Despite what you might think from the title of this article “Man Fuel” is NOT the name of a new supplement from TwinLab. Instead, it’s the name of a new Question and Answer column from Testosterone contributor Mike Roussell. In it, Mike will answer questions about that which we think about the most….mmm, okay, that which we think about second most: food.
Q: I eat lots of salmon, take Flameout, and use lots of olive oil. Is there a chance I could actually develop an omega-6 deficiency? If so, what are the symptoms?
A: It is possible that you could develop an omega-6 fatty acid (FA) deficiency, but unlikely. It’s thought that the average American’s diet has an Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio ranging from 10:1 to 20:1; the ideal ratio would be somewhere between 1:1 and 3:1.
This skewed ratio is a result of how our food system is set up, Omega-6 FA are everywhere. As you can see from the chart above two of the most commonly used fats in America, Corn Oil and Soybean Oil, are loaded with Omega-6 FA. Even canola oil, which some people tout as being great because of it’s high content of omega-3s, has a 2:1 omega-6:omega-3 ratio.
Let’s look at an extreme example. Let’s say you eat ~70 grams of fat each day and you get this from one 8oz serving of salmon, one serving of Flameout, and the rest from olive oil. You would be getting 5.5g of Omega-3s and 6.4g of Omega-6s. This gives you a 1.16:1 ratio of omega-6: omega-3 being at the high end of ideal.
So as you can see, even with this extreme dietary example it’s difficult to skew the ratio unfavorably towards omega-3 FA, subsequently leading to an omega-6 deficiency.
Do omega-6 FA deficiencies occur? Rarely. Since omega-3 and omega-6 compete for certain enzymes in the body, thus tilting the omega-6: omega-3 ratio far in favor of omega-3s could cause symptoms of an omega-6 deficiency.
Udo Eramus, author of “Fats that Heal, Fats the Kill” and flaxseed fanatic, has apparently Omega-3’d his way to an omega-6 FA deficiency but it’s very hard to do. If you ever choose to be like Udo, what would the symptoms be? Skin lesions, growth retardation, reproductive failure, and a fatty liver – nasty stuff.
So most likely you don’t have to worry about Omega-6 deficiencies. Just remember variety and moderation are essential to good health and optimal performance.
Q: America gives hormones to its farm animals. Could this have some injurious long-term effect on me if I eat enough meat?
A: In the late eighties, the European Union (EU) banned the hormonal treatment of livestock animals. This ban was fully backed by the World Health Organization. Since then the U.S. has fought the WHO and the EU while standing strong and continuing to pump their livestock with various androgens and estrogens.
The most common hormones being used are estradiol, melengestrol acetate, progesterone, Testosterone, trenbolone acetate, and zeranol. The FDA is adamant that the levels of hormones used in U.S. livestock pose no direct health risk to the consumer; interestingly enough many EU scientists seem to agree on this.
The main shared concern is actually with the indirect effects of these hormones on humans. Rivers and streams near to areas where livestock graze have been have shown to have higher levels of both androgens and estrogens. Some scientists are worried that by giving live stock synthetic hormones, the rivers and streams will be contaminated.
Surprisingly, no studies have been done to determine the effects of this on humans and only a few have been done that look at the effects on fish in those waters.
An interesting fact to keep in mind is that in Europe most of the beef comes from bulls (cows with testicles) and most of the beef in the U.S. comes from steers (cows whose testicles have been chopped off). Research has shown that steers receiving synthetic hormones still have Testosterone levels that are 10 times lower than bulls not receiving hormone therapy.
One should also note that according to the FDA, the levels of hormones in beef are so low that a young man would need to eat 16 pounds of beef each day to see a 1% increase in his estradiol levels.
The FDA has also set toxicological limits to the hormonal levels in beef at less than 25ppb. With normal consumption of meat (or even excessive per the example above), this is well below the level at which the hormones could have any impact on the endocrine activity of even the most hormonally sensitive person (pre-pubescent children or pregnant women).
