"Dr. Hyman, I've heard so much contradictory information about omega 3 fats," writes this week's house call. "Some studies show they help everything while others argue they don't do much of anything. What's the real story here?"
As I often say, food is information, not just calories. Food influences gene function, hormones, your immune system and even your gut flora. Literally, food controls every function within your body.
This is especially true with the omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like wild fish, flaxseeds and walnuts.
These fatty acids play critical roles in cognitive development and learning, visual development, immune strength, fighting inflammation, pregnancy, brain health and preventing Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, cancer, mental illness and so much more. They affect every one of your hundred trillion cell membranes.
In fact, a recent and the most comprehensive review on omega 3 fats looked at 19 studies from 16 countries (including 45,637 participants) and found that those with the highest levels of omega 3 fats in their blood had lower risks of heart attacks.
Makes sense how not getting sufficient amounts of these crucial fatty acids can profoundly affect your health.
Do Omega 6 Fats Make Us Depressed and Violent?
At a nutrition conference once, I heard Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, the scientist in nutritional neurosciences at the National Institutes of Health, present some startling data about how omega 3 fats impact mental health.
Dr. Hibbeln said soy oils and seed oils contain high amounts of inflammatory linoleic acid that create inflammation and disease.
He noted 80 percent of the fats that Americans eat are inflammatory omega 6 fats, while just 20 percent come from the anti-inflammatory omega 3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). (For the record, I would suggest that even less than 20 percent comes from EPA).
In Japan, that number is reversed: 80 percent of their fats come from EPA, while only 20 percent are inflammatory omega 6 fats.
Over the last century in the U.S., we have witnessed a 1,000-fold increase in soy oil consumption. About 10 to 20 percent of our calories come from soybean oil rather than omega 3 fats and other, healthier fats we should be consuming.
The omega 6 fats aren't the ones our ancestors ate. Human evolution occurred in an environment where seafood and wild animal fat was the predominant source of dietary fat.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate no seed oils. Obviously, they weren't eating French fries, donuts and the zillion Frankenfoods products that contain these oils. These refined oils create and exacerbate inflammation, which contributes to nearly every disease and makes us fat.
Beyond that, the repercussions are dramatic and far-reaching. Disturbing recent research shows homicide in the United Kingdom increased dramatically with increased consumption of linoleic acid-rich soybean oil.
The same thing happened in the U.S., Australia, Canada and Argentina. Interestingly, homicide mortality rates become inversely related to seafood consumption, meaning societies who eat more seafood have lower homicide rates.
Equally dramatic, one study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry gave one prison group recommended daily amounts of vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fats, while the other group maintained their regular diet and lifestyle. Researchers found reduced felony level violent offenses among prisoners who took omega 3 supplements.
In fact, providing vitamin and fish oil supplements reduced felony-related violent crime among the prisoners by 37 percent.
The Cure for Depression, ADD and Dementia—Is it More Fat?
More fat to cure brain maladies makes sense when you consider omega 3 fats affect how we think and behave. Research even shows omega 3s help treat depression, including postpartum depression.
The omega 3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a critical part of mother's milk, helps the fetus's neurologic development. Studies show women who have higher levels of omega 3 fats, specifically DHA, have lower rates of postpartum depression.
Omega 3 deficiencies also affect our children. Young kids with dyslexia, dyspraxia (difficulty writing), learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder (ADD) are often omega 3 deficient.
The neurotransmitter dopamine, critical for brain function in children, becomes higher when these children consume essential fatty acids. Controlled studies show fish oil improves reading, spelling and conduct because the nervous system depends on these fats to function.
I could go on, but I hope you can understand evidence overwhelmingly supports that omega3 fats are critical to improve mood, mental functioning, metabolism and so much more.
If you're curious to learn more, please check out my book Eat Fat, Get Thin, in which I show you how to effortlessly incorporate more omega 3s and other healthy fats to lose weight and get healthy.
Thankfully, emerging research proves how vital healthy fats are. The outdated "eating fat makes you fat" paradigm has shifted to a new, more accurate understanding of dietary fat as evidence shows some fats are essential for optimal health.
