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Among the three Macronutrients nature provides for food, Fats are the most thought-provoking.  There are so many exciting yet complicated aspects to Fats as I introduced some of them in June’s Blog-Those Sassy Fatty Acids.   Fatty Acids (FA) are the building blocks for Fats.     The number of carbons in the chain of (FA) determines the different types of FA which appear in nature.  Also, the presence or absence of double bonds (think of the bonds as glue) along the chain creates either saturated (solid) or unsaturated (liquid) Fats.   Thus, it is the types of (FA) we consume which have an impact of influencing our risk for chronic disease rather than the total amount of Fat that we consume.

To understand the sassiness of Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), we must get a firm understanding of their formation.   (PUFA) are (FA) connected by several double bonds at various intervals throughout a long chain of (FA).  For example: when one double bond connects a specific group of (FA), it creates a mono-unsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), mono meaning one.  However, when double bonds join or connect a sting of fatty acids at several/many sections, creates those sassy polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA).

PUFA are essential because the body cannot make them; food is the only source.  PUFA is vital for life; without the proper intake, the body develops a deficiency that negatively affects health.  PUFA, unlike other fats, is biologically active and plays a vital role in the clotting of blood and enhances the immune system by stimulating inflammation.   The two primary forms of PUFA are Omega-3 and Omega-6.

Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids have opposite effects on the body—omega-3 functions as an anti-inflammatory agent and Omega-6 as a pro-inflammatory agent.  Pro-inflammatory FA enhances the body’s immune system.  Inflammation is necessary as it is a vital part of the body’s natural defense mechanism designated to attack illnesses and infections.  However, evidence-based research reports that an excessive amount of inflammation is a significant contributor to several chronic diseases.  Excessive amounts of inflammation are the root cause of the body attacking healthy tissues. On the contrary, Omega-3 acts as an anti-inflammatory agent protecting the body from excessive amounts of inflammation.

Nature’s Checks and Balances:    Due to the opposite effects of the two PUFA, it is pertinent to health to consume and achieve the correct balance.  The daily intake ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is 4:1 or less. Or one can say an intake ratio of Inflammatory fats -to- anti-inflammatory fats should be 4:1. However, most Americans are consuming an alarming ratio of 10:1 to 50:1.   These statics may explain the increase of inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. There exists an adverse alteration in nature’s checks and balances of these oils in the American Diet.

In summary, Omega-6 Fatty Acids are essential, and, when taken in the correct proportions/ratio are healthy.   However, Americans are consuming more than they should, requiring a decreased intake of the use of these (FA), as well as limiting the foods prepared with Omega-6 Fatty Acids.  Sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids are soybean oil, corn oil, mayonnaise, and sunflower oil.  Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids are oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, anchovies, and sardines.  The following are also high in Omega-3 chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts. 

A good substitution for Omega-6 fatty acids is mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) such as olive oil, canola oil, avocado oils, peanut oil, safflower oil, and sesame oils. Mono-unsaturated fats offer many health benefits.  Most of these benefits exist among the populations living along the Mediterranean Sea.  The Mediterranean style of eating utilizes mono-unsaturated fatty acids as the only source of Fat.

When it comes to those sassy fatty acids, this is just a small glimpse of their complexity and properties.  Fats, in general, are one to the most complex essential macro-nutrient nature has to offer.  We must continue to strive to achieve and maintain that proper balance to acquire all of the healthful benefits of Fats.  Those Sassy Fatty Acids, what is your ratio?