Poly unsaturated fats bad for your health?

by Drew Price on July 24, 2009
in Uncategorized

Shocker! Research out recently demonstrates that higher intakes of omega 6 fats are linked to bowel disease. Could everything you understand about ‘good fats’ and ‘bad fats’ be wrong?


Yet again new information highlights the fact that though food producing companies use the potential benefits of  certain nutrients as a selling point,  the truth is usually far more complex…..

Poly unsaturated fats (think omega 6, omega 3, fish and flax oils etc) have been pushed and pushed on the strength of their health benefits. Encouraging effects on heart, brain and joint health and been demonstrated but there’s also information that you don’t hear a huge amount about. Much of it surrounds omega 6 in particular.

THIS article on the BBC highlights the findings of a group of multinational group of researchers looking at the effects of different levels of dietary fats. They found that high intakes of certain poly unsaturated fats could have a severe impact upon  gut health. In a sentence:

‘Those with high intakes of omega 6 polyunsaturated fats were almost twice as likely to develop ulcerative colitis’

In fact some of the conclusions were startling;

An estimated 30% of cases could be attributed to having dietary intakes higher than the lowest quartile of linoleic acid intake.

Startling but not completely unexpected. Why? Below we’ll look at the why’s and hows: Read more..

Essential fatty acid supplements – your choices explained

by Drew Price on July 29, 2008
in Uncategorized

Essential fatty acid (‘EFA’) supplements are becoming more popular with interest about more weird and wonderful supplements like krill oil growing. EFA supplements are sometimes necessary for basic health due to the way that our food is produced, and the types of diets we choose, however this is generally a lifestyle choice. Today we generally get far too much omega 6 and far too little omega 3 (also called O3) in our diets. This is bad for a number of reasons Read more..

Supplement or snake oil: Spirulina, blue green algae, Chlorella

by Drew Price on June 4, 2008
in Uncategorized

Step into a supplement shop and you are bound to see Spirulina, blue green algae, Chlorella and the like on the shelves. These are all microscopic plants that have been collected and dried and are sold in three main forms, powders and tablets and capsules. They are also very expensive so what do they really do, could there be any harm in taking them and are you being ripped off?

Possible Benefits.

Aquatic plants have been eaten form many thousands of years, most notably seaweed and can be a very positive addition to an individuals diet being relatively high in many vitamins and minerals, but these types of supplement have some quite extraordinary claims made about them.

Its a little bit unfair but lets look at these oft-quoted (by the manufacturers, that is) benefits one by one;

They have nutritional profiles uniquely beneficial for the human body.
How so, and in what context? Does this does mean that they are more beneficial than any other food source?

It is a completely natural whole food
So like fruit, veggies, Meat, Fish, grains, nuts and seeds then?

It is easily absorbed by the body.
As is table sugar

It is low in calories, sodium and cholesterol.
Well, the a usual recommended dosage is 4-10 grams a day!

They contain more calcium than milk, more protein than meat, more iron than spinach and more beta-carotene than carrots
These food stuff mentioned are MUCH cheaper even the highest grade, organic sources!

Other touted benefits include cancer treatment and prevention, detoxification, immune support, memory improvements, beneficial effect upon attention deficit type disorders and on, and on. In truth there is no peer reviewed scientific research that shows that these types of supplement are of more benefit than whole food, whole food being much cheaper…

“Its my money though and Ill spend it on this if I want”

Be my guest

Take a cursory glance a supplement stores and you’ll see prices like £13 for 30g of powder (tablets and capsules usually cost significantly more gram for gram). The supplement industry has come a long way in the last 20 years and is now a huge industry ($18.8 billion in 2002 in the USA alone – and rising) and also a highly competitive one (no company has more than a 10 percent of the market), what this means in practice is that hyperbole, unsubstantiated claims and hard sell are the order of the day. Companies producing these particular products have been forced to retract statements about their health benefits.

“So you’re saying apart from cost though, there’s no problems?”

Understand, if the makers claim fantastic health benefits and the consumer is foolish enough to subscribe to this to the detriment of a healthy diet or delaying seeking medical attention for a health complaint then yes, that it a problem, however there is a much more direct and serious issue….

Of great concern are toxic effects from blue green algae. These types of products are essentially repackaged pond scum. Nothing wrong with that, but what is a problem is that if these ponds are loaded with toxins like heavy metals and microcystins. The algae readily absorb these types of toxin which are concentrated by the drying process. This is such a problem that the US Food and Drug Administration has seen fit to issue a warning to consumers.

The Bottom Line

These types of supplements are a rarely (if ever) recommended by those other than the makers of the product and those from associated companies. In essence they are just another type of food stuff usually preferred by fish and wading birds dried and sold on for huge sums. If you decide to buy these types of supplement find a high quality, uncontaminated product, and be prepared to spend a lot of money to take it home. However be prepared to spend a lot more on high quality, whole food otherwise you have totally missed the point.

University of California at BerkleyBallantine
The trial of the blue-green algae eaters. FDA Consumer 20(6):33-34, 1986.
Supplement Business report 2003. San Diego, CA: Nutrition Business Journal; 2003

Gilroy GJ et al. Assessing potential health risks from microcystin toxins in blue-green algae dietary supplements. Environmental Health Perspectives 108:435-439, 2000.