C. Leigh Broadhurst

April 13, 2012

2 Min Read
Obesity, Inflammation, and the Right Fatty Acids

Obesity is characterized by a state of low-grade, chronic inflammation. Immune cells infiltrate fat deposits, and excessive bodyfat causes hormonal disturbances and high concentrations of inflammatory biochemicals circulating in the bloodstream. Currently obesity is at epidemic proportions. Globally, over one billion adults are overweight and 400 million obese. Over 20 million children under 5 are overweight, meaning adult obesity will reach 2.3 billion by 2015—one-third of the global population! As the pounds go on, inflammatory conditions from asthma to arthritis crank up. In fact, it’s likely that most cardiovascular disease originates from inflammation of the arteries.

The natural products industry has always provided excellent options for chronic inflammation. I recommend the phytochemicals curcumin, baicalin, catechin and reseveratrol, for example. However we must continue to lead with a paradigm shift regarding polyunsaturated fatty acids. Our epidemic of obesity and inflammation statistically correlates well with a single food: soybean oil. Since 1900 our consumption of soybean oil has increased over 1,000-fold: it’s our fourth biggest source of calories, after grains, sugar, and dairy. All this soybean oil is flooding us with the polyunsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid (LA 18:2n-6). 

Hot off the presses in the journal Obesity: diets high in LA with 35 percent calories from fat resulted in more weight gain in mice than 60 percent fat diets low in LA. Other high LA oils include cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, and corn. These are ubiquitous: fried foods, fast foods, salad dressings, mayonnaise, chips, processed cheese, breads, pastries, cookies, desserts, chicken, beef, pork (fed grains). Nobody in Western countries (and most developing countries) needs to take any supplement that contains LA!

Udo Erasmus, your time is up.

What we need is more fish and krill oil. The only vegan alternative is DHA-EPA oils from algal sources: we must have preformed DHA and EPA. (Reality check: humans convert only one percent of alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, 18:3n-3 found in flax, hemp walnut oils to DHA.) EPA, DHA, and biochemicals derived from them are generally antiflammatory, while some biochemicals derived from n-6 fatty acids are proinflammatory. Since the same enzyme systems are used to convert n-3 and n-6 fatty acids, the raging torrent of vegetable oil n-6 LA shunts conversions down proinflammatory pathways, which just cannot be balanced by a single capsule of fish oil “when I remember." 

There is no curbing chronic inflammation or obesity without tripling our fish oil and seafood intakes, and phasing out high LA oils. Monounsaturate-rich oils (olive, peanut, palm, high-oleic safflower) are better choices.  

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