If you’ve been a reader of mine even for a short while, you probably remember me talking about the dangers of sugar, especially in the toxic form of high fructose corn syrup.
Sugar is a driving force behind a whole slew of diseases and conditions including diabetes, insulin resistance, cancer, heart disease, obesity, dementia, immune dysfunction and chronic inflammation, to name a few.
And it’s no wonder that our rates of these conditions skyrocketed over the last couple of centuries because so has our sugar consumption.
Back in the early 1800s the average American took in about 6 pounds of sugar per year. By the year 2000, that had exploded to 108 pounds per year!
But as bad as sugar is, there is another substance that can arguably be considered even WORSE.
Linoleic acid (LA).
Here’s the scoop—we’ll start with some fat basics.
Saturated vs. Unsaturated fats
There are primarily two types of fats—saturated and unsaturated—and chemically speaking, the type is dependent on how many of their carbon bonds are paired with hydrogen.
Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. They're stable and hold up to heat well without becoming damaged.
They're dense, sticky and can be challenging for your body to eliminate. But your body needs them because they help stabilize your cell membranes.
Examples of saturated fats from Nature include fats from animal sources (meat, butter, lard, full-fat dairy, tallow, suet, eggs and cheese) as well as coconut oil and palm oil.
Unsaturated fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated
Unsaturated fatty acids can be broken down into two main categories—monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs).
Both MUFAs and PUFAs are liquid at room temperature, but monounsaturated fats become solid if refrigerated.
Unsaturated fats move through your body much more fluidly than saturated fats. They're helpful because they provide flexibility to your cell membranes and enhance cell communication.
Unsaturated fats are very sensitive to heat and can get damaged (a process called oxidation), so they are best not used in cooking.
Sources of MUFAs include olive oil, avocados and nuts (peanuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts and pecans).
As far as polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) go, there are two primary kinds—Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids.
Omega-3 fats include EPA and DHA (typically from fish oil) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—a plant-based Omega 3 fat. Omega-3 fats are a natural anti-inflammatory and are crucial for brain function and a healthy cardiovascular system.
Omega-6 fats, on the other hand, are inflammatory in nature. The most common Omega-6 fat is linoleic acid (LA)—it makes up between 60-80 percent of the Omega-6 fats and is a major contributor to chronic disease. Seed oils are the primary sources of these fats.
Now let’s focus specifically on LA and its dangerous wrath.
Linoleic acid—the inflammatory fat that’s EVERYWHERE
Linoleic acid (LA) in and of itself is not the devil—in fact, our bodies can use Omega-6 fats in very small quantities.
The problem is we are INUNDATED with LA in our diets! And you can thank the food companies for that.
Before the mid-1800s, most people consumed only saturated animal fats like tallow, suet, lard and butter. In addition, residents of Asian countries used stable fats like coconut and palm oil.
Vegetable oils like we see on our store shelves today didn’t exist.
But that all changed in 1866 when Procter & Gamble employed a new process called “hydrogenation” which converted unusable supplies of cotton seeds into a synthetic seed oil, and Crisco was born.
Shortly after that, margarine (which is also made from seed oils) was introduced as a “healthy” alternative to butter.
Since then the number of processed food items on our store shelves has increased exponentially, and therefore so has our consumption of LA.
Note that recently, P & G has opted to start using palm, soy and canola oil for Crisco, but cottonseed oil is still frequently used for cooking, especially in restaurant deep fryers.
How LA destroys your health
The main reason why excess LA causes disease is that it prevents the mitochondria in your cells from working like they should.
Mitochondria produce most of your cellular energy in the form of ATP, and without ATP, your cells simply cannot function properly and repair themselves like they are designed to.
And as I mentioned above, unsaturated fats like LA are easily damaged by oxidation, and this in turn spurs the development of disease-causing free radicals.
Here are just some of the ways that excessive LA consumption can destroy your health:
- It causes damage to the cells lining your blood vessels, thereby increasing your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.
- It leads to memory impairment and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- It can cause weakened immune function, which increases your susceptibility to infections, viruses and disease (including cancer).
- It may decrease your liver’s supply of glutathione which lowers your antioxidant supplies to fight free radicals.
- Lastly, it increases your fat cells’ sensitivity to insulin, thereby raising your risk of insulin resistance (and type 2 diabetes).
What makes LA particularly deadly is that, unlike sugar, it takes your body a LONG time—potentially years—to eliminate it. So it continues unleashing its wrath while it comfortably remains a part of you.
A very common answer to counteract excessive inflammatory Omega-6 fats in the body is to increase intake of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats.
While that can help, the primary action to take is to DECREASE your intake of Omega-6 LA.
Two ways to get the most bang for your buck are to:
- Avoid fried foods in restaurants. Ask for your appetizer, side or dinner entree to be broiled or sauteed in butter.
- Swear off all vegetable oils including: Safflower, grape seed, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, soybean, rice bran, canola and peanut.
Also, make sure you’re getting anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats from the right sources.
Don’t rely on fish like swordfish, shark, mackerel, tuna or farmed-raised salmon as sources of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, as they have been shown to have high levels of contaminants including mercury and PCBs.
Instead get sources of Omega-3 EFAs including wild salmon, walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil. Supplement with an outstanding fish oil formula like VitalMega-3 to ensure your body has sufficient levels of these crucial fats to effectively control inflammation and help decrease your risk of disease.
To your health,
PS: Are you looking to improve your diet but are having trouble bridging the ever-widening gap between what you know you should eat and what you do eat?
If so, check out the Juice Plus line of products! They were designed specifically for people who want to incorporate healthier choices but for a variety of reasons are not able to make major changes all at once.
Juice Plus gives you the benefit of 30 varieties of vegetables, fruits and berries to help get you on a healthier path! And the best part is, people have even reported eventually developing a taste for wholesome real foods after taking Juice Plus! Take a look and see if Juice Plus can help you!