Far more than just caloric energy, food becomes information in the body. It influences gene function, hormones, your immune system, and even gut flora. Quite literally, food controls every bodily function.
That especially becomes true with the omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like wild fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
These fatty acids play critical roles in cognitive development and learning, visual development, immune strength, inflammatory function, pregnancy, brain health, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and so much more. They affect every one of your hundred trillion cell membranes.
From that perspective, you can understand how not getting sufficient amounts of these crucial fatty acids can profoundly affect your health.
How our fat consumption has evolved
Joseph Hibbeln, MD, the scientist in nutritional neurosciences at the National Institutes of Health, said 80 percent of the fats1 Americans eat are inflammatory arachidonic acid while just 20 percent come from the anti-inflammatory omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Over the last century in the U.S., we’ve witnessed a thousandfold increase in soy oil consumption. About 10 to 20 percent of our calories come from soybean oil rather than omega-3 fats our bodies need. Those aren’t the fats our ancestors ate. Human evolution occurred in an environment where seafood was the predominant source of dietary fat.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors did't eat any seed oils. And of course, they weren't eating French fries, donuts, and the zillion other Frankenfoods that contain these oils. These refined oils create and exacerbate inflammation, which contributes to nearly every disease and contributes to weight gain.
The key difference between omega-3 vs. omega-6
Unfortunately, about 90 percent of Americans3 today are deficient in omega-3s. We're eating too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s. That imbalance of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats4 predicts your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other diseases.
A preponderance of these inflammatory oils, which contribute to omega-3 deficiencies, even impact children. Young kids with dyslexia, dyspraxia (difficulty writing), learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorder (ADD) are often omega-3 deficient5.
The neurotransmitter dopamine, critical for brain function in children, becomes higher when these children consume essential fatty acids. Controlled studies6 show fish oil improves reading, spelling, and conduct because the nervous system depends on these fats to function.
Chronic disease will only increase as we move further away from the diet of our ancestors, which consisted of lean protein, a healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats, and mostly plant foods.
The healing powers of fatty acid
We’ve gone way off course with the way our ancestors ate. Big food companies have hijacked our taste buds and our biology.
Yet there's hope. Science shows when you eat the right kinds of fat, you get thin and reverse heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, decrease inflammation, and many other chronic diseases plaguing us. You can take control of your health and destiny, starting with your very next meal!
To do that, check out my Eat Fat, Get Thin challenge, a revolutionary science-based eating program that focuses on healthy fats to reset hormones, take back your biochemistry, effortlessly allow you to end your cravings, lose weight, and reverse disease.
To get and stay healthy, eat quality fat including omega 3s at every meal. The right fats improve your skin, hair, nails, and mood. They protect against Type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer, and inflammation.
Some of my favorite top-quality fats include:
Dr. Mark Hyman is a practicing family physician and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in the field of Functional Medicine. He is the founder and director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, a 13-time New York Times best-selling author, and Board President for Clinical Affairs for The Institute for Functional Medicine. He is the host of one of the leading health podcasts, The Doctor’s Farmacy. Dr. Hyman is a regular medical contributor on several television shows and networks, including CBS This Morning, Today, Good Morning America, The View, and CNN. He is also an advisor and guest co-host on The Dr. Oz Show.