Weight loss, a hardy topic. No pun intended. Recently, vitalchoice published an article regarding the intake of omega 3s vs. omega 6s on weight loss. In a one woman’s self-inflicted trial, the theory that high omega 3 intake is related to healthy weight and high omega 6 intake causes weight gain, was put to the test. For one month, Susan Allport replaced her usual omega 3 rich diet to a more omega 6 containing one. This one-women-experiment was based on the following theory:
Omega-3s and omega-6s compete for positions in our cells, as scientists have known since the 1950s, such that anyone consuming a diet too rich in omega-6s (and that would be me) would have fewer omega-3s in all of her tissues – no matter if she continued to eat fish.
Americans consume 10 times as many omega-6s as they do omega-3s, according to the Agricultural Research Service. And it is that imbalance – not the amount of fish we eat–that is causing us to be deficient in omega-3s, the scientists who study these fats realize. A healthy balance is on the order of 4:1.
What did this experiment entail? In Susan’s words:
To the casual observer, the foods in my experimental diet would look just like my normal fare: lots of whole grains, nut butters, vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, and salads. But they would differ in a small way that I, and a growing number of scientists, know to be very important: the fats I would cook with; the oils I would dress my salads with would be vegetable (or seed) oils that are very rich in omega-6s, oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oil, oils that constitute most of the added fats in the American food supply.
Yes, my weight was almost the same, but what weight I had gained – 5.6 ounces or just under half a pound – was almost entirely fat and in my abdominal area, as the follow-up body scan showed – exactly as I had experienced it. Just as interesting, and the cause, perhaps, of this gain, was that my resting metabolic rate had fallen, by an intriguing five percent. This drop was within the day-to-day variation for this test (6.2%), but it was in the direction predicted by the diet and the magnitude to explain my small gain in weight.
High omega 6 intake is related to inflammatory fat, the very kind that has been linked to various chronic diseases.
Other studies show the connection between high omega 6s and weight gain. Gaining weight on omega 6s was reported in an article from the Journal of Lipid Research as follows:
The prevalence of obesity has steadily increased over the last few decades. During this time, populations of industrialized countries have been exposed to diets rich in fat with a high content of linoleic acid and a low content of alpha-linolenic acid compared with recommended intake. To assess the contribution of dietary fatty acids, male and female mice fed a high-fat diet (35% energy as fat, linoleic acid: alpha-linolenic acid ratio of 28) were mated randomly and maintained after breeding on the same diet for successive generations. Offspring showed, over four generations, a gradual enhancement in fat mass due to combined hyperplasia and hypertrophy with no change in food intake. Transgenerational alterations in adipokine levels were accompanied by hyperinsulinemia. Gene expression analyses of the stromal vascular fraction of adipose tissue, over generations, revealed discrete and steady changes in certain important players, such as CSF3 and Nocturnin. Thus, under conditions of genome stability and with no change in the regimen over four generations, we show that a Western-like fat diet induces a gradual fat mass enhancement, in accordance with the increasing prevalence of obesity observed in humans.
It’s more than calories in verses calories out! Food is information and how we respond is not doomed to the “slow down of metabolism as we age”, but rather how we use food to communicate to our body. Here enters the science of epigenetics and nutrigenomics….and…Functional Medicine.
In fact, an abstract from the British Journal of Nutrition reports the following:
The prevalence of obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in many industrialized countries. There is growing evidence that, even if the trigger of this epidemic is found in changes in the environment, genes are interacting with the environment to cause weight gain. Studies of twins reared apart indicate that approximately two-thirds of the variability in BMI is attributed to genetic factors. From prospective studies in Pima Indians we can ascribe 12 % of the variability in BMI to metabolic rate, 5 % to fat oxidation, and another probable 10 % to the level of spontaneous physical activity. These data indicate that at least 40 % of the variability in BMI is related to genetic factors involved in the regulation of food intake and/or volitional activity. This indicates that the most likely successful therapy for obesity may target pathways of the regulation of food intake. Similarly, an environment favoring engagement in physical activity should be promoted.
Here’s my question: is it really the omega 6s or bio-individuality and epigenomics? (Remember Bruce Lipton’s connection the fatty cell membrane and the “brain” of the cell?)
After doing functional testing and following results with the blood type diet, I’ve seen plenty of thin people who eat twice as much as their overweight counterparts.
Our society is becoming obsessed with finding the “perfect diet”, and I have to say, as a Naturopathic Doctor, I too have made the same mistake, with myself and my patients. BUT, now, with what I’ve learned through experience and studying various nutritional theories, I’m happy to report that long term weight loss is not about the “perfect diet”, cutting this and cutting that, restricting this, and adding that…it’s more than that, and easier! It’s about finding what works for you, and feeding your body healthy communication signals!
I’ve blogged in the past about epigenetics, the power of the mind, and nutrigenomics. I’m now applying this in my clinical practice and the results are exciting…. I may have to write a book!
What does this mean? Most people know what’s good for them to eat; they’ve just been trained out of it. Emotional eating is a big issue, and biochemical imbalances play a role too. Therefore, all of these factors must be part of the consideration for weight loss.
What is the take home message of the above studies for me? These individuals tested found their optimal diet for optimal weight. The use of functional tests can show what would best serve the body, and the use of integrative, holistic, body-mind medicine will do the rest!
Allport, S. Vitalchoice Newsletter. August 12, 2010. http://newsletter.vitalchoice.com/e_article001842884.cfm?x=bhg1DV3,b1h0JlRD
Nutr Rev. 2010 May;68(5):280-9. PMID: 20500789
ScientificWorldJournal. 2010 May 4;10:818-31. PMID: 20454764
Journal of Lipid Research, Vol. 51, 2352-2361, August 2010
Copyright © 2010 by American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.http://www.jlr.org/cgi/content/abstract/51/8/2352?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=1&andorexacttitle=and&andorexacttitleabs=and&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT
British Journal of Nutrition (2000), 83:S17-S20 Cambridge University PressCopyright © The Nutrition Society 2000. doi:10.1017/S0007114500000908