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Eating Healthy In Texas Means Paying Attention To Fat

Aug 17, 2007
Fat is bad, right?

Actually, it all depends on the type of fat that's being consumed.

In reality, there are good fats (omega 3 fatty acids) and not so good ones (omega 6s), but scientists now have a better understanding of where the good and the bad are found, which means residents of Houston, Dallas and Austin, and throughout Texas have the information they need to make better eating decisions, increasing their likelihood of living longer and healthier.

The good fats, found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseed, are known to boost brain power, stave off depression, and decrease inflammation. While the typical American diet lacks the Omega-3s, that same diet is typically full of the bad stuff -- omega-6s, found in vegetable oils and processed foods.

Nutritionists agree that a diet full of Omega-6 fats may be to blame for the dramatic rise in inflammatory diseases such as asthma, heart disease, and cancer. While most omega-6s -- including trans fats that come from the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oil -- are unhealthy, a lesser-known member of the omega-6 family called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may promote weight loss, build lean muscle, boost immunity, and even halt the growth of cancer.

Levels of CLA, a fatty acid found only in the meat and milk of ruminants such as cattle, are higher in animals fed on lush pastures, but that's not what most cows eat. Rather, they are fed mostly grains. A 1999 study, published in the Journal of Dairy Science, found that milk from grass-fed cows contained up to 500 percent more CLA than milk from cows fed a diet of 50 percent grain.

CLA is found only in the fat of milk, and not in skim milk or non-fat yogurt. People can, however, take CLA as a supplement. It is thought that CLA can also help with weight loss and increase lean body mass, although not all studies agree on this. One study that showed promise was published in the International Journal of Obesity. When 40 overweight men and women took a daily 3.2-gram CLA supplement or a placebo, those who took CLA lost an average of 1.3 pounds, while those in the placebo group gained 2.4 pounds. While the difference is small, it could be enough to halt middle-age weight gain.

The study's lead author, Dale Schoeller, Ph.D., says CLA appears to improve fat metabolism. According to Schoeller, fat loss was statistically significant in seven out of the 18 human studies he reviewed; 11 others showed a more modest trend toward fat loss. "Most of the studies that didn't show 'statistically significant' weight loss were done for too short a time at too low a dose," says Schoeller, who says people taking a daily supplement of CLA would lose an average of five pounds over two years.

Researchers are also investigating CIA's potential to boost immunity and reduce symptoms of inflammatory disorders such as allergies and asthma. CLA may also have anti-carcinogenic properties, with studies showing the effect of CLA halting cancer growth -- especially in breast, skin, and colon cancers.

The question of whether to drink more milk or take a supplement to get the most out of CLA may depend on the health benefits being sought. The greatest health benefits seem to be concentrated in just two of more than two dozen isomers in CLA. Those two, known as t10c12 and c9t11, may both be needed to lose weight and enhance overall immune function, and milk is rich in only one of them: c9t11. For that reason, supplements may make the most sense for people wanting to lose weight.

For people looking primarily for anti-cancer benefits, milk may be a smarter choice, since 92% of the CLA in milk from grass-fed cows is the cancer-inhibiting c9tll isomer. Further, some studies have shown that the two isomers in CLA supplements may cancel each other out in terms of anti-cancer protection.

Making healthy choices when it comes to eating remains one of the best ways to maintain good health, at any age.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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