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Fat for Thought

Essential fatty Acids (EFAS), the food or rather fat that is most vital for brain and reproductive health, as well as helping to encourage fat burning, is so greatly lacking in our modern diets that I am continually surprised that more hasn’t been done to address and encourage the promotion of EFAS by the World Health Organisation to help improve the health of the western world.

Hopefully, I can clarify to you how this lack of EFAS and the increase in consumption of damaged fats has lead many scientists to believe, especially from the world of nutritional medicine, that there is a direct link to the increased rates of obesity, brain disorders and infertility in the Western world.


Essentially vital


Essential fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6 are absolutely essential (hence the name) in creating hormone-like substances in the body called prostaglandins. These short-lived prostaglandin’s continuously ‘feed’ or service, on a daily basis, the endocrine system. Parts of the body, which help to form the endocrine, are the thyroid, brain and reproductive system. Without this constant supply of prostaglandins, problems with the brain (depression), thyroid  (controller of the metabolic rate) and the reproductive system (infertility) can arise.

Essential fats cannot be made by the body. They have to come from a food source. Mankind has been able to obtain an adequate supply and the right balance of EFAS for thousands of years by consuming diets rich in nuts, seeds, fish, wild meat, raw milk and leafy greens, all fresh, unprocessed and undamaged. Unfortunately since WWII, the balance has tipped the other way with a huge increase in heated, saturated and damaged fats (trans fatty acids), due to eating too much farmed meat and dairy and processed foods which all deplete the body of EFAS. Consuming this type of diet can create damage to the metabolic pathways, and thus hormones and other benefits of EFAS (listed below) are being destroyed.


Fat is not a dirty word


Contrary to popular belief we do need fat in our diet, not only to create hormones but also for lubrication, energy, the health of the skin and liver, blood coagulation, rebuilding cellular membranes, good vision, controlling inflammation and for the synthesis of fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin D.

Thus it is not a non-fat or too low fat diet we should be aiming for but a ‘right fat’ diet. But the trouble lies in the confusion of what constitutes a healthy fat and how much we need.


There are 3 types of fat:


Polyunsaturated  – sunflower (6), sesame (6), soya (6) and rapeseed oils(6), linseed/flax(3), hempseed(3&6), fish(3), wild meat(3), leafy greens(3), walnuts (3).

Saturated- lard, butter, farmed meat, cheese, cream, coconut, tropical nuts.

Monosaturated- olives and olive oil, some nuts (almonds) and avocado.

Omega 3and 6 are found in the polyunsaturated fats (PUFAS) which we need to consume raw because they are so fragile and sensitive to heat. Once a PUFA such as sunflower oil is heated, over 500,000 toxic molecules called free radicals can be created which can hunt out healthy cells and damage them. That’s why they have been called “damaged fats”. Sunflower, rapeseed and soya are the most common PUFAS used to create hydrogenated vegetable fat/margarine that is added to 90% of the processed foods we consume such as bread, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, pastries, commercial cereals, crisps and takeaway meals. In nature the polyunsaturates that have been extracted from seeds are liquid at room temperature and not a solid mass. For say, sunflower oil to be turned into margarine, it has to be processed to such an extent, i.e. bleached, degummed, deodorised, dyed yellow from grey and heated to an unnaturally high temperature that the body reacts to it as though it is an alien chemical which the liver finds hard to metabolise.

Butter is in fact a better choice because even though it is saturated, it is at least more natural. If you put butter and margarine outside in the sun, flies will not go near the margarine. Simply because it’s a dead “food”, there are no nutrients to be gained from consuming it.

Also even worse to consider is that there is only one molecule difference between the margarine and the container that holds it.


Monosaturated fat is in fact omega 9, which can be made by the body and therefore is not essential.  But it is important for the health of the liver, gallbladder and cardiovascular function and rich in oleic acid, which helps to balance and reduce cholesterol. It is needed in only small doses and can withstand heat better than the PUFA’s. That is why, it is still recommended by many nutritionists, to only use olive oil for cooking. But it still can be damaged by heat and thus it is actually better to cook with coconut oil.

Coconut oil is saturated but increases fat burning in the system and remains stable under intense heat, thus it is highly recommended for cooking. As long as it is balanced with essential fats there should be no problem. Also it helps to support the thyroid, the gland that controls our metabolic rate. Trans fats damage the body’s ability to utilise EFAS causing the thyroid to struggle to work properly and creating weight gain. Interesting to note thyroid problems (hyperthyroidism) have become endemic in modern society. Ref: The Coconut Diet by Cherie Calbom.

The Mediterranean’s use olive oil in their dressings and consume less processed foods full of damaged fats. Thus they have much healthier cardiovascular systems.

