Inflammation and Chronic Disease - Putting Out the
Fire with Omega-3
It’s not often that we connect the dots between inflammation and chronic
disease. It’s also unlikely that we think of our diet as a factor in feeding
the systemic inflammation that causes many types of chronic disease.
However, it has become a well established fact that our diet and the types
of oils that we eat are at the center of these issues. This article discusses
how to put out the fire of chronic inflammation with Omega-3 oils.
For several decades we have used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen, to treat pain that is often caused by
inflammation. More recently a new class of drugs called Cox-2 inhibitors
such as Celebrex and Vioxx have been used to treat arthritis, swelling, etc.
Cox-2 is a key enzyme that helps the body produce compounds called
prostaglandins and cytokines. These in turn cause inflammation. Cox-2
is essential for your body to heal from injuries or to fight infections. But
when the body continually overproduces Cox-2, the result is chronic
inflammation and, as we now know, numerous other health issues.
The questions to be answered are:
(1) Why is too much Cox-2 being released into our bodies?
(2) What can we do to prevent this from happening?
Is it possible that relatively minor dietary changes can correct some
major health problems plaguing modern society?
Numerous clinical studies have verified that the culprits are certain
nutritional deficiencies and imbalances.
Consider that almost every biological function is somehow interconnected
with the delicate balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 oils (also called
fatty acids but you can ignore the technical jargon).
A deficiency of Omega-3 is positively correlated with over 50 diseases and
Here is a partial list:
inflammatory bowel disease
I’m not saying that every one of these conditions is 100% caused by
inflammation. But, there is substantial evidence that inflammation plays a
large part, if not a central role, in these diseases. The evidence shows that
stopping systemic inflammation can play a major role in reversing these
diseases and improving our overall health.
For example, Paul M. Ridker, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
cardiologist and Director for the Center for Cardiovascular Disease
Prevention at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston says that there is
“a fundamental revolution in how we understand what causes heart
attacks, strokes, and diabetes. It opens up phenomenal new ways to
predict, prevent and treat killer diseases.” He has written and lectured
extensively on the benefits of treating systemic inflammation.
Bruce Ames from UC Berkeley and former board member of the National
Cancer Institute has stated that "chronic inflammation is a major cause of
cancer in the world because it releases powerful oxidants which both
stimulate cell division and are mutagens."
In this article, I will outline the causes of the rampant inflammation epidemic
and some very simple steps you can take to put out the fire of chronic
inflammation and substantially improve your health.
How Did We Get Here
It’s not a coincidence that many of the modern diseases listed above have
exploded in the past two or three generations. If there is a connection
between our diet and these diseases, what changed in the Western diet?
A popular study in the early 1950’s created a theory called the “Lipid
Hypothesis”. This theory blamed all of the modern dietary woes on
saturated fat. This theory was quickly adopted by the medical community
and led to a host of exceptionally bad products such as margarine,
hydrogenated oils and trans fats. Now that we are a few decades wiser,
we realize that these products are outright deadly.
What the proponents of the Lipid Hypothesis failed to see is that another
change in the Western diet was the culprit for the flurry of modern
ailments. As part of the industrial revolution, we introduced vegetable oils
into out diet at a rate never seen before in history.
Today the four products that constitute 96% of all the oils in the
American diet are soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and canola oil.
These vegetable oils are all devoid of Omega-3’s and have a high level
The problem with this is that the balance of these oils is crucial for our
health. Historically, we had a 1:1 ratio between Omega-3’s and Omega-
6’s. Today, that ratio is closer to 20:1 in favor of Omega-6’s. We are
tremendously deficient in Omega-3’s.
At the same time, while the industrial revolution provided these vegetable
oils for human consumption, our supplies of meat were undergoing a
similar change. The modern method of raising livestock is to fatten them
as quickly as possible to increase profits. The technique used is pen
feeding of our livestock with grains that are high in Omega-6 and devoid
of Omega-3. The result is a meat that is much higher in Omega-6 with
very little Omega-3.
As an example, an egg from a free-range chicken that eats grass and bugs
has an Omega oil ratio close to 1:1 while an egg from a modern chicken
farm is closer to 10:1. Likewise, a fish raised on a fish farm that grew up
eating Purina Fish Chow instead of eating other smaller fish, who
themselves fed on phytoplankton, results in a farm-grown fish with lower
levels of Omega-3.
You’ve heard the saying that you are what you eat? Well, that applies to
our food supply also.
