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Dr. Udo Erasmus on Healthy Living
Widely known as the father of omega-3 and healthy fats, Udo Erasmus, M.A., Ph.D., introduced to the world the importance of essential fats derived from organic flaxseed. He also pioneered ways to produce unrefined oils with health in mind, and his methods are still used today by manufacturers of flaxseed and other oils. His groundbreaking book, Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill: The Complete Guide to Fats, Oils, Cholesterol and Human Health, has become the nutrition industry’s bible on the topic of fats in the human diet. In this interview, Erasmus sheds light on the conflicting information about fats.
How do you define health?
Everything we call healthcare is actually disease management now. If you look at the physical part, you can say health is the natural condition and disease is an unnatural decision. The reason health is not that complicated is because a program for health is built into every one of our sixty trillion cells. The program knows exactly how to build, maintain and repair cells, tissues, organs and glands. It knows how to make toenails out of lettuce and eyeballs out of potatoes and everything else in between. It’s a very competent program.
But it has three requirements that we have to take responsibility for: One is we must not poison the program with pesticides, plastics, industrial chemicals, pharmaceutical drugs and wrecked food molecules, as well as heavy metals, smoke, alcohol and radiation. The second requirement is that we optimize the building blocks that come from food, water, air and light. Those include greens, good fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients. The third is make sure digestion works. Digestion is what frees the building blocks for absorption. If digestion isn’t working, we create toxicity in our own system. Water should be distilled. Home air filters are pretty good. Get light! You have to get out of the city and run around in the sunshine.
Given the conflicting information about the right fats to eat, what do people need to know about fat?
There are really two opposite stories on fats that need to be understood if people want to make the choice for better health: They have to dump some of the fats they’re eating and pick up others that are good.
The biggest issue is that the omega-3 fatty acids in our diet are too low; they have decreased dramatically in the human diet since the 1800s. Omega-3 deficiency is the single-most widespread essential nutrient deficiency of our time. This impacts 95 to 99% of the population, followed by B6 and magnesium deficiencies in 80% of the population. If you don’t get enough of these nutrients, there are negative consequences called “deficiency symptom,” which get worse with time. If you bring these fats back into the diet in adequate amounts, then all these consequences can be reversed.
The research on omega-3s now says if you get more, you improve virtually every degenerative condition. So, we’re talking about cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, heartbeat abnormalities, clogged arteries, cancer, autoimmune diseases, low stamina and low energy. There are other benefits, including increased bone strength and shedding excess fat by turning on fat-burning genes and turning off fat-production genes.
Are omega-3 fatty acids important for pregnant women?
Women become depleted during childbearing: They use 3% of their brain weight when they have a child, and every child depletes the mother thereafter—with each child receiving less than the previous child. The women we studied who took our oil blend during pregnancy have consistently easier pregnancies, easier deliveries, less depression and more energy after they give birth. The kids are born more alert and show exploratory behavior earlier.
How do omega-3s impact brain function?
The brain is 60% fat, and the majority of the brain’s fat is made up of 20% fatty acids and 30% omega-3s. Omega-3s elevate mood and lift depression in brain function. It blunts the stress response, so people are calmer and deal with stress better. It speeds learning and increases IQ. Omega-3 improves the ability to focus, and so it’s very good for attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity. It also decreases symptoms in bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism and Alzheimer’s.
Does the body make omega-3s?
No. You have to either get it from seed sources of omega-3—which we do—and let the body make the derivatives. There are factors that enhance conversion and factors that inhibit conversion. If you eat the way I recommend on my food pyramid, greens are at the base, good fats and proteins are on the second level and you limit the fuel to the amount you burn.
What about carbohydrates?
When you eat carbohydrates, you either burn them through exercise or you wear them, because they turn on the genes for fat production and turn off the genes for fat burning. It’s better to lower the carbs and increase the good fats. Most obese people can’t get the fat burning as long as they keep eating too many carbohydrates. That’s the whole weight-loss issue.
What’s the connection between fats and cancer?
What the question misses is that oils are major nutrients like carbs, greens, water and protein. If you were to take just three tablespoons of fish oil, you would die from lack of fat in your diet. And if you’re going to take the fish oils, assuming that they’re not damaged—an assumption that cannot be made—you’re going to lose some of the benefits when you use cooking oils because of the toxicity of those oils. If you really want to go for health, you have to understand that processing is one of the most serious health-damaging issues of our time. If you want to be healthier, you have to get closer to how it was in nature. The less processing, the better.
What foods have omega-3s?
Flax is the only really rich source of seed omega-3 at nearly 60%. That’s twice as much as fish have in their fat, which is about 30%. Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almonds and walnuts are pretty good sources, but they should be organic. Another source is green vegetables; they’re very low in fats, although the fats are good. I figured out that to get my four tablespoons of good fat that’s my optimum in winter, I’d have to eat 123 pounds of green vegetables. Then there’s the high fat, cold-water fish. The farmed fish have PCBs and dioxins in them. The cleanest are Alaskan salmon.
What is the right amount of omega-3s?
A meaningful amount is a teaspoon per day. That will get you some cardiovascular protection. But optimum is quite a bit higher than that. I recommend people take one tablespoon of oil per 50 pounds of weight. If you don’t like the taste, take it with applesauce.
What else should people know about fats?
Like carbs, greens, water and protein, oils provide essential nutrients. They’re required for liver and kidney function and for digestion because they decrease inflammation. They’re required for skin, hair and nails. They’re also required for reproduction. In fact, they’re very good for dealing with breast pain and PMS symptoms. If you don’t get enough omega-3s, males get sterile and females miscarry. They’re required for vision and learning. Basically, every cell in the body requires them.
For more information about Udo Erasmus, visit www.udoerasmus.com.