Saturated fat needs to be kept to a minimum but it is better for the body than trans fats.  The more saturated fat you consume you more EFAS are needed by the body. Farmed meat and dairy contain more saturated fat nowadays because animals are less mobile and are fed grains rather than grasses which are rich in omega 3. It is better if you are a meat eater to only buy grass fed meat.


Fat makes you thin


Also it is important to note for those worried about their waistlines that raw fat does not cause the body to gain weight. Lipase enzymes, which are destroyed when fat is heated, helps the fat to be burned and metabolised properly and EFAS are completely utilized for hormones and other metabolic processes previously mentioned.

So now that we have some understanding of the different types of fats we need to look in more detail, the effect a lack of these oils (EFAS) play in the health of the body.

Note to those watching their weight; farmers who fed their cattle coconut oil to help them gain weight were astounded to discover that they lost weight and only gained it back when they were put onto a grain-rich diet.


A diet for the brain


EFAs have been linked to brain health not only because they are important for creating hormones for the hypothalamus, pituitary and pineal glands but also because the brain actually consists of approx 30% omega 3 found in the neural synapses, dopamine and serotonin receptors.


‘Since the brain is made from food and requires essential fatty acids to function, we should not expect the brain to fire on all cylinders as long as it’s essential nutrient needs are unmet’


Dr Udo Erasmus

‘Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill’


A study by Purdue University in the US concluded that children who are deficient in omega 3 show a greater tendency to be hyperactive, have learning disorders and behavioural problems.

Another study experimenting on prisoners in Scotland also came up with some interesting results. They were given fish oil (omega 3) on a daily basis over a period of months which resulted in less aggression and hostility, in fact, a more calmer environment. Participants were also more willing to be creative and take part in educational courses.

Drug addictions have also been shown to have a link with low doses of EFAS in the diet. When the brain is not getting the natural ingredients it needs in order to simply function it will send out a signal to obtain a high from synthetic prostaglandins such as alcohol, dope, drugs, coffee, chocolate, cigarettes and sugar. In America, Finland, Ireland, Sweden, Russia and the UK, where the intake of EFAS is low, high alcohol consumption and drug addiction problems are rife. The Meditarranean diet is far richer in essential fats and there is less of a problem from alcohol and drug abuse.

Clinical studies have shown that the more you supply your body with everything it needs, the less likely you will need to obtain a kick from damaging chemical substances. Without omega 3, nature’s Prozac, low levels of the ‘happy’ hormone serotonin are produced. You never know, maybe one day we will find fish oil being handed out on street corners instead of drugs.

Too much wheat is also a contributing factor because gluten, the sticky protein found in wheat can stop the absorption of vital brain nutrients (as well as EFAS, zinc is also important). Cutting down or out on wheat and adding fish oil to the diet has shown marked improvements in clinical studies on children with Aspergers syndrome, Autism, AHDD, hyperactivity, (and all the other labels given to children whose brains are not being given the right fuel to work optimally, but are instead being fed damaged fats).

Is it any surprise that where wheat is found in the diet damaged fats are found also, in bread, cakes, biscuits, pastries, the staple diet of young western children. By removing these foods and consuming a diet rich in fruit such as bananas instead of biscuits, vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds, avocado instead of cream and high fat cheese, alternative grains such as quinoa/rice, etc, will go a long way to removing stress from the body and thus will allow for better absorption of the nutrients necessary to maintain brain health.


Why fish oil?


People assume they are obtaining an adequate supply of EPA, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, (the broken down form of omega 3) because they regularly consume fish. The process of canning fish destroys EPA and the pathways to breaking down omega 3 into EPA in fresh fish can get blocked due to the impaired function of modern livers having to cope with so many toxins and a junk food diet. Plus essential fats need to be consumed raw.

So the answer is to start supplying the body with fish oil as it is the most absorbable form of omega 3 and the liver utilizes it easily.  Do not use cod liver oil because polluted water has resulted in contaminated fish livers. Deep-sea fish oil is best because the oil is taken from the whole body. Krill oil is also a good source. They are the crustaceans eaten by whales and are richer in EPA and higher in antioxidants. Vegans can use linseed/flaxseed or hempseed oil as an alternative but be aware they are not as easily metabolised by the liver. Omega 6 is less fragile and more available in the diet in the form of nuts, seeds and spirulina, or taken in the form of evening primrose oil (EPO) capsules.

Modern man is also eating diets too high in omega 6. In the past the ratio between omega 3 and 6 was 1-1 now its 1-20 in favour of omega 6.  Too much omega 6 causes tumour growth and inflammation the body. Omega 6 is found in the form of hydrogenated vegetable  oils in all modern processed foods.

This is why many nutritionists focus more omega 3 and the most absorpable form

Recommended dosage:

2 x 1000mg capsules deep-sea fish oil 2 x day

1 x 500mg capsule EPO 1xday

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