Urinary tract problems have different natures and causes. They may be manifested as bladder and urinary tract inflammations, bacterial infections or troublesome complaints associated with incontinence. Improving the condition of structural tissues and those adjacent to the urinary tract, and limitation of pathogenic bacterial
Inflammation of the bladder and urinary tract is the most common complaint related to the urinary tract. This problem is exacerbated during autumn and winter seasons, when the weather is unfavourable, or when immune resistance is caused by other diseases or stress. The female urinary tract is much more exposed to the risk of infection, inflammation or injury than the male urinary tract. This is caused by differences in anatomy and close location to the genital tract. Bladder inflammation also occurs in men who have problems with voiding the bladder because of an enlarged prostate, in bedridden patients, and those with inserted catheters. Infections caused by pathogenic bacteria weaken tissues and the urothelium, leading to inflammation. Symptoms of bladder inflammation include constant burning sensation and urgent need to urinate, as well as pain and burning sensation while urinating. Cystitis is treated with antibacterial medications and other disinfecting and soothing preparations. Some patients also take hot hip baths to alleviate pain and burning sensation. Untreated recurrent urinary tract inflammations may lead to more severe illness – urinary incontinence (UI), which is perceived as an embarrassing problem. Some UI is associated with involuntary urine leakage during physical effort, sneezing, coughing or sleep, or following a sudden urge to urinate. Continuous uncontrollable urine leakage is the most severe type of this disease.
UI is found twice as frequently in women as in men, especially in those aged over 45. Thus, the most significant risk factors include sex, age, menopause, lack of physical activity after births, surgeries on the genitourinary tract and certain diseases, like prostate enlargement, stroke, multiple sclerosis, diabetes or circulatory insufficiency. UI is a progressive disease and never subsides spontaneously if untreated.
A good way to prevent urinary tract diseases is by taking products based on cranberry fruit, such as natural cranberry juice or cranberry extracts available in capsules. Cranberry is a well-known medicinal herb used for a long time in the treatment of urinary tract infections. Natural juice obtained from cranberry fruits contains very valuable ingredients which help to eliminate the inflammation’s cause, i.e. pathogenic bacteria. Cranberry juice is rich in polyphenols, anthocyanins and vitamins which have a highly beneficial effect on the urinary tract. The remarkable properties of cranberry juice have been confirmed by a number of scientific publications. It has been proven that regularly drinking cranberry juice reduces the recurrence of infections by 50 per cent as it prevents pathogenic bacteria from adhering to the surface of the bladder and urinary tract. Escherichia coli is the most common cause of urinary tract infections. Tannins and pro-anthocyanins contained in cranberry prevent pathogenic bacteria E.coli from adherence to the mucous membranes. Pro-anthocyanins alter the bacteria’s shape, and prevent them from secreting a signal substance associated with colony growth, through which bacteria are unable to create a biofilm (they do not colonize the surface of the mucous membrane) and are more easily flushed from the bladder during urination.
Cranberry juice is also rich in antioxidants (polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanins) which deactivate free radicals and seal blood vessel walls. Cranberry flavonoids are similar in their structure to those found in red wine, but have an additional benefit as they have antithrombotic activity and prevent blood platelet clotting (aggregation). Through this blood platelet clots, which may obstruct blood vessels and result in embolism or thrombus are not formed.
Cranberry flavonoids have an antiatherosclerotic effect as they prevent cholesterol oxidation and the deposition of atherosclerotic plaques containing cholesterol; in addition, they seal and dilate blood vessels. Found in large amounts, they give cranberry juice its characteristic tart flavour. Other components of cranberry juice valuable for health are proteins, fibre, organic acids (citric, malic), folic acid, vitamin A, C, vitamins B, and minerals, such as calcium, iron, phosphorus and magnesium. Cranberry fruits are low in sodium, an element harmful in high amounts and responsible for water retention in the body.
To keep the urinary system working well into old age we should take care of it throughout our lives, for example, by enriching our every day diet with products enhancing its normal functions. Cranberry fruits or natural juice freshly squeezed from cranberry fruit are undoubtedly one of these products.
dr Katarzyna Suchoszek-Łukaniuk
The autumn and winter seasons, with their changing weather and temperatures, put particular stress on the human body. Our immunity faces a challenge, which often ends with fatigue, weakness, upper respiratory tract infections, colds, catarrh or flu. During this unfavourable time we should take particular care to enrich our every day diet with substances that will naturally support the activity of the immune system.
