Are you seeking a healthy metabolism, more energy and better weight management? Fatty acids might be your answer. Are you dealing with skin allergies, lower back pain or heart palpitations? Maybe you can’t lose the extra 15lbs hanging around your middle? Or you’re having trouble getting pregnant? You might be surprised to learn that these are all symptoms of fatty acid deficiency.
Lack of dietary fat is a huge issue for many women. Wait a minute, what? Well meaning health experts have told you to reduce your fat intake for decades, right?
Low-fat diet craze
Remember the low-fat diet craze of the 90’s? That is when obesity in American adults began its climb from 13.4% in 1980 to 34.3% in 2008. And the latest data shows that 42.4% of American adults are consequently obese, the highest ever1. So eating low dietary fat, which you may have held as the nutrition gold standard, might not be the answer after all? You got it!
And if you jumped on the low-fat bandwagon (or your parents did) back then, you might be feeling the effects of it today. I remember my mother buying margarine thinking this would help my dad’s health! Think about the influence of marketing on our daily lives and health!
How’s this possible? Years of avoiding fats means your body doesn’t know what to do with it. It can’t break it down into fatty acids correctly or digest it well.
If you can’t digest fat, your body can’t use it.
Bile plays a key role in fat digestion. It can be used by the liver for removal of metabolic wastes that can’t be used by the body. Bile acids are crucial in intestinal absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. For this reason, the keto diet is not the simple answer to losing weight and regaining your health.
What if you can’t digest fats?
If you can’t digest fats, you will simply store the fats you are eating. Hence, you gain enormous amounts of weight and start a new chain of health problems. This is exactly why we want our clients to run lab testing before they start any new diet or craze. Is it really good for you? How do you know? Just because your friend said so? Why do we outsource our health to our friends or Facebook group participants?
What about the extra 15 lbs of weight you’re trying to lose? That’s adipose tissue created by excess glucose you get from overeating simple carbs.
Adipose tissue and hormones
Contrary to popular belief, adipose tissue is not an inert tissue that simply stores extra energy for later use. In reality, your adipose tissue can act as an endocrine gland, which synthesizes and secretes a number of hormones, including:
‣ leptin, a hormone which inhibits hunger signals
‣ ghrelin, a hormone which triggers hunger signals
This is why losing your adipose tissue is complex. You can’t starve your way to weight loss – these hormones won’t allow it.
Importance of fatty acids
Why is fat so important? It’s pretty simple. Every cell in your body has to have fat to live and work correctly. Phospholipids (fat) are needed to build cell membranes and certain hormones. To be healthy, you must eat healthy fats.
So what do your cells use fatty acids for?
- Protect your organs
- Build your hormones – hormone imbalance can be a result of a lack of lipids
- Regulate how fast you absorb food – not too fast and not too slow
- Help you to feel full for longer after eating
- Absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
- Help your body use proteins correctly – your macronutrients work together!
Healthy fats like butter, ghee, animal fats, and olive oil are not only really great for your health – they make food taste great! Fats give your food flavor. This is something to celebrate, not feel guilty about!
From keeping your brain sharp to absorbing key nutrients in the digestive system, fat has many benefits. It’s a delicious source of energy that keeps you full and moving during the day.
Fat for good health
Eating a variety of good fats is essential to good health! As a society we need to get over our phobia of fats and how they may be the probable cause of heart disease and weight gain. Sugar is a far greater enemy to your health than fats. Fats are critical for your health. Most Americans are deficient in healthy fatty acids and it’s literally keeping them from enjoying a healthy quality of life.
“One of the most unfortunate unintended consequences of the fat-free crusade was the idea that if it wasn’t fat, it wouldn’t make you fat.”Walter Willett, M.D. author Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy
You should be focused on the types of fatty acids you’re eating, not fixating on the amounts. There are many myths that circulate about fats being a health issue. The fats you eat are not related to the unwanted fat (adipose tissue) that may be hanging around your midriff.
