The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, October 4, 2013

LBD & Nutrition-5: Fatty Acids

We tend to lump all fats together as “bad.” However, we now know that certain types of fats are necessary for good health. Fatty acids, produced when “good” fats are metabolized, perform a multitude of services for the body. They may even improve cognition.

Source:  Fish, especially salmon, or fish oil supplements are best.  A less powerful type is also found in vegetable and plant products such as flax seed, leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, broccoli and cauliflower, winter squash and dry beans. Omega-6 is even less helpful. It can be found in plant oils such as corn, soybean and sunflower oil as well as nuts and seeds. It is less helpful but still better than the saturated fats from animals sources.

Belief: Omega fatty acids help with digestion, decrease infections and improve blood pressure, all systems that can be affected by LBD.
  • Fact:  True. There is scientific support that these fatty acids help with the digestion of fat-based vitamins, boost the immune system and lower triglycerides, the “bad” fats which can raise the risk of several other diseases, such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Reference
Belief: Omega-3 fatty acids combat dementia.
  • Fact: Partially true. Scientific studies about this nutrient’s effect on dementia are mixed. Its value in supplements is questionable but its value in food is supported.  Reference
Coconut oil contains a type of fatty acid also found in palm kernel oil. MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) is used extensively in South Asian countries and can be bought from online health food stores. MCT supplements can also be bought separately.

Belief: The ketones produced when coconut oil is metabolized provide an alternate energy to the brain’s cells, thus moderating the damage caused by dementia. Reference

  • Fact: Not yet proven. Although there are many personal stories that ingesting coconut oil decreases dementia symptoms, there is no scientific support for this theory. However, coconut oil is a food source for omega-3 fatty acids, and as such, may have some effect, both direct and indirect upon dementia. (See omega-3 fatty acids, above.)
  • Concern: It is apparently important to buy non-hydrogenated virgin oil from organic coconuts. This increases the cost. Although MCT is available as a supplement, fatty acid supplements in general have not proven to be very effective.

Food is usually a better source of fatty acids than supplements. Switch from saturated fats like butter to unsaturated ones like margarine and olive oil. Add nuts to your diet by including them in casseroles and vegetables. Have fish once a week or more.

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