Special attention should be paid to lipid compounds such as alkylglycerols and omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, as well as omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids can easily be found in vegetable and fish oils. The richest source of alkylglycerols is shark liver oil.
Alkylglycerols activate and support the immune system functions. They participate in erythropoesis (production of red blood cells), leucopoesis (production of white blood cells) and thrombopoesis (production of blood platelets). They also take part in the multi-stage transformation of monocytes into active macrophages, which are scavenger cells of the immune system. Macrophages phagocyte (absorb) pathogenic bacteria and other germs and produce substances important for the normal function of the immune system.
Alkylglycerols are also messengers in the system of cell mediators, such as platelet-activating factor (PAF), which stimulates the aggregation and degranulation of platelets and macrophages. They have bactericidal and antiviral properties, reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections and demonstrate anti-inflammatory activity. Because of these properties they are excellent stimulants of immune processes and improve resistance against further infections. In the human body these substances are produced in insufficient amounts and are found in the liver, spleen, healthy bone marrow and milk of lactating women, and for that reason their supplementation in the diet is highly desirable.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids, also called essential fatty acids (EFAs), including omega-3 and omega-6, are the most important among all fats for human nutrition physiology. They are not synthesized by the human body, and for that reason should be supplied with the diet. EFAs are important structural material of cellular membranes and are responsible for their normal structure and functions. Structural disorders of cellular membranes result in disturbed electrolyte exchange, transportation of medications and transmission of signals between cells. Reduced levels of EFAs in the cellular membrane inhibits endocellular macrophage activity (their ability to absorb pathogens), which significantly impairs immune system reactions. This is why they must be included in our diet.
Monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acids, like omega-3 acids, are responsible for the normal structure of cellular membranes and, in consequence, for the normal function of each cell in our body. Omega-9 acids reduce membrane permeability, having an antagonistic activity to omega-3 and omega-6 acids. Through this they appropriately ensure the intense flow of nutrients and oxygen from blood plasma inside the cell and the elimination of waste substances from cells, contributing to the normal work of the immune system.
A suitable supply of unsaturated fatty acids in the diet has a pronounced effect on the assimilation of important mineral compounds, vitamins and other nutrients supporting normal bodily functions. In combination with alkylglycerols stimulating immune processes they provide natural support to our immunity, which helps to strengthen our body and protect it during changeable autumn and winter weather.
dr Katarzyna Suchoszek-Łukaniuk
Fats are a very important element for the human body and should be consumed every day. Unfortunately, they are usually perceived as an unwanted part of our diet. However, we should remember that there are also beneficial fats essential for normal body function – the unsaturated fatty acids omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9. Their correct proportion in our everyday diet is essential for the prevention of many diseases.
Unsaturated fatty acids are classified into two groups: monounsaturated (omega-9) and polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6), and each of these groups plays a different role for normal body function.
Omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acids.
These are the main component of olive oil and the major element of the heart-friendly Mediterranean diet. Together with EFAs they play an essential role in the prevention of atherosclerosis. They reduce the total cholesterol level and LDL (bad cholesterol), at the same time increasing the HDL level (good cholesterol), having no effect on the triglycerides level (TG). In the Mediterranean Sea region, where the consumption of omega-9 fatty acids is high, the incidence of myocardial ischaemic disease (coronary disease) and atherosclerosis is very low.
Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids, also called Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), are the most important of all fats in the physiology of human nutrition. They cannot be synthesized by the human body, and for that reason their supplementation is necessary. EFAs are an important structural material of cellular membranes and are responsible for their normal structure and functions. Structural disorders of cellular membranes result in disturbed electrolyte exchange, signal transport and transmission, including neural impulses between cells.
