The Australian Heart Foundation has blocked me on twitter. Let me just say that again slowly – A publicly funded charity (whose purpose is to disseminate information) has stopped a member of the public from receiving that information.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) was once a rare disease that mainly affected Scandinavians or people who otherwise didn’t get much sunlight. But that has all changed. Its prevalence is accelerating wildly and sunlight is much less relevant than what you shove in your gob. If you’d rather not get MS then it is vital you avoid consuming the Omega-6 fats found in most processed foods.
Our central nervous system is our electrical wiring. If our brain wants to tell our fingers to move, an electrical signal is sent along the nervous system and the fingers move. Just like electrical cables nerve cells have an insulating cover (called myelin). Electrical signals travel much faster (and are much more certain to get to the destination) in insulated nerves than in non-insulated nerves.
Seventy percent of the insulation is fat and a fair chunk of that is polyunsaturated fat. Unfortunately this means that the insulation is prone to damage from oxidation. But not to worry, we have a perfectly good repair system. The cells which make myelin (called oligodendrocytes for those who want to get all technical) are very handy at continuously patching up any damage.
MS is disease caused by our immune system attacking and destroying the myelin insulation. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate and it results in an array of symptoms which range from fatigue, physical incoordination, spasms, partial blindness as well as learning and memory problems (depending on which part of the nervous system is damaged).
Unfortunately people with MS can’t completely repair the damage being inflicted by their immune system and over time the cumulative damage means that the symptoms become progressively worse.
According to the World Health Organisation the biggest risk factors for MS are living in a place with little sunlight or a place exposed to processed food (the Western Diet). In the 1950s the biggest risk factor by a country mile was latitude, but as processed food has infiltrated the diet of more and more countries, those countries have caught up to the rates in countries with low sunlight exposure. In Iran for example the incidence rate quadrupled in just the two decades between 1989 and 2008. But there is (and always has been) plenty of sunlight there.
In countries exposed to the Western Diet for most of the last five decades (such as Australia), the number of new cases of the disease recorded per year (after adjusting for population increases) has also quadrupled. Make no mistake MS is an epidemic on the march.
Our immune system attacks parts of the body largely because the component (T regulatory cells or just TRegs) which is supposed to stop that happening becomes disabled. One of the most efficient ways to disable TRegs is to consume too much omega-6 fat.
The Western Diet is stuffed to the brim with Omega-6 fat courtesy of the steady replacement of animal fats with seed oils (such as canola, sunflower soybean etc). So every time you eat processed food or tuck into fried food you are taking on a massive dollop of omega-6 fat.
For example if you were drop a serving (20g) of Praise Mayonnaise onto your bacon and egg sarnie you would be consuming around 5 grams of Omega-6 fat (just from the mayo). That’s about three times what your body needs for the day (and that’s before we take into account the margarine, the bread, the grain fed bacon, the factory farmed egg or anything else you eat that day).
Sunshine (or, at least its ability to make us make Vitamin D) is a partial remedy to this problem because Vitamin D boosts the numbers of TRegs. This gives us a fighting chance at stopping our own immune system in its tracks. And that is why, before the advent of a seed oil filled diet, the exposure to sunlight, more or less determined your likelihood of having MS.
We aren’t born with a completely myelinated nervous system. It takes us about 20 years to finish the job. This means that when people move from a place with low rates of MS to places of high rates of MS (or the other way round), their age when they move is an important factor. If they are over 15 when they move they will have the same risk of developing MS as the place where they were born. If they are 10 or younger it will be the same as the place where they move to.
It’s likely that this strange age-related phenomenon is because of another characteristic of our seed oil filled diets. Overconsumption of omega-6 fats causes the body to enter a state called oxidative stress. This is where the highly reactive omega-6 fats overcome our anti-oxidant defences. Oxidative stress is known to be lethal to the cells which produce our nerve insulation.
It is therefore probable that constant exposure to omega-6 fats while a child is growing those very cells, will result in insulation which is not up to spec. And a weakened insulation makes them much more susceptible to the immune system attacks which will almost inevitably happen if they stay on that diet.
MS is a truly horrendous disease that is striking more people, younger. It is clear that the cause is the massive increase in the use of seed (vegetable) oils in our food. MS was once a disease that struck only susceptible people who were not exposed to enough sunlight. Seed oils are now ensuring it is something that all of us must fear.