We are eating many times as much Omega-6 oils as our great-
grandparents and that’s what is getting us into so much trouble. Current
estimates are that we consume 20 times as much Omega-6 as we do
Omega-3. That’s a 20:1 ratio which should be closer to 1:1 for good
So, What’s the Big Fat Deal?
To explain the big fat deal, I’ll talk a little about the science of these fatty
acids. Don’t check out on me. I promise to give you an easy to remember
There are some fats that are “essential”. That means that our bodies need
them for us to survive and our bodies can not synthesize them from other
things that we eat. We have to get them directly from our diet. Omega-3
and Omega-6 are both “essential”.
Therefore, Omega-6 is not the enemy. We need it for good health. We
just get way too much of it.
Here is the key to remember:
Omega-6 is inflammatory
Omega-3 is anti-inflammatory
Diets providing too much Omega-6 oils and not enough Omega-3 stimulate
inflammation in the body. Omega-3 oils stimulate anti-inflammatory
pathways in the body. As a result Omega-6 has been coined as "bad" and
Omega-3 as "good". In fact both are essential for human health and it is
the balance of the two in relation to each other that is important.
When we eat a disproportionate amount of Omega-6, it begins a cascade
of pro-inflammatory activity. The situation becomes chronic and the result
is noticeable pain and unseen disease.
In a landmark study, researchers in Japan found what they believe to be
the basic cause of degenerative diseases in Japan, if not the world. Their
work has confirmed the volumes of emerging scientific research which is
revealing that the cause of degenerative diseases is based on a drastic
reduction in our diets of Omega-3 along with the increase in our diets of
Omega-6. Their findings came after a review of over 500 peer-reviewed
studies. Here is a brief summary of their findings:
In another study, the relationship between diet, inflammation, and cancer
was demonstrated by researchers at the American Health Foundation in
Valhalla, NY. In animal experiments, they noted that corn oil (rich in
omega-6) increased Cox-2 activity, whereas fish oil (rich in omega-3)
reduced Cox-2 activity. The researchers also showed that the omega-6
fatty acids could promote the growth of colon cancer, whereas the
omega-3 fatty acids prevented cancer.
Obviously, we need to get the ratio of these Omega oils into line in our
diet. The good news is that it’s not that hard.
But I'm Healthy - Do I Have A Problem?
Everyone on a western diet will suffer from low grade inflammation
eventually. Maybe you are young and healthy now but sooner or later
your body will begin to show the effects of the western diet as chronic
inflammation takes it's toll.
So, you want proof that you are having unseen internal inflammation?
I have the answer for you. The best marker for internal inflammation is
routinely checked when your doctor does any blood work for you. It’s
called C-reactive protein or CRP.
The next time you have a physical, ask your doctor about your CRP level.
It’s a measure of inflammation in the body and it’s a marker for peripheral
vascular disease. The degree of inflammation correlates directly with the
severity of the disease. The level of CRP is also strongly correlated with
obesity and insulin resistance. It’s interesting to note that excess body fat
oozes extra cytokines – those little things that promote inflammation.
So, if you are healthy today, you can verify if you have a problem on the
horizon by doing some simple blood work. However, if you want to save
some time and money, just go with the research - if you eat a standard
American diet, you have a problem.
So, what should you do about this whole mess?
How Do I Put Out The Fire?
OK, so we have a problem. How do we fix it? The simplest and most
biochemically sound way of turning down the body's pro-inflammatory
activities is by restoring a balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-
From a dietary perspective, this means switching away from vegetable oils
– especially in cooking as the high heat turns them rancid. A good
substitute is extra-virgin olive oil. When cooking with olive oil, add a small
amount of water to the pan to keep the heat down. Olive oil will only
survive undamaged in moderate heat. For high heat cooking, use coconut
I know, olive oil and coconut oil are vegetable oils. But, olive oil, coconut
oil, and palm oil are different. They are actually good for you.
You should also avoiding most processed (boxed, canned, or frozen) foods
as much as reasonably possible because the manufacturers frequently add
vegetable oils. By eating simple unprocessed foods such as baked chicken,
a salad, and steamed vegetables it becomes easier to consume a more
balanced ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.
However, if you're like most people you've been eating a diet high in
Omega-6 fats for years. You will have to recognize that simply restoring
a balance is not enough to quickly offset the accumulated damage. It's
crucial to increase consumption of anti-inflammatory Omega-3’s and
You can get Omega-3 supplements from several sources. Primarily from
fish or from flaxseed. I’ll discuss this in a moment. First, I want to
describe what will immediately happen when you begin to supplement with
either fish oil or flaxseed oil.
