1There are two essential fatty acids or EFAs; these essential nutrients have been shown by leading researchers to be necessary for both the optimum health of the body as well as for freedom from degenerative disease. They are known as Omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid or ALNA) and Omega 6 (linoleic acid or LA).
2In addition to these two EFAs, there are certain derivatives of each that some people do not produce in adequate amounts themselves so as to meet their own needs. Therefore, some people will also require a dietary source of these EFA derivatives as well. Biochemical individuality is an important concept to comprehend in this regard. (Refer to Biochemical Individuality by Roger Williams for more info on this subject.) Among these EFA derivatives that some people may require from dietary sources are gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
3Along with proteins, minerals, other lipids, and sugars, EFAs are building blocks of cell membranes and various internal cell structures.
4EFAs are necessary for the metabolism and transportation of triglycerides and cholesterol.
5EFAs are necessary for the development and the function of the human brain.
6EFAs are necessary for proper function of the vision, nervous system, adrenal glands, and testes, playing a vital role in sperm formation and conception.
7EFAs boost metabolism, metabolic rate, energy production, and oxygen uptake. Some researchers suggest EFAs are necessary in order for us to properly utilize sunlight.
8EFAs, particularly Omega 3, have been shown to decrease growth of cancer cells, candida, and various anaerobic organisms destructive to the health of the human body.
9In the November 1986 Journal of the National Cancer Institute, research indicated that Omega 3 and one of its derivatives as well as three of the derivatives of Omega 6 were seen to selectively destroy human cancer cells in tissue culture without damaging normal cells.
10Dr. Johanna Budwig, a German M.D. and biochemist, discovered that the blood of cancer patients was deficient in EFAs. A yellow-green pigment was found in place of the normal red blood pigment or hemoglobin. Along with certain dietary improvements, she gave her patients one and a half ounces (45 ml) or more of fresh flax oil as a means of getting EFAs into the body (flax oil is 55-65% Omega 3 and 15-25% Omega 6).
The flax oil was consumed in combination with various dairy products to provide the sulfur proteins which Budwig considered necessary for the EFAs to be properly utilized by the body. On this program, which included no other supplements, she found that within three months the yellow-green was replaced by red and the cancer disappeared.
11EFAs can be precursors to hormonelike substances known as the prostaglandins. There are three main groups of these, which are known as PG1s, PG2s, and PG3s. Prostaglandins govern or influence many bodily processes including platelet stickiness in the blood, arterial muscle tone, inflammatory response, sodium and fluid excretion through the kidneys, and immune function.
12PG1s are derived from the Omega 6 family of fatty acids. Omega 6 (LA) can be changed into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which in turn can be changed into dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA). PG1s are made from DGLA. PG1s prevent blood platelets from sticking together, assist in removing excess sodium as well as fluid, relax blood vessels, decrease inflammation, help insulin work more efficiently, benefit nerve function, regulate calcium metabolism, and improve immune function. People whose bodies do not efficiently make all of the above conversions may not manufacture sufficient PG1s from Omega 6 alone, but may require dietary sources of certain Omega 6 derivatives, most notably GLA.
13PG2s are also derived from the Omega 6 family of fatty acids. As noted previously, LA can be converted into GLA, which can be converted into DGLA. DGLA in turn can be converted into arachidonic acid (AA). PG2s are derived from AA. Different PG2s can either prevent or promote blood platelet aggregation. PG2s can promote water and sodium retention as well as inflammation. In general, PG2s oppose the PG1s, and are secreted in response to stress.
Left unchecked, overproduction of PG2s can lead to all sorts of health problems associated with increased inflammation, decreased immune function, constricted blood vessels, increased sodium and fluid retention, and increased platelet stickiness. Some of the many health problems that may be associated with unchecked PG2 production in response to stress include cardiovascular disease, strokes, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and various immune disorders. One basic mechanism of keeping the PG2s in check is a PG1 known as PGE1, which slows the release of AA thus preventing its conversion into PG2s.
14PG3s are made from the Omega 3 family of fatty acids. Omega 3 (LNA) can be changed into stearidonic acid (SDA). SDA can be converted into eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), which in turn can be converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). PG3s are made from EPA. EPA is of enormous importance, as it also prevents AA from being available for PG2 production. As noted by Udo Erasmus, "EPA is the single most important factor limiting PG2 production." Certain fish oils are abundant sources of EPA.
People whose bodies do not efficiently make all of the above conversions may require a dietary source of certain Omega 3 derivatives, most notably EPA. People whose ancestors consumed large amounts of EPA rich fish for many generations often do not efficiently manufacture their own EPA and must rely upon a dietary source such as certain types of fish.
