fatty acids

  1. Chia seed is rich in the essential fatty acid ALA

    The surprising source of an essential fatty acid

    With fish oil now the nation's best-selling nutritional supplement, it seems like most people have gotten the message about omega-3 fatty acids.

    Too bad the message is incomplete.

    Along with the EPA and DHA found in fish oil, there's another essential fatty acid your body needs -- one it can't make on its own. It's called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, and a new small study finds a surprisingly good source of it:

    Ch-ch-ch-ch-chia!

    You probably remember those old commercials for Chia Pets, the terra cotta animals with fuzzy heads of grassy "hair." Now, researchers say the same seeds used to grow that hair can also raise levels of ALA and EPA, at least in older women.

    In the study of 10 normal-weight postmenopausal women with an average age of 55, 25 grams of chia seeds a day for seven weeks increased blood levels of ALA by 138 percent.

    That's impressive, even if most people don't realize that ALA plays a key role in controlling the body's inflammation levels -- which means it can help protect the heart and brain and even cut your risk of autoimmune disorders.

    In addition, your body can convert ALA into the other omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, although that wasn't quite seen in the new study. While levels of EPA rose by 30 percent, levels of DHA actually fell slightly.

    In other words, chia seed isn't going to replace your fish oil -- but if this holds up to more research, you might want to take it with your fish oil.

    Some people might even want to add it now, but not necessarily for that ALA. Chia seed is an excellent source of fiber, and I've recommended it for years for constipation relief as well as overall regularity.

    But if your digestion is normal and you want a more proven source of ALA, I recommend walnuts, olive oil, flaxseed, pumpkinseeds and leafy green vegetables.

    The only downside is you can't use them to grow "hair" on little terra cotta statuettes.

  2. Power your sperm with seafood

    Gentlemen, if you want to keep your sperm swimming -- and who doesn't? -- head on over to the nearest fish market and load up on tuna and salmon.

    The fattier the fish, the better -- because the same fatty acids that make these fish such healthy choices for everything from your heart to your eyes to your brain are also positively critical to your fertility.

    The omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is one of the essential building blocks of sperm -- and a new study on mice shows how it's also a key part of the acrosome, which is what enables the sperm to penetrate the egg.

    You might say it's the most important part of all. The mice would agree: When they were denied DHA, they produced fewer sperm -- and the ones they did create were misshapen, rendering them infertile.

    But once DHA was put back into their diets, they began to produce again like, well, mice. (Side note: There has to be a pest-control angle in here somewhere).

    This is, of course, just one study on mice. But human studies have also shown how high levels of these essential fatty acids can boost your fertility.

    One study from just a couple of years back found that fertile men tended to have higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, while infertile men had higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids.

    And these days, with diets heavy in grain fed animals from factory farms, most of us get less of the desirable omega-3s and far more of the undesirable omega-6 fatty acids.

    Call it one more reason to switch to fresh all-natural grass-fed meats.

    Naturally, omega-3 fatty acids aren't the only answers for sperm health. A lot goes into male fertility -- and studies over the years have shown that high levels of vitamin D can boost the speed and forward motion of sperm, an essential trait called motility.

    Other studies have also shown that junk food, soda and the BPA used to line canned goods (including soda cans) can slash sperm levels and turn the ones that are left into the microscopic equivalent of couch potatoes: slow, lazy and uninterested in the quest for the egg.

    That would explain the recent rise in male infertility.

  3. Aging signs -- or warning signs?

    Millions of seniors battle the three S's in their later years: the stoop, the shakes, and the shuffle. And most docs will respond with their own S: the shrug as they tell you it's just part of getting older. Bull.
  4. Fats beat sadness

    Looks like the old maxim "fat and happy" isn't too far off -- but it's not fat in your body that'll lift your mood. It's fat in your diet.

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