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25 March 2008

Taking a Closer Look at the Inuit Paradox and Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is rare in Inuit people who continue to eat their 'traditional' diet. But how can eating a diet predominantly consisting of seal meat, fat and blubber and almost completely void of greens, fruits and fiber be 'preventative' of the very disease which plagues the entire western world and for which medical orthodoxy blames on diets high in saturated fats and cholesterol? Also, by adopting medicine's low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and drug regimes, CVD continues to increase with no cures in site. Herein lies the paradox... if high fat and high cholesterol diets cause CVD, then what is 'protecting' the traditional Inuit, which has thrived on a diet rich in both?

One of the differences is that the traditional Inuit's diet is very high in Omega-3 fats while our western diet is very high in Omega-6 fats. Science has shown that the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 should be as close to a ratio of 1:1 and certainly no more than 4:1. Inuits are about the only peoples to approach the 1:1 ratio while we typically come in at 20:1 and the real junk foodists are measuring in at upwards of 50:1 ratios. A balanced Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio promotes a homeostasis, non-inflammatory state in the body while a tilt to the high Omega-6 side will promote an inflammatory and therefore disease and degenerative state.

Here is what happens with the imbalance. Man-made vegetable oil diets (margarine and other hydrogenated oils) are high in Omega-6 fatty acids and as such convert into high levels of Arachidonic Acid ('AA'). This molecule is the necessary precursor to Prostaglandin 2, a 'pro-inflammatory', albeit necessary hormone-like molecule found in all cells. The excessive amounts of 'AA' in our Omega-6 rich western diets thus contribute largely to our chronic inflammatory degenerative diseases such as CVD, asthma and arthritis.

Conversely, a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids contains the now well-known essential fatty acid molecule 'EPA'. EPA is responsible for the production of Prostaglandin '3', an anti-inflammatory molecule and therefore a soothing response to our runaway 'silent' and not so silent inflammatory and disease states. Therein is one of the secrets to preventing the majority of cardiovascular diseases.

Inuits consume large amounts of seal meat and blubber and thus receive significant amounts of three (3) essential fatty acids EPA, DHA, DPA. The latter, is not readily found in fish oils. DPA is an important factor in preventing plaque and keeping the arteries soft and elastic. EPA is a huge factor in fighting inflammation while DHA is the essential molecule for brain, nerve and eye tissues and is a powerful factor for normalizing blood and tissue triglycerides. You can see why seal oil has become my first choice for the 3 pre-formed Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA's) and is an integral part of my heart prevention trio of necessary therapeutic nutrients.

Vitamin C is anther important factor. But where do Inuits get their Vitamin C? This puzzled me for many years until I discovered that seal and whale skin and blubber ('Muktuk' or 'Muktaaq', an Inuit favorite), and to a lesser extent seal meat, are rich in this essential collagen forming antioxidant vitamin. Thus the Inuit on a traditional diet gets more Vitamin C than the average westerners typically do. We know that Vitamin C is essential in Collagen synthesis, a necessary factor in artery strength and integrity, and a prime factor in reversing and preventing heart disease.

Seal meat and especially blubber, are also very high in Vitamins E, A, D and selenium. Recently, researchers have concluded that these inherent antioxidants are very big reasons why Inuits are free of CVD while other mostly fish eating populations are still prone to this disease. Fish oils alone will not do the same as will seal oil.

Important in the conversion of Omega-6 oils into Omega-3 EFA's are optimum levels of magnesium, selenium, zinc, B3 (niacin) and B6. The conversion just won't happen without these essential nutrients. Liquid ionic magnesium forms part of my heart prevention 'trio' of nutrients mentioned above.

To gain the upper hand on Cardiovascular Disease and other inflammatory degenerative diseases, we can all learn from the tried and true Omega 3 fat-rich Inuit diet. We should immediately strive to achieve a better balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats in our deficient Western diets. While eating seal meat and blubber does not appeal to the vast majority of us, supplementing with 3-4 grams of seal oil daily could go a long way in reversing the trend towards heart disease and strokes. Eating more fish is another good way.

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