15The ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is also crucial, as excess Omega 6 as compared to Omega 3 promotes tumor formation. Research suggests that the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 should be no greater than 5:1. Many experts suggest that the ideal ratio is as low as 2:1 or even 1:1 based on the ratio found in many healthy traditional diets. A typical ratio in most people's diets is in excess of 20:1. This is largely the result of increased consumption of various vegetable oils in the past century or so, most of which contain massive amounts of omega 6 and little or no omega 3.
16Highly unsaturated fats are chemically unstable and thus highly prone to rancidity and other detrimental changes due to exposure to light, oxygen, or heat. This includes any rich source of EFAs and in fact any oil, whether from a plant or animal source. It is best to avoid any heated oils, or any oils that have had sufficient exposure to light, oxygen, or heat so as to damage them. For human consumption, oils need to be processed and stored in a highly specific manner, and consumed fairly soon after pressing.
Any deviation from these standards can pose some degree of health risk from their consumption. The modern diet contains a huge quantity of vegetable oils that have been exposed to light, oxygen, and heat. This poses a massive health risk to anyone consuming such a diet. No matter the quality of an oil in its ideal state, once exposed sufficiently to light, oxygen, or heat, it becomes detrimental to our health. For this reason, any cooking done with fats should be done with fats that are largely saturated such as coconut oil or ghee.
17Both Omega 3 and 6 are extremely sensitive to deterioration in the presence of light, oxygen, and heat. Any or all of these will cause oil to go rancid very rapidly, thus making it of no benefit and, in fact, detrimental to the health of our bodies. For this reason it is imperative that oil be manufactured, processed, stored, and shipped in the utter absence of light, oxygen, and heat. There are seed oils available that meet these exacting standards. Certified organic seeds are processed, bottled and stored in the absence of light, oxygen, and heat.
Any oils made from seeds or nuts should be organic, as most pesticides are fat soluble and will therefore concentrate in the oil. Inert black plastic bottles are used which will not react with the oil. Any type of glass container, even dark brown glass, allows enough light in to cause rancidity.
Indeed, of the three factors mentioned, light is by far the most detrimental, causing rancidity over 1000 times as rapidly as the next worse, which is oxygen. Inert gas is utilized during manufacture and bottling to insure the absence of oxygen.
A special technology is utilized to maintain low temperatures (below 96 degrees F) during processing. Most so-called "cold-pressed" oils have reached temperatures of 160 degrees F or more as a result of friction during the extraction process. Once opened, a bottle should be kept refrigerated and used within two to four weeks ideally. Unopened bottles are best kept frozen. (Freezing may extend shelf-life of unopened bottles to six months or even longer, but we encourage you to treat this oil as the perishable item that it is for best results).
18Fish oils are also highly vulnerable to detrimental transformation due to light, oxygen, and heat exposure during processing. Fish oils from wild fish such as cod liver oil are the most abundant source of vitamin D by a wide margin. Yet there are legitimate concerns with the presence of various chemicals potentially found in fish oils. (Note: mercury is not fat soluble and hence not a specific concern with fish oil, yet there are numerous other contaminants which are legitimate concerns.)
There are sources of cod liver oil from Iceland available which have been extensively tested and shown to have extremely low levels of these toxins as compared to other sources. Anyone consuming fish oils would be wise to investigate their own source for this reason and assure that it is the purest available.
19There are at least four different vitamin D factors. Vitamin D2 (viosterol or irradiated ergosterol) is available from plant sources or as a synthetic. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol or irradiated cholesterol) only comes from animal sources. As noted by Weston Price, "It is now recognized that activated ergosterol vitamin D2 does not represent the factors essential for the utilization of calcium and phosphorous by the human body." The human body requires vitamin D3, available only from animal sources. Synthetic or plant sources of "vitamin D" supplements will list potency in IU without noting the absence of necessary vitamin D3, or that even by the most generous estimates vitamin D2 is no better than 9.5 times weaker than vitamin D3.
(Note: Humans do manufacture some vitamin D3 in the skin through the interaction of UV-B light and cholesterol. There are a number of factors involved which include: duration of skin exposure, amount of skin exposed, latitude, season of the year, time of day, skin color, and the presence of natural oils on the skin. The majority of people in the modern world will not come close to meeting their vitamin D3 needs without a dietary source. And certainly all of the traditional cultures studied by Weston Price, regardless of their latitude, had abundant dietary sources of vitamin D3 through the consumption of various animal fats.)
