In This Issue
Questions & Answers about EFA's
What Foods Do For You
Is Violence an Infectious Disease?
Did You Know...
Questions & Answers about EFA's
What are EFAs?
EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids) are polyunsaturated oils - the "good" fats. They are "essential" because our body does not manufacture them, and they must be obtained through our diet on a daily basis for optimal health and well-being. Essential Fatty Acids produce beneficial hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids that affect the function of virtually every system in the body. The most important Essential Fatty Acids are EPA and DHA (Omega-3s) and CIA (Omega-6). They are the nutrients responsible for cell flexibility, nerve communications, mood support, and even weight control.
Why are EFA's important?
The body must receive a constant and balanced supply of Essential Fatty Acids - EFA's - to ensure proper eicosanoid production. Eicosanoids regulate pain and swelling, help maintain proper blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and promote fluidity in nerve transmission. Essential Fatty Acids - EFA's - are also recommended for many women's health issues. During pregnancy and lactation, its especially important for a woman to get adequate amounts of DHA because the baby is drawing upon her supply. DHA is critical for the healthy development of the brain, eyes, and nervous system.
What is EPA?
EPA Supports Cardiovascular Health and Reduces Inflammation
EPA i.e. Eicosapentaenoic acid, is a long-chain Omega-3 polyunsaturated "essential fatty acid" found in fish. Omega-3s are "essential" because humans are unable to synthesize them, and therefore they must be obtained through our diet.
EPA, Eicosanoids, and Inflammation:
Beyond their cardioprotective effects, Omega-3s (especially EPA) are believed to be beneficial for many autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, and psoriasis.
Fish oil is an excellent source of both EPA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), another long-chain Omega-3, and appears to be beneficial for cardiovascular health by reducing the risk of cardiac arrest and ischemic stroke. In fact, the evidence is so strong that the American Heart Association has stated that "people who have elevated triglycerides may need two to four grams of EPA and DHA per day provided as a supplement", and the White House has urged the Department of Health and Human Services to revise the nation's dietary guidelines "to include new information that Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart disease".
Epidemiological and tissue compositional studies have linked low seafood intake to major depression, postpartum depression, and schizophrenia, as well as to the severity of depressive symptoms. Although the clinical study of Omega-3s for use in psycho-therapy has only just begun, a few studies have shown that EPA improved symptoms in both schizophrenia and depression and increased remission time in bipolar disorder.
What is DHA?
Healthy Mood - Healthy Mind
DHA i.e. Docosahexaenoic acid, is a long-chain polyunsaturated Omega-3 essential fatty acid from fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are also "essential" because humans are unable to synthesize them, meaning that they must be obtained through our diet. The brain in particular is very rich in DHA, where it increases membrane fluidity, promotes neurite (axonal and dendritic) outgrowth, and supports functions such as learning, memory, and cognitive development.
Protection Against Stress:
One of the apparent benefits of DHA is to protect against the harmful effects of stress. Supplementation with DHA has been shown to reduce elevations in aggression and hostility in response to psychological stress, and may have contributed to a reduction in anti-social behaviors among prisoners given dietary supplements. In addition, DHA may help to protect against the increased risk of heart attack associated with stress and depression.
Learning and Cognition:
In clinical trials, low levels of DHA in the body and low fish consumption have been established as risk factors for age-associated cognitive impairments, especially Alzheimer's Disease. One study even found that Omega-3 treatment improved Alzheimer's Disease-induced cognitive impairments for six months.
Pregnancy and Lactation:
During pregnancy and lactation, proper nutrition with long chain Omega-3s appears to be especially important for the health of both the mother and child. Inadequate maternal Omega 3 intake during pregnancy is a risk factor for premature birth and low birth weight, diabetes, and postpartum depression. DHA also appears to be very important to infants' visual and cognitive development. A recent study showed that children whose mothers had taken cod liver oil during pregnancy and lactation had higher IQs at age four than those whose mothers had taken a placebo. However, it is also important to note that exposure to environmental toxins found in certain kinds of fish, are associated with increased risk for low birth weight. It is therefore crucial for expecting mothers to seek out a molecularly distilled source of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
What is GLA?
Healthy Skin, Hair & Hormones
In general, Western diets contain too few Omega-3 essential fatty acids and too many Omega-6 essential fatty acids (found in sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, and other foods), an imbalance that may predispose many towards hyper-inflammation. The one exception may be gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a different type of Omega-6 fatty acid. GLA is concentrated in borage oil and evening primrose oil, and has anti-inflammatory effects through mechanisms similar to those used by EPA. So it is not surprising that studies using GLA have shown that it may be useful in the treatment of arthritis, premenstrual syndrome and breast pain, inflammatory bowel disease, skin disorders such as eczema, and other conditions. However, GLA can also metabolize into the pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fat arachidonic acid. Thankfully, taking EPA in conjunction with GLA appears to inhibit this process, potentially making the total effect of the two greater than the sum of its parts.
Taking EPA & DHA - When diet is not enough
For most people, taking EPA and DHA may be the most effective way to achieve proper EFA balance. Foods traditionally thought to be good sources of EFAs may not supply adequate amounts of EPA and DHA, and may contain harmful heavy metals. Much of the salmon on the market today is farmed, and fed a grain diet instead of fish meal. As a result, the fish can be abnormally high in linoleic acid and pesticides, and low in Omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to insufficient Omega-3 rich foods in the American diet, many factors can lead to a reduced absorption of EFAs including:
- Low levels of key vitamins and minerals
- Alcohol consumption
- Some prescription drugs
- A diet high in hydrogenated & trans fats
- Compromised immune status
- Poor diet
WHAT FOODS DO FOR YOU?
