Are You Smart Enough? NO? You May Need More Omega 3's.
Article at a glance:
- Definition of fatty acids: The building blocks of the fat in our bodies and in the food we eat. During digestion, the body breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed into the blood.
- The brain, eyes and heart need the poly-unsaturated Omega 3 fatty acids. It’s essential that we eat them.
- Two of the Omega 3's, EPA and DHA, are so vital to the functioning of the brain, that if it has a shortage it will rob these fats from wherever it can to the detriment of the rest of the body.
- There are only two things known to leach EPA and DHA fatty acids from the brain: alcohol and a fetus. For a fetus's brain to grow it needs EPA and DHA, especially in the last trimester. If the mom isn't eating enough Omega 3, the fetus will take it from the mom's brain. Many pregnant women suffer from memory loss (of foggy brain) and depression–two symptoms of not having enough Omega 3.
- It's important to have the right balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6. Most Americans eat 20 times more Omega 6 than Omega 3 (20:1). You should be eating NO MORE than two times the amount of Omega 6 as you do Omega 3 (2:1).
- The source of one of the most fundamental ways the body manages itself DOES NOT come from a particular gland or the brain, but from the food we eat. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids produce substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help micro-manage the body, especially in an emergency such as getting injured.
- Omega 6 prostaglandins create inflammation which is important to protect the body when injured. Omega 3 prostaglandins reduce the inflammation as the body heals itself.
- A good fat can become bad for you if the ratios are unbalanced.
The brain, eyes and heart need Omega 3 fats. It’s essential that we eat them.
Two Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are very alive, vibrating and electric – and very concentrated in the areas of the body where things need to happen fast: like the brain with all the neurons firing off, the eyes where images need to be made in a split second and the heart where we need to keep it beating in a regular rhythm.
Fat is key to making things happen fast. Exactly the opposite of what we have been taught! Based on what you’ve been told about fat, you’d think that if we had fat in our brains it would be slowing things down, not be key to speeding things up.
EPA and DHA are so vital to the functioning of the brain, that if it has a shortage it will rob these fats from wherever it can to the detriment of the rest of the body. There are only two things known to leach these fatty acids from the brain: alcohol and a fetus.
In the third trimester of pregnancy, a fetus’ brain doubles in size. It needs EPA and DHA to help make that happen. So if mom isn’t getting enough EPA and DHA, the baby will take it from the mom's brain.
So once you start leaching EPA and DHA from the brain, brain functions start to be affected like mood, memory, learning abilities. Two traits associated with alcoholism and pregnancies are memory and depression/postpartum depression.
The source of one of the most fundamental ways the body manages itself DOES NOT come from a particular gland or the brain, but from the food we eat.
The body takes fatty acids from the Omega 6 and Omega 3 and transforms them into powerful substances called prostaglandins. They have an enormous impact on our body.
To understand how these powerful prostaglandins impact our bodies, we need to first take a step back and learn how our body manages itself. We have all this stuff inside: cells, blood, organs, tissue, etc. All of this needs to be managed and regulated; communication needs to happen between the systems. The body does that in two ways:
- The nervous system through short fast electrical impulses sent through the nerves.
- The hormone system through chemical hormones in the blood stream and body fluids.
We have hormones to manage just about everything. The basic mechanism behind this is that a hormone gets secreted by a gland and circulates around in the blood to communicate to various cells and orchestrate a particular task.
Prostaglandins, on the other hand, are micro-managers, and tasks that need to occur quickly are handled by them. Prostaglandins are used in every tissue cell and organ in the body to regulate and control, even down to the cellular level, like moving calcium in and out of the cells. They have so much responsibility that scientists are still uncovering their functions, to the point where they are now referring to fat as an endocrine (hormone) gland.
Prostaglandins are particularly useful in emergencies where the body needs something to happen fast and it doesn’t have time to wait for a hormone to be circulated around in the blood. For example, if you get injured. The body will take the fatty acids in the tissue that was affected and create prostaglandins and quickly provide inflammation to isolate the injury. Prostaglandins are very much like hormones in the way that they regulate and control cells.
So think about how incredible that is. All the body requires is that we get a good balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 coming in so that it can use the prostaglandins to fine-tune the work that needs to be done.
If you have too much Omega 6 coming in the "helpful" inflammation can get out of control. Because it is the Omega 6 fatty acids that are responsible for providing the inflammation, and the Omega 3 that brings the inflammation down.
Most Americans are getting a 20:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. So inflammation is rising in the body and all the inflammatory conditions are happening: joint pain, asthma, arthritis, etc. We should be getting no more than a 2:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3.
It is important to make sure that all the fatty acids you eat are in good balance. This is one of the reasons a good fat goes bad—too much of one and not enough of another.
In my next article I'll talk more about why we get more Omega 6 than Omega 3 and other reasons good fats go bad…Stay tuned! In the meantime, check out this article on getting more Omega 3 into your diet:
Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids Breakdown
If you are curious about what the Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids are made up of…
| Omega 3 Parent is …
||Omega 6 Parent is …|
|Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA for short)
ALA can be transformed into…
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and
EPA can be transformed into…
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)
|Linoleic Acid (LA for short)
LA can be transformed into…
GLA (Gamma-linolenic acid) and
GLA can be transformed into…
AA (Arachidonic acid)
Essential Fatty Acids (the stuff you need to eat be because your body can’t make it)
From the chart above, you can see that if you have the parent fat, then the rest of the family of fats can be made. Our bodies can’t make the parents (ALA and LA) so they are called essential fatty acids (EFA). Whenever the body can’t make something it is referred to as essential and so we must get it in the food we eat. If you aren’t eating Omega 3 and Omega 6, you don’t have it available in your body and your body isn’t making the other fatty acids in the family. Good sources for these EFA's are:
| Omega 6
|Vegetables and seeds (LA)||Flax (ALA)|
|Evening Primrose Oil (GLA)||Cold water fish, like salmon, herring and mackerel (EPA and DHA)|
This video explains in greater detail how the fetus uses the EPA and DHA from the brain.
*Results may vary from person to person.