Reduced level of EFAs in the cellular membrane inhibits endocellular macrophage activity, which impairs immune system reactions. In the metabolism EPAs are used for the synthesis of tissue hormones – eicosanoids: prostaglandins, prostacyclines, leukotrienes and tromboxanes, through which these fatty acids participate in the control of inflammatory processes. EFAs are necessary for the correct transport of lipids via the blood stream, especially cholesterol, contributing to the reduction of its level. They are able to inhibit blood platelet aggregation, through which they prevent the formation of thrombus in blood vessels. EFAs increase blood flow via coronary heart arteries and therefore increase the contraction power of the cardiac muscle. EFAs are therefore an essential element in the prevention of cardiac and vascular diseases.
Proportions of omega-6 : omega-3 : omega-9 in the diet.
Ilość i rodzaj spożywanego tłuszczu ma szczególne znaczenie w profilaktyce wielu chorób. Warunkiem prawidłowego działania wszystkich trzech rodzajów nienasyconych kwasów tłuszczowych jest ich odpowiednia proporcja w codziennej diecie. Standardowa europejska dieta dostarcza zbyt dużych ilości omega-6, podczas gdy podaż omega-3 w diecie jest bardzo niska. Skutkuje to zaburzonym stosunkiem omega-6 : omega-3, wynoszącym średnio 20:1, podczas gdy prawidłowy powinien mieścić się w przedziale od 4:1 do 2:1. Odpowiednia proporcja
The amount and type of consumed fat is particularly important in the prevention of many diseases. The correct activity of all three types of unsaturated fatty acids depends on their suitable proportion in the everyday diet. The standard European diet provides a too high amount of omega-6 acids, while the supply of omega-3 acids in food is very low. This results in an unbalanced proportion of omega-6 and omega-3, which is on average 20:1, while the correct proportion should be from 4:1 to 2:1. Appropriate proportion of EFAs in the diet is important for normal body functions. Omega-6 acids are metabolised into pro-inflammatory compounds, while omega-3 acids are metabolised into anti-inflammatory compounds. Prolonged excess of omega-6 acids in the diet contributes to the impairment of the immune system and promotes inflammatory conditions in the body. It also leads to the aggregation of blood platelets and inhibited incorporation of EPA and DHA into cellular membranes.
A suitable amount of omega-9 acids in the diet in proportion to the two other omega acid groups (EFAs) is important for the correct structure of cellular membranes. Omega-3 and omega-6 increase membrane permeability, while omega-9 acids reduce it. Through this they balance the activity of EFAs and control the flow through cellular membranes. Thus, it is important to provide the body with all types of unsaturated fatty acids in appropriate well-balanced proportions.
To achieve that it is wise to supplement the diet with ready preparations whose suitably chosen composition provides the body with omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 acids in optimal proportions, compliant with current nutritional recommendations. The most recommended are preparations based on vegetable sources of omega acids and containing cold pressed oils. Their key advantage in comparison to fish oils is the fact that vegetable-sourced omega-3 acid: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is used in the human body for the synthesis of another two omega-3 acids: EPA and DHA (found in fish). However, the reaction does not take place in the reverse direction, i.e. fish-sourced omega-3 acids DHA and EPA cannot be metabolised by the human body to ALA. In addition, vegetable sources of fatty acids are free from pollutants like heavy metals, e.g. mercury, which are accumulated mainly in the livers of fish from which oils are obtained.
dr Katarzyna Suchoszek-Łukaniuk
In times of highly-processed foods a considerable number of people suffer from gastrointestinal disorders. Ever-present stress, life on-the-go and incorrect nutritional habits are the major causes of digestion problems. Constipation is a particularly frequent complaint, usually associated with incorrect nutritional habits. Today as many as 60% of women and 25% of men suffer from this problem. Constipation may be a consequence or cause of more severe diseases, so it should never be ignored. Constipation can often be prevented simply through the modification of diet or supplementation of fibre preparations based on natural vegetable components enhancing intestinal function.
Constipation is most often manifested by several symptoms: fewer than 3 passages of stools per week, hard consistency stools, incomplete passage of stools, or intensified and often painful effort to defecate. In other words constipation means difficult or regularly ineffective excretion of stools. Major reasons for constipation include disorders of intestinal movement (peristalsis), impaired need for defecation, or change in intestinal structure or that of their closest organs, which impairs the normal passage of bowel contents in the rectal direction. Constipation may also co-exist with small intestine inflammation (constipation is recorded in one out of five patients, and in every second patient with chronic colitis) and because of this it should never be ignored. Constipation and flatulence are often problems in elderly people (over 65 years of age). In this group they are almost twice as frequent than in younger people. In elderly people intestinal peristalsis is disordered, and abdominal and pelvic muscles involved in the defecation process are weakened. The frequency of constipation related to medication misuse also increases. In elderly people faecal stones causing intestinal ulcers or obstructions are formed more frequently than in younger people.