If you have MS, I’m sorry. If you can stop eating seed oils (and get some Sun), it may help with symptoms. If you don’t have MS, stop eating seed oils (and get some Sun) and you will dramatically reduce your chances of getting it. If you have children, don’t let them anywhere near seed oils, ever, but especially not before they’re 20.
Just when you thought margarine was about as dangerous as any ‘food’ could get, Goodman Fielder have released their new range with added sugar.
That’s right, now you can get margarine with added sugar. And not just a smidge, one fifth of the product is sugar (sugar content ranges from 17.8% to 20.5% depending on the flavour).
The omega-6 fats which dominate ordinary margarine are implicated in (at least) osteoporosis, male infertility, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, allergies, asthma, macular degeneration, impaired intelligence and cancer.
But now with twice as much sugar as an equivalent quantity of Coke, Meadow Lea Breakfast Twists put the unwary consumer on track for an even more spectacular array of chronic diseases including Type II Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Fatty Liver Disease, Heart Disease, Erectile Dysfunction and Alzheimer’s.
If I tried to think of a way to combine the very worst of a processed food diet in a single product, I don’t think I could do any better than this. Besides the obligatory preservatives, flavours and colours there’s really nothing in this product but seed oils and sugar (with a pinch of salt and a dash of ‘milk solids’).
Ingredients: Vegetable oils 45% (containing 36% Canola & Sunflower oil), water, sugar, salt, milk solids, emulsifiers (soy lecithin, 471), preservative (202), food acid (lactic), colour (beta-carotene), flavour, vitamins A & D.
But perhaps the very worst thing about this stuff is that it is being marketed to (and for) kids. The site proudly proclaims
“And because it’s been taste tested with kids, you know they will love it!”
This is especially appalling because the evidence is clear that many of the diseases associated with omega-6 fat consumption develop in childhood. Worse, the damage is cumulative and likely to be irreversible.
None of the research on the harm done by sugar and seed oils is a secret. No-one should ever eat margarine, but children especially should be kept as far away from it as possible. And yet, Goodman Fielder appear to have explicitly designed this product to make it more appealing to kids (by adding a ton of sugar).
It is despicable behaviour of the highest possible order and it should not be rewarded with commercial success. Please tell everyone you know to avoid this product like the bubonic plague.
A significant component of what makes us intelligent is created from our mother’s fat stores. Unfortunately the fats which dominate margarines and processed food stop that absorption happening and impair intelligence in children to a greater degree than was ever caused by lead. If you want your kids to be as smart as they can be then they (and you) need to immediately stop eating those fats.
About 10% of our brain is made from an Omega-3 fat called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid for the biochemists amongst us). We can make DHA from a simpler omega-3 fat called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). That’s the form of omega-3 which exists in most of our food.
Unfortunately we are not very good at converting dietary omega-3 ALA into DHA. Less than half a percent of the ALA we consume ends up as DHA. This means that relying on mum to eat enough omega-3 ALA while she’s pregnant would be a disastrous strategy for baby brain building.
Luckily we have a plan. As soon as a woman reaches puberty her body starts storing up as much Omega-3 fat as it can. Uniquely among animals (because we are the only ones who need to build relatively gigantic brains), female humans store all that omega-3 ALA in a baby pantry located at the top of the legs and in the buttocks.
Unfortunately for girls who wish to become Supermodels, the body cannot tell the difference between the various sorts of fat, so it just stores all the fat it can find in the hope that enough of it will be the good stuff.
Since the point of storing the fat is to ensure there is enough (ALA to make) DHA to make a baby’s brain, the body will not easily let go of it. That is, until the third trimester of pregnancy. Then the floodgates are opened and the fat is released. Because brain construction doesn’t finish when a child is born, it’s also important that the supply of DHA continues after the baby is born. Breast milk (and now formula) contains large amounts of DHA. In total, 80% of the fat used in construction of a child’s brain comes from the mother’s stores (rather than her current diet). So perhaps the old saying should be ‘A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips in your child’s brain’
We know from animal studies that if there is not enough DHA, animals end up with brains that don’t have enough neurons, the cells that do all the work in our brains. That lack of basic circuitry in turn impairs the child’s development and intelligence. And it looks like the results hold in humans as well.
