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Omega 6 - not all bad

By Denise Elliot

As an article contributor to Health House, I was asked to give some feedback on the Fats and Oils chapter in the new Stay Healthy book.

Such an important chapter –  fats and oils are an essential part of our wellness - quality fats in our body really do help lower the risk for many nasty disease processes, and they help keep us alert and functioning from birth through to our older years.

The chapter explains the differences between the four types of fats - saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fat, plus the indispensable role of fats for absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.

I learnt by reading this chapter that Avocado oil appears to be an oil that is safer to heat - an oil ideally carries a high level of monounsaturated fat to make it more stable to handle heat. I have always placed Avocado oil with the high polyunsaturated oils, and only enjoyed its health benefits cold as a dressing.  It appears it does also carry a high level of monounsaturated oil content, so there is always new knowledge to gain.

Readers should also be aware that linoleic acid (LA) and alpha linolenic acid (ALA) are our two major precursors for omega 6 and omega 3 and are essential to life.  Our body converts LA to GLA in the omega 6 pathway and converts ALA to EPA and DHA in the omega 3 pathway.  Omega 9 is not essential and easily found in our diet.

In the chapter David states “It’s now clear that excess LA type omega 6 from seed oils causes massive health problems” - “and that over-consumption is linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease”.  Omega 6 in excess does have the capacity to cause inflammation but we are all biochemically different functioning people and must also consider the quality of the oil and a person’s diet.  For example, if someone replaced some of their excessive consumption of saturated fat with a quality cold pressed omega 6 seed oil and ingested it cold it would have health benefits.

Quality is the most important part about the fats and oils, we consume.  Any oil in an oxidized form can cause problems in our bodies.  A quality fat can easily turn into a rancid unsafe compound if poorly treated.  Some of the cheap vegetable oils sold in clear plastic bottles are heat treated to extract the oil. This cheap processing destroys any quality it might have started with.  These heat treated omega 6 oils, when sold or used in many prepared foods, are risk factors for  disease. A quality cold pressed omega 6 oil is a much better choice.

Omega 3 always works down an anti-inflammatory pathway, benefitting and supporting many body systems.  Most disease processes sadly will have an inflammatory element. Interestingly there are two full pages of foods listed with gram levels of the different fats - not one of the listed foods has higher than 1 gram of omega 3, emphasising how much harder it is to find omega 3 in our diets - thankfully these pages are not a food plan or the only option to obtain quality omega 3.

One of the major reasons we have our natural health practitioners, is because what is good for one person is not necessarily good for another.  Finding  balance in our nutritional choices is not as easy as it sounds.  It is not always as simple as a ratio between omega 3 and 6, although I do hope it is clear to the reader the importance of the often forgotten omega 3.