Oils just ain't oils and are we the oils we eat?

Are the oils we eat bringing us inflammation and disease? Research is increasingly showing that inflammation in our bodies is key to chronic inflammatory conditions such as metabolic, allergic, neurodegenerative (e.g. Multiple Sclerosis [MS]) and immune diseases. These diseases tend to come with increases in white blood cells (leukocytes), these cells help other cells climb around and be sticky (adhesion molecules), and/or become 'pro' inflammatory cells in our blood.  This all can lead to our tissues being destroyed. Our gut microbiota also plays a role as our diet can dictate our state of inflammation and ultimately our health status. Obesity, Multiple Sclerosis, Coeliac disease, autoimmune disorders all seem to be linked with diet and inflammation.

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Let’s today focus on Multiple Sclerosis and a fascinating 34 year long study that was highlighted recently in a Canadian neurological journal by Kadoch MD, (a cardiothoracic radiologist) in a letter to the editor. Kadoch wrote of a study by Dr Roy Laver Swank, a pioneer in MS research. The study began in 1949 and was first published in the Lancet in 1990, and the final results in 2003. The main finding of this study was that diets with a high intake of saturated fat had an increased incidence of MS compared to diets with low levels of saturated fat showing low incidence. It seems that saturated fat can get clumpy, and trapped in our capillaries making the circulation system rigid, causing it to function poorly and ultimately starve our tissues of nutrients. The non-saturated fats seem to do the opposite and, instead, 'nourish' tissues. People who consumed healthier fats seemed to have better complexion too in this study. Kadoch MD also noted in his letter that MS, heart disease and stroke seemed to have increased over this last century at the rate that we have increased saturated fat consumption. Saturated fats mainly come from animal sources and are rigid, and sticky.  If this is so, then; the fat we eat becomes us!  Let’s explain! Every cell in our bodies, has layers of fat (called a phospholipid bilayer).

The best types of fat seems to be unsaturated fat, and in particular Omega 3 (in good ratio to Omega 6). Omega 3 can make cells soft, flexible and unsticky, and can help the immune system too. In the immune system, a particular cell type called, helper T cells, help fight infections.  The 'T' helper cells type 2 help calm inflammation (Th2). Research is showing that Omega 3 helps these cells, help calm inflammation in our bodies. The best way to get Omega 3 into our systems is to consume foods such as salmon, sardines or flaxseed oil (linseed oil), however Omega 3 can be volatile, therefore it is good to keep these foods cold. The flaxseed oil is a very unstable oil, highly reactive so remember to care for it well and put it straight in the fridge and out of the light. We want it to be highly reactive because that reaction helps our cells to help our body reduce inflammation.  Inflammation is also linked with overweight and obesity. Keep posted for more information on inflammation and health.

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Swank RL, Dugan BB, 1990 ‘Effect of low saturated fat diet in early and late cases of multiple sclerosis’, Lancet 336(8706):37-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/0140-6736(90)91533-G

Swank RL, Goodwin JW, 2003, ‘Review of MS patient survival on a Swank low saturated fat diet’, Nutrition, 19:161 2. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0899-9007(02)00851-1

Kadock, M 2012, ‘Is the Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis Headed in the Wrong Direction?’ Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences / Journal Canadien Des Sciences Neurologiques, 39(3): 405-405.  Letter to the editor at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0317167100022241