Essential Fatty Acid foods and supplements aid weight loss

EFAcapsulesIn case you haven’t heard the big news, after 40 years of advocating cuts in fat intake the mainstream medical profession has done an about face.

The vast majority of medical professionals now acknowledge that fat intake—admittedly the right kind of fat—is critical to losing weight and for maintaining a healthy weight.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone watching the stats:

During the height of low-fat advocacy—the 1990s—U.S. sales of “low fat” foods nearly tripled. In that same time period, the percentage of obese Americans increased by over five percent.

Today studies report that more than half of the nation’s adults—and a similar amount of children—are clinically overweight.

One scientist, researcher and nutritionist who recognized this backfiring trend 20 years ago was author Udo Erasmus.

According to Erasmus, who holds an M.A. in psychology and a Ph.D. in nutrition, our very fear of fat may be largely to blame for our weight gain.

The solution, he says, lies not in avoiding all dietary fats (as many of us have been led to believe) but in getting ample amounts of healthy fats while eliminating the unhealthy ones.

Erasmus, author of Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill (Alive Books, 1999), pioneered the popular study of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs). He did this  after he himself was poisoned by carcinogenic pesticides at work in 1980, and became acutely interested in the science of nutrition.

He dove into several years of intensive research in an effort to save his own life, and emerged with information that turned heads in the scientific community.

“Turning heads” would actually be putting it mildly. Back in the early 2000s most of the mainstream medical community considered Erasmus’s reasoning as “fringe thinking.”

Today, though, the detractors are few.

Over the years research demonstrated EFA links to longevity, energy level, fat loss and athletic performance. There are also strong suggestions that they played a role in the prevention and reversal of everything from cancer and heart disease to arthritis and addiction.

Today Erasmus’s book is in its 11th printing, and has become a veritable encyclopedia on the impacts of dietary fat. It is the “EFA Bible” for many nutritionists.

Succinctly summing-up EFA importance, Erasmus states: “EFAs are intimately involved in the formation and function of every cell and every tissue in the human body.”

They are at least as critical as vitamin C, he insists, and yet most Americans have virtually no understanding of EFAs’ nutritional importance. If they did, he says, “There would be a jar of EFA oil in every fridge, preferably in front of the milk and bread.”


For one thing, EFAs help, rather than hinder, the body’s metabolic function and significantly aid in weight loss. Rather than becoming mere energetic fuel you must burn off, they help to build your fuel-burning metabolic machinery.

After 40 years of public announcements telling us that fat makes us fat, this may seem counter-productive. But the research is revealing the truth that eating these fats can actually help you become leaner. And establishing a proper ratio and intake of EFAs will reap other major benefits for you as well—including increased athletic performance and better mood and brain function.

Another important consideration is that including adequate amounts of fat in your diet helps satisfy both your appetite and your palette.

When you are eating enough fats, you tend to crave fewer starches and sugars, so it is easier to reduce your overall calorie intake without feeling deprived. Your blood sugar and energy levels also remain more consistent.

Remember though, not all fats are created equal. And there is still much disagreement in just how much of your diet should come from fat. Some nutritionists advocate an intake of 10% of your diet from fat, while other popular diets suggest an intake of 30% to 40%.

In our house we shoot for the middle ground of 20%. You can trial and error yourself and see what works best for your metabolism.

Many of today’s trendy, high-fat, low-carb diets fail to differentiate between good and bad fats, and their emphasis on large quantities of dairy and flesh foods could cause people to overdose on unhealthy saturated fats while still leaving them deficient in EFAs.

(Note that some saturated fat is also beneficial, and experts argue over just how much you need, but the purpose of this article is to focus  on the benefits of EFAs.)

We will cover the different types of EFAs in the future; however, if we’ve convinced you that you should increase your intake of EFAs, here’s a quick primer to get you started:

INCREASE EFA sources: Cold-water fish, most nuts, flax seed oil, avocado, most seeds, most leafy greens, and in quality EFA supplements.

AVOID trans-fat sources (inflammation and weight-causing): Most processed foods, fast foods, hydrogenated oils, soybean and other processed vegetable oils. (For home cooking the better options are olive oil for low-temp and coconut oil for high temp.)

Keep watching for more EFA info in the future.