GOOD FATS vs. BAD FATS
Fats may have gained a negative reputation over the years but without them, our body would not function properly. Symptoms such as dry skin, thinning hair and brittle nails are signs of a diet deficient in natural fats. Having said this, we need to ensure we are eating the correct fats and within moderation. To get a better understanding of the ‘good fats’, we spoke with Clinical Nutritionist and Nordic Naturals Spokesperson, Warren Maginn.
Q. What are good fats and where can we find them?
A. There are 2 key types of nutritional fats: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Both should be incorporated into our diet, in the correct amounts and balance, for optimal health.
Polyunsaturated fats provide structure and fluidity to various organs throughout our body, including the heart and muscles, optimising their function.
Omega-6 fatty acids, whilst technically essential, are also pro-inflammatory and the modern diet usually contains an excessive amount (even from seemingly ‘healthy’ foods such as seeds and grains). So most of us could do with avoiding these foods and the heavily processed products stemming from them (including all refined ‘vegetable oils’ – i.e. the ‘yellow’ oils found in clear plastic bottles at the supermarket).
Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) are the polyunsaturated fats that we really need and these are found mostly in fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, lake trout and sardines. These types of fish contain the omega-3 that our bodies cannot produce themselves and are, therefore, essential.
Some seeds such as hemp and flax do also contain some omega-3, but in a much less active form, and would need to be eaten in almost prohibitively large amounts in order to be converted into the same ‘active’ forms (eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA) that are found in fish.
Monounsaturated Fats are considered the best for our health when eaten (in healthy moderation) to replace refined carbohydrates in supporting our energy needs. Having a moderate amount of monounsaturated fats in our diet may help reduce excessive cholesterol levels in our blood and lower the risk of heart conditions.
Foods that contain high levels of monounsaturated fats include olive oil. Avocados and macadamias are also high in monounsaturated fats and can be used in everyday cooking.
Peanut butter is also another source of monounsaturated fats and can be used in a variety of ways, such as on sandwiches or as a dip for vegetables.
Q. What is the key role that essential fatty acids play in our health, and why do we need them?
Omega-3 is one of the EFAs essential to optimal health. Omega-3 can benefit various aspects of our body such as brain health, joint health, heart health, skin health, and eye health. Our bodies do not produce omega-3, so we need to ensure we are getting enough of this important type of fat.
Omega-3 can only be obtained through certain foods or supplements. Good sources of omega-3, as mentioned before, include cold-water fish and some seeds. Two servings of wild-caught, cold-water fatty fish per week are highly recommended. When it comes to seeds, we would have to eat copious amounts of them to obtain an optimal level of ‘active’ omega-3. High-quality, purified fish oil is therefore a very effective source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. This is why supplementation of omega-3 through fish oil is so beneficial.
The one ‘good’ omega-6 fat we should opt for is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), found in the seeds of evening primrose and borage plants, and in supplements made from them. Unlike the rest of the omega-6 fatty acids, GLA has unique anti-inflammatory mechanisms involved in keeping our skin hydrated. This EFA particularly benefits the skin through supporting cell membranes. In those with atopic dermatitis, it can also help support the skin barrier function.
The other, less healthy types of omega-6 are typically abundant in refined vegetable oils including corn and soybean oils, processed foods, and meat and eggs from grain-fed animals. This type of omega-6 can instigate inflammation. Inflammation is the process responsible for swelling, redness, blemishes, rashes and eruptions on the skin. It is important to note that we need a balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats in our bodies to maintain balance in our function and appearance.
Unlike omega-3 and omega-6, omega-9 is a class of fatty acid that our bodies can produce in small amounts. However, if we do not have an efficient level of omega-3 and omega-6, our bodies struggle to produce omega-9. This is why it is beneficial to have both omega-3 and omega-6 in balance through a healthy diet balanced in both and supported through fish oil supplementation.
Omega-9 is a monounsaturated fat, and can easily be found in various foods in our diet. So although important, omega-9 supplementation is not as crucial to our health as omega-3.
Q. Why should we choose fish oil supplementation over eating certain foods?
A. It’s not that we have to choose fish oil supplementation over eating foods that contain omega-3, but we often need to, in order to compensate for the fact that our modern Western diets generally don’t provide the minimum amounts required. Considering that our bodies cannot produce omega-3, and we are invariably getting an over-abundance of omega-6 from our diet, it is important to incorporate sufficient omega-3 supplementation to reap the benefits of well-balanced fat nutrition.
Q. What should we look for in a fish oil product?
A. With so many different types of fish oils on the market, it is important to know what fish oil is the most beneficial to your body. It is essential to research the fish oil company before purchasing to ensure it uses sustainable practices, surpasses pharmaceutical standards, has the highest purity possible, tastes great, and is in the true triglyceride form.
Q. The Triglyceride Form – what makes one fish oil more effective than another?
A. Many concentrated fish oils on the market today are in the ‘ethyl ester’ form – a ‘new-to-nature’ fat with only a few decades in the human diet. Validating many years of data, a 2010 study confirms that concentrated fish oil in triglyceride form is up to 70% more absorbable than fish oil in ethyl ester form. Few fish oils are sold in true triglyceride form due to higher production costs. The benefits of omega-3 nutrition can only be enjoyed if your body actually absorbs these essential fatty acids, regardless of the amount described on the bottle label. True triglyceride form means superior absorption, greater freshness and therefore better taste and results. You can look on the label to see if the fish oil is in the true triglyceride form.
About Nordic Naturals
Nordic Naturals, the leading manufacturer of omega-3 supplements, is a research-driven company that has been setting standards for purity, freshness, taste, and sustainability since 1995. With a reputation for efficacy and potency, Nordic Naturals fish oils are regularly chosen without solicitation by research institutions and universities, including Stanford, Duke, UCLA, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, for their independent research.
To date, more than 25 studies using Nordic Naturals products have been published, including over 15 clinical trials, and more than 30 are in progress. These studies add to the large and growing body of scientific evidence showing benefits of marine omega-3 essential fatty acids for a variety of health concerns.
Distributing to over 30 countries on 6 continents, Nordic Naturals is the #1 selling fish oil in the United States, offering over 150 products in a variety of flavours, concentrations, and delivery forms. Through science and innovation, Nordic Naturals is committed to delivering the world’s safest, most effective omega oils.
For information visit www.nordicnaturals.com or call 1800 110 158.
Always read the label. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional.
About Warren Maginn
B.H.S.c. (Nutr. Med.), Grad.Cert. (Hum. Nutr.)
Functional Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and Educator
Warren is a Clinical Nutritionist who specialises in the treatment of chronic health concerns through the principles of Functional & Integrative Medicine. Warren holds a bachelor degree in Nutritional Medicine and a graduate certificate in Human Nutrition from Deakin University. Warren lectures students of Nutritional Medicine in Brisbane Australia and is the National Technical Educator for Research Nutrition, supporting naturopathic and medical practitioners in their use of functional pathology testing and associated supplement prescriptions, as the basis to modern integrative health management.
 Dyerberg J, et al. Bioavailability of marine n-3 fatty acid formulations. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2010 Sep;83(3): 137-141.