Scientists predict that one in three Americans will have an inflammatory disease, within the next two decades. Health conditions affected by inflammation include: heart disease, cancer, asthma, mood disorders, irritable bowel disorders and rheumatoid arthritis.
Many scientists believe that dietary omega-6 polyunsaturated fats are at the root of many inflammatory disorders for three key reasons.
1. There has been a dramatic increase of dietary omega-6 polyunsaturated fats over the last century, which mirrors the rise in chronic western diseases. Currently, omega-6 fats outnumber omega-3 fats, by 10 to 1. In contrast, our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed an estimated one-to-one balance of these fats.
2. Dietary omega-6 fats create compounds in the body that are pro-inflammatory. Many of the medications used to treat pain and inflammation, work by blocking the effects of excess omega-6 fats. Just to name a few, these medications include aspirin, naproxen, asthma medications, COX-2 inhibitors, and LOX-inhibitors.
3. Omega-3 fats help fight inflammation, but the typical American diet is deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. This is significant, because omega-3 and omega-6 fats compete for the same enzymes to make their potent compounds. It’s like a biological game of “musical chairs”, where there is always a shortage–and in the case of fatty acids, the dominant fats “win” the enzyme.
When dietary omega-3 and omega-6 fats are in balance, it creates a beautiful synergy in the body. But in excess, omega-6 fatty acids are like overzealous fire-fighters, chopping down your door because of a chronic false fire alarm. While we need fire departments and fire fighters, if they destroy the buildings they are trying to protect, it’s a problem–akin to chronic inflammation in the body, which lies at the root of many diseases. My passion for these issues did not stop upon the publication of my omega-3 book.
Note: For those of you who are wondering—how does this fit in with Intuitive Eating? Simply, it is an extension of principle 10, Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition. Keep in mind that it is essential to have a healthy relationship with food, mind and body before fine-tuning your nutrition. Stress and worry can increase inflammatory compounds—so if you worry too much about what you eat, that’s not healthy either!