So will eating meat from animals that have received hormones cause you problems? So far the evidence says no. The main concern seems to be the environmental concerns relating to the excretion of hormones and not the consumption of meat.
Q: Should I eat organic food instead of the conventional stuff?
A: To quote Dr. Berardi “… raw, organic fruits and vegetables are best since they have a higher micronutrient count, but any fruits and veggies are better than none! Get sufficient fruits and vegetables in your diet before worrying about whether they’re organic or not.” Next question!
Okay, there’s more to the answer than just that. Our good friends at Consumer Reports recently did a piece on organic foods. Let me give you the rundown.
The “Dirty Dozen” – You should purchase organic versions of these fruits and vegetables as often as possible because thousands of government tests results have shown that the conventional versions of these foods consistently have the highest levels of pesticides.
• Bell Peppers
• Imported Grapes
• Red Raspberries
What should you NEVER buy organic? Seafood. The USDA does not have a standard or certification for organic seafood. Because of this, companies can put “organic” all over the labels regardless of whether or not the seafood is wild, farmed, or pumped with antibiotics. You’ll just end up paying more for no guaranteed benefit.
There’s one more thing that you should know about as a savvy consumer… labeling. You may not be aware of this, but there are varying levels of organisity. (Look out Stephen Colbert, I just made that word up.)
100% Organic = Okay this one is obvious, there are no synthetic ingredients.
Organic = 95% of the ingredients are organic; the other 5% are as synthetic as Joan Rivers.
Made with Organic Ingredients = 70% of the ingredients are organic.
Free-Range = This label doesn’t mean much except an extra 3 bucks a pound or an extra $2 a dozen. For a farmer to label his/her product as free-range, they need to provide outdoor access for “an undetermined period each day.” That leaves a lot of room for interpretation. So you should think twice before buying something just because it’s free range.
Consuming lean protein and ample fruits and vegetables is of the utmost importance. After that, act on what your budget allows, buying as much of the organic versions of the Dirty Dozen as possible. If you can’t afford organic and are truly concerned about the pesticides, chemicals, and other nasties on your fruits and vegetables, then I recommend trying Fit Fruit & Vegetable Wash (www.tryfit.com).
Q: Does frying food in certain oils damage the oil (i.e. turn the oil into trans fatty acids or, somehow make the oil unhealthy to eat)?
A: The level in which it’s “safe” to expose oil to heat greatly depends on the oil’s structure (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated). First let’s look at what can happen to oils when they’re heated and then we’ll discuss the types of oils that we should be using.
The initial concern of many people (including the person who sent in the question) is that heating an oil will result in the formation of trans fatty acids.
This is a viable concern because these unnatural fats have no place in a person’s diet.
Here’s an interesting story about nutritional advice and trans fats (humor me and keep reading).
A couple months ago I caught a dietitian being interviewed on a local TV show about proper nutrition for the average person. In the interview she stated that a person should NEVER consume alcohol and they should minimize their trans fat consumption. Call me crazy but shouldn’t it be the other way around?? I can think of 3 reasons off the top of my head why alcohol in moderation is beneficial and ZERO reasons for ingesting trans fats. The moral of the story: Just because they have a degree and are on TV doesn’t mean their word should be taken as gospel.
Okay, sorry to digress.
Heating oils will lead to the formation of trans fatty acids, but this isn’t main problem.
What is really a concern is the oxidation of the fats and the formation of free radicals. Having excess free radicals bouncing around your system is a bad idea. Free radicals have been accused of being a huge player in cancer, heart disease, and aging (to name a few).
How can you prevent trans fatty acid formation and oxidation? Here are a couple steps and tips that you can use to keep your healthy fats healthy while cooking:
1) Reduce the heat. Most of us are always on the go. This can often result in quick food preparation. One of the easiest ways to cook something faster is to cook it at a higher heat. I know, I’m guilty of this all the time. It seems like the burner on my stove top has two settings – off and very high. Taking the extra time to cook your foods over medium heat will help curb heat induced oxidation of your foods and fats.
