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Omega-6 is the fatty acid we tend to get in the highest quantities. Omega 6 is found in most vegetable oils, including sunflower, safflower and corn oil. Omega-6 is converted in the body into another fatty acid called Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA). This conversion may be inhibited by several factors. One of these is aging. The older we get, the harder it is for the body to make this conversion. Viral infections may also play a role in inhibiting this transformation.
However, the major factor that inhibits this conversion in Americans is transfatty acids. Transfatty acids (TFAs) are created when oils are heated to a high temperture. The more often an oil is heated and the longer it is heated, the more TFAs are created. Hydrogenation of oils also produces transfatty acids. So, foods fried in hydrogenated oils are loaded with TFAs, and the Standard American Diet (the SAD diet) is loaded with fried foods and hydrogenated oils.
This is one of the areas where EFA supplements can be helpful. Certain plants already contain significant amounts of GLA. These include borage oil, Black Currant Oil and Evening Primrose Oil. Nature's Sunshine's Super GLA Oil contains all three of these GLA rich oils.
Evening Primrose Oil was first used to treat Multiple Sclerosis patients and today it continues to draw attention. It is due to its healing affects on acne, arthritis, schizophrenia and heart disease. GLA helps the body make more eicosanoids; (hormone-like chemicals found in every cell of our body.) The most well-known of these eicosanoids are the prostaglandins, which play a role in regulating inflammation and pain.
Certain PMS symptoms, such as food cravings, sugar cravings, headaches, fatigue and dizziness are associated with low prostaglandin production. This explains why these oils can also be helpful in alleviating these PMS symptoms.
Eicosanoids and Prostaglandins
Eicosanoids can also help reduce inflammation, make platelets more pliable and less likely to form blood clots in arteries, enhance immune function, dilate blood vessels to reduce blood pressure and inhibit tumor growth. However, they can also do exactly the opposite. GLA is converted to dihomo gamma linolenic acid (DGLA) and then into the "good" eicosanoids or prostaglandins. However, DGLA can also be converted into arachidonic acid, which doesn't provide the positive benefits associated with Eicosanoids.
"In the third phase of inflammation, more eicosanoids (cytokines) signal white blood cells (macrophages and neutrophils) to enter the area for further clean-up. These cells use oxygen radicals to destroy microbes and cellular debris. This is where the oxidative stress of inflammation comes in. Healthy cells have antioxidants to protect themselves from oxidative stress.
If the cells are deficient in antioxidants, then the oxidative process taking place at the site of inflammation can damage more cells. It is like a forest fire which starts because there is a lot of dead, dry wood in the forest. When the fire gets going, and it's hot enough, even green trees will burn. Antioxidants make cells that are like well-watered trees. They are hard to burn. This contains the inflammation and keeps it from spreading." Steven Horne
Highly recommended combination to boost antioxidants level and deal with severe inflammation: Curcumin bp + Super Omega 3
Arachidonic acid forms another group of prostaglandins or eicosonoids that actually have the opposite effect. These "bad" eicosanoids; increase inflammation, promote blood clotting, suppress the immune function, constrict blood vessels to elevate blood pressure and increase the risk of cancer by promoting cellular proliferation. Obviously, we want to limit production of arachidonic acid if we want greater health.
For starters, we may need to decrease foods that are high in arachidonic acid, which include egg yolks, organ meats, most deli meats and fatty red meat. Insulin increases the production of arachidonic acid, too. So, hyperinsulinemia (caused by eating too many high glycemic carbohydrates-simple starches and sugars) will also have a negative influence on eicosanoid production.
"Another reason why the healing phase isn't initiating in chronic inflammation is because it takes omega-3 essential fatty acids to create the eicosonoids needed to signal the repair and rebuilding phase.
Because just about everyone in our society is getting too many omega-6 essential fatty acids and not enough omega-3 essential fatty acids, the body is unable to initiate the healing phase. High levels of insulin also interfere with the production of the eicosonoids that keep inflammation in check and promote healing, so our high carb diets are also contributing to the problem". Steven Horne
The good news is the other essential fatty acids, Omega-3s can also help to inhibit the production of arachidonic acid, thereby increasing production of the "good" eicosanoids. The bad news is that most American diets are very low in Omega-3.
Flax seed oil has a proper balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs, making it one of the best oils to supplement the diet with in order to ensure adequate intake of EFAs. Flax seed oil can be taken in capsules or it can be used for salad dressings, etc. in place of other oils. Do not cook with flaxseed oil, however, as heating will destroy its healthful benefits.
However, since we get some Omega-6 from other sources, it may be necessary to supplement our diet with even better sources of Omega-3 oils. The primary source of Omega-3 oils is fish liver oil. (Perhaps you might remember grandma's old standby cod liver oil.) Modern supplements made from fish oils, such as NSP's Omega-3 EPA, are much healthier than cod liver oil and are especially beneficial supplements for people at risk for heart disease, diabetes or hyperinsulinemia.
Omega-3 oils can also be obtained by eating deep ocean fish and wild game. Animal proteins will not contain Omega-3 unless it is present in the animal's diet, and animal feeds do not contain significant amounts of this EFA. Even farm raised salmon are poor sources of Omega-3 because they are fed on a commercial fish food diet. Wild salmon or other fish harvested from the deep ocean will be the best sources of Omega-3 in the diet. In fact, the best source is sardines. So, if you don't want to eat two or three cans of sardines a week, you may want to consider taking some Omega-3 in capsules.
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