When diets are supplemented with omega-3’s, they partially replace the
omega-6 in the membranes of practically all cells. This causes an effect on
several aspects of cell function. It gets very technical but suffice it to say
that you will begin to reap the benefits immediately. But, you may not feel
the results for weeks. That’s because when cell membranes are damaged,
no amount of Omega-3’s will completely reverse the damage. You have to
wait for the cells to be replaced with new cells. Depending on which organ
or part of the body in question, this can take weeks and months. So, the
effects are cumulative over a period of time.
Fight Fat With Fat
One final but very exciting note before we get down to the “how to” of
supplementing Omega-3’s in your diet. Believe it or not but adding
Omega-3 oils to your diet can actually help you lose weight. Fantastic
Fascinating research is emerging from the world of sports nutrition to
suggest that essential fats in our diet can exert significant control over key
metabolic genes in our cells, particularly those involved with fat storage and
fat burning. In other words, this means that proper fatty acid nutrition
could help to reset or correct your genetic code!
They are discovering that these fats, particularly the Omega-3’s, play
essential roles in your glucose metabolism. In particular they observed a
phenomenon known as ‘fuel partitioning’. If you are into body building,
you’ve been reading about this for a couple of years by now.
Increased intakes of Omega-3 appear to reduce tissue levels of triglycerides
(stored fats), and improve the sensitivity of insulin (the hormone that
causes blood sugar to be burned for fuel). This causes more of the
calories you eat to be burned and fewer calories to be stored as fat. This
is the holy grail for anyone who is trying to get lean!
To sum it all up, fatty acids in general and Omega-3’s in particular help
you burn more calories and store less fat. While it’s beyond the scope
of this article, if you are an athlete and you are serious about top
performance, you owe it to yourself to investigate the fuel partitioning
effects of Omega-3’s. Search the web for articles on PPARα and SREBP’s.
Also look for “uncoupling protein-3” and prepare to be amazed.
One last note on weight loss. If you do not cut back on the ever-present
Omega-6 oils in your diet and just add Omega-3’s, you will be increasing
your total calorie intake. You should lower your intake of Omega-6 and
replace it with Omega-3. Adding additional calories is not the way to lose
Fish Oil Versus Flaxseed Oil
There is a tremendous debate on the topic of which is better – fish oil or
flaxseed oil. No matter which side I come down on, someone will disagree
with me. So, I’ll explain my rational carefully.
Both are great sources of Omega-3 oils but there are some important
differences. Not all Omega-3 oils are the same but all of them are
“essential”. Confused? OK, here’s the deal.
Fish oil has both DHA and EPA. I don’t want to confuse the issue with all
the technical stuff so the bottom line is that both DHA and EPA are great
but it’s the EPA that helps with the inflammation.
Flaxseed oil has ALA which is also great but it needs to be converted to
EPA to help with inflammation. The problem is that only a small percentage
gets converted to EPA.
Bottom line - while both fish oil and flax oil are good for you,
go with fish oil to maximize the anti-inflammatory benefits.
The Best Fish Oil
So, it comes down to how to supplement with fish oil and how much you
need. First of all, if you’ve ever taken a fish oil supplement and burped
that fishy taste, you know that you never want to do that again. There is
a much better way.
Your supplement needs to be enteric coated for two reasons. One, the
enteric coating will not allow the capsule to dissolve in the acidic
environment of your stomach. When it reaches the alkaline environment of
your upper intestine it will dissolve and you will not burp that fishy taste.
The next benefit is that the Omega-3 oils will be undamaged and better
assimilated in your intestine without being subjected to your stomach acid.
The amount you take depends on several factors. The idea is to find
a balance between the Omega-3’s and the Omega-6’s that you eat.
Obviously, the more Omega-6 vegetable oils that you eat, the more
Omega-3 supplements you will require to achieve balance.
So, the first step is to recognize that most oils in our foods are upsetting
your nutritional balance. You should limit the amount of corn oil, canola oil,
cottonseed oil and soybean oil that you eat. Remember, you don’t need
(or want) to eliminate Omega-6 fats - just reduce the amount you eat.
I strongly recommend avoiding fried foods from restaurants. Read labels
at the store and watch out for foods that list one of these Omega-6 oils as
the first few ingredients.
