I love this season in Nigeria. It is the season of food respite for the poor. Maize or corn is mushrooming in the fields. So is Ube, that diminutive “pear” which the Igbos bequeathed to Nigeria. So is the good old coconut. The trio make a fulsome meal for the hungry jack any day, any time. It is a pity, though, that methods of roasting the corn and Ube have not been upgraded to safeguard health. Many women who sell these stuff at the road side, where dust falls upon them, bring the Ube right from the farm basket, manage to clean it with bare, dirty hands before they lay them on the Local oven tray. The corn fares no better. In the villages of yore, the covers of the corn are not stripped off the body and thrown away, while the bare corn goes on the oven where, often, it burns, creating tar, a carcinogen. In contract, the corn roasted with the covers on does not burn. To your surprise, if you did not grow up in the village, it would ooze a sweet – smelling, sweet – tasting oil, the corn oil, and Omega – 6 oil. Ube, too, gives the eater Omega – 6 oil. So does coconut.
When I eat a combination of these three in a meal, it is with advice caution. Lately my friends have learned to nickname me advice caution, because, in our discussions, these words suffuse my dietary and other advice. So, what’s the advice caution with which I eat corn, Ube and Coconut? It all has to do with the right balance in which Omega-3 and Omega -6 fatty acids should be consumed if the heart, blood vessels, the brain, the eyes and other organs, including the liver and the pancreas, are to stay healthy and not cause inflammation, pain, disease and even death.
Before I proceed, please grant me the indulgence to share one of those experiences which make my day. A gentleman woke me from sleep this morning (Tuesday, July 5) to announce on the telephone a research finding of a professor at Newcastle University, he said he had benefited from. This Professor routinely through surgery helps many of his patients free their organs of fat adhesions. To his surprise, he found that those who had fat overlay on their pancreases were diabetic, and that their diabetic conditions never returned after the surgery, for as long as they did not allow the pancreases to grow fatty again. From this, he concluded that diabetes was reversible… that is, Curable, despite the prevailing medical notion to the contrary today. The caller, a reader of this column, actually telephoned me to say Orange peel, which this column extols as a recipe for diabetes and other bad health conditions, including high blood cholesterol levels, lowered his high blood sugar levels. I am relating this possibility to the possibility of imbalances between Omega-3 and Omega -6 oils in the body, causing fat ingressions into some organs, the pancreases and the Liver especially. It will be shown, soon, how these imbalances can cause not only diabetes but, also, conditions such as heart and blood vessels disease, heart failure, heart attack and strokes.
In addition to oxygen, Magnesium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese and Iron, super-oxide Dismutase (SOD), Glutathione and Catalase already discussed in earlier sections of this series, Omega-3 oils play a crucial role in the health of the heart, it’s blood vessels, and in brain acuity and health. Omega-3 gives our bodies two major health- protecting oils… EPA and DHA. DHA nourishes the brain, enhances intelligence and memory, prevents inflammation and pain, among other benefits, promotes long attention spans for which reason it is prescribed for short attention span problems which may cause the “Scatter brain” Scenarios.
Dr. Udo Erasmus in his fabulous FATS THAT HEAL and FATS THAT KILL, suggests that Omega -3 deficiency in the brain may predispose some people to criminality. Studies were carried out in this regard with finding which show prison –inmates becoming better behaved persons after Omega -3 oils (DHA and EPA were added to their diets). Even School children who hated school and homework became school and homework loving children in a school vacation experiment in which the government of the United Kingdom gave bottom of the class children free Omega-3 food supplements during their holidays.
There are many experiments, besides, which tell us that when pregnant women took Omega-3 food supplements, or added it to the diets of children whose brains were still developing, these babies and these children had better formed brains and eyes than the brains and eyes of babies and children who had not access to these oils in the womb or after their birth. EPA, on the other hand, help out in numerous ways in the muscles and tissues to prevent inflammation and pain, to which Omega -6 oils subject the body. Some Omega-3 loving doctors have, indeed written books in which they advocate replacement of waffarim and Aspirin by Omega-3 fish oils for either blood –thinning in hypertension, clot or inflammation and pain conditions, suggesting that they are safer and much more effective than Ibuprofen, the chemical drugs, for example.