It's difficult to keep track of what a food can do to and for your body, when the story keeps changing. "We continue to learn about the effects of food on our bodies. That's why new information is coming out every year, and it's always changing," says Norma Flood, registered dietitian and nutrition educator for the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. "We've learned a 1ot about foods, but we have a lot more to learn. For example, there are more than 10,000 phytochemicals or plant chemicals in food, and we've studied only a small fraction of them." She and Cheryl Rock, professor of nutrition at UCSD Medical School, set the record straight on some good foods that have been thought to be bad.
Old news: Avoid avocados, they're loaded with fat (about 30 grams).
Latest news: Avocados do have fat but it's the heart-healthy kind. Avocados also contain vitamin E and other nutrients that can help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
FYI Avocados are higher in calories than other fruits. Good to add a few slices on a salad or use as a spread substitute for mayonnaise or butter and actually save calories.
Old news: All fish is good for you. Eat as much as you can.
Latest news: While fish is high in protein, low in saturated fat and contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids, it also has varying levels of mercury.
FYI All fish has some mercury, the fish lowest in mercury levels are shrimp, salmon, cod, mahi mahi or catfish. Fish with high mercury levels are swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tilefish and albacore tuna.
Old news: With about 90% of their calories coming from fat, say no to nuts.
Latest news: Nuts contain good fats that lower bad cholesterol (LDL), along with other heart-protecting nutrients. Adding a few nuts to a weight-loss diet may actually help you stick to the plan.
FYI One ounce handful of nuts has 160 to 200 calories, so don't overdo it. Nuts are a good substitute for 20 potato chips or three small cookies.
Old news: Margarine is better than butter because it's lower in saturated fat.
Latest news: Although margarine may have less saturated fat than butter, it's loaded with heart-damaging trans fatty acids which is far more harmful than saturated animal fats.
FYI Even though butter is better, intake should still be restricted. Excessive amounts of saturated fats have been tied to heart disease.
Old news: Eat all the bread you want. Complex carbohydrates supply energy without fat, so you won't gain weight. Then Adkins Diet fans claimed that bread and other carbohydrates made you fat.
Latest news: It's true that breads made of white flour and sugars are empty calories with no nutritional benefits. Too much of them can affect cholesterol. Whole-grain breads are different.
FYI Look for breads that have at least 3 grains of fiber per slice. Whole-grain breads also contain B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin E.
Old news: Egg yolks are nature's most concentrated source of artery-clogging cholesterol. Don't eat more than once a week.
Latest news: Eggs are only moderate in saturated fat, the main culprit in rising cholesterol levels. Plus, the yolks contain important nutrients, including folic acid, vitamin A and amino acids.
FYI Eggs are an excellent source of protein, so an egg a day can be part of a healthy diet.
Old news: Soy can make you look and feel young and healthy. Eat plenty.
Latest news: Soy has a weak estrogen effect, so women at risk for breast cancer should limit intake. However, soy's isoflavins have antioxidants with many health benefits, including lowering the risk of prostate cancer.
FYI Eat soy in moderation and choose soy foods - tofu, miso, soy milk or soy beans - rather than processed soy powders and supplements.
Old news: All oils are bad for your cholesterol.
Latest news: Some oils can have a beneficial effect on cholesterol. Mono-unsaturated oils found in olives, walnut and canola oils can lower total cholesterol and triglycerides and maintain HDL (good cholesterol).
FYI Use oils in salads as long as they're among the mono-unsaturated oils. All oils do have a lot of calories.
IS VIOLENCE AN INFECTIOUS DISEASE?
A Harvard Medical School study investigating the root causes of violent behavior has found that young teens who witnessed gun violence were more than twice as likely as nonwitnesses to later commit violent crime themselves. The Harvard study interviewed and followed more than 1,500 children and teens living in 78 Chicago neighborhoods over five years. The researchers found that witnessing a violent act was the greatest single factor in whether a person later committed violence, far more common than poverty, drug use or being raised by a single parent. "Based on this study's results", says principal researcher Dr Felton Earls, "showing the importance of personal contact with violence, the best model for violence may be that of a socially infectious disease."
DID YOU KNOW?
- Fewer Americans are smoking these days- about 45 million. That's 21.6% of U.S. adults surveyed by the Federal Centers for Disease Control in 2003, down from 22.5% in 2002 and 22.8%in 2001. More men smoke than women: 24% to 19% respectively. Asian-Americans smoked the least: 12%. American Indians and Alaska natives had the highest prevalence: 39.7%. For the second consecutive year, there were more former smokers than current smokers: 46 million people say they've kicked the habit.
- Peruvian Olives are very good for you because:
Olives are an alkaline fruit, high in monsaturated fats, loaded with beneficial omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. They possess many antioxidant properties, being high in viamins A and E as well as minerals, especially magnesium and calcium, with two times the amount of calcium that you would find in an orange. They are also high in amino acids, including leucine, aspartic acid, and glutaminic acid.
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In Good Health.