2) Add a little water to the pan. This great tip comes from Udo Erasmus. Keeping a little water in your pan will allow you to keep the temperature below 212°F (otherwise the water will boil off). Controlling the heat this way can help reduce damage to the oils.
3) Select your cooking oils carefully. The more double bonds (or unsaturated) an oil has, the easier it’s oxidized. This is why cooking with flax or fish oil is a HUGE mistake. Cooking with olive oils is a fine choice; just don’t blast them with heat. I recommend that you have two types of olive oil in your cabinet: extra virgin and virgin. The extra virgin is the more pure, less refined of the two and should be used on cold foods (salads, protein shakes, etc.) or after the foods have been cooked (on top of steamed vegetables). Virgin olive oil has been processed a little more and is thus usually cheaper. This is the better choice to use for cooking because you won’t be paying extra for the antioxidants and phytochemicals that will just end up being damaged and/or destroyed during the heating process (as would be the case with extra virgin olive oil).
For high-heat cooking purposes, saturated fats (coconut oil or butter) or heat-stable oils such as peanut or avocado oil are good choices.
4) Add the vegetables first. If you’re putting together a stir fry, add the vegetables first. This will allow for the vegetables to take the initial brunt of the heat and help prevent the oxidation of the oil that would occur by first adding the oil directly to a hot pan.
Q: I eat a lot of fiber, but now I hear that I need two kinds – soluble and insoluble. What the hell does that mean? Where can I get these types of fiber?
A: It’s good to hear that you’re eating lots of fiber. Traditionally, fiber has been separated into the two categories: soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is the one that aids in decreasing serum cholesterol levels (I’m sure everyone’s familiar with this due to all the Quaker Oats commercials). Soluble fiber is commonly found in oats, legumes, barley, apples, strawberries, and citrus.
Insoluble fiber is pitted as the one with no effects on cholesterol levels but effective at increasing stool size. Insoluble fibers can be found in spinach, broccoli, carrots, other vegetables, and whole grains.
Most recently the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) proposed new definitions for fiber saying the soluble/insoluble characterization was no longer accurate or relevant because research has shown that not all soluble fibers lower cholesterol; both soluble and insoluble fibers can increase stool size; and certain insoluble fibers having no efficacy in relieving constipation.
The two new categories of fiber are dietary and functional. They are defined as the following:
“Dietary Fiber consists of nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants. Functional Fiber consists of isolated, nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans. Total Fiber is the sum of Dietary Fiber and Functional Fiber.” (Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients) (2005)”.
Basically, the new definitions for fiber can be simply stated: “If the fiber is found in its natural setting and has not been chemically modified (i.e. pectin in an apple or beta-glucan in oatmeal), then it is considered dietary fiber.”
Their claim is that these new definitions for fiber will allow greater flexibility in classification as the food science of fiber progresses. Personally, I don’t find these new definitions to be relevant for the average consumer and they can be rather confusing.
For example beta-glucan, which is commonly found in oatmeal, can be considered both a dietary and functional fiber depending on whether it’s been extracted from the oats or not. Plus there is no real benefit for someone to eat functional vs. dietary fiber. At least with the old definitions there were different general health benefits from eating one vs. the other.
In the end, the FNB only gives a recommended intake level for total fiber (38 g/d Males ages 19-50y; 25/gd Females ages 19-50y) and not dietary fiber and/or functional fiber.
As a health and performance conscience person, getting enough fiber should be your main focus. If the average T-Nation reader is “eating like he should” with fruits or vegetables at every meal and whole grains in the morning or after exercise (depending if you are a Temporal Nutrition or Massive Eating person), then he’ll be getting adequate levels of all the necessary types of fiber.
1. “A Primer on Beef Hormones”. www.fda.gov
2. “Hormones: Here’s the Beef” www.sciencenews.org
3. “Hormones in Beef” Post 127; United Kingdom Parliament
4. “Organic Products: When buying organic pays (and when it doesn’t) Consumer Reports, February 2006
5. “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill” Udo Eramus
6. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients) (2005)”.