Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dietary Fat and Pancreatic Inflammation: It's the Ratio of n-3's to n-6's that Makes the Difference

There's recently been confirmation from laboratory studies that tissue-damaging inflammation of the pancreas, which can occur in both pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, is fueled by the wrong ratio of essential fatty acids.

As the term essential implies, the body needs both n-6 and n-3 essential fatty acids. The n-6's come from foods such as corn oil, soybean oil, and fat in meats, and the n-3's come from some (but not all) plant sources such as olive oil, nuts, and algae, as well as cold-water fish and fish oil. It isn't that one kind of fat is good and the other is bad, as commentators often suggest. It's that the ratio is wrong.

It's best for the ratio of n-6's and n-3's in the diet to be about 1 to 1. The problem is, the ratio is usually 20 to 1. This makes pro-inflammatory hormones predominate over anti-inflammatory hormones, and the pancreas is among the tissues most effective.

The solution to this problem, however, is not to go on a non-fat diet. That simply turns off the processes that make the anti-inflammatory hormones. The solution is to get the n-6 fats and the n-3 fats in something approaching balance.

Doing that may be easier if you start with a non-fat diet, and add daily servings of n-3 fats (olive oil in salad dressing, fish oil capsules, flaxseed oil in smoothies, etc.) plus weekly servings on n-6 fats (a "regular" meal once or twice a week, if you can keep it down). Remember, no kind of fat is poisonous to your pancreas. It's the proportions that make the difference.

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