Making the Case for Emu Oil in the Prevention of Coronary Artery Disease
by Dr. Leigh Hopkins
The Average adult male in the US eats about 140 g of fat per day and about 400 mg cholesterol. The mixture of fats ingested usually contains about three times as much saturated fatty acids (mainly palmitic and stearic) as polyunsaturated fatty acids (mainly linoleic and linolenic). If a healthy young adult switches from this diet to one containing the same amount of total fat in which the ratio of polyunsaturates to saturates is closer to unity and the cholesterol content is less than 300 mg per day, the cholesterol concentration will usually drop by 10-15 percent within 2 weeks and remain depressed on continuation of the diet." Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 12th edition, 1991, pg 999, in chapter 195 on "Atherosclerosis and other forms of arteriosclerosis".
Heart disease remains a major cause of premature death despite a dramatic decline in many Western countries over the last 25 years. In addition to obesity and smoking, a number of risk factors have been linked to heart disease including:
• high low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels
• high triglyceride levels
• high blood pressure
• low high density lipoproteins HDL) levels
Each of these metabolic risk factors can be regulated by dietary changes, particularly by alterations in dietary fat intake.
The relationship between coronary heart disease and saturated fatty acid intake has been shown consistently in numerous studies. Results from the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey show that the fatty acid intake in the adult US population is the following percentages of total energy intake:
• Saturated fatty acids (SFA) 13.3%
• Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) 14.4%
• Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) 7.2%
The Seven Countries Study was the first to report highly significant relationships between diet and both the incidence of coronary artery disease and the level of Wood cholesterol. This study was in 12,000 men in Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the US, and Yugoslavia. This study found that saturated fat intake was significantly related to the 5-year incidence of coronary artery disease and serum cholesterol levels. In the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study a population study of over 13,000 black and white men and women, higher intakes of saturated fats and cholesterol also were associated with a greater arterial wall thickness (a measure of coronary artery disease). Tests consistently show that saturated fats raise blood cholesterol levels twice as much as polyunsaturated fats lower them. Monounsaturated fats do not affect or mildly lower cholesterol.
However, high blood cholesterol by itself is not a disease but rather, in most people, a sign of an inadequate diet. The body can make all the cholesterol it needs and therefore, avoiding cholesterol in the diet is appropriate, but not for the obvious reason. Foods that contain cholesterol are also likely to have high quantities of saturated fats which are just excess calories. Excess calories from any source (protein, carbohydrates or fat) contribute to the build-up of body fat. The body needs enough protein, carbohydrate and fat. It is the type of fat we eat that is important. Essential fat is fat that the body cannot make on its own and must get from the diet. Just like essential amino acids, there are essential fats which must come from the diet. Therefore, low-fat diets may mistakenly state that fats be avoided when we really should reduce calories and eat a balanced diet that includes more of the essential fats. When a balanced diet is augmented with exercise, heart disease can be held in check and even reduced or avoided. We are what we eat and we can eat a more healthy diet and become more healthy.
One approach to an appropriate diet is to focus on “culturally based” dietary patterns. A Mediterranean based diet, an Asian-based diet, or other ancestral-based diets have recently been suggested These dietary patterns are associated with the decreased incidence of many chronic diseases and the maintenance of long-term health. The type of fat in the diet influences many aspects of health. Saturated fats, whether obtained from animal or vegetable sources, are associated with increased risk for heart disease and certain cancers. Monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, may decrease serum triglycerides and reduce the risk for breast cancer.
Increased dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce cholesterol. In individuals with existing coronary artery disease aggressively changing cholesterol levels with diet or drugs regresses coronary artery disease. The level of polyunsaturated fats is the most important factor in atherosclerotic and coronary artery disease. HDL (the good cholesterol) increased and triglycerides decrease when dietary polyunsaturated fats increase. Blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels are regulated by essential fatty calorie, low-fat diets that are low in essential fatty acids, blood polyunsaturated fats are likely to decline and cholesterol may increase.
What are the current recommendations? Recommendations for a reduced fat intake come from:
• The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Step I and Step II diets
• The American Heart Association's (AHA) Nutrition Committee
• The National Cancer Institute
• The American Cancer Society
Theses institutions recommended that fat, as a calorie source, be limited to 30% of energy intake. They also recommend that the SFA's and the MUFA's be reduced to 10% and the PUFA's be increased to 10% of total energy intake, compared to the current figures described above from the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey.
The question remains, what is the right mix of fats in the diet? Very thin and very overweight people can have imbalances in their fats. The body needs an optimum dietary fat mixture. Emu oil contains a fat mixture that is nearly identical to the fat profile of the human body. It is a little higher in the essential fat portion, which is likely to be a benefit. Therefore, emu oil can be considered to be a balanced fat. Consumption of emu oil will help balance the excess quantities of saturated fat in most diets. Since the body's fat stores have accumulated over many years, it will take many months or years to correct these stores to their proper balance. Emu oil and a proper weight control and exercise program are a prescription to better health.
To summarize: Dietary fatty acids have pharmacologic as well as physiologic actions. Low levels of PUFA and MUFA are strong biological markers that predict premature death from coronary artery disease and cancer. Polyunsaturated fats, and their eicosanoid metabolites are potent biological modifiers The proper balance of fats in the diet, as found in emu oil, is critical to a healthy life.
Triglycerides - The term “body fat” refers to the deposit of triglycerides within fat cells. Triglycerides are composed of three (tri-) fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone. Mono- or diglycerides are found after one or two of the fatty acids have been cleaved off the triglyceride.
Fatty Acids - Individual fatty acids are listed below. These are compounds composed of long chains of carbon atoms.
Saturated Fatty Acid. (SFA) - These fatty acids (myristic, palmitic, and stearic acid) have no double bonds separating any of the carbon atoms. Meat products are a common source of these fatty acids. These fatty acids are readily made in the body from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA's) - These fatty acids (palmitoleic and oleic acid) have one double bond within the carbon chain. Olive oil is 70% monounsaturated oil.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA's) - These fatty acids (linoleic, Iinolenic, and arachidonic acid) have more than one double bond in carbon chain. The body can transform these fatty acids into the eicosenoids (see below).
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) - It is “essential” to include the fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic, in the diet. The body can make all other fatty acids from proteins, carbohydrates, or fats except these two fatty acids.
Eicosenoids. These are substances with the strange names of prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes. They are necessary within the body for a wide range of vital body functions. They are made in the body in response to specific needs. It is critical to have the precursors (essential fatty acids) to these substances, so that the body can make on demand these very active substances.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) - These diseases are often used interchangeably although they are two separate conditions. CHD is the consequence of untreated hypertension. CAD is the result of deposits of cholesterol products within the blood vessel wall.
High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) - These are carriers of cholesterol within the blood stream. The functions of these different carriers suggest that the cholesterol bound by the high density lipoprotein is the “good” cholesterol.
Cholesterol - Cholesterol is a vital precursor to the body's manufacture of numerous hormones. It is not a essential dietary ingredient but is a critical substance within the body. An elevated cholesterol level within the bloodstream is associated with coronary artery disease.
Dr. Hopkins' extensive background is in the fields of pharmaceuticals, medicine and education at Thomas Jefferson University.
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