Yet we're not quite there yet. Unfortunately, about 90 percent of Americans are deficient in omega 3s. We're eating too many omega 6s and not enough omega 3s. That imbalance of omega 3 fats to omega 6 fats predicts your risk of:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Neurological problems
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Skin problems
- Autoimmune disease
Chronic disease will only increase as we move further away from the diet of our ancestors, which consisted of omega 3 rich protein (wild, grass-fed animals and wild fish), a healthy ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats and mostly plant foods.
We've gone way off course with the way our ancestors ate. Big food companies have hijacked our taste buds and our biology.
Yet there's hope. Science shows when you eat the right kinds of fat, you get thin, decrease inflammation and reverse heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many of the other chronic diseases that plague us. You can take control of your health and destiny, starting with your very next meal!
To do that, check out my Eat Fat, Get Thin Challenge, a revolutionary science-based eating program that focuses on healthy fats to reset hormones, take back your biochemistry, effortlessly allow you to end your cravings, lose weight and reverse disease.
For now, let's establish some key facts about fats:
1. Sugar, not fat, makes you fat. Sugar spikes insulin—the fat fertilizer hormone laying the foundation for belly fat. Sugar also slows your metabolism and is addictive and makes you hungry (all the time!). Fat actually speeds up metabolism, cuts hunger and increases fat burning. Boy, did we get this wrong during the low-fat diet era!
2. Dietary fat is very complex. We have saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. And we have subcategories within each group. Some fats are good and yes, some are bad. Remember that quality matters; that food is information. To learn more, check out Eat Fat, Get Thin.
3. Low-fat diets claim to be heart-healthy but aren't. Low-fat diets typically tend to be higher in sugar. Eating less fat and more sugar and refined carbs floods our system with insulin, creating inflammation, heart disease and many other problems. When you consume lots of sugar and refined carbs, your body produces dangerous, artery-clogging small, dense LDL cholesterol particles; drops your protective HDL and increases harmful triglycerides. That's a bad combo just begging to bring on a heart.
4. Saturated fat is not a "bad" fat. A review of all the research on saturated fat published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. I am not advising eating sticks of butter every day; however, saturated fat is not the boogeyman we once thought. The problem arises when we eat them with sugar and starch (sugar, flour, white rice and potatoes), because then they are deadly. Basically, think no sweet fat.
5. Some fats are unhealthy. Trans fats and inflammatory vegetable oils are bad fats that cause free radical damage and create a perfect storm for inflammation. Most restaurants cook with toxic oils because they're cheap and marketed as heart-healthy, low-cholesterol fats.
6. We all need more omega 3 fats. Most Americans are deficient in these health-crucial fats. The best ways to include them in your diet are to include wild or sustainably raised cold-water fish and pastured or omega 3 eggs and taking a quality, toxin-free omega 3 rich fish oil supplement.
7. Eating fat makes you lean. The right fats can nourish your cells to better utilize insulin. Healthy fats also help to stop your cravings, curb your hunger and reset your hormones to help your body burn fat more efficiently.
8. Your brain is made up of mostly fat. About 60 percent of your brain is fat, mostly as DHA, which your cells need to communicate. Quality omega-3 fats improve cognition, memory and mood. Research shows omega 3 deficiencies increase depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's and bipolar disorder.
To get and stay healthy, eat quality fat at every meal. The right fats improve your skin, hair, nails and mood. They protect against type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer and inflammation.
Some of my favorite top-quality fats include:
- Seeds: pumpkin, sesame and chia, flax and hemp—all of which contain omega 3 fats
- Fatty fish, including sardines, mackerel, herring and wild salmon that are rich in omega 3 fats
- Nuts: walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia; but not peanuts (One study showed a handful of nuts a day reduced death from all causes by 20 percent)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Grass-fed or sustainably raised animal products (which have more omega 3 fats than feedlot beef)
- Extra-virgin coconut butter, which is a great plant-based source of saturated fat that fuels your mitochondria, is anti-inflammatory and helps optimize cholesterol.
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By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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