Active life style plays a significant role in the prevention and treatment of constipation. Physical exercise stimulates intestinal motor activity, strengthens abdominal muscles and makes the entire body more fit. We should remember the importance of a balanced diet, providing suitable amounts of fibre and liquid. A diet rich in vegetables and fruit should be supplemented with fibre preparations based on natural ingredients which increase stool volume and soften it. Fibre preparations should be taken with a sufficient amount of liquid during the day. A dose of fibre preparation is usually taken with an additional 1 glass of liquid at least. One advantage of fibre preparations is that they cause no addiction and can be used for a long time. Such products should also contain fibre obtained from different plants and compounds which enhance balanced intestinal microflora. Fibre used in the best preparations is obtained from psyllium, ground flax seeds and apples. Such products also often contain prebiotics – compounds like inulin or fructooligosaccharides, which facilitate the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria.
Psyllium is a pharmaceutical herb whose seed covers (husks) are coated with water-soluble fibre. On contact with water, they produce mucilage covering and moisturizing intestinal mucosa, which makes intestinal passage easier, and the bowels are protected against mechanical abrasion, the effect of toxins and pathogenic bacteria.
Ground flax seeds are also a source of fibre, both water-soluble, providing mucilage, and insoluble, which increases the volume and softness of stools. Apart from that it is a source of minerals and vitamins B.
Apple fibre is particularly popular among diabetics because it curbs the absorption of sugars from the intestinal lumen, and through this reduces changes in the blood sugar level.
Prebiotics are also a valuable additive in preparations normalizing intestinal movement. They are compounds used as nutrients by beneficial bacteria naturally found in the large intestine, which prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria, neutralize toxins, and produce vitamins and substances stimulating the immune system. Prebiotics such as inulin stimulate the proliferation of beneficial intestinal microflora.
When constipation symptoms are observed the first cure attempt should be non-pharmaceutical rather than laxative drugs, as these, when misused, may have serious side effects. Good preparations normalizing intestinal movement based on herbal components providing a suitable amount of fibre and ingredients facilitating the growth of beneficial intestinal bacterial flora will help in a natural and gentle way to regulate your bowel movements. Such preparations can be used frequently and for a long time without the risk of addiction.
dr Katarzyna Suchoszek-Łukaniuk
Vitamin K and D are soluble in fats, and in some life periods their intake is compulsory. During infancy they are extremely important for normal child development, starting from first moments of life, and later they determine normal bodily functions.
Vitamin K is also called an antihaemorrhagic vitamin because it is necessary for the normal process of blood clotting. It is responsible for the normal level of clotting factors and calcium-binding proteins in kidneys, placenta and lungs. Symptoms of vitamin K shortage mainly include poor blood clotting and an increased number of internal and external haemorrhages, as well as impaired wound healing. Vitamin K is synthesized by bacteria found in the large intestine, but the amount of endogenous vitamin K is insufficient to cover the body’s demand. This particularly concerns newborns and infants, who are at higher risk of deficiency. This results from the fact that their intestinal microbial flora is not fully developed and is unable to synthesize vitamin K. Because of that each newborn, soon after birth at the hospital, is given a large dose of vitamin K (0.5 mg in an intramuscular injection). Afterwards, all breast-fed infants should receive prophylactic lower doses of the vitamin, starting from the 2nd week until the end of the 3rd month of life.
The daily dose of vitamin K recommended by the National Consultant for paediatrics and Expert Team is 25 micrograms (25 µg). These recommendations are a part of the prophylaxis against haemorrhages, which are very dangerous to newborns and are caused by vitamin K deficiency, called haemorrhagic disease of the newborn. This disease is, unfortunately, not rare and is manifested by haemorrhages from the gastrointestinal tract, navel, mucous membranes and skin, and in severe cases may even be fatal. Children fed with artificial milk receive sufficient doses of vitamin K in fortified milk powder. After the 3rd month of life vitamin K is produced by intestinal microflora and there is no need for supplementation. Later on children and teenagers should, however, have a diet rich in green vegetables, which will protect them from vitamin K deficiency.