20It appears that individual needs for EFAs in the diet may vary considerably. Ancestry no doubt plays a huge role in this individuality. Saturated fats are far more stable than monounsaturated fats, which in turn are more stable than polyunsaturated fats such as the EFAs. The melting point of saturated fats is higher than that of mononsaturated fats, which in turn is higher than that of polyunsaturated fats. Compare, for example, butter, olive oil, and flax oil.
Rancidity is a greater concern as temperature increases. Flexibility becomes a greater concern as temperature decreases. If we observe both plants and animals at various latitudes and climates, it is clear that there is a tradeoff between chemical stability and flexibility, with different results in different climates or latitudes. In warmer climates and lower latitudes, saturated fats tend to predominate as rancidity becomes the greater issue. In colder climates and higher latitudes, a lack of flexibility becomes the greater issue, and thus polyunsaturated fats tend to predominate. In the middle latitudes, monounsaturated fats may make the most sense.
The food chain in colder climates thus tends to have a much greater EFA content than that in warmer climates. Therefore, for example, a person of Scandinavian ancestry may require far more EFAs in the diet than a person of Indian ancestry, for the simple reason that their ancestral diets were vastly different as far as EFA content.
21 Bear in mind that the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is crucial. Omega 6 is contained in many vegetable seed oils and seeds, the best sources being safflower (75%), sunflower (65%), corn (59%), and sesame (45%). These oils contain only small amounts of Omega 3, however, less than 1%. Thus, high consumption of such oils will produce an extremely unsafe excess of omega 6 to omega 3, with various detrimental consequences as outlined above.
22There are few rich vegetable sources of Omega 3. Pumpkin seed oil (0-15%), soy bean oil (7-9%), walnut oil (3-11%), and hemp oil (20%) all contain Omega 3. By far the richest source of Omega 3 is flax oil, which is 55-65% Omega 3 as well as 15-25% Omega 6. Flax oil therefore can be used to correct an excess of omega 6 compared to omega 3 in the diet.
But it should be noted that the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in flax oil is too low to be considered ideal. Therefore, if a person were to consume large amounts of flax oil without some dietary source of omega 6 to counteract this, they would eventually develop an excess of omega 3 in their tissues and consequent health problems. One such problem will be lowered immune function.
For this reason, it is best to either balance flax oil consumption with a rich source of omega 6, or better yet to use an oil blend with a more ideal ratio of the two EFAs. And of course to make sure this oil has not been exposed to light, oxygen, or heat during processing, storage, or transport.
23In the 1950s Dr. Max Gerson successfully used fresh flax oil to dissolve tumors, using about one ounce (30 ml) per day. According to Udo Erasmus, author of Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, flax oil has the following benefits:
Its Omega 3s lower high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels by as much as 25% and 65% respectively. It will decrease the probability of a clot blocking an artery and lower high blood pressure.
Omega 3s dissolve tumors, as shown by the work of Gerson, Budwig, and others.
Will aid in the treatment and prevention of diabetes, arthritis, asthma, PMS, allergies, and inflammatory tissue conditions.
Also of great benefit with skin conditions, vitality, stress, and virtually all degenerative conditions.
24While no one nutrient can effectively cure, treat, or prevent disease, it is important to recognize that the absence of one key nutrient even when all others are present can effectively limit the benefits one might expect. Hence the need for EFAs along with enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids to insure the presence of all essential nutrients in conjunction.
25Non-essential fatty acids may compete for a vital enzyme known as D-6-D, thus an excess of non-essential fatty acids may result in a functional deficiency of EFAs. Some researchers suggest that the ratio of non-essential to essential fatty acids should therefore be no more than 1:1. (A typical ratio for most people is in excess of 10:1, with almost all of the essential fatty acids being Omega 6.)
26Yet it can be readily observed that many healthy traditional cultures (as documented in Weston A. Price's classic Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and elsewhere) consumed diets with massive quantities of non-essential fatty acids from various animal fats, as compared to relatively modest amounts of EFAs. The ratio of non-essential to essential fatty acids in such diets would have been fairly high in many instances.
It should be noted that large amounts of these fats were consumed in a raw form, thus also providing an abundant source of lipase enzymes to digest these fats. It is possible that in such circumstances that the ratio of non-essential to essential fatty acids becomes of little concern, as with an abundance of enzymes it is no problem for the body to make good use of these fats.
