Are you taking fish oil supplements? I hope so. Not long ago, I searched the United States Library of Medicine database and found 4,778 published articles on the benefits of fish oil supplementation.
But many people still don’t take it. And others have stopped for fear that theoretically the fats in fish oil pose some danger. But here’s the thing. There is no credible evidence to support that fear.
The truth is that fish oil supplements have been found to be effective for the treatment and prevention of almost every illness and condition.
So read on, because whether or not you are taking any oil supplement there are some important considerations you should know about. And that includes a new product that should make even the most skeptical feel good about fish oil supplements.
In order to really get a grasp of this issue, we need to spend a little time talking about oils in general. There are two “essential” oils, linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). LA is the essential omega-6 oil. ALA is the essential omega-3 oil. These two are essential because your body cannot synthesize (make) them. So it’s “essential” that you get them in your diet.
They are also referred to as “parent” oils. That’s because many of the oils and fats that your body depends on can be made from these two oils. However, as you will soon see, this is not always true.
Oils That Do Nothing, But….
Despite the importance of the essential oils, it is curious to realize that in and of themselves they do nothing in the body. What I mean by this is that the only positive effect they have in the body is to serve as the source of more important oils that actually perform the critical functions that omega-6 and omega-3 oils are known for.
So please bear with me while I give you a short tour around the world of oils. You will learn a lot about one of the most important nutritional aspects of your body – and how you can best protect yourself from disease.
LA exerts all its important effects when your body converts it to arachidonic acid. Your body then converts arachidonic acid into prostaglandins. These substances act to increase inflammation in the body. This is why many nutritionists refer to LA and omega-6 oils as “pro-inflammatory.”
Now everyone knows that excessive inflammation is one of the causes of disease. So it’s tempting to develop the opinion that LA is a “bad” oil. But not so fast. There is more to the story. I will explain what I mean by that in a little bit. But first, some more school.
In order for your body to convert LA into arachidonic acid, your body first has to convert it into GLA (gamma linolenic acid). And here’s where the problems develop. The enzyme that makes this conversion is D6D (delta-6 desaturase).
You’ll want you to remember D6D, because I’m going to talk more about it later. D6D is a critical enzyme not only for LA, but also for ALA. In essence, it controls the entire chain of events in how effectively your body uses both of these essential oils.
The effectiveness of D6D in people is genetically determined and varies greatly. In some of us, D6D activity is very strong and in others it is weak. To make matters more complex, there are a lot of conditions and environmental factors that can further decrease the effectiveness of D6D.
Drinking alcohol decreases D6D activity. So does a diet with inadequate levels of zinc and vitamin B6. Another big dietary problem is with trans fats. They inhibit D6D.
Age is also a factor. The older we get, the less likely our D6D enzyme will work well. One very interesting and important point is that babies have no D6D activity at all until they reach the age of six months. This is one of the many reasons why breast feeding is so important.
Here’s Where I’m Going With All This
As all of these factors lead to a decrease in D6D activity, your body will find it harder to convert LA to GLA. This will lead to a deficiency of GLA which then leads to a deficiency of all of the pro-inflammatory factors I mentioned above. So maybe it’s a good thing to have a deficiency of D6D? Maybe that would lead to less inflammation? Once again, not so fast.
D6D not only works on LA, it also works on ALA, the anti-inflammatory omega-3 oil. D6D acts to convert ALA to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Then your body converts EPA into DHA and other anti-inflammatory factors. So a decrease in D6D activity would end up in a deficiency of the factors that decrease inflammation. So when you add it all up, you will see that D6D is critical for both the formation of inflammatory factors and anti-inflammatory factors. So now we need to talk a little bit about inflammation in general.
Nobody likes the idea of inflammation, but the truth is that without it, we would very quickly die. We need inflammation to control infections, heal injured tissues, and detoxify us from all the toxins we get exposed to. The problem is that because of stress, drugs, poor lifestyle choices, toxins, injuries, infections, and decreased fitness, most of us are faced with excessive inflammation. And excessive inflammation is not good.
In this day and age, it’s the cause of virtually everything bad that can happen to us. Which is why it is so important to increase the anti-inflammatory factors that come from the omega-3 oil ALA, while at the same time decreasing the pro-inflammatory factors that stem from the omega-6 oil LA. But just the opposite is happening.
In an ideal world, people would have equal amounts of LA and ALA in their diets. That would result in equal amounts of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory controls. And, in fact, the evidence shows that the ratio of LA to ALA in the diets of our earliest ancestors was just that – 1:1. But our diets have changed a lot since then.
By the end of the 1900s, the ratio had increased to about 4:1. Four times more of the pro-inflammatory LA than the anti-inflammatory ALA. But hang on because it gets a lot worse. Current estimates for Americans now place the ratio in the range of 20:1 to 25:1! No wonder excessive inflammation is such a problem. How did this happen?
The sharp rise is primarily due to the increased use of LA-containing vegetable oils. In 1909, the average person ate about two pounds of LA-containing vegetable oils per year. Now it’s closer to 25 pounds.
Change in Our Diets Comes With a Price
As I mentioned above, D6D gets used by both the pro-inflammatory LA and the anti-inflammatory ALA. So if there is a lot more LA around than ALA, the enzyme gets used up by LA and there is relatively little left to convert ALA to its anti-inflammatory factors. Combine this with the decrease in D6D activity from all the reasons I mentioned earlier, and you have a great recipe for dramatically increasing the inflammation in your body.