Vitamin D is another vitamin vital for the normal development of children and should be provided to them obligatorily. Vitamin D is indispensable for the normal development of bones and teeth, and its shortage causes rickets, softening of bones and osteoporosis in adults. Vitamin D is produced in skin, but only when exposed to suitably intense sunlight. Insufficient exposure (especially during autumn and winter seasons) and the popularity of sunbathing beauty care products with UV screens reduce the synthesis in the skin by up to 90%. According to the recommendations of the National Consultant for Paediatrics and Expert Team on the prevention of rickets, newborns and breast-fed infants should receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily from the first days of life and throughout the entire time of breast feeding. For children fed with artificial or mixed food physicians individually recommend the dose, considering the amount of vitamin D contained in supplied modified milk.
Children up to 18 years of age should receive 400 IU daily from October to March, and during summer months if the skin synthesis is insufficient. For overweight children physicians can recommend higher doses, even 800 – 1000 IU daily. Recommended doses for adults, including pregnant and breast feeding women are 800 – 1000 IU daily from October until March. In people over 65 years of age, because of reduced skin synthesis and proven activity in the prevention of fractures and falls, the recommended supplementation dose of vitamin D is 800 – 1000 IU daily all year round. In some people suffering from impaired functions of the gastrointestinal tract, liver and kidneys, with negative effect on the absorption of vitamin D and calcium from foods, physicians may recommend increased doses.
Food sources of both these vitamins are different, and thus their supply to the body is facilitated by a varied diet. Vitamin K is found in green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, cucumber and lettuce and in dairy products like yoghurt and cheese. Foods rich in vitamin D include fish – salmon, cod, tuna and mackerel, as well as fish oils. Both vitamins may also be taken in preparations after consulting a physician and following the obtained recommendations.
dr Katarzyna Suchoszek-Łukaniuk
An increasing number of people complain because of pain associated with the locomotor system. Most often these are joint pains symptomatic for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), called colloquially rheumatism, or are associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Not many people are aware that these diseases result from chronic inflammation which may be caused by incorrect diet. Cutting down on some foods and increasing the consumption of omega-3 acids in the diet can considerably reduce the rise and development of inflammation in our body.
Inflammation is an organised process developing in the vascularised tissue stimulated by a damage factor. Inflammation may be caused by chemical, physical and biological factors. The major group of inflammatory changes are arthritis and arthrosis, which often cause partial inability to work. At the same time they decrease life quality, leading to many years of chronic pain, and significant limitation of physical fitness and self-sufficiency. These problems can be prevented or at least alleviated by enriching the diet with omega-3 acids, one of the polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (EFAs) necessary for normal body function. These acids are widely used in the prevention and treatment of e.g. cardiovascular, gastrointestinal or neurological diseases. They are also necessary for the control of inflammatory responses and their course. In the metabolism EFAs are used for the synthesis of tissue hormones – eicosanoids: prostaglandins, prostacyclines, leukotriens and tromboxanes, through which these fatty acids participate in the control of inflammatory processes.
A diet rich in omega-3 alleviates inflammatory changes in the body, especially those caused by toxic substances from the digestion of certain foods. These harmful digestion products structurally are similar to connective joint tissue and the role of the immune system is to eliminate them fast. Sometimes, however, the immune system in hypersensitive individuals may confuse these harmful substances with healthy organs and activate them, causing inflammation.