When cooking at home, use butter, olive oil or unflavored coconut oil when
you cook and you will be doing yourself a huge favor. There is a lot of
confusion over coconut oil. In the near future I plan to write a complete
article on the benefits of coconut oil.
For now, please follow this link to Tropical Tradition's website and read
more about this fabulous oil. They are a supplier of organic coconut
products. I don't make a penny from this recommendation and I've used
their products for years. They are the best!
How Much Is Enough?
So, once you reduce the over-abundance of Omega-6’s in your diet, how
much Omega-3 do you need to take? This is such a subjective question
that I can only give some very general guidelines. Everyone will be a little
If you are 110 pounds, I might suggest 1 gram (1,000 mg) in the morning
and then another gram in the evening. If you are 175 pounds, I would
double that amount. If you are 250 pounds, I would triple that amount.
These are just good general ideas.
Also consider how long you have been enduring chronic inflammation and
if you are suffering from any obvious symptoms. If you have obvious
symptoms from chronic inflammation, you might want to increase your
daily dose for the first several weeks.
If you want to put out the flames of chronic inflammation and pain, you
should also take some additional supplements. Whatever amount of fish
oil you take, I recommend at least half as much vitamin C. Additionally,
take some vitamin E both in the morning and evening. Both of these will
help with inflammation plus they support a host of other vital functions in
Finally, round it out with a good multi-vitamin. It’s well documented that
vitamins work in a synergistic manner and getting a daily dose of a broad
spectrum of supplemental nutrition with a multi-vitamin is a great idea.
The bottom line is this - if you eat the Standard American Diet (SAD),
then you will suffer from sub-acute chronic inflammation. Period.
Even if you try to eat right, without supplements your ratio of fatty
acids will likely be unbalanced and you will suffer from chronic inflammation.
Even if you are a vegetarian, you will likely suffer from the same
conditions. And, you can suffer from this condition of sub-acute
inflammation for years without even knowing it until some symptoms of
chronic disease pop up out of nowhere and then plague you for the rest
of your life.
The overwhelming prevalence of vegetable oils in our diets is causing an
epidemic of unseen inflammation in our bodies. To fight off a long list of
ailments and for our general health, we must supplement our diets with
Omega-3 oils and consciously limit our intake of the Omega-6 fats found in
most vegetable oils.
The best Omega-3 supplement options are flaxseed oil and fish oil.
The best choice is fish oil but you should use a supplement that is enteric
coated not only for better assimilation but, more importantly, to avoid that
unwelcome fishy aftertaste.
Supplementing with Omega-3’s is one of the easiest and most important
things you can do to improve your overall health and to fight chronic
Don’t let the unseen fire of chronic inflammation continue to burn. Put out
the fire today.
Serrapeptase for Heart Health
Heart disease is the #1 killer. Learn a simple way to improve your heart
health while improving your overall health too.
A Bad Rap for Omega 6
I keep seeing conflicting reports. Is Omega 6 bad for you or is it getting a
bad rap? Find out the whole truth.
How to Quit Smoking
My personal story of how I quit smoking. What I learned will help you quit
smoking too. Understand the difference between a habit and an addiction
and how to overcome both.
Copyright © 2010 Unconventional Health
The author of this site requires that any quotations or use of material from this site include a link to this site.
Disclaimer | Privacy Statement | Site Map
|"In this review, we summarize the evidence which indicates
that increased dietary linoleic acid (Omega 6) and relative
Omega 3 deficiency are major risk factors for western type
cancers cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and also
for allergic hyper-reactivity. We also raise the possibility that
a relative Omega 3 deficiency may be affecting the behavioral
patterns of a proportion of the young generations in
"It is proposed that dietary intervention with Omega 3
supplementation, and the reduction of Omega 6 in the diet
could successfully reverse rising trend toward westernized
degenerative diseases in Japan, and the world. The dietary
transition to a westernized diet in Japan occurring in the last
50 years and the subsequent rise in degenerative disease is
merely a microcosm of the transition which occurred in the
United States beginning with the Industrial Revolution."
|“There is an absolute need for fish oil if you’re going to quell
inflammation,” says Jim LaValle of the Longer Living Institute
in Cincinnati, OH.
|Unconventional Health .com
|Most Recent Articles
Heart Health with Serrapeptase
Whey Protein Powder
Relief From Muscle Adhesions
Cold Sore Outbreaks
Inflammation and Chronic
How to Quit Smoking
Skin Care - Dry Itchy Skin
Iodine for Thyroid - Myth
Oh My Aching Back!
A Bad Rap for Omega 6