Just last month, a study in humans was able to show that the amount of DHA in breast milk was the strongest predictor of test performance across samples drawn from 28 OECD countries.
But before you start force-feeding teenage girls, mothers and kids fish oil tablets, you should know that there is a little twist in this tale. Omega-6 fats stop us using DHA to make us brainy. So it doesn’t matter how much Omega-3 you have if you also consume too much Omega-6.
Omega-6 fats are the dominant fat in seed oils (canola, soybean, grapeseed, corn, sunflower etc). These are the fats that margarine is made from. These are the fats which are now used in every packaged food on the supermarket shelf. And these are the foods in which every fried food is boiled. We now eat 10-20 times as much omega-6 fat as omega-3 fat.
Omega-6 fats compete with Omega-3 fats for the same enzymes. Critically one of those is the enzyme which turns garden variety omega-3 ALA into DHA. If we have equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 in our diet, just the right amount of DHA is created and all is good, but if we have too much omega-6, we fail to make enough DHA.
You might predict from that, that countries that eat a lot of seed oils loaded with omega-6 would tend not to do so well in tests and you’d be right. The researchers in the most recent study found that there was a very strong correlation between the amount of omega-6 in the diet and how poorly 15 year olds did on standard international benchmark tests.
This confirmed the findings of five previous human studies which showed that higher omega-6 intakes impaired cognition (made us dumb – translation provided in case you’ve been hitting the margarine). Indeed one 2011 study determined that the impairment was greater than the effect of lead!! (double exclamation points are well and truly warranted on that statement)
Just like omega-3 fats, omega-6 fats are stored in the baby pantry, ready to use when needed. So the fats used to construct a baby’s brain are not just the fats a woman is eating when she’s pregnant or breastfeeding. They are every fat she has stored since puberty (or since the last baby used them up). Babies being constructed today are having brains built from the fats used in processed food for the last 20 years.
We now use unleaded petrol because of the damage lead in petrol did to developing brains. If we want the next generation not to be ‘cognitively impaired’ by seed oils, we need to act now.
We need to ensure that (at the very least) young women are not consuming foods overloaded with omega-6 fats. This means no margarine, almost no processed food and no commercially fried food. In other words they need to eat real food and they need to do it now.
If they do this their children will be smart enough to thank them for it.
Image courtesy of Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Scientists have known for more than a decade that the omega-6 fats contained in vegetable oils (like those used to manufacture margarine) degrade human bone density. Now new research has thrown light on how that happens and why anyone concerned about osteoporosis needs to immediately stop consuming them.
One in twenty Australians have osteoporosis (Greek for ‘porous bones’) and 1 in 4 have low bone density (the precursor to osteoporosis). The number of people affected is accelerating wildly. In the last 10 years the number of GP visits related to osteoporosis has doubled in Australia.
Our bones are not static lumps of rock. They are living tissue which constantly accumulate and dispose of minerals. Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, more quickly than the body can replace them. This causes a loss of bone thickness (bone density or mass).
As bones become thinner and less dense, even a minor bump or fall can cause a serious fracture. Unfortunately most people don’t know they have the disease until after they suffer a break. Eight out of ten cases are recorded in people over the age of 55 but the age of onset is becoming progressively younger.
Osteoporosis medicines work by making the cells that break down bone (osteoclasts) less active. This tips the balance towards accumulation of minerals by the cells that form bone (osteoblasts).
A long series of animal studies have clearly established that polyunsaturated fats are important drivers of the bone recycling process. We know that omega-3 polyunsaturates which dominate some fish oils, flax seeds and kelp help us build up bone density. While the omega-6 fats which dominate seed oils (like sunflower, soybean, canola, safflower and rice-bran) destroy bone density.
In 2005 researchers at the University of California confirmed that the same rules were at work in a large human population. In that study 1,532 people were observed for 4 years. The results were spectacularly consistent. The more omega-6 a person consumed (or the higher their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio), the lower their bone density was. It really was that black and white.
The results were independent of medication use, their BMI or the amount of exercise they did or didn’t do. This means that all the things which we are told affect our chances of getting osteoporosis were rendered irrelevant by just one thing, the amount of omega-6 fat in the diet.
