About NEFAs – Non-Esterified Fatty Acids, and Heart Health

What are NEFAs?

NEFAs are non-esterified fatty acids, also called, free fatty acids, also known as an Omega 6 fatty acids.

Why is this important?

In a study conducted in Paris, the results of which are captured by the American Heart Association in this link, http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/104/7/756 it was found that “Circulating NEFA concentration is an independent risk factor for sudden death in middle-aged men. Some form of primary prevention could be envisaged in subjects at high risk of sudden death.” In other words, they found in the study, that there was an increase in NEFA concentration in the blood, free of their having any known cardiovascular disease.

So, where is the increase in NEFAs coming from?

We are seeing an increase of NEFAs in our diets, due to the increase in the consumption of processed foods, which utilize processed vegetable oils, high in Omega 6 fatty acids: corn, soybean, to name a few, and in the increase in consumption of livestock, chicken, and fish, fed corn; corn being high in Omega 6 fatty acids.

Why are Omega 6 fatty acids a concern?

Omega 6 fatty acids are not the main concern; it is the increase in the intake of Omega 6 fatty acids to Omega 3 fatty acids that is causing concern.

Historically, we consumed a diet with a balance of Omega 6s to Omega 3s at 1:1, or 2:1, yet over the last 50 years, that ratio has changed to 20:1 or 30:1 and in some cases as high as 50:1, due to the changes in our diet, as indicated above; i.e. increased consumption of processed foods, which have more processed vegetable oils (high in Omega 6s), and an increased consumption of livestock, chicken, and fish which are fed corn/grain, high in Omega 6s. This increase in the consumption of Omega 6s to Omega 3s in our diet, has thrown off the ratio of 1:1 or 2:1.

And, the change in this ratio means, what?

The change in this ratio affects the metabolic functioning of the heart. According to Dr. Jon Barron, http://www.jonbarron.org/heart-health/problems-natural-alternative-prevent-attacks “One study in rats showed that high levels of NEFAs altered the ATP potassium channels, which means the rats did not have the proper flow of potassium in and out of their heart cells. This is important since the heart is a pump controlled by the exchange of ions through the aforementioned channels, thereby generating electrical signals. Voltage dependence is regulated by the concentration of extra-cellular potassium; as external potassium is raised, the voltage range of the channel opening shifts to more positive voltages. Simply put, heart cells regulate the positive potassium charge with other ions and the result is a heartbeat. Upset the balance and you upset the heartbeat — and NEFAs upset the balance. Also interesting to note, scientists found a correlation between NEFAs, high intra-cellular sodium and calcium levels, which also affect heart rhythms.”

So, what can I do?

Numerous studies in JAMA and the New England Journal of Medicine have shown that a dietary supplement of Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the NEFA concentration in plasma and in cell membranes and suppress fast heart rhythms associated with heart attacks, and the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

What are the best sources of Omega 3 fatty acids?

Studies have shown that cold water, oily fish, such as: salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines are the best source of Omega 3s, known as EPA and DHA, and can reduce the blood levels of Omega 6s. These Omega 3s provide ratios of seven times the amount of Omega 3s to Omega 6s. Udo Erasmus, author of, Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill, suggests eating fish to obtain the Omega 3s and 6s in the proper ratio, however, it is not always easy to find good sources of these fish (without PCBs, heavy metals, or dioxin), or that are economically viable; therefore, many people take supplements of cod liver oil, not in capsule, but in liquid form. The best sources of cod liver oil come from the Arctic and Norway. Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil is a superior brand, and there are others that are equally as good. Ask at your local health food store. If you would like to know more about finding the best source of fish, that would be considered, sustainable, please visit this website: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

Nuts and seeds are also a good source of ALA (alpha-linolenic) Omega 3s, but depending on the nut or seed, they may not have the best ratio of 3s to 6s we need; therefore, it is best to include several of these Omega 3 sources in your diet, along with those from cold water, oily fish. Flax seed oil has a 4:1 ratio of 3s to 6s and hemp seed oil a 3:1 ratio. Both of these oils should be unrefined, and cold – expeller pressed.

To read more about fats, please go to Udo Erasmus’ site: http://www.udoerasmus.com/FAQ/FAQ_index_en.htm

Other things to consider:

Commercial processing factors also contribute to the imbalance of omega-3 fatty acids in our diets. For instance, the commercial oils (even our Omega-3s) have been heated to high temperatures in the process of refining them and in the process of cooking, thereby reducing their original beneficial compounds. For instance, in all commercial oils, part of the oil refining process is called deodorization, where the oil passes through a series of heaters and the temperature is raised to the level desirable for efficient steam distillation and deodorization, reaching upwards of 200° C, or 450° F. At these temperatures, the fundamental structure of the oil is changed into a different form of fatty acid through a process called isomerization, a form not beneficial to the human body.

As a side note, the high heat also causes a small amount of trans fatty acids to be formed. After the oil has been exposed to steam and filtered, the resulting oil is mostly colorless, odorless, and tasteless — and can last for years in a bottle with no danger of spoilage. On the other hand, it has virtually no connection with the beneficial oil that was originally contained in the seed or coconut, and the omega-3 fatty acids have been destroyed. It is now a “plastic fat” that offers no benefits to the human body. Instead, it is potentially harmful.

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5 thoughts on “About NEFAs – Non-Esterified Fatty Acids, and Heart Health

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