Of course, one way to correct this problem would be to decrease the amount of the LA-containing oils in our diet. And I think we should all work to that end. The ones that are the worst are: sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, cottonseed, sesame, and peanut oils. The other sources are wheat, corn, grain fed animals, and the eggs from grain fed chickens. But there are two reasons why this approach alone is just not going to work for many people.
First, it’s very difficult to do. It means completely eliminating every processed food and most restaurant food. It also means eliminating eggs and meats unless they are grass fed. That’s because grain-fed eggs and meat are especially high in arachidonic acid. Remember that arachidonic acid is the fat that comes from LA that is so pro-inflammatory.
Second, and more important, even if you are obsessive enough to get your oil intake down to a perfect 1:1 ratio, that still doesn’t mean that you have enough D6D activity to convert them to their respective inflammatory controlling factors. Many people with excellent diets still get inflammatory diseases.
I believe that these two fundamental issues, excessive LA intake and decreased D6D activity, are the primary reasons why fish oil supplements have been shown to be so helpful in literally thousands of studies. Because fish oils directly supply the anti-inflammatory oils EPA and DHA even in the face of both these problems. And that’s why I have always encouraged my patients to take a fish oil supplement.
But as good as fish oil is, I now believe we can do better.
Not long ago, I became involved in an interesting conversation with a couple of very knowledgeable nutritional doctors. We were debating whether or not it was possible to come up with an essential oil supplement that was better than pure fish oil. That conversation got me to thinking.
First of all, it seems to me that a complete oil supplement should have both of the parent oils LA and ALA. But for all the reasons I just mentioned, it should be skewed to the omega-3 parent oil ALA. The best oil in this regard is flax oil. Flax oil contains 14% LA and 57% ALA.
Next, since we can expect that most of us, especially as we get older, will have a decrease in our D6D activity, the oil supplement should have the anti-inflammatory end products that D6D is supposed to provide.
That’s where the fish oil comes in. It provides the EPA and DHA from which all the anti-inflammatory factors come from. So even if you don’t have enough D6D to make the EPA and DHA you need, you can get it from fish oil. This is precisely why breast milk contains so much EPA and DHA. Because, remember, babies don’t have any D6D at all. So in essence, by providing the EPA and DHA, we are just mimicking how nature provides for us in our earliest days.
Another Great Oil
But there are an awful lot of benefits from another oil that I have not talked about yet – rice bran oil. Most people are not familiar with rice bran oil. But as you will see, it is unique for many reasons. But perhaps the most important is that it has its own anti-inflammatory action that is independent of the LA/ALA ratio and D6D activity.
Rice bran oil also contains three other nutrients that are rarely found in supplements and which exert a strong anti-inflammatory effect. The first are tocotrienols. Rice bran oil is the only readily available oil, other than palm oil, that contains high levels of tocotrienols. What’s more, rice bran oil has all of the best forms of tocotrienols.
Tocotrienols Are Extremely Protective of the Brain
Studies show that people with the highest levels of tocotrienols are 95% less likely to come down with severe memory problems. Other research shows that they soften arteries and improve blood sugar problems.
Another unique aspect of rice bran oil is that it contains oryzanol. In fact, rice bran oil is the only significant food source of oryzanol. Oryzanol is an anti-inflammatory nutrient. A 2003 article showed that oryzanol directly inhibits the inflammatory process similar to the most popular anti-inflammatory drugs.
Oryzanol also has powerful antioxidant action. It is even more effective than vitamin E in fighting free radicals. And studies have shown that oryzanol can soften arteries that are starting to harden and inhibit dangerous clot formations. In this regard it is very synergistic with fish oil because EPA does the same thing.
One more thing about rice bran oil that you ought to know. It has the highest level of beta-sitosterol than any other oil. A 2010 study showed that beta-sitosterol has an anti-inflammatory effect that is completely different from any of the mechanisms we have talked about so far in this report.
But while all of this sounds great, there is one important aspect about taking any oil supplement that has been completely overlooked. And that’s the concept of oxidation. The essential oils LA, ALA, EPA, and DHA are very prone to oxidation. When they oxidize, they don’t work and become completely useless. In fact, not only do they become useless, but theoretically they could be unhealthy.
So it makes perfect sense to protect against oxidation by adding into the super oils other nutrients to protect them against oxidation. The ones that immediately come to mind are Coenzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid, and natural vitamin E (including the all-important gamma tocopherol).
A Supplement With All of These Oils
Fortunately, there isn’t an oil supplement on the market that has all of these vital ingredients. It’s called Complete Daily Oils.
To make this supplement, the manufacturer added one part of rice bran oil to one part of flax oil. This gives a balance of the parent oils in a ratio of four parts ALA to one part LA. Most authorities consider this to be the perfect dietary ratio for inflammation control. It also adds in the many synergistic anti-inflammatory properties of rice bran oil. Properties that no other supplement offers.
Then they added in an equal amount of concentrated, pure fish oil. The fish oil would serve to guarantee that even in the face of decreased D6D activity, there will be a potent, total anti-inflammatory effect.
And lastly, to deal with the issue of oxidation, they added in the most potent fat-soluble antioxidants out there in some very substantial doses: Coenzyme Q10, vitamin E mixed tocopherols (with a minimum of 20% gamma tocopherol), and alpha lipoic acid. And just for good measure since it’s an oil, they added some vitamin D3.
With this unique balanced approach, I’m convinced this is now the absolute best oil supplement on the market. Adding anything else would make it too big to swallow. Taking anything away would make it less effective. I recommend that adults take two to three softgels per day and children take one softgel per day as an important part of their overall nutritional program. Those battling inflammation can take the same dose twice a day.
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