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Are polyunsaturated fats better for health?

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What do coconut oil, avocados, and a lot of misconceptions have in common? Big sugar slandered fat into one slump of negative press. Science still misunderstands various fat in our diet, but industries have always been the spin doctor, pushing ideas for profit. But varieties of polyunsaturated fats exist that don’t exactly win the battle of health benefits against other lipids.

Omega V. Omega

Firstly, we must pit different polyunsaturated fats against each other. We have gamma-linolenic acid, an Omega-6 fat, on one side. And on the other, there are Omega-3 fats like alpha-linolenic acid. Gamma metabolizes directly into arachidonic acid and avoids immediate endocannabinoid synthesis. Increasing Omega-3 can achieve a healthy ratio of polyunsaturated fat rather than cutting out Omega-6.

Omega-3 fat, found in fish, seeds, and nuts, breaks down into EPA and DHA — the origins of endocannabinoid synthesis. Omega-3 fats eventually produce pro-inflammatory agents. In the middle, however, are anti-inflammatory endocannabinoids to balance the system. In contrast, pro-inflammatory mediators rest at the bottom of the Omega-6 axis. 

Different polyunsaturated data exist that are better for health than other varieties.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 are both polyunsaturated fats, but they have different outcomes on health. Photo courtesy of Aqeel et al.

A saturated fat’s secret

Saturated fats are usually solid and, therefore, cause heart disease more rapidly than liquid polyunsaturated fat. An argument for coconut oil and its predominant lurix fat content is the melting point. At body temperature, coconut oil becomes a liquid. Unlike Omega-3, though, saturated fats are non-essential since the body produces them.

Importantly, however, is a type of fat known as palmitic acid. Coconut is not a rich source of palmitic acid, unlike animal fat or palm kernel oil. Health Organizations recommend against saturated fats, including palm oils, due to their impact on arteries and heart health. Researchers commonly appear to disregard palmitic acid’s key benefit.

Self-regulating fat

Palmitoyl is a form of palmitic acid activated with a carboxylic acid derivative (acyl). As such, palmitic acid is a precursor for another lipid known as N-Palmitoyl-ethanol-amide, also known as PEA. Otherwise, another source for PEA is the same precursor that produces anandamide. Regardless of origin, the lipid derivative of palmitic acid, PEA, activates an extraordinary messenger known as PPAR.

Falsely assumed to agonize the second CB receptor in the 1990s, PEA does not activate endocannabinoids or immediately associated receptors. The short fatty acid derivative does, however, activate PPAR-alpha.

Seed oils comprise polyunsaturated fats but are often heavily processed and extracted with chemical solvents.

Best of both worlds

Omega-3 fats turn into endocannabinoids and other vital biological messengers not internally produced by humans. They are essential, meaning we require them from our diet. Omega-6 is also essential, and evidence suggests that diets high in Omega-6 fats do not increase inflammatory biomarkers. In contrast, saturated fats are not necessarily essential. Although, palmitic acid is a significant but little-discussed regulatory agent.

Experts often recommend a completely balanced diet without overdoing any one ingredient. Adequate health requires a proper amount of Omega-3 fats relative to Omega-6. And of course, some saturated, monosaturated, and polyunsaturated fats are necessary for good health.

Let us know in the comments what fats you prefer to consume. Do you maintain an adequate ratio of polyunsaturated fats?

Sources

  1. Innes JK, Calder PC. Omega-6 fatty acids and inflammation. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2018;132:41-48. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2018.03.004
  2. Aqeel, Masooma & Ahmad, Shahryar & Patel, Jayshil & Rice, Todd. (2017). Immunonutrition in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Current Pulmonology Reports. 6. 10.1007/s13665-017-0171-2.
  3. Petrosino, Stefania & Moriello, Aniello. (2020). Palmitoylethanolamide: A Nutritional Approach to Keep Neuroinflammation within Physiological Boundaries—A Systematic Review. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 21. 9526. 10.3390/ijms21249526.





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