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    Archive for the ‘conjugated linoleic acid’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Omega 7

    product502Do you have any insight on Omega 7?  Someone told me it was good.

    — Marie-Rose Nduku
    New York, NY

    Before we get to the actual answer, I think it is worth reminding everyone that only two omega fatty acids — omega 3 and omega 6 — are essential.  In the world of nutrition, an “essential nutrient” is one we must obtain from food since our bodies are unable to manufacture it.  This is why cholesterol is not an essential nutrient.  Our bodies produce it on a daily basis, so one can be perfectly healthy without ever consuming a single milligram of cholesterol.

    Omega-7 is not an essential fatty acid, no matter how crucial manufacturers of omega-7 supplements make it seem.  Let’s learn more about it, though.

    There are two types of omega-7 fatty acids: palmitoleic acid and vaccenic acid.

    Palmitoleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid manufactured by our bodies from other fatty acids in the diet, but is also found in decent amounts in fish and macadamia nut oil.  Though research on it is very limited, we do know that it raises the body’s levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.  This is quite an anomaly, since most monounsaturated fatty acids raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

    And so we come to the problem of isolating nutrients, rather than considering them within their respective food matrix.  Unfortunately, the mainstream media loves to isolate nutrients and attempt to incite unnecessary hysteria.  The fact that palmitoleic acid raises LDL levels does not mean fish and macadamia nut oil are now “unhealthy”.

    Foods are a combination of fatty acids.  In the example of fish, palmitoleic acid makes up a small amount of the total fatty acid percentage.  Even in the case of macadamia nut oil, palmitoleic acid only makes up about twenty percent of its fatty acid profile (almost two-thirds of it are comprised of heart-healthy oleic acid).

    Vaccenic acid — the other omega-7 — is a healthful naturally-occurring trans fat found in full-fat dairy products (and, to a smaller extent, in reduced-fat products).  I know, I know; all this time you have heard trans fats be vilified.  However, the trans fats nutritionists declared Public Enemy #1 were man-made, artificial trans fats.  Natural trans fats (like vaccenic acid and conjugated linoleic acid) are a whole other story.

    Vaccenic acid is an isomer of heart-healthy oleic acid (“isomer” is science-speak for “not identical, but very very similar to”).  Research on vaccenic acid has also been rather scant, but it appears that it is converted into conjugated linoleic acid by the body, thereby providing some cardiovascular-protective benefits.

    So, what are our takeaways?

    • The only fatty acids we must get from food are omega 3 and omega 6 (though, as regular Small Bites readers know, omega-6 consumption in the US is too high).
    • When examining a food’s fat content, it is important to consider the entire fatty acid profile.
    • There is no reason to shy away from full-fat or reduced-fat products.  The fat-free phenomenon of the 1990s caused more harm than good.  It led to an increase in added sugar intake (sugar replaced fat in processed low-fat and fat-free convenience foods) and reduced our intake of healthful compounds found in foods that naturally contain them.  For this reason, I find that two-percent dairy products are a better choice than fat-free ones.  Even in the case of your morning latte, I see absolutely nothing wrong with getting it with whole milk.
    • What if you don’t consume dairy products?  No biggie.  Vaccenic acid is simply one of many fatty acids that provide heart-healthy benefits.  As long as most of your fats come from the right foods (avocados, olives, walnuts, coconut, flax, fish, sea vegetables, etc.) you have no reason to be concerned.
    • As for the “age defying skin complex” statement on the accompanying supplement image’s bottle: omega-7 has been found to be effective as a topical solution for certain skin conditions.  The specific omega-7 associated with skin conditions is palmitoleic acid — the one our bodies manufacture from other fatty acids!  There is no need to spend money on a supplement.
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    You Ask, I Answer: Ostrich/Bison Meats

    An “upscale” burger place I like to go to offers ostrich and bison meat.

    I like the taste of both and have heard they are better for you than beef.

    Is that true?

    — Robert (last name withheld)
    New York, NY

    Ostrich (popular in Asia and Southern Africa) and bison/buffalo meats are considered a rarity in the United States.

    In case you’re having a Jessica Simpson moment, remember that buffalo wings are made from chicken (they originated in the city of Buffalo, hence the name.)

    Compared to traditional (cow’s) red meat, both of these options are healthier alternatives.

    Whereas three ounces of beef clock in at 240 calories and 15 grams of fat, that same amount of ostrich adds up to 97 calories and 1.3 grams of fat, while three ounces of bison contain 140 calories and 2.5 grams of fat.

    Since bison subsist only on grass — the overwhelming majority of cows in the United States are on a literally lethal corn-based diet — their meat offers low amounts of saturated fat and higher levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid.

    Although ostriches do not eat grass, their meat is very lean since fat builds up outside their muscle tissue, making it very easy to remove prior to cooking.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Milk from Corn-Fed Cows

    What is the impact of Omega-6 fatty acid [from a cow’s diet] on [the milk it produces]?

    — Pauline Guzek
    Via the blog

    In a recent post , I explained that corn-fed cows’ meat contains higher levels of unhealthy fats than that of their counterparts who munch on grass all their lives.

    A similar concept occurs with milk, except this time around, as you’ll soon find out, corn-fed cows’ milk is LACKING an important nutrient.

    This is one of the main reasons why many people are starting to specifically look for commercial milk that comes from grassfed cows.

    Caution! Simply buying “organic” milk does not guarantee the cows that produce it have been subsisting on the green stuff all their life.

    Under the current organic guidelines by the United States Department of Agriculture, milk can be labeled ‘organic’ if the cows that produce it have “access to pasture.”

    Technically, the cows do not have to eat said pasture. So, a huge farm could potentially fatten up all its cows on corn and grains but let them spend an hour a day outside and legally label their milk as “organic.”

    Be sure to look for the words “grass-fed” on the container.

    The main draw of milk from grass-fed cows is a higher amount of a polyunsaturated fat known as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA.)

    The current research on CLA is promising. Several studies have shown promising links between its consumption and cancer cell growth inhibition as well as lowering of triglyceride levels and even a boost in the immune system.

    Milk from corn-fed cows is not only lacking CLA, it is also the byproduct of a body that has taken in copious amounts of antibiotics and hormones.

    If it fits within your budget, I would recommend purchasing milk from grass-fed cows.

    In many countries, this is the only milk they know, as the notion of having cows eat corn and antibiotics all day seems not only bizarre, but also unhealthy. I completely agree.

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