To efficiently reduce this process we should first take a close look at our diet and eliminate products that intensify degenerative and inflammatory changes. First of all, we should reduce the intake of highly-processed products containing high amounts of preservatives, as well as dairy products and meat and grains containing gluten (wheat, corn). An excessive amount of omega-6 acids in the diet is also unfavourable. The balance between EFAs, i.e. omega-3 and omega-6 is exceptionally important for the normal activity of the immune system and the control of inflammatory processes. In the human body omega-3 and omega-6 are metabolised by the same enzyme and they compete for access to it. Thus, omega-6 acids are metabolised into pro-inflammatory compounds, while omega-3 acids are metabolised into anti-inflammatory compounds. The excess of omega-6 acids in the body leads to immune system disorders and increased susceptibility to inflammation. Supplementation of omega-3 acids inhibits the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and attenuates the response of inflammatory cells. Through this omega-3 acids have a beneficial effect on the normal function of the immune system and reduce the incidence of inflammation. For this reason it is important to supply balanced proportions of EFAs in the diet and to regularly supplement omega-3 shortage by people suffering from inflammatory diseases. Study results have demonstrated that the regular consumption of omega-3 reduces the pain associated with RA and morning joint stiffness. In some patients this even enabled the reduction of glycocorticosteroid and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug doses.
The best and richest source of omega-3 acids that can be used every day without any concern is crude flax seed oil, high in linolenic acid. Incorporation of flax seed oil in the diet significantly improves the life quality of people suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases and helps to inhibit their progress.
dr Katarzyna Suchoszek-Łukaniuk
The health and normal development of children is one of the most important things for any parent. We try to care for children in various ways, often forgetting how important a balanced and varied diet is during their development, providing all the components necessary for health. One of them is unsaturated Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) from the omega-3 group, which are necessary for the normal growth and development of children, starting from the foetal period.
Everyday supply of omega-3 acids in the diet is necessary for the normal development of the nervous system, the development of psychomotor, intellectual and cognitive skills, the retina, prevention of inflammations, allergies and infections. Early on, from the moment of conception, mothers-to-be should ensure that their diet is enriched with these compounds.
Crude flax seed oil is the cheapest and safest source of omega-3 and contains over 50% of these acids. Additionally, unlike fish oils, it is not polluted with heavy metals, which accumulate in the livers of fish, and omega-3 acids contained in flax seed oil are used in the human body for the synthesis of two other fatty acids found in fish oils.
Omega-3 acids are necessary during the entire pregnancy, and the demand for them increases during this time as much as four times. A child first takes omega-3 acids via the placenta, and then after birth with the mother’s food.
For that reason it is very important to supply an appropriate amount of omega-3 to pregnant and breast-feeding women. In the last trimester the child’s nervous system develops most intensely and omega-3 acids are a major structural substance, as they account for close to 60% of all fats building the brain. Newborns of mothers with high levels of omega-3 in the blood demonstrate symptoms of a more mature central nervous system, reflected by more peaceful sleep and lower frequency of awakening. In addition, children born to mothers who during pregnancy and lactation took extra doses of omega-3 acids had a significantly higher IQ than children from the control group.
In the third pregnancy trimester and the first year of life the child’s retina also develops very intensely, and omega-3 acids are an important structural substance there (the dry substance of the child’s retina should contain 30% of EFAs). A suitable level of omega-3 helps to minimize the risk of retinopathy and improves visual acuity in infants during the first year of life. It has a positive effect on the increased synthesis of surfactant, reducing tension in pulmonary alveoli, which reduces the risk of death in prematurely born babies caused by respiratory insufficiency.
Shortage of omega-3 in the child’s body is one of the causes of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The supplementation of acids in the diet significantly reduces hyperactivity in children, has a positive effect on their intellectual development, and increases attention and memory performance. This results from the fact that, e.g. omega-3 acids are one of the major structural elements in the cellular membranes of synapses where neurones are linked. They are also a component of neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin) which are compounds participating in the transmission of signals between neurons. A suitable level of omega-3 in the body accelerates and controls information flow in the nervous system. In addition, omega-3 acids build myelin sheaths in neurons, which effects precise signal transmission.
Shortage of omega-3 in the child’s diet leads to abnormal structure of cellular membranes, changes in the retina, frequent infections, dermatoses and slower development. It is also associated with hyperactivity in children, and problems with memory, attention and learning. Therefore, supplementation with omega-3 acids should be considered early by pregnant women, and should be continued in the diet in children throughout the entire time of their growth and development. This will ensure normal development and help them to avoid many diseases in adulthood.
dr Katarzyna Suchoszek-Łukaniuk
Every day we eat various fats, often not knowing how different their nutritional values are and how differently they can affect our health. A few years ago all fats were still considered an unwanted element of a diet. Today, however, we know which fats should be avoided in food, and which fats are indispensable for normal body physiology, and hence they gained the name “healthy” or “essential” fats.