It is also possible that people on a healthy traditional diet will have a much higher level of metabolic efficiency in all regards, and will thus be less prone to metabolic breakdowns of all sorts. Whatever the explanation, it is apparent that healthy traditional cultures have consumed large quantities of animal fats including much saturated and other non-essential fat in the process.
27We can obtain EFAs from both plant and animal sources. But animal fats are the only dietary source of vitamin A [Retinol] and vitamin D, and are therefore necessary for our health.
All healthy cultures studied by Weston Price consumed large amounts of animal fats. Sources included butter, eggs, dairy products from various animals, fish, shellfish, fish eggs, animal flesh from muscle and organ meats, insects, etc. When comparing these healthy traditional diets with the modernized diets of that time (the 1930s), Dr. Price noted that these traditional diets typically contained at least TEN times the level of fat soluble vitamins and other fat soluble nutrients as the modernized diets utilizing various processed foods.
It is likely that comparing these same traditional diets with the current typical diet that this ratio would be even greater than ten to one. Since the 1930s, consumption of animal fats has continued to decrease, while consumption of vegetable oils (mostly highly processed) has increased considerably, both trends being much to our detriment.
28Liver is the richest source of vitamin A by a wide margin. Yet there are legitimate concerns with possible toxins present in animal livers due to exposure to pesticides and other chemicals. For this reason, it is wise to only consume liver from healthy organic animals which were properly fed and not otherwise exposed to known sources of pesticides and other chemicals. Another potential issue with liver is mycotoxicity (mould and fungal toxins) from these animals being fed mouldy feed. A clean source of cod liver oil is a good potential source of vitamin A as well as vitamin D.
29The amount of vitamin A, vitamin D, and other fat soluble nutrients present in animal fats is in part a function of the diet of the source animal. Other factors include the amount of sunlight exposure as well as the specific breed of the animal. Weston Price clearly demonstrated that cows, in order to produce butter of high vitamin and nutrient content, required rapidly growing grass.
As a result, the best butter will be produced at certain times of the year when the grass is at its peak. When cows have access to grass that is still fairly short (about the stage where it is forming its first joint or less), this is considered ideal. For this reason, it is best for cows to rotate from one pasture to the next to assure continued access to the best stage of grass. Butter from cows fed ideal grass such as this will be much darker or more yellow in color and far softer than butter of poor nutritional quality.
It is also best for this butter to be made from raw organic cream. Better yet, this cream should first be cultured before being made into butter, as was the norm up until fairly recent times. Such butter is often referred to as "cultured butter." Softened butters should be avoided, as these are often made through artificial removal of saturated fats and replacement with canola oil or other poor quality vegetable oils.
30Another excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin D, and other fat soluble nutrients is high quality eggs. Just as cows need access to grass in order to produce optimum butter, chickens require access to greenery as well. Chickens fed in this manner will produce eggs of a higher nutrient content. These eggs will have harder shells and the yolks will be a dark orange rather than the pale yellow that results from the typical diet fed to chickens nowadays.
Due to a lack of greens in the diet of the chickens, many organic free range eggs have flimsy shells and pale yellow yolks. The breed of the chicken may also be a factor here. Some farmers feed their chickens added carotene compounds which can produce fairly dark yolks even in the complete absence of greens in the diet of the chickens.
Vitamin D level in the eggs is also increased by an abundance of insects in the diet of the chickens. Hardness of the shells is also dependent upon adequate lime or other mineral sources in the ground. EFA balance in eggs depends upon the ratio of grains to greens in their diet. More grains increases Omega 6, while more greens increases Omega 3.
31There are numerous other excellent sources of animal fats. A good source of information on this is the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration is also highly recommended. An excellent reference source on fats and oils is Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol by Mary G. Enig. A good general rule is to consume foods that have a good historical track record. It is best to be cautious and skeptical as far as new foods, new methods of growing or raising foods, or new methods of processing foods.
32In summary, a healthy diet will contain an abundance and a variety of animals fats from healthy and properly fed animals. This will provide an abundant source of vitamin A, vitamin D, and many other necessary fat soluble nutrients. Highly processed, heated, and otherwise unsafe vegetable oils should be avoided. To assure a good supply of EFAs, it may also be wise to consume up to one ounce (30 ml or 2 US Tbsp) daily of a fresh and properly processed flax oil blend with a proper ratio of EFAs. As an excellent source of vitamins A and D, use a high vitamin cod liver oil. Adults and children over 12 years may consume 1 tsp (5 ml) daily. Pregnant and nursing women may wish to double this amount. For children between 3 months and 12 years, use half this amount.