But for Omega-3 to work, it has to be in the right balance in the body with Omega-6. Remember the law of balance, one of the Laws of Nature. It governs all events in creation, small or gigantic. It holds the Universe together and maintains, in the body, balances between, say, calcium and Magnesium (last week’s column) Potassium and Sodium, Zinc and Copper etc.
According to www.ncbi.n/m.nih.gov: “Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EPAs) of approximately 1:1 whereas in Western diet, the ratio is 15/1 – 16. 7/1. Western diets are deficient in Omega -3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of Omega -6 compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established. Excessive amount of Omega -6 poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and a very high Omega-6 than Omega -3 ratio has found in today’s Western diet promotes the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammation and auto immune disease, whereas increased levels of Omega -3 (PUFA) low Omega 6/Omega -3 ratio exerts suppressive effects”.
In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a ratio of 4/1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality. A ratio of 2.5/1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with Colo rectal cancer, whereas a ratio of 4/1 with the same amount of Omega-3 PUFA had no effect. The Lower Omega -6/Omega -3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk. A ratio of 2 – 3/1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and a ratio of 5/1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10:1 had adverse consequences. These studies indicate that the optimal ratio may vary with the disease under consideration. This is consistent with the fact that chronic diseases are multigenic and multifactorial. Therefore, it is quite possible that the therapeutic dose of Omega -3 fatty acids will depend on the degree of severity of disease resulting from the genetic predisposition.
A lower ratio of Omega -6 /Omega -3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western Societies, as well as in developing countries, That are being exported to the rest of the world.
This should be an eye opener for many people in Nigeria, where cooking oils, in particular all those vegetable oils in the market, pump Omega -6 into the diet. The only sources of Omega -3 to reverse the disproportionate Omega 6/Omega-3 ratio come from only fish, such as Titus and Salmon, or from such plant sources as flax seed oil or food supplements of these. Fish oil is expensive. Many people go, instead, for a popular manufactured and hydrogenated brand, without being able to recognize that it is not a natural brand. Even among the natural brands, the talk of sea pollution has driven those who can afford it to either Udo’s oil, Ultimate oil or Crill oil Brands.
We learn from chriskresser.com: “our hunter gatherers were free of the modern inflammation diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes that are the primary causes of death and mortality today. At the onset of the industrial revolution (about 140 years ago), there was marked shift in the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids in the diet. Consumption of n-6 fats increased at the expense of n- 3 fats. This change was due to both the advent of the modern vegetable oil industry and on the increased use of cereal grains as feed for domestic livestock (which in turn altered the fatty acid profile of meat that humans consume). The following chart list the Omega -6 and Omega -3 content of various vegetable oils and food”.
“Sunflower oil Omega 6 content 65%, Omega -3 0%,
“Corn oil Omega -6 content 54%, Omega-3 0%,
“Colton seed oil Omega 6 content 50%, Omega -3 0%,
“Sesame oil Omega -6 content 42%, Omega 3 0%,
“Peanut oil Omega -6 content 32%, Omega -3 0%,
“Soyabean oil Omega -6 content 51% Omega -3 7%,
“Canola Oil Omega -6 content 20% Omega -3 9%,
“Walnut oil Omega -6 content 52%, Omega -3 10%,
“Flax Seed oil Omega -6 content 14%, Omega -3 57%,
“Fish oil Omega -6 content 0%, Omega -3 100%,.
“Vegetable oil consumption rose dramatically between the beginning and end of the 20th Century, and this had and entirely predictable effect on the ratio of Omega -6, Omega -3 fats in the American diet. Between 1935 and 1939, the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids was reported to be 8.4: 1. From 1935 to 1985, the ratio increased to 10.3: 1 (a 23% increase) other calculations put the ratio as high as12.4: 1. In 1985. Today, estimate of the ratio range from the average of 10:1 to 20:1, with a ratio as high as 25:1 in some individuals. In fact, Americans now get almost 20% of their calories from a single food source, Soyabean oil with almost nine percent of all calories from the Omega -6 fat Linoleic acid (LA) alone. This reveals that our average intake of n fatty acid is between 10 to 20 times higher than evolutionary norms. The consequences of this dramatic shift cannot be over-estimated.