Unfortunately (for our health) nobody in the Health Community wants to hear that they should stop telling people to eat seed oils, so there has been precious little publicity about that line of studies. That is, until bone density started mattering to people who breed animals for a living.
As we feed more and more of our farmed fish, diets which are high in omega-6 fats, they are becoming more and more fragile. It seems that just like humans (and rats). Their bones go to pot if we ramp up the omega-6.
This latest proof of the bone destroying power of omega-6 comes courtesy of an aquaculture study out of the Norwegian National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research. In that study, the scientists observed a rise in the level of activity of the enzyme that breaks down bone, in line with the rise in omega-6 concentrations.
We don’t know exactly how omega-6 works its destructive magic but the scientists suspect that it relates to the production of PGE2, the prostaglandin responsible for bone metabolism. We make PGE2 from omega-6 fats, but the presence of omega-3 fats stops it being produced. This is because omega-3 and omega-6 compete for the same enzymes. If we make just the right amount, everything is tickety-boo but if we make too much, say, because we have too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3, then we start breaking down our bones.
Every processed food on the supermarket shelves is loaded with omega-6 fats (in the form of seed oils). Every fried food has been boiled in omega-6 fats (seed oils again). Our National Heart Foundation actively encourages us to eat margarines brimming with omega-6 fats (yep, seed oils). And the charity responsible for advice about Osteoporosis doesn’t even mention the known link between omega-6 fats and the disease.
In this environment it is not strange that the number of people affected has doubled in just a decade, it’s a bloody miracle it hasn’t tripled. But stay tuned, at the rate we are increasing the consumption of omega-6 fats, there is much more pain to come.
Image courtesy of Boaz Yiftach at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Most modern deaths are caused by diseases which barely affected anybody 200 years ago. And the science says that between them, sugar and seed oils are responsible for almost all of those deaths.
The twin innovations of commercial sugar production (which made food addictive) and seed oil manufacture (which made food cheap to construct) has completely transformed our food supply in that timeframe.
Almost every packaged food now contains significant quantities of sugar or seed oil or (more usually) both. But far worse than that, it almost impossible to tell from that packaging (other than the fact that there is packaging, that is) whether a given food is safe or not.
I propose a simple way to tell the difference. Introducing, the Real Food Tick of Approval. The rules are very simple:
- All whole food qualifies for the Tick
- Any packaged food which contains more than 1.5 grams of fructose per 100 g does not qualify
- Any drink which contains fructose (at all) does not qualify
- Any packaged food or drink which contains more than 1.5 grams of Omega-6 fat per 100 g does not qualify
- All other food qualifies for the Tick
To see how this works in practice, check out my free, foods database. In it I have applied these rules.
The database is not perfect, it is using an automated formula (which tries to use fibre content to guess which are whole foods) to do the coding. This means it doesn’t properly take account of Rule #1 (at this stage), so there will be obvious errors – but you get the gist.
Most things coloured green would get the Real Food Tick. And the application of a little nouse would eliminate the obvious exceptions (for example Apricots in Intense Sweetened Liquid)
Neither of these whole foods are coloured green but Rule #1 says they should qualify. With those I would suggest, they still deserve the Tick (because they are whole foods), but it should be a yellow tick rather than a green one, merely to indicate that more than one serving of these foods should not be consumed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts (in the comments below) on the proposed Real Food Tick.
Graphic based on an Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Dietitians Association of Australia and the Australian Heart Foundation spend quite a bit of their time attacking what they call “Fad Diets”. Unfortunately, their flat out disregard for the evidence is making their statements sound more and more like press releases issued by the processed food industry.
I don’t pretend to know what is motivating either of them, but I do know that both have financial backing from the industries which stand to lose the most if there is widespread adoption of many of the diets they declare to be fads (for example reducing sugar, seed oils, or more recently paleo).
The Dietitians Association’s sponsors include Nestle (the second largest manufacturer of breakfast cereals in Australia and no slouch when it comes to moving other forms of sugar either), Unilever (largest margarine manufacturer in Australia) and the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (a lobby group funded by all the major breakfast cereal manufacturers)
The Australian Heart Foundation is not overtly sponsored by anyone. But the processed food industry has found a way to rent the Heart Foundation’s healthy halo.
