Danish scientist Udo Erasmus did not set out to be an expert in fatty acids. Born in Poland in 1942, he was abandoned at the age of two as his parents tried to flee. An aunt managed to travel through battle lines to retrieve him.
In 1980, Dr. Erasmus, who has a PhD in nutrition and a master's degree in counseling psychology, was accidentally poisoned by a release of pesticides. Not given much hope by doctors, he delved into the literature of biochemistry and found a cure-years before Atkins, the Zone Diet, or Ornish. For the last 30 years, Dr. Erasmus has become an evangelist for healthy fatty acids as an antidote for the unavoidable toxic exposures of modern life, but he emphasizes flaxseed oil over fish oil. Here are the five main reasons:
- The traditional source of fish oil, cod liver, just isn't safe in the modern world.
- Women need more DHA than they can get in just a couple of capsules of fish oil a day, especially during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
- You just can't get all the fat you need from fish oil.
- If you consume all the fish oil you would need for your total fat supply, you would have problems with bleeding.
- And, actually, you don't want to consume tremendous amounts of flaxseed oil, either.
Generations of Scandinavian children thrived on cod liver oil. There are even brands of lemon-and cherry-flavored distilled cod liver oil that are still popular in Norway and Iceland today.
If you happen to live near the Arctic circle, cod liver oil makes sense. It's high in the vitamin D your body can't make during the winter when the sun doesn't shine. But if you live anywhere else in the world, flaxseed oil is superior.
The liver of any animal concentrates toxins, storing them, and detoxifying them when it can. If you consume liver oils, you get all the toxins the animal hasn't processed yet. The same principle applies to liverwurst and braised or fried liver.
Organic flaxseed oil is almost entirely free of all the toxins found in the sea. And if it's cold-pressed, it isn't treated with hexane and nickel to remove any trace of odor or color that might clash with some other food. Cold-pressed flaxseed oil is always best.
DHA is the omega-3 essential fatty acid that is essential acid that is most important in the brain. If a pregnant woman does not consume enough DHA in the diet during pregnancy or breastfeeding, her body will take DHA out of her brain and send it to the baby. That is one of the reasons so many women experience post-partum depression.
The extra estrogen in a woman's body during pregnancy and breastfeeding, however, makes it easier for her body to convert the ALA in flaxseed oil into the DHA needed for brain health. Fish oil offers ready-made DHA, but it also carries a risk of contamination, in all but the most carefully manufactured brands.
Some fitness fans follow a fat-free diet, supplemented by just fish oil for "essential fatty acids". The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are truly essential in the diet, but the 1 to 3 grams a day you get from fish oil is not enough even to carry vitamins A, D, E, and K from other foods into the body.
Overall, anything from 15 to 60 per cent of calories from fat is good-you just have to keep the total number of calories down to healthy levels. And you can't possibly take 100 capsules of fish oil every day
Even though omega-3 essential fatty acids are good for you and over 99 per cent of the world doesn't get enough, it's possible not get enough. If you got too much omega-3 and not enough omega-6, one of the first symptoms would be bruising due to lack of clotting factors.
That could be a huge problem if you were in a car crash. Sticky eyelids, a tendency to get colds and skin infections, and loss of muscle mass follow-but this condition is usually only seen in people who get extremely bad advice from nutrition experts or during wartime.
Most of the fat we eat isn't omega-3, and it isn't omega-6.It's omega-9. This is the fat that is under our skin that keeps from being "skin and bones." It's the fat that cushions our abdomen from injury. It's the fat that keeps us warm. Everybody needs fat. But for the 1 to 5 grams of omega-3 fat you need every day, flaxseed oil is a good choice.