(NaturalNews) This interview is an excerpt from Kevin Gianni's Rawkathon. In this excerpt, Rick Dina shares the skinny on Omega 3 fats.
Kevin: I do have a question and maybe you know the answer and maybe you don't; it's something I've always wondered about. Omega-3's, you can find them in fish, you can find them in grass fed beef, you can find them in fish oil and all that; if you cook the fish and you heat it, Omega-3 oils are very volatile, does it destroy the Omega-3's?
Rick: That is an excellent question. Yeah, to go back to the saturated fats are stiff and uncreative and they hold up pretty well to heat and to light and to oxidation. They don't get damaged much. But the more you unsaturated a fat, which means it starts to become curved and fluid and flexible and for those of you who've studied chemistry a little bit, when you add a double bond, we won't get into that whole thing but that's what makes a fat unsaturated. The more double bonds you have the more unsaturated the fat is and the more susceptible it is to damage from light and heat and oxygen.
Now it's interesting, in leafy greens and flax and hemp and chia seeds you have an Omega-3 fat called alpha-linoleic acid which has three double bonds. Most of us know when you read the flax seed oil it says, "Do not cook with flax seed oil," because we've got three double bonds. That's called a polyunsaturated fat and it doesn't hold up well to heat, light and oxygen. Now fish has two fats in it called EPA and DHA, which have five and six double bonds respectively, which means they're even more susceptible to damage from heat and light and oxygen than flax seeds are. But then when you cook the fish you clearly destroy some of those beneficial fats. I haven't seen a study that says exactly how much or depending on the cooking method, but clearly a lot of those are damaged.
Kevin: Let's talk about plant-based sources of essential fatty acids because I know that it's hard for the body to absorb things like hemp, actually not absorb but to transfer the medium chain Omega-3's into long chain fatty acids from hemp and flax.. What are some of the best sources for this? Do we need as much as they say we need? What's the whole consensus about that?
Rick: That is an excellent question that I've looked into quite a bit because I think that happens to be interesting and also as a vegan it's sort of like the big question – Omega-3's, how does it work? So like we mentioned before there's three key players for fats in the Omega-3 family. There's the alpha-linoleic acid, like you said it's a shorter chain. Although technically it's not considered a short chain, but it's shorter than the other ones. Its carbon skeleton is 18 carbons long. EPA, which we just mentioned that you find pre-formed in cold-water fish, not tropical, only cold-water fish, is 20 carbons long and then DHA is 22 carbons long. So enzymes within our body can take the plant-based Omega-3 fat with 18 carbons and it can add double bonds and it can add carbons and it can turn it into EPA and DHA.
Now there have been a number of studies that question the body's ability to do that efficiently. When the studies question it they say, "Look, we gave people this alpha-linoleic acid but we didn't see more DHA; therefore, the body doesn't convert well so we better get an outside source of that. Therefore, we better eat fish." That's the argument in a nutshell.
But there's some interesting things to know there also, is that too many Omega-6 fats, which are pro-inflammatory, actually inhibit the conversion process of converting alpha-linoleic acid into the longer Omega-3 fats. Now we find Omega-6 fats in animal products; there's an Omega-6 fat called arachidonic acid. We have arachidonic acid in our cell membranes; we talked about the cell membranes that are made largely out of fat. We need some of it in there. So do animals. So when we eat the tissue of an animal, muscle, liver, whatever it may be, we're consuming arachidonic acids. So that's a source because arachidonic acid is an Omega-6 fat.
Then we look at corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, like when you read the junk food label – partially hydrogenated corn, cottonseed, soybean – those are also very high in Omega-6 fats. What's the average American eating out there? Domesticated animals and processed junk food. So the ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats is about 1 to 1. You can go up to about maybe four times Omega-6's than Omega-3's and still be within a range where everything stays in balance. The average American though eats about 20 times more Omega-6's than Omega-3's. So even if you have enough alpha-linoleic acid, you have so many Omega-6's that the enzymes are so busy working on the Omega-6's they don't have the opportunity to act on the Omega-3's. They call that "competitive inhibition." It's the same enzymes that work on the Omega-3 family also work on the Omega-6 family. So that's one thing to consider.
When they take standard people who eat a totally altered ratio and they give them some of that alpha-linoleic acid, yeah, they'll find that maybe they don't make enough DHA. But if they were to clean up their diet and have a healthier ratio it's at least hypothesized, and there's some good evidence to support that, the conversion process actually works a lot better.
Rick: I've done a few studies with some raw food vegans where we've done a whole fatty acid profile and we found that even though they don't have an outside source of DHA, there's plenty of DHA in their cell membranes.
Rick: Yes. I'd love to study that further but there's some pretty good evidence to support that as well.
Kevin: And where are they getting the Omega-3's from?
Rick: Well, they're getting the Omega-3's…Here's what's really interesting; we need, let's go to the essential fat thing now, so there's two essential fatty acids. If something's an essential nutrient, which means your body doesn't make it so you have to eat it, from your diet… So in terms of fat there's two of those. There's the Omega-3 fat called alpha-linoleic acid, like we were talking about; our body can't make it so we have to eat it. And there's an Omega-6 fat called linoleic acid, that again we have to make. Then from the Omega-3 essential fat the body can make the other Omega-3 fats, the longer chain fats.. And from the Omega-6 essential fat the body can make the longer chain Omega-6 fats.
So in any case, we need about one and a half to two grams of alpha-linoleic acid, the Omega-3 essential fat, per day. So let's be extra safe and say we need two grams. If you ate 150 calories worth of leafy greens, now leafy greens aren't that calorie dense so that's a good chunk, that's like a giant head of romaine lettuce for example. But if you're into juicing and making green smoothies you can get that many greens in in a day. So 150 calories of leafy greens gives you one gram of alpha-linoleic acid. Actually the greens use the double bonds in the alpha-linoleic acid to convert sunlight energy into fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It's in green plants. The plants use them. The good news is alpha-linoleic acid is also in non-green vegetables and fruits. Most people don't realize that; they just hear "flax and hemp."
But if you ate 1,000 calories worth of fruits and vegetables you would also get one gram of alpha-linoleic acid. So in other words, within the raw food community it may not sound that crazy to eat 1,000 calories of fruits and vegetables and 150 calories worth of greens. You supply your Omega-3 needs by doing that. The good news is with that you get a few Omega-6's but not too many and your body can do that conversion process well.
Kevin: So the ratio is…
Rick: The ratio is good. There's more Omega-3's than Omega-6's in leafy greens and there's about a 1:1 ratio of 6's to 3's in non-green vegetables and fruit.