It’s called the Tick Program. Processed foods can gain endorsement from the Heart Foundation by doing what they were going to do anyway. They wanted to use seed oils instead of animal fats because they are loads cheaper. Tick – foods that use seed oils are given preference. They wanted to use tons of sugar because food with sugar sells better than food without. Tick – sugar is not a criteria. They want to sell breakfast cereals because they are vehicles for sugar (and the margins are stupendous). Tick – whole grains are encouraged for their fibre.
The program is a nice little earner for the Heart Foundation, pulling in $2.8m in 2013 alone. The only problem is that, through the Tick Program, the Heart Foundation now finds itself in the position of having endorsed hundreds of products that the science says are very dangerous to our health.
The World Health Organisation, the Canadian Heart Foundation and the American Heart Association all regard sugar as a dangerous additive to food because there is convincing evidence that it is “associated with heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancer and tooth decay.” But the Australian Heart Foundation is earning millions from its endorsement of products like ‘Mayonnaise’ that has more sugar than Coke, a children’s snack which is 73% sugar and spreads made of the very oils which science says almost doubles the risk of heart disease death.
That is what we lawyers call a conflict of interest. When doctors experience a conflict of interest (say by accepting gifts from pharmaceutical companies), the regulators tighten the rules and (no matter how much it hurts the doctors) attempt to put the brakes on the gravy train.
The same thing happens in just about any profession we depend upon for expert knowledge. We have to be able to trust paid specialists. And no matter how morally astute they believe they are, we cannot allow them be led into temptation by conflicts of interest. If we do, we can never be sure if they are giving us advice based on the best evidence or on their own financial interest.
And if by chance you think that the existence of, say, a tick program makes no difference to the advice being dispensed, you need look no further than the Canadian Heart Foundation. In June, they killed off their tick program. Before June, they were happily handing out ticks to Slush Puppies and children’s snacks where sugar was the primary ingredient. After June they were attacking the sugar sellers like they were on commission for the sale of Sweet Poison.
So when the Dietitians Association and the Heart Foundation fly into a frenzy to decry a diet which asks people to avoid processed food, any thinking person would ask, why? Is there science behind this or have these two venerable organisations simply become mouthpieces for the processed food industry that provides them with such significant financial support? Such is the corrosive power of conflicts of interest.
There are now very persuasive reasons to worry about their advice that we should consume seed oils (vegetable oils). And there is just as compelling evidence that ignoring sugar is taking a daily toll on the health of all Australians.
We need the Heart Foundation to follow the lead of the Canadian Heart Foundation and immediately trash its Tick program. And we need our dietitians to throw off the yoke of corporate sponsorship and provide evidence based dietary advice untainted by the smell of food industry money.
We don’t need the guardians of our health attacking a scientifically (and logically) defensible aversion to processed food. We need them guarding our health without fear or favour (especially without favour).
Sperm counts are dropping rapidly in all Western countries. In one, the situation is so dire that finding a man who is capable of reproducing is likely to be impossible by 2030. For the rest of us, that reality is not that much further into the future. New science suggests the cause is clear and the solution is even clearer. Don’t let men (or boys) eat vegetable oil.
A sperm count is an old fashioned, but still highly reliable way of measuring a man’s, well, potency. Anything over 100 million sperm cells per ml is considered a premium vintage and anything under 15 million means the man is very unlikely to reproduce. The only trouble is that men with high octane semen are getting harder and harder to find.
In 1992 researchers from the University of Copenhagen published a study of sperm quality trends over the preceding half century. After reviewing 61 trials, the scientists came to the shocking conclusion that the average sperm count had halved in just 50 years (from 113 million in 1940 to 66 million in 1990). Yep, men really were more manly in the olden days.
An even more comprehensive analysis of almost 27,000 French men published in 2005 confirmed the trend is continuing. In that study average sperm counts dropped from 74 million in 1989 to 50 million in 2005. If the decline continues at the same rate, there will be no French men capable of making babies by 2072. And no matter how you feel about the French, that is a catastrophe of unprecedented scale.
Similar numbers and rates of decline are now being reported in all Western countries (although alarmingly at 3% per annum, Australia is at the high end). But in one country, the sperm count disaster makes the French look pretty damn virile.