Fatty acid types
There are 3 types of fatty acids: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. All fats and oils are some combination of saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
There are 2 polyunsaturated fats essential to the body. Essential means that your body can’t make these fats. You have to get them from your diet. Accordingly, you can’t live without them. They are called LA (linoleic acid) or Omega-6 and ALA (alpha linoleic acid) or Omega-3.
Omega-9’s are non-essential because your body can make them. But because you need most of your fat to come from omega-9’s (~60%), it’s important to get them through food too.
Almost all organs in the body are capable of making compounds called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are similar to hormones but they also have some key differences. They are hormone-like communication channels created in your cells. They live inside the double layers of phospholipids (fat) that surround your cells. As a result, your cells can’t talk to each other without them.
Prostaglandins and Inflammation
Prostaglandins control inflammation. For example, triggering inflammation when injured or after working out in order to get fitter (ever heard of micro tears for building muscles?) is healthy. Prostaglandins are responsible for this process. But chronic unhealthy inflammation is the leading cause worldwide of a whole list of conditions that lead to death and disability2.
Hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, environmental stress and genetic defects can all affect prostaglandin levels.
So what can you do to optimize prostaglandins?
- Eat a healthy, diverse, nutrient-dense diet
- Eat anti inflammatory foods
- Limit omega-6 foods from which prostaglandins are synthesized
- Eat enough omega-3 foods
- Eat enough fiber
- Exercise moderately
- Control stress levels
- Balance hormones
There are 4 types of prostaglandins which are either pro inflammatory or anti inflammatory. And each type of prostaglandin works differently to maintain homeostasis in the body.
One way prostaglandins are similar to hormones is that they act as signals to help the body carry out different processes like repairing damaged tissue. However, they are different from hormones because they are not made by glands. They are actually produced at the sites where the body requires them via a chemical reaction.
It sounds simple enough to eat healthy fats and avoid unhealthy ones, but what does that mean?
You’ve been told for decades that soybean, corn, peanut and canola oils are healthy because they are unsaturated. So unsaturated fats are good and saturated fats are bad? That’s not the whole story.
Healthy fats need little processing, like butter, lard, olive and coconut oils. These fats have been eaten by our ancestors for generations.
Unhealthy fats are highly processed and didn’t exist until about 100 years ago. They’re called industrial oils. That’s when the chemical (yes, chemical) processes and equipment were created to make canola, soybean and trans fats possible. They are rancid after processing so deodorizers are added to mask the smell. They are often rancid before they even hit the grocery shelves so you are literally buying rancid oils!!
Some industrial oils, including soybean, peanut, corn, and cottonseed, are also high in omega-6s. Eating industrial oils instead of healthy oils and fats causes inflammation and plays a role in essential fatty acid deficiency3.
There are different classes of fatty acids and you want to include all of them in your diet. If you are eating a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet, you will be getting these fats in the correct ratios. This is a challenge in our current fast-paced world full of processed foods and takeout.
The classes of fatty acids include omega-3, omega-6, omega-9 and saturated fats. You want a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of approximately 2:1. If you are following a special diet, it is challenging to balance your fatty acids. In this case, you may need to supplement in order to get the right balance.
Examples of omega-3:
- Fish oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Hemp seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Examples of omega-6:
- Sunflower oil
- Sesame oil
- Safflower oil
- Black currant seed oil
- Evening primrose oil
Examples of saturated fats:
- Palm oil
- Coconut oil
- Raw dairy
- Animal fats from pastured animals
Examples of omega-9:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Hazelnut oil
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
If you are at all concerned about your current fatty acid status and whether you have specific deficiencies, I recommend you get your lipids checked. A standard lipid profile won’t be enough to determine this.
Schedule a FREE Discovery Call to discuss your health
Schedule a free lipid analysis call with our office. We can talk you through what testing is most accurate and detailed to give you the data you need before considering any special diets, especially a keto program.
Fatty acids are often the most deficient group of macronutrients in the body. This is why they may account for many of your health or hormone issues.
Signs of fatty acid deficiency
Some issues that can be connected with fatty acid deficiencies are:
- Heavy periods
- Diarrhea, especially during your periods
- Autoimmune issues
- Low thyroid function
- Pituitary issues
- Blood sugar regulation issues
- Cognitive issues
- Neurological issues
- Fertility issues
- And many more…
How did we become so deficient in fatty acids?
