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Got The Munchies?

I’ve been enjoying reading The Weight Maven. In her words, her focus is on “weight, diet, and the current hysteria around the obesity ‘epidemic’ — especially as it relates to both policy decisions and the demonization of fat people,” as well as about “figuring out the best way for me to eat to get to and be able to maintain a healthy weight.”

She brings a more scientific/analytical bent to the mechanics of the process, which I appreciate. She’s lost more than 125 pounds and says, “More importantly, I have peace of mind about my eating. I’m not ravenously hungry, I am mostly craving free (save when triggered by major stressors), and I feel like this is something I could do for the rest of my life.”

Hmmmm…sounds like something I’d say.

Anyway, in her recent Quote Of The Day, she provides a link to a Psychology Today article entitled “Why Are We Eating So Much More Than We Used To,” which, in turn, provides a compelling take on the role of omega-6 fatty acids on our appetites.

“It’s the high levels of omega-6 from vegetable oils (most notably corn and soybean) in our diets that act like a consistent drip of THC to our brains: ‘We are also learning more about how omega fats influence the appetite-regulating cells in the hypothalamus. These cells are rich in receptors for endocannabinoids, our body’s form of the ingredient in marijuana that increases appetite. Because these are made from the active form of omega-6, arachidonic acid, more omega-6 in the diet means more munchy-promoting endocannibinoids’.”

Also from the Psychology Today article:

“And there are two “essential” types of polyunsaturated fat in our cells, omega-3 and omega-6, that can only come from our diets. If we compare the current American diet with our diets forty years ago, we find similar levels of sugars, amino acids, and total fats, but the amounts of the two types of omega fats have changed very dramatically. In a natural diet of grains, meat, dairy foods, fruits, and vegetables, there is a bit more omega-6 than omega-3, but today there is more than twenty-times more omega-6 than omega-3. This shift in the proportion of these different fats is by far the biggest change in our diets over the past forty years.”

Might my recent bout of emotional overeating been partly fueled physiologically by the omega-6-rich snacks I was consuming?

I have also read that the increased use of omega-6-rich oils has affected mental health, notably depression, bipolar disorder, and violence. New Science Links Food and Happiness discusses the research of Joe Hibbeln, M.D., a Captain in the United States Public Health Service. He is the acting chief on the Section of Nutritional Neurosciences at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He is also a psychiatrist, a lipid biochemist, and an epidemiologist.

Might reducing omega-6 (especially in the winter) help with my anxiety?

For further information, along with some really great tips, read The Conscious Life’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet: How to Balance Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids. Omega-6 in and of itself isn’t a bad guy as long as it is in proper ratio to omega-3. From what I’ve been able to gather, modern Western diets typically have ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 in excess of 10 to 1, some as high as 30 to 1. The optimal ratio is said to be 4 to 1 or lower.

I’m thinking it will be easy to make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of omega-6-rich foods I eat.

NOTE: This post has been edited to include additional information.

When you understand information like this, does it make it easier for you to avoid a certain type of food because you know that it’s bad for you? And in this case I don’t mean “bad” as in naughty.

31 Comments

  • Posted June 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    More tofu=more munchies?! THe last six years of my life, explained!
    I don’t know why, but I have a really hard time follwoing through with taking vitamins, supplements, etc. As weird as it sounds, there’s some mental/emotional block there that I have yet to really look at. In the meantime, less tofu, more hummus.

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Not weird…I have mental/emotional blocks to a lot of things!

  • Posted June 17, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    While I enjoy reading articles about nutrition, I reached a saturation point last year and have seriously restricted reading. There’s so much competing data out there, and it’s tough (for this layperson, anyway) to know which data is correct. So I’m taking the ostrich approach for a while. :)

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      I don’t blame you at at Cammy. I tend to be an ostrich about a lot of things!

  • Vickie
    Posted June 17, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Curious what omega 6 rich foods you are eating/mean. I googled it and the list was very long, most of it fried or roasted in oil. Most of it fell under mayonnaise or fast food. Nuts and seeds are on the list too. Was curious what you specifically meant. Do you mean unhealthy food or do you mean too much of healthy food?

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      A little bit of both…potato chips, Smartfood popcorn, and “healthy” cheese curls (made by some all-natural company)…stuff like that.

      • Vickie
        Posted June 18, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        I suspect that it might be the salt and the crunch of those types of foods (even if they do have the word “health” on the label) than it is about the omega 6. Salt and processing and additives throw so many variables into the mix that it can be really confusing.

        I went and bought ground flax seed today. I used to be good about it (omega 3) and somehow lost habit. My omega 6 whole food habit is in good standing, avocado and plain walnuts every day.

        Thanks for post, it rekindled my omega 3 habit.

  • Posted June 17, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    good links in this post. I’ve been taking a fish oil/dha supplement for a couple of years and if I get off track or lazy about it I definitely notice more inflammation in my joints.

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      I’ve been taking EPA/DHA for a long while and I know it helps!

  • Posted June 17, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m a bit like Vickie – don’t know much about omega 6 foods, so will have to google it. I know certain things make me hungrier or make me crave more of another type of food. The science behind it all is interesting though.

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      The links I provided should help explain it…

  • Posted June 17, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    All so interesting to read but like Cammy – sometimes a person just starts to wonder since 5 years later they tell you something different. I need to come back tomorrow when I have more time to read everything carefully.. THX for sharing!

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      I know what you mean Jody…for some reason my gut tells me this is solid.

  • Posted June 17, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Sunflower oil 2nd on the list for Stacy’s chips that I have… been warring with.

    I need to think.

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      Thinking is good :-)

      • Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        That PT article sure was enlightening. Makes a strong case for non hormone/steroid, grass fed beef – which I have been on the fence on (importance wise). Makes me reconsider raising my own chickens again too.

        I did some research this morning. I am going to start taking krill oil with high amounts of phospholipids – and start to seriously consider all the things I put in my mouth (not just for calories and general nutrition). Seems all plant based fat ratios I looked at were high in omega 6 and low in 3. And then if you look at what the animals eat that you eat…

        LOL – next it will come out that we need to be eating lard. That is sort of where it is pointing.

  • Posted June 18, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    When it comes to Omega 3 and 6, the ratio between the two are extremely important. Our modern diet is full of Omega 6, but quite poor in Omega 3. Unfortunately, oils are one of the big culprits and I have largely eliminated them from my diet. I do eat foods, like avocado and nuts, that contain Omega 6, but they are in whole food form