Sperm banks in Israel are reporting that the alarming drop in sperm quality amongst Jewish inhabitants. Sperm banks that would have rejected about a third of applicants in the 1990s (because of low sperm count) are now turning away 80 to 90%. With a measured rate of sperm count decline approximately twice that of any other Western country, experts are predicting that by 2030, average Jewish Israeli sperm counts will drop to a level where reproduction is likely to be impossible.
There are many theories about why this is happening as there are scientists researching the problem. Perhaps it is the increased levels of oestrogen in the diet, perhaps it is exposure to pesticides or perhaps it is the use of BPA plastics. But only one has produced convincing evidence of causation – dietary omega-6 fat consumption.
Omega-6 fat is the dominant fat in the ‘vegetable oils’ used in every processed food. These oils are not made from vegetables at all. Rather they come from seeds (like Canola, Soybean, Sunflower, Safflower, Rice Bran and Grape). Western consumption of Omega-6 fats has at least tripled in the last century and perhaps more importantly, the ratio of Omega-6 fats to Omega-3 fats has soared from about 3:1 to 25:1.
We’ve known for some time that in experimental animals, high omega-6 fat consumption lowers sperm count and significantly impairs the quality of those that remain. But a 2009 study in humans has taken that research one step further.
In that study, 82 infertile men were compared with 78 (proven) fertile men. Detailed profiles of the fatty acid makeup of each man’s blood plasma were prepared. The results were unequivocal. Infertile men had a significantly higher ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 (15 to 1 versus 6 to 1 in fertile men). And critically, the higher the omega-6, the lower the sperm count.
It is likely that the reason for the sperm cell destruction relates to rampant oxidation caused by the overconsumption of omega-6 fats. Unfortunately that kind of oxidation damage leads to the wholesale DNA destruction that can result in cancer. Perhaps then it won’t shock you to discover that the incidence of testicular cancer (the most common cancer in men under 50) has more than doubled in the last 40 years.
Because of a decided preference for non-animal fat sources, Israeli Jews have the highest consumption of Omega-6 fat in the world (about 12% of calories). The science says this is why they are at the bleeding edge of the decline in male fertility. It is also likely to be why the incidence of testicular cancer has almost doubled in just 10 years (compared to the 4 decades it took the rest of us).
Before you tell me you’re ok because you always cook in olive oil, you should know that the oil we add is a very small part of the fat we actually consume. Vegetable oils made from seeds are much cheaper than animal or fruit fats (such as Olive, Avocado or Coconut Oils). Because of this, they are now an integral part of margarine and baked goods and bread and salad dressings and pestos and meal bases and frozen food and, well, every other product (with a label) in our supermarkets.
It is also increasingly a significant component of grain fed meat (most of the meat in a supermarket) and even farmed fish (most of the fish in a supermarket). And it is just about the only fat used to fry take-away food in 21st century Australia. In other words, it is almost impossible to avoid unless you grow and assemble your own food.
There are as many good reasons not to consume seed oils, but I reckon the future of the human race probably tops the list. Food companies are doing nothing less than committing biochemical genocide by filling every food we eat with omega-6 fats. We are having our reproductive capacity disabled en masse and far from protesting against it, our health authorities are actively encouraging us to consume more. Ask the Australian Heart Foundation whether it thinks you should consume more of these poisons and you will be told most definitely ‘yes’.
Fortunately there is one thing you can do if you care about your ability to reproduce (or avoid testicular cancer). Stop eating Vegetable Oils made from seeds or any food made from, or fried in, them.
Image courtesy of Carlos Porto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Every day 17 Australians have a joint replaced because of Rheumatoid Arthritis. And the number of us with the disease is accelerating quickly, particularly amongst children. The science on its cause (and the cure) couldn’t be clearer. There is just one thing you need to do, don’t eat vegetable oil.
There are over 100 types of arthritis but Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is the most severe and the second most common (after osteoarthritis). Unlike Osteoarthritis, RA is not caused by wear and tear on the joints (largely from being overweight, exercising too much or both). Rather it is an autoimmune disease, like Type I Diabetes and Asthma.
