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The Fat YOU Gotta Have

Posted Jan 11 2009 5:21pm
The Fat That’s Good For You with Michael F. Roizen, MD

An excerpt from YOU: Staying Young.

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing: You get a do over: it doesn’t take that long, and isn’t that hard if you know what to do. In these blogs we hope to give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you to do it and then to teach others.

We want you to know how much control you have over your quality and length of life. But many women make excuses for not making healthy choices. I’m too busy, the kid’s need more attention; yes we know you are busy, but taking time for yourself is showing love for those you love and who love you.

Yes, YOU have more control over the quality and the length of your life than you’ve ever imagined.
Stopping Inflammation
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know we’re always talking (at least we did in the first blog—I guess always fits as it is two for two) about “major agers” and how these affect your body, and the specific, practical things you can do to counteract them. Understanding aging gives you insights into the action steps for extending your own warranty.

When it comes to aging, we’re concerned with acute inflammation from immediate infections like colds or the flu, because they disturb and accentuate chronic inflammation. (Did you know that if you get the flu shot every year from age 55 on you increase your chance of surviving your 60’s by 100% compared to other women of equal risks who skipped those yearly flu shots? Your risk of dying is decreased by 50% as you do not make the chronic inflammation in your body worse. And you decrease your chance of even needing a hospital by 25% for that decade — but that is another blog). So, really we’re concerned most with chronic inflammation since that can trigger a negative response that ages your entire system.

Chronic inflammation occurs from an immune system that’s more overworked and stressed out than you are—leaving your body under equipped to deal with problems and making your system more vulnerable than a car stuck in the fast lane of a freeway. Voila – you’re more susceptible to aging processes including un-repaired nerves.

A Specific Fat to the Rescue!
There’s a fat that can decrease this inflammation and repair your nerves for you! Not the fat you get from drive throughs–that kind on croissants and hamburger and hamburger buns that can kill you. What can make you better is a fat that can prevent deterioration in your retinas by as much as 30% or more; boost the IQ of kids by 10 to 20 points (it’s present in breast milk and that’s why you’re finding this fat is almost all (99.7% in the USA) infant formulas now), prevent post-partum depression in up to 30% of post-partum women and – the real biggie – decrease deaths from heart attacks by more than 30%.

What is this amazing fat?

An Omega 3 fatty acid called DHA (docosahexanoic acid). Research in infants show that those formula fed with it in their formula score 10 to 20 points better at 6 months and 6 years. And studies of students and us grown folk from ages 4 to 80 shows it helps improve vocabulary scores (4 year olds to 6 graders) and decreases Alzheimer’s risk.
While we tend to think of fat is as troubling as a red light in the rear view mirrow, this one is like a red carpet escort. DHA is a fat that seems to be the key component of your cells’ membranes that lets it withstand the stress of inflammation and other bumps the way bumper cars survive to carry another rider. You give it preferentially to your offspring through your uterus or breast milk (DHA is the only omega-3 food additive approved for baby formula). If you don’t have enough of it, you can develop nerve dysfunction (depression in some), or deficient eyesight (dry macular degeneration) or fading memory (why did I go to the living room?).

DHA also seems to lengthen gestational periods if taken in pregnancy, preventing preterm labor in some cases. And in a recent animal study (there are some things you can’t get most humans to do), rats given DHA after traumatic concussions learned mazes better than those who ate regular rat chow. That learning difference persisted even after those rats lived longer than the human equivalent of great-grandfather.

Your brain requires DHA to grow and to create new very functional connections needed for memory and learning. DHA’s ability to keep inflammation from triggering fatal heart rhythms is thought responsible for the 30-plus percent decrease in heart attack deaths in the famous Lyon heart study.

How It Works
Want to know why this specific omega-3 is so darn good? Truth is we really aren’t sure it is DHA, but the trail of evidence is pretty strong. Omega-3 refers to its position on the carbon chain that gives the fat the ability to help your membranes withstand shocks and to latch onto stuff that fosters nerve development and regeneration. Ninety-seven (97) percent of omega-3’s in your brain and the seeing part of your eye called the retina are DHA. The three common omega-3’s are ALA (alpha lenolenic acid in foods like flax seeds and walnuts), EPA, (eicosapentaenoic acid found in cold water fishes) and DHA. Many foods, such as fish, have mixtures of ALA, EPA, and DHA. Some algae, which fish eat, have mainly DHA. That’s where the fisdh get theirs, and we prefer to get ours.

Feed Your Head
So here’s what we recommend: get 600 milligrams of DHA form of Omega-3 in food or supplements each day — that’s the equivalent of 2 grams of distilled fish oil. ( I just even bought you can even bought some Cannola Oil with DHA as an additive—so it is becoming more common. And whatever way you do it, I recommend you get 600 mg of DHA daily—Mehmet and I and the family members we care about do). And by the way, some swear that 600mg of DHA a day decreases the pain and inflammation of minor arthritis—and the scientific evidence says they’re as right on as your spouse was when he proposed to you. (He clearly was right on—you may not have been to accept—but that is another blog).
That’s how good DHA-omega-3 is for you. That’s why we take it, and recommend it to all of our family members as well. So for now, enjoy understanding what DHA is doing as you walk 30 minutes a day, knowing that both choices are keeping your brain, heart, eyes, and joints a whole lot younger than they are today.

About Dr. Roizen
Michael F. Roizen, MD, is a professor of anesthesiology and internal medicine, Chief Wellness Officer, and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.. Mike and Dr. Mehmet Oz have written 3 #1 NYTimes Bestsellers together, the latest: YOU:The Owner’s Manual, Updated and Expanded. You can find the supplement list they recommend on page 367 of that book or a more detailed list on pages 356-358 of YOU Staying Young.
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