With the enormous media attention on the health perils of high fat diets, and the ensuing low-fat food craze, you might think eating any type of fat is bad. Wrong. The truth is our bodies need fat to function properly. For instance, every cell in our body has a membrane that is primarily composed of fat. Without proper amounts of fat in our diet, our cells are unable to function optimally. Another example: All the nerve cells in our body, including those in the brain, are coated with fat. It is this fat that allows electrical impulses to travel through nerve cells. If there is a problem with this fatty sheath, as in multiple sclerosis, the ability of nerve impulses to conduct is severely impaired and consequentially, so is our ability to move and think. Fat also provides structural insulation for our body, and protects it from trauma.
Researchers have found our body functions best when we eat a ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids in the range of 1 to 4. Omega-3 fatty acids, in general, are the most health-promoting type of fat you can eat. They reduce your risk of heart disease, inflammatory conditions (especially arthritis and skin conditions like psoriasis), and of several different types of cancer, including breast cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids protect against breast cancer in several different ways. First, they decrease the strength of estrogen in the breast tissue. This means cells won’t divide as rapidly as they normally do in response to estrogen. Secondly, omega-3 fatty acids have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists have found inflammation plays a significant role in the initiation and growth of tumors. Women who take anti-inflammatory medication on an average of 3 times a week are found to have up to a 50% lower incidence of breast cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids also help to fight breast cancer if you already have it. And does so very impressively, I might add. Research shows omega-3 fatty acids cause breast tumors to shrink in size and prevent them from metastasizing or spreading. They are so powerful in stopping the spread of tumors in the body that women with the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their bodies are found to have a 500% lower incidence of metastasis compared to women with the lowest levels of omega-3’s.
The best plant source of omega-3 fatty acids is flax seeds. They contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other known edible plant. Walnuts are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Certain fish, like salmon and herring, contain significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. But — and this is a big but — we’ve polluted our lakes, rivers, and oceans so much, that fish is now one of the most toxic foods you can eat. Fish contains more concentrated amounts of dangerous chemicals than any other food source. If you think eating farm raised fish is safer, think again. An article published in the New York Times July 30, 2003, reported findings by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental research and advocacy group, on 10 samples of farmed salmon bought at markets on the East and West coasts. Farmed salmon accounts for 60% of all salmon eaten in the US. All the samples of fish were found to be contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls or PBCs at levels far higher than any other protein source, including all other types of seafood. PCBs are a group of industrial chemicals that the EPA recognizes as a “probable carcinogen.” High levels of PCBs are also associated with learning disabilities and other nerve and reproductive disorders. They were banned from being manufactured in the 1970’s, but because they don’t break down easily, most of the PCB’s ever made are either still in use or exist our environment somewhere.
Your safest choice is to eat organically grown flax seeds and flax oil. The recommended amounts to eat each day are 3 tablespoons of ground flax seeds and 1 or 2 tablespoon of flax oil. The best type of flax oil to purchase is fresh and organically grown. You will find it in the refrigerated section of your grocery store or health food store. It should be in a dark bottle to protect it from the light. Use the oil within 2 months from the time you purchase it. There should be an expiration date on the bottle. One of the best brands of organic flax oil and one I always use and recommend is made by Barlean’s.
This information is used with permission by Christine Horner, MD www.drchristinehorner.com