Australia doesn’t keep good data on any chronic disease but as at 2007, there were approximately 428,000 sufferers of RA but that rate is increasing rapidly. Hospitilisation for RA (largely for joint replacement) has been steadily increasing. The rate has doubled in the first decade of the 21st century. Alarmingly it appears that the rate in children is increasing even more rapidly, with the rate of hospilization more than tripling over the same timeframe.
One of the more important jobs our immune system performs is distinguishing stuff which is not dangerous (such as our own tissue) from stuff that is dangerous (like some types of virus and bacteria).
When something is deemed dangerous, our cells ramp up production of hormone-like substances that instruct our immune system to produce an inflammation response. Every time you see a cut to the skin become red and swollen, you’re seeing that inflammation response in action. The swelling and the heat are our body’s attempts to eject the invader from our body (or kill it).
An RA sufferer’s immune system is malfunctioning, causing it to attack the synovial membrane, the tissues lining our joints. The synovial membrane is normally very thin. Its job is to produce fluid which lubricates and nourishes the joint.
The immune system attack causes the synovial membrane to become swollen and inflamed. Over time this leads to bone damage in the joint and eventually irreversible joint damage.
That response is turned on by hormone like substances derived from Omega-6 fats and turned off by (anti-inflammatory) hormones derived from Omega-3 fats. It’s a finely tuned and finely balanced feedback loop that requires both types of fat in exactly the right amounts (about 1.5 gramsof each a day).
We’ve known for some time that the omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are critical to the way our inflammation response works, particularly when it comes to RA. Omega-6 fats dial it up and omega-3 fats dial it back down again.
Now that’s all a bit of a problem for the Western Diet because we have been steadily increasing the amount of Omega-6 we consume, while at the same time, (at best) consuming around the same amount of Omega-3. During the course of the last two centuries the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in our diet has changed from around 2:1 to 25:1.
This has happened because food manufacturers have been persistently replacing sources of animal fat (which have no significant amounts of either omega-6 or omega-3) with much cheaper vegetable oils (which are very high in omega-6).
Analysis of the inflamed synovial membrane in RA patients reveals that it is very high in molecules derived from omega-6 fats. Knowing that omega-3 and omega-6 fats act in opposite directions on inflammation, researchers have conducted animal trials which show that artificially induced RA can be significantly delayed or eliminated if the rats are fed fish oil (high in Omega-3 fats) rather than vegetable oil (high in omega-6 fats).
That research has led to large numbers of controlled human trials which have successfully reduced RA inflammation (and associated pain) by supplementing with omega-3 fats (usually from fish oil).
Given those results it would be almost impossible to get ethical approval for a trial which tried to make RA worse by feeding people omega-6, but one trial figured out a different way to skin the cat. In that trial researchers tried something else. As well increase the amount of omega-3 they fed the patients, they divided them into groups on a standard Western diet and one which was which was very low in Omega-6 fats. The result of the trial were impressively in favour of the RA patients on the low Omega-6 diet (and even better if they also took fish oil).
The science is old and uncontroversial. In a Western diet, the massive increase in Omega-6 fats make us much more likely to suffer from RA and will make the RA worse once we have it. The problem is that in Australia today it is almost impossible to buy packaged food that isn’t infused with these RA inducing fats.
If you suffer from RA then the very best strategy is to eat whole food only, use butter instead of margarine and cook with olive oil rather than vegetable oil. If you must buy packaged food avoid anything which includes ‘Vegetable Oils’ in its ingredient list. If you are eating deep fried food make sure it has not been fried in vegetable oil. Simple.
Photo by James Heilman, MD (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Over the last three decades we’ve been continuously told that to avoid heart disease, obesity, Type II Diabetes and even cancer, we need to shun animal meat and eat fish. Fish is supposed to be terrific because, not only does it not contain all those nasty saturated fats (which, by the way, is not true), it has loads of Omega-3 fats, the so called ‘good fats’. Unfortunately this is now dangerously bad advice.
Over 80% of the meat sold in Australian supermarkets is from feed lots. These beasts spend their lives eating bird seed rather than the grasses on which they evolved. The result is animal fat which is very high in Omega-6 fats and which contains almost no Omega-3. These two fats are called essential fats. They are ‘essential’ because we can’t make them ourselves. We need 1.5g of each a day from our food. And we could get that just by eating a couple of cheese sandwiches.
