The Fats Domino Effect

"Bad fats" yield a cascade of side effects. "Good fats" can relieve injuries such as tennis and golf elbow and heal the heart.

by Betty Kamen, Ph.D. (Alternative Medicine, November 2000, page 104)

Relief for repetitive-motion injuries

At long last, it is recognized by the traditional medical community that a combination of antioxidants and essential fatty acids ("good fats") appears to be an effective treatment for repetitive-motion injuries such as "tennis elbow" and "golf elbow." The results of research confirm clinical observations that inflammatory injuries can be treated without the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). In addition, athletes can train actively while receiving treatment.

The researchers explain: "Strenuous exercise is known to produce an overload of harmful free radicals that damage healthy cells by oxidizing the phospholipids (a group of essential biochemicals such as lecithin that contain fats) in the cell membrane."

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by readily combining with them, and thus limiting their destructive impact. That is why it is so essential that athletes make sure to get adequate amounts of antioxidants to help protect themselves against repetitive stress injuries.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are important for healing because they support the body’s production of beneficial type 1 and 3 prostaglandins, substances that work minute by minute to counteract pain and inflammation.

Fats are the hot topic at the American Heart Association

At a recent American Heart Association (AHA) conference, it was reported that the food label changes proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths. Trans-fatty acids, unnatural fats created to improve shelf life in baked and fried goods, are targeted.

The proposal by the FDA to include trans-fatty acid content on food labels is something we have been making noises about for decades (and which we discussed in this column in issue #36 of Alternative Medicine Magazine). It is now acknowledged that this simple measure could prevent up to 17,100 heart attacks and 5,600 deaths per year.

It is assumed that 100% of trans-fats (also called hydrogenated fats) would be removed from margarines soon after the labeling change. In this scenario alone, approximately 6,300 heart attacks and 2,100 deaths a year in the U.S. would be prevented, the researchers estimate. In a separate analysis, the researchers assumed that by seven years after the labeling change, trans-fats would also be eliminated from 3% of breads and cakes and from 15% of cookies and crackers. These total changes would result in the prevention of 17,100 heart attacks and 5,600 deaths, according to their model.

The labeling change proposed by the FDA could result in health care cost savings of $25 billion to $59 billion over 20 years. The cost to change the labels and reformulate products would be $401 million to $854 million. It was indicated that it would take about 10 years to realize the health benefits from the labeling change on a populaiton-wide basis. Well, better late than never!

The ideal diet for reducing cardiovascular risk

Another report from the AHA gathering was that lowering total fat intake is not very effective in reducing the risk of heart disease. Reducing total fat intake by increasing carbohydrate intake does not lower the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, according to evidence presented at the American Heart Association conference. After studying the results of 59 clinical trials, a researcher from the Netherlands explained that lowering total fat intake is probably not a very effective strategy for reducing cardiovascular disease risk (CVD).

"The ideal diet for CVD prevention contains a mixture of omega-9, -6, and -3 cis-unsaturated fatty acids and is virtually free from trans-fatty acids, and is low in saturates."

Flax seed oil contains omega-3 and -6.

Black currant seed oil contains omega-3 and -6.

Fish is best for omega-3.

Evening primrose oil contains only omega-6.

Olive oil contains omega-9.

Fish provide one of the best dietary sources for omega-3 fatty acids

Other researchers presented evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may have beneficial effects on blood pressure, platelet function (for the clotting of blood) and endothelial function (the endothelium is the layer of cells lining the heart and blood and lymph vessels).

Omega-3 fatty acids "may have a dose-dependent response in reducing blood pressure in hypertensive individuals" explained one of the researchers. "Supplementation of diet with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, typically 3 grams per day, can lower blood pressure in untreated hypertensives."

Trans-fatty acids had the most adverse effect on cholesterol rations. (Have we not been saying this for years?) The researcher suggested that the food industry could play an important role in this regard by modifying the fatty acid content of foods.

Sources: American Heart Association conference in Reston, Virginia, June 2000; Reuters Medical News, June 07, 2000; Reuters Medical News, May 30, 2000; Reuters Medical News, April 27, 2000.

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Dr. Johanna Budwig, a German M.D. and researcher, carried out most of the early research on fatty acids in the 1940s and 1950s. Her techniques were the first to separate and identify fats from a drop of blood. She was also the first to warn the public about trans-fats although that term was not yet coined. Over ˝ a century ago, while she was Germany’s Senior Consultant Expert for Fats, she investigated the high temperature treatment of fish oils (for the purpose of making them keep longer and killing their fishy taste), that were used in making margarine by the margarine industry. She came to the conclusion that these oils do great harm to the entire internal glandular system, as well as to the liver and other organs and are therefore not suitable for human consumption. This was her official verdict prepared for the German Ministry of Foods in 1951. In 1955 she received the following answer from the Ministry of Foods: "Banning these heat-treated fish oils is ‘being considered’ as tests in other institutes have now shown that these fish oils are very harmful to both humans and animals, as they disrupt the functioning of the glands and poison the liver, which rapidly leads to death." (Today, these fats are still commercially available!)

Dr. Budwig tells a story that I will never forget: "When, after 50,000 tons of the above mentioned fats had been bought by the margarine industry and selling this amount of these fats became difficult, a cattle-feed firm was quickly called into being for the production of so-called ‘high energy feed cakes’ for fattening pigs. These feed cakes contained large amounts of edible barley, heat-treated fish oils, together with bone meal. Later, 50% of the pigs fattened on the feed cakes turned blue and died on the way to the slaughterhouse.

"Furthermore, I also know of farmers whose young cattle have been harmed or have even died through such ‘high-energy feed cakes.’ I know that many butchers who are real experts at their job, are themselves aware of the fact that the meat, in the condition it often reaches them nowadays, is no longer fit for human consumption. If we, then, by the indirect method of such unbiologically fattened livestock, ourselves ingest these harmful substances which act as inhibitors of our fat metabolism, it should come as no surprise that this behavior, based on a greedy addiction to ‘getting rich quick’ boomerangs on us and we, ourselves, destroy our life-nerve (spark-of-life)." [Source: Flax Oil as a True Aid Against Arthritis, Heart Infarction, Cancer and Other Diseases, Johanna Budwig, 1992, Apple Publishing Co., 220 E. 59th Ave., Vancouver, B.C., Canada V5X 1X9, (800) 668-2775.]