From a nutritional point of view fats mainly provide the body with energy. They also play many other roles: they are structural components of the cellular membranes of all body cells, source of fat soluble vitamins, and the starting substrate in the synthesis of biologically active substances like hormones.
Fatty acids, which are a component of fats, are classified as saturated, monounsaturated (omega-9 acids), and polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6 acids).
SATURATED FATTY ACIDS – found mainly in animal fats (lard, pork rind, cured meat, butter, cream) are used in the body only as an energy source. Their excess is stored in the body as fatty tissue and causes an increase of blood cholesterol, which in consequence leads to heart disease and atherosclerosis. For this very reason they are unhealthy and we should avoid their excess in our diet.
Omega-9 acids are MONOUNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS.
They are the main component of olive oil and the major element of the heart-friendly Mediterranean diet. Together with EFAs they play an essential role in the prevention of atherosclerosis. They reduce total cholesterol level and LDL (bad cholesterol), at the same time increasing the HDL level (good cholesterol), but having no effect on the triglycerides level (TG). In the Mediterranean Sea region, where the consumption of omega-9 fatty acids is high, the incidence of myocardial ischaemic disease (coronary disease) and atherosclerosis is very low. Epidemiological studies have confirmed a significant correlation between the consumption of omega-9 acids and low incidence of coronary disease, including heart failure. Regular consumption of omega-9 acids is essential for the prevention of cardiac and vascular diseases.
POLYUNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS. The human body is unable to synthesize them, and for that reason they were called “essential”. Unsaturated Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are also called vitamin F and are found in vegetable and fish oils. EFAs include the well-known omega-3, of which the richest source is flax seed oil, which is high in linolenic acid, and omega-6, found in large amounts in oils obtained from the evening primrose, and sunflower and grape seeds. For the physiology of human nutrition EFAs are the most important of all fats. They are an important structural material of cellular membranes and are responsible for their correct structure and functions. In the metabolism EFAs are used for the synthesis of tissue hormones – eicosanoids: prostaglandins, prostacyclines, leukotrienes and tromboxanes, through which these fatty acids participate in the control of inflammatory processes. EFAs are necessary for the correct transport of lipids via the blood stream, especially cholesterol, contributing to the reduction of its level. They are able to inhibit blood platelet aggregation, through which they prevent the formation of thrombus in blood vessels. EFAs increase blood flow via coronary arteries and therefore increase the contraction power of the cardiac muscle. EFAs are therefore an essential element in the prevention of cardiac and vascular diseases. Furthermore, regular consumption of EFAs is also important for the normal growth and development of children, starting from the foetal period.
The amount and type of consumed fat is particularly important in the prevention of many diseases. The correct activity of all three types of unsaturated fatty acids depends on their suitable proportion in the everyday diet. The standard European diet provides a too high amount of omega-6 acids, while the supply of omega-3 acids in food is very low. This results in an unbalanced proportion of omega-6 and omega-3, which is on average 20 : 1, while the correct proportion should be from 4 : 1 to 2 : 1.
An appropriate proportion of EFAs in the diet is important for normal body functions. Omega-6 acids are metabolised into pro-inflammatory compounds, while omega-3 are metabolised into anti-inflammatory compounds. A prolonged excess of omega-6 acids in the diet contributes to the impairment of the immune system and promotes inflammatory conditions in the body. Thus, it is important to provide the body with all types of unsaturated fatty acids in appropriate well-balanced proportions.