Omega -6 competes with Omega -3 and vice –versa as you may recall from the last article, n-6 and n-3 fatty acids compete for the same conversion enzymes. This means that the quantity of n-6 in the diet directly affects the conversion of n-3 LA, found in plant foods, to long chain n-3 EPA and DHA, which protect us from diseases. Several studies have shown that the biological availability and activity of n-3 fatty acids are inversely related to the concentration of n-3 fatty acid’s nutrition. Studies have also shown that greater composition of EPA and DHA in membranes reduces the availability of AA eicosanoid production. In plain English, this means that the more Omega -3 fats we eat, the less Omega -6 will be available to produce inflammation. Omega -6 is pro-inflammation, while Omega -3 is neutral. A diet with a lot of Omega -6 and not much Omega -3 will increase inflammation. A diet of a lot of Omega -3 and not much Omega -6 will reduce inflammation”.
www.livestrong says: “There is a wealth of evidence supporting a role for Omega -3 in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and boosting overall heart health, including eye and brain developing in our formative years, maintaining cognitive performance as we age. But can Omega -3 have other benefits? Omega -3 fatty acids have been associated in beneficial ways with a wide range of illness and diseases, including cancer, heart diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, alcoholism, visual acuity, kidney disease, respiratory disease, dermatitis, psoriasis, cystic fibrosis, Schizophrenia, depression, neurological and brain development, malaria, multiple sclerosis and migraine headache. Indeed it is difficult to find any human disorder where Omega-3 fatty acids have not been tested.
Some recent studies have indicated that DHA could also provide protection against traumatic brain injury by reducing neural inflammation and increasing anti-apoptotic mediators”.
Dean Alban reports that Omega -3 benefits such a better memory and general brain health are well documented. The key is getting Omega -3 fats from the right foods and supplements. Omega -3 fats build brain cell membranes, reduce brain inflammation and promote new brain cell formation. They can improve your mood and memory and give you protection against brain disorders ranging from depression to dementia. Omega-3 lowers your risk of major chronic diseases, including heart diseases, cancer and arthritis. But deficiency is widespread”.
As you may guess, we are in a Cul-de-Sac in this country, Nigeria. Information about the health benefits of Omega -3 fish oil is still not widespread. We consume lots of omega-6 and so little of omega 3 oil. All sorts of disease are breaking the scales. Breast and other cancers are raging like wild fire. A breast cancer patient from the east who sought dietary information from me for her condition the other day has asked that a mouth cancer patient in the same town make the same inquiries. Esophageal cancer is no more news either, just as prostate cancer. Strokes are rampant. Heart failure and heart attack, too, are making the rounds in larger numbers. What about arthritis, asthma and infertility, among others. We go to the doctor. But he is not nutrition friendly, whereas these condition have origins in the diet. He slaps pharmaceutical drugs on us. Often, they do not resolve our predicament. We return to him. The doctor, this time, may increase the dosage or change the drugs to no avail. This is how we carry on to Kingdom come degraded in well-being and health from day to day. I enjoy Omega -6 fats as I said earlier, with advice caution. The cautionary note is that I eat Titus fish every day with my meal. I know it has no scales, and that scaly fish is said to absorb sea poison less, but what can I do? People like me who are slightly hypothyrodic do not efficiently convert plant Omega -3 to fish Omega -3 as a result, I take food supplements such as chelated Zinc, Cillantro or Chlorella which help the excretory organs fish out toxins, including heavy metals. And I make sure I take quality Omega -3 fish oil supplements. Besides, I give my heart a treat of Hawthorn Berries, Co-enzymes Q10 (C0q10) the (Ubiquinol brand) .care of the heart and the brain is a gold mine that should require another week to explore.