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Author: Udo Erasmus, B.Sc., Ph.D.

Fats for healthy hearts? To most of you, that sounds like a contradiction because you have been told over and over that fats cause heart attacks, that fats increase cardiovascular problems.

So many people have adopted a low-fat or even a no-fat diet. Bad idea! Did you know that some patients on low fat vegetarian intervention studies to reduce heart disease died from the results of cardiac arrhythmia?

You need to know that there are two stories on fats. There are fats that predispose to heart attacks and strokes (because they make our platelets more sticky), but there are others that protect us from heart attacks and strokes. There are fats that kill and fats that heal.

So let us talk about the healing fats. There are two of them. They’re called essential fatty acids. Substances your body cannot make but every cell must have. You have to get them from what you eat.

One essential fatty acid is Omega 6 and the other is Omega 3. Both are important to health. The omega 3 essential fatty acid has the most pronounced benefits on the health of our hearts and arteries. It protects our heart and arteries in several ways. Let me list and explain 10 hearty reasons for including good fats in your diet.

1. Omega 3 fatty acids make our platelets less sticky. They thereby decrease the chance of a clot forming in an artery and clogging that artery. In other words, they make a heart attack, stroke, or other embolism (clot) in our body less likely.

2. Omega 3 fatty acids make our red blood cells more flexible. This means that blood will flow more easily through our capillaries lowering blood pressure and improving delivery of nutrients and oxygen to our cells.

3. Omega 3 fatty acids lower blood fats (triglycerides), a risk factor for cardiovascular disease caused by sugar, carbohydrates, hard fats and lack of exercise.

4. Omega 3 fatty acids lower high blood pressure by means of a hormone-like substance (prostaglandin) made from them. This substance relaxes arterial muscle tone, which lowers blood pressure.

5. Omega 3 fatty acids lower cholesterol to some extent, although they work even better when combined with the kinds of fiber which escort cholesterol from our body and thereby prevent its re-absorption from our gut.

6. Omega 3 fatty acids stabilize the heart beat, preventing heart beat abnormalities (arrhythmia) that can lead to cardiac arrest.

7. Omega 3 fatty acids improve kidney function and water metabolism. Poor kidney function and water retention can lead to high blood pressure.

8. Omega 3 fatty acids improve energy levels, leading us to be more physically active. Physical activity has many beneficial effects on our heart and arteries.

9. Omega 3 fatty acids elevate mood, lift depression and improve our ability to deal with stress. High stress levels promote high blood pressure, water retention, inflammation, and blood clot formation.

10. Omega 3 fatty acids lower fibrinogen levels. Fibrinogen is another factor that can lead to the formation of an artery blocking blood clot.

But let me now balance the story. Even though the omega 3 fatty acids are vital to heart health, you need the omega 6 fatty acids also. So it is important for you to keep in mind that a balance of both is what you need.

References:
1. Fats that Heal Fats that Kill, Udo Erasmus, Ph.D., Alive, Vancouver.
2. The Omega-3 Phenomenon, D. Ruden and C. Felix.
3. Owren PA. “Coronary Thrombosis: Its Mechanism and Possible Prevention by Linolenic Acid” Annals of Internal Medicine 63:167.
4. de Lorgeril M and others. “Mediterranean Alpha Linolenic Acid-Rich Diets in Secondary Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease” The Lances 343:1454.
5. Improving Atherogenic Risk in Hyper-lipidemic Humans with Flax Seed Supplementation, Marvin L. Bierenbaum, M.D., Tom R. Watkins, Ph.D. (Kenneth L. Jordan Heart Fund, U.S.A.).
6. Does Dietary Linolenic Acid Influence Blood Pressure?, E.M. Batty, J. Hirsch (Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 44:436-440.
7. Effect of Flax and Dietary Alpha-Linolenic Acid on Blood Platelets in Human Subjects, B.J. Holub (Proceedings of the 53rd Flax Institute, U.S.A.)
8. Use of Flaxseed as a Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acid in Human Nutrition, Molly A. Dieken (Proceedings of the 54th Flax Institute, U.S.A.)
9. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Metabolism and Biological Effects, C.A. Drevon, et al, Advances in Life Sciences.