Crude flax seed oil is the most natural and easily available source of all unsaturated fatty acids omega-3, -6 and -9. This oil is the richest vegetable source of omega-3 acids (over 50%). Omega-3 acid contained in flax seed oil is used for the synthesis of other omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA, which are found in fish oils. However, the reaction does not take place in the reverse direction, i.e. fish-sourced DHA and EPA cannot be metabolised by human body into ALA. In addition, vegetable sources of fatty acids are free from pollutants like heavy metals, e.g. mercury, which are accumulated mainly in the livers of fish that are the source of oils. Therefore, crude flax seed oil is worth using as a natural source, and the richest source of omega-3 acids.
dr Katarzyna Suchoszek-Łukaniuk
Cardiac and vascular diseases are problems known to almost all of us. We, or people close to us, often suffer from hypertension, arrhythmia or increased levels of bad cholesterol, which in consequence leads to atherosclerosis, ischaemic heart disease, heart attack or stroke. However, people do not always know that the modification of
To reduce the risk of cardiac and vascular diseases experts first of all recommend a change in lifestyle through increased physical activity and change of eating habits. Physical activity and a healthy, well-balanced diet help to keep the body in good shape, through which negative processes in the human body can be prevented, such as deposition of atherosclerotic plaque in blood vessels. We are often unaware that because of these unhealthy nutritional habits we avoid food which is much needed for our health; food which is often rich in rare but essential nutrients for normal body function. Omega-3 fatty acids are one of these nutrients.
Omega-3 acids are polyunsaturated essential fatty acids necessary for normal body function. They cannot be synthesized by the human body, and for that reason their only source is our food. Omega-3 acids are the basic structural component of biological membranes in each bodily cell and a starting substrate for the synthesis of tissue hormones – eicosanoids, which control many important cellular processes in the body. Omega-3 acids are an essential element in the prevention of cardiac and vascular diseases. A diet rich in omega-3 considerably reduces the risk of cardiovascular system diseases. Omega-3 acids are necessary for the normal function of this system and their shortage results in cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, arrhythmia, atherosclerosis and heart failure.
One of the causes of atherosclerosis is excessive blood levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, which become deposited on the blood vessel walls, clogging them gradually. Omega-3 acids are necessary for the normal transport of lipids via the blood stream, especially cholesterol, contributing to the reduction of its level. They reduce the level of triglycerides and cholesterol through the inhibition of low density lipoprotein and triglyceride synthesis in the liver. Studies have demonstrated that omega-3 acids reduce the level of free triglycerides in the blood by about 25%.
Omega-3 acids are an essential part of cardiovascular disease prevention. In people suffering from atherosclerosis the lumen of blood vessels is obstructed by fatty deposits formed on their walls. This creates the risk of total clogging of a blood vessel with clotted blood, which will cause its blocked flow. In consequence blood will be unable to reach the key organs like the brain and heart, which may lead to heart failure or stroke. Omega-3 acids demonstrate antithrombotic activity through the inhibition of blood platelet aggregation, which prevents the formation of thrombus in blood vessels. They also increase blood flow via coronary heart arteries and therefore increase the contraction power of the cardiac muscle.
Antiarrhythmic activity and effect on blood pressure
Omega-3 fatty acids demonstrate antiarrhythmic activity and contribute to the maintenance of normal blood pressure. They decrease the sensitivity of cardiac muscle cells to contraction signals non-synchronised with the normal heart rhythm, which is responsible, e.g. for arrhythmia. Omega-3 fatty acids also contribute to the reduction of blood pressure, reducing through this the risk of blood vessel rupture in people with hypertension and in consequence the risk of haemorrhage.
Prevention of death caused by heart failure
Regular consumption of omega-3 acids in suitable amounts in the diet prevents heart failure and significantly reduces the risk of death caused by heart failure. Studies carried out in the United States, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands demonstrated that in people regularly consuming omega-3 acids the risk of death caused by myocardial ischaemic disease is reduced by about 50%.
Omega-3 fatty acids can therefore be firmly called our ally in fighting circulatory system diseases. Unfortunately, our body is unable to synthesize them, so we have to remember to supply them in the diet. Most often the shortage of omega-3 is supplemented by preparations in capsules containing fish oils. However, there is another, more cost-effective vegetable source of these acids – cold pressed flax seed oil. This oil, pressed from a special variety of flax seeds containing high levels of omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) contains over 50% of these precious compounds and is the richest vegetable source. Omega-3 acids contained in flax seed oil is used in the human body for the synthesis of two other omega-3 acids: EPA and DHA, which are found in fish oils. Therefore, it is sufficient to consume flax seed oil high in linolenic acid to provide all the three types of omega-3 acids to our body.
dr Katarzyna Suchoszek-Łukaniuk