Before the transition to industrialization, human diets were much broader. Your ancestors ate between 300 and 1000 different foods. Furthermore, many of those “wild” foods such as wild game, seeds, and fresh-caught fish were high in omega-3s. Today on average, we only eat between 17 and 20 different foods. And of the 20 foods, only around 70% of the average American’s calories comes from corn, soy, wheat and dairy4 (excluding calories from sugar). That’s a lot of nutritionally void calories with limited fatty acids.
A mixture of fatty acids is needed for optimal health consisting of approximately 60% monounsaturated fats, 10% polyunsaturated fats and 30% saturated fats. The ratios of fats will vary by bio-individual needs such as age, genetics, whether pregnant or breastfeeding, activity level and possible illness.
Where do you start to get your body functioning well enough to utilize fatty acids?
As I already mentioned, ordering the correct lab testing is paramount. Then you will want to optimize bile flow and small intestine digestion. In addition, balancing your blood sugar and pancreatic health is vital for fatty acid digestion.
Fatty acid digestion support
Some nutrients that are helpful for fatty acid digestion are:
- L-carnitine and Acetyl -l-carnitine
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Vitamin C
- Digestive bitters
- Bile salts
- Pancreatic enzymes
- Phase II liver detox nutrients
Nevertheless, just taking these nutrients without knowing whether you need them or in what quantities is never advisable. To clarify, work with a qualified health professional who is trained in clinical nutrition. They can help you put together an appropriate program for your bio-individual needs.
How to incorporate healthy fats into your kitchen
In your kitchen, use single source, extra virgin olive oil for cold salads. Furthermore, use avocado oil, coconut oil and grass-fed organic butter for cooking. Note that these have different heat points so check before deciding which oil to use for what kind of cooking.
Stick to healthy omega-6s by eating eggs, walnuts, cashews, almonds and hemp and sunflower seeds. In addition, eat fish. You should aim for 3 servings of omega-3 per week such as packed wild salmon, trout, mackerel, hering, anchovies and sardines. If you are a vegetarian be sure to incorporate flax, hemp, pumpkin and chia seeds into your diet. In addition, consider walnuts, oats and wheat germ.
Fun fact: Sunflower seeds naturally contain a nutrient known as phosphatidylserine. This nutrient, phosphatidylserine supports the pituitary and hypothalamus via the hippocampus. Sprouted seeds with a touch of sea salt are delicious by themselves or on top of a salad with a healthy fat. YUM!
In conclusion, fatty acid deficiency is epidemic. Musculoskeletal, endocrine cardiovascular, immune, skin issues, allergies or depression can be related to fatty acid deficiencies. Consequently, there are great lab tests today that can determine exactly what fats you may be deficient in.
So stop guessing and get professional help.
You have to eat fat to lose fat but what if you are struggling to digest fats after years of avoiding them? We can help you with a specific nutrient program to restart your functional systems so that you can absorb fats. Makes sense, doesn’t it? In order to have a healthy body and a healthy brain, healthy fats have to be a part of your meal plan. The range of health issues that have been following you for years including anxiety, brain fog, lower back pain, weight gain can be reversed.
Going it alone is never a good idea. Indeed, all the best athletes and corporate leaders in the world have coaches to get the results they are seeking faster and more efficiently.
Schedule your free health analysis call with us today to discuss how we can help you put together an individualized program for your health and your fatty acid balance.
- Hales, C. M., Carroll, M. D., Fryar, C. D., & Ogden, C. L. Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity Among Adults: United States, 2017–2018. NCHS Data Brief No. 360, February 2020 Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db360.htm
- Furman, D., Campisi, J., Verdin, E. et al. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the lifespan. Nat Med 25, 1822–1832, 2019. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-019-0675-0
- Nutritional Therapy Association. Fatty Acids student lecture 2019.
- Wheat, Dairy, Corn and Soy Staple Foods of Disease. (n.d.) Gluten Free Society. https://www.glutenfreesociety.org/wheat-dairy-corn-soy-staple-foods-of-disease/