By Muscle Media
Despite the reputation for being harmful, fats have been given an undeserved bad rap. Many common “gym-myths” say that fats are bad, but some fats are actually very good. It depends upon the specific makeup of the fat. Fats are necessary for many metabolic processes in the body. Some fats can also bring harm. Artificially produced trans-fatty acids are bad in any amount. Likewise, you should keep saturated fats from animal products to a minimum. The best fats are those that turn liquid at room temperature. These fats are oils. They contain “essential” fatty acids, so named because without them, we die. Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated.
Essential fatty-acids are grouped in to two families: omega-6 essential fatty acids and omega-3 essential fatty acids. There are only minor differences between these two families of fats. However, their molecular structures act disparately while inside the human body. While the metabolic products of omega-6 acids promote inflammation, blood clotting, and tumor growth, the omega-3 acids act in an entirely different way. Because of this, we need a proper balance of both omega-3s and omega-6s. However, research has determined that an excess of omega-6 can have dire consequences.
Scientists have found reasons to believe that the high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and some forms of cancer may be due to an imbalance between our consumption of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. In the distant past, our ancestors thrived on a perfectly balanced diet of omega-6 and omega-3 in a 1:1ratio. Recent changes in our dietary habits have pushed that ratio to something closer to 20:1. Metabolically, this creates a problem.
Sources of Fatty Acids
You can commonly find Omega-6 fatty acids in vegetable oils, corn oil, and soy oil. These contain high amounts of linoleic acid, the essential component that makes up omega-6. On the other hand, you can find omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed oil, walnut oil, marine plankton and fish oils. Flaxseed and walnut oils are predominantly alpha-linoleic acids. The main components of fatty fish and fish oils are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are the most active and beneficial of the fatty acids found in fish oils.
Benefits of Fish Oils
The importance of fish oils was first suggested when Danish physicians observed that Greenland Eskimos had lower risks of heart disease and arthritis. This is astonishing, considering that the Eskimos consume an unusually high-fat diet. The benefit was later attributed to the presence of EPA and DHA in fish oils and fatty fish. More recent research studies have shown that fish oils (EPA and DHA) play a crucial role in the prevention of atherosclerosis, heart attack, depression, and some cancers. Clinical studies results clearly show the effect of fish oils against these chronic ailments. Many disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, and Raynaud’s disease are said to be effectively treated through fish oil supplementation.
Fish Oil Benefits the Human Brain
One of the largest “consumers” of fish oil DHA is the human brain. In fact, a normal adult human brain efficiently metabolizes significant DHA found in fish oil. Low levels of fish oil DHA are said to reduce the secretion of the hormone serotonin. Abnormal levels of serotonin link to behavioral disorders such as depression, suicide, and violence. Some promising studies concerning the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease have shown that a high intake of fish and fish oils can significantly decrease age-related memory loss and cognitive function impairment.