Whereas my book "Fat for Fuel" details how to implement a cyclical ketogenic diet, my latest book, cowritten with James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., "Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health," delves further into the science of dietary fats, providing specifics on how to discriminate between healthy and harmful ones.
The importance of this cannot be overstated, as fats are truly an extraordinary fuel for your body and brain, yet unhealthy fats can do more harm than excess sugar.
Unfortunately, most doctors are still clueless about this, and the U.S. dietary guidelines are leading people in the complete opposite direction of health with regard to dietary fats. Hence, the incentive for writing "Superfuel," the release of which we celebrate today, just in time for Black Friday!
Omega-3 — The Healthy Fat Most People Don't Get Enough Of
One of the most important fats in the human diet is marine-based omega-3. Unfortunately, in the past 100 years, our omega-6 intake has nearly tripled, largely due to misleading or outright incorrect marketing and government health campaigns, while our intake of omega-3 has decreased 10fold, causing a severe imbalance in our omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.
Ideally, you want to maintain a 4-to-1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fats or less, which is nearly impossible if you're regularly eating processed foods or restaurant fare, as these are loaded with omega-6 from industrial vegetable oils like corn oil and canola oil. While you clearly need some omega-6s, they need to be unprocessed (think whole, raw plant seeds and tree nuts), and that cannot be said for most commercial vegetable oils.
One of the most significant dangers of vegetable oils is that the damaged fats are integrated into your cell and mitochondrial membranes, and once these membranes are impaired, it sets the stage for all sorts of health problems.
As just one example, explained by DiNicolantonio, the inner membrane of your mitochondria contains a component called cardiolipin, which needs to be saturated in the omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in order to function properly.
The DHA in cardiolipin can be likened to a cellular alarm system with its oxidation triggering programmed cell death (apoptosis) by signaling caspase-3 when something goes wrong with the cell. However, if the cardiolipin is not saturated with DHA, it cannot signal caspase-3, and apoptosis does not occur. As a result, dysfunctional cells continue to grow and may turn into a cancer cell.
DHA Is Crucial for Your Brain; EPA for Your Heart
It's also crucial to realize that the marine-based omega-3 fats DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are not just fuel. These long-chained omega-3s are actually key structural elements of all cells, including your brain cells. If you don't have enough DHA and EPA, your body's ability to repair and maintain healthy cell structures is seriously impaired.
DHA is particularly crucial for your brain. Not only does it stimulate Nrf21 (a transcription factor that regulates cellular oxidation and reduction, and aids in detoxification), it also increases heme oxygenase 12 (a protein produced in response to oxidative stress) and upregulates antioxidant enzymes.
EPA, meanwhile, appears to be the most crucial component for your heart, and has been linked to a lower risk for heart disease. Most recently, a study3 involving a highly-processed form of EPA found it lowered cardiovascular health risks by 25 percent compared to a placebo, which is typically the kind of reduction you see with the use of statins.
Perhaps one of the most important pieces of data from this trial is the dosage used. While most studies use doses around a single gram per day, the REDUCE-IT trial used a daily dose of 3 to 4 grams.
The strong beneficial effect seen at this higher dosage confirms and supports health predictions made in "Superfuel," where we note that most people need far higher dosages than commonly recommended (although the only way to be sure is to measure your omega-3 blood level).
As general guidance, however, you only need around 1 to 2 grams of omega-6 linoleic acid per day, ideally from plant seeds and tree nuts, whereas optimal levels of marine omega-3 fats are around 3 to 4 grams per day.