The perverted heart health advice of the last half century has driven a mass replacement of animal fats with man-made ‘vegetable oils’ (like Sunflower, Canola and Soybean). Omega-6’s are the primary fat in vegetable oils and because those oils are now part of every single processed food on the supermarket shelves, we are well and truly (over) supplied with them. Omega-3’s are however considerably harder to come by.
When our Omega-6 and Omega-3 supplies get out of balance, very bad things start happening. Things like macular degeneration, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. The ratio is best if it’s 1 to 1 and will work ok even at 2 (Omega-6) to 1 (Omega-3) but are currently as high as 25 to 1. We’re told the cure to this imbalance of essential fats is to eat fish.
We have heeded the call. Since 1975, we have doubled our per capita consumption of fish. The only way fish suppliers have been able to keep up with that kind of explosive demand is to invent a whole new industry, fish farming. And just like the cattle in feed lots, our farmed fish are increasingly being fed seeds, with devastating effects on their Omega-3 levels.
Fish, being vertebrates just like us, are no more capable of making Omega-3’s than we are. Just like us, they need to get them from their diet. If they are carnivores (like Salmon and Barramundi) that means eating herbivorous fish that’ve been chowing down on seaweeds and algae high in Omega-3.
If the fish was wild caught, it will have the expected supply of Omega-3 on board. Nature’s like that, it just works (as long as we leave it alone). If however the fish is farmed, then all bets are off.
The only economical way to ensure that farmed carnivorous fish get their Omega-3’s is to feed them wild caught fish oil (think of it as Omega-3 capsules for fish). It takes about 5kg of wild caught (but otherwise unsaleable) fish to produce 1kg of farmed eating fish.
In 1950 this wasn’t a problem. There were barely any fish farms and there was an abundance of wild caught fish. But in the last 60 years the aquaculture industry has been experiencing explosive growth, driven in no small part by us all being told we need to eat more fish. Now, about half of all fish consumed (by humans) globally (and Australia is no exception) is farmed rather than wild caught.
In 2006, 87% of all wild caught, fish oil was fed to farmed fish and it is likely that we maxed out the available supply in around 2010 (public figures on this stuff are very murky).
But don’t worry, the fish feeders have a solution, just mix in vegetable oil instead. Increasingly, fish feed is being constructed with the very same seed oils (vegetable oils) that now infest the remainder of our food supply. The very same Omega-6 rich oils that (at least) double the rate of cancer and cause rheumatoid arthritis and macular degeneration (to name just a few delights) is becoming an integral part of what we mistakenly assume to be our primary source of Omega-3.
The industry has seen the problem coming for some time and since 1990, the number of studies on the effects of using seed oils in fish feed has grown exponentially. Many of the studies have shown that substitution of seed oils makes the fish more prone to infectious disease and stress as well as stunting their growth and increasing the production of the types of cholesterol responsible for heart disease (oxidised VLDL). In other words the same stuff happens to them as does to us, but aquaculture researchers are far less coy about calling a spade a spade.
But worse even that that, when fish fillets from seed oil-fed and fish oil-fed fish are compared, in general the amount of Omega-3 has halved (and is sometimes considerably less) and the Omega-6 fats have increased 5-fold. The seed oils destroy the very reason we are told to eat fish in the first place.
While you might think you’re upping your Omega-3 ratio by chomping on fish and chips every Friday night, the chances are you’re really just eating even more Omega-6. So if you think you’re eating fish because it contains healthy fats, think again, Big Food has gotten to that too. Most farmed fish is now no better for you than seed oil it’s usually fried in. Unless you caught it yourself, you’d be better off avoiding it.
Grass fed animals have exactly the right fats in exactly the right ratios. It is only because health authorities decided to demonise that food source that we obsessively seek out supposedly more healthy fish. Putting aside the ethics of using finite and declining wild caught fish stocks (with food-grade potential) for animal feed, the criminally negligent advice which drives us to seek out fish as health food must change and it must change now. Because, while it will eventually wipe out the fish, it will wipe us out first.
Image courtesy of scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A little extra bit: A Consumer New Zealand investigation shows farmed salmon, which is sold as fresh and smoked products in supermarkets, has significantly less Omega-3 than that claimed on the label.