tout their cereals contains omega 3. Don't get caught in this marketing hoopla. First of all cereals are not healthy, and secondly, the omega 3 added is from ALA sourced from the plants. It requires the body much effort to convert the ALA to long chain omega 3 acids that body can actually use. Less than 5% of ALA consumed is actually converted into a long chain Omega 3 acids. Moral of the story is ALA is not the most efficient omega 3 fat preferred by the body.
  • EPA (eicosa-penta-enoic acid). Don't get intimidated with this long name. Let's break it down: eicosa: 20; penta 5; enoic, is the double bond. Putting this all together, EPA is a 20 long carbon chain with 5 double bonds. More double bonds act as hinges and make the fat molecule more flexible. The healthy cell membranes are made out of EPA. EPA is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and is a natural blood thinner. The cells love this acid. 
  • DHA (dicosa-hexa-enoic acid). dicosa, 22; hexa, 6; enoic, refers to the double bond. Putting it all together, DHA is a 22 long carbon chain with 6 double bonds. The long chain and the 6 double bonds make this acid highly flexible. The brain cells are composed from DHA, the brain ends up consuming DHA in large quantities. DHA is critical for the development of fetal brain in the mother's womb. This is our sea connection. Inside the womb the baby swims in the primordial fluid, and the billion year evolution movie is repeated. During pregnancy a mother must consume sufficient DHA quantities to provide for the growing fetal brain. A diet low in DHA can have adverse affect on the baby's cognitive health.
  • Omega 6 linoleic acid is mostly found in seeds and oils. The 6th carbon from the methyl end forms a double bond. Omega 6 linoleic acid is also needed for building cell membranes. But it must work in conjunction with omega 3 EPA and DHA.
  • Omega 6 arachidonic acid is found in animal products and dairy. Omega 6 arachidonic acid is also known as ARA. The grain fed ruminants contain high amount of omega 6 arachidonic acid. Omega 6 ARA is also needed for building cell membranes, again it must work in conjunction with EPA and DHA. If the balance is way off then we get unhealthy and end up with many chronic problems.The problem in the standard American diet (SAD) is that the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is almost 10 to 1. The optimal balance should be 1 to 1. The grass fed ruminants have this natural balance. There is no deficiency of omega 6 around the world. People end up eating way too much omega 6 through vegetable oils and grain fed animal meat.
  All change begins from the inside. The billions of cells that make up our being all depend on a proper balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fats. As mentioned earlier these omegas work in conjunction with each other in building healthy cell membranes. The proper ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is about 3:1. If body receives sufficient amounts of these fats in the proper ratio then cells thrive and the body becomes healthy. Unfortunately, the ratio in the Standard American Diet (SAD) is more like 10:1. This ratio is unhealthy and leads to many health issues. However, this does not mean that we reject all Omega 6 fats and label them bad. The fats that mother nature produces can not be bad for you. It is the improper balance that causes problems. In the paleo circles, the nuts like almonds, cashews, and macadamias are common snack choices. Most nuts are high in omega 6 and the omega 3 is of ALA (alpha linolenic acid) form, this is the acid that needs to be converted to EPA before body can use it, and only a small percentage ends up getting converted to EPA. This does not mean that we should stay away from nuts, nuts contain many other minerals and micro nutrients like copper, selenium, and potassium that is useful for the body. An excess of Omega 6 affects the ALA from being converted to EPA. The enzyme (elongase) responsible for converting ALA to long chain EPA gets used up by Omega 6 leaving very few enzymes available to do their job. This leads to less EPA production and the cell membranes become unhealthy. This is why nuts and most Omega 6 fats (vegetable oils) should be used sparingly.

The best source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 that cells and tissues can use immediately is obtained from the animal products. The best source of Omega 3 is through fish. The grass fed ruminants also have an optimal Omega 6 to Omega 3 balance of 3:1. Just remember that grains that can make a human sick also have an adverse affect on the animal consuming it. It has been found that meat obtained from grain fed animals are high in Omega 6 fats and low in Omega 3 fats. This goes also for the farm raised fish who are fed a grain diet. The Omega balance in pretty much all farm domesticated animals is destroyed and becomes unhealthy. If you are eating meats, fish, and foul then you are still light years ahead of those folks who are still munching on whole grains and processed foods. Most likely you are receiving plenty of Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3. The scientists believe that is the lack or deficiency of Omega 3 that causes you to be sick not the excess of Omega 6. This is the reason a good fish oil supplement must be added to cover that gap. I will always maintain that we were not designed to eat vitamin supplements. We can obtain all of our vitamins from the variety of foods that we eat. We have done that for hundreds of years, the vitamins and mineral supplements are a very recent phenomena. Since we do live in modern times, and grass fed beef and wild pole caught salmon or tuna are not always available, then we must fill that Omega 3 deficiency with some fish oil. Here is a brief list of what fish oil will fix in your body:

  • It will protect the brain, the central nervous system. Remember, one of the key building blocks of brain cells is DHA.
  • The fish oil will help and improve the overall cardiovascular health. The cells and organs thrive on EPA.
  • The EPA is a well known anti-inflammatory agent and will help the autoimmunity disorder. If you are on paleo then you are already light years ahead on this item. The systemic inflammation is caused by the grains.
  • All omegas are found in every single cell of the body, and like everything else in nature they need to be replenished and replaced through diet.
  • Fish oil supplements or a high consumption of fish during pregnancy is very helpful for a fetal brain development. Remember brain cells are made with DHA. During pregnancy the fetal brain grows and the size of the brain continues to grow during childhood. 
  • Fish oil reduces the plaque build up in the arteries that eventually leads to stroke and heart attacks. The omega 3's are very flexible oils with multiple hinges. They do not stick to internal arterial walls but move along freely.
  • Fish oil will improve and help with the arthritis. 
  • Fish oil reduces mood disorders, like depression. This may sound like a comment out of left field, but think about it. Most mood disorders are cognitive functions and fish oil greatly helps the cognitive health by building healthy brain cells. 
I have been using fish oil for few months. I recently purchased Carlson Lemon Scented fish oil. A 16 oz. bottle cost me about $25 through Amazon. I usually take a fish supplement in the morning with breakfast and one tea spoon of Carlson fish oil with my dinner. The Carlson fish oil is perfect for the kids. There is no fishy smell. The fish oil is really important for the developing children. This coming August I would have completed two years being on paleo and grain free. I am very excited to see what my extended paleo regimen and my recent fish oil supplement did to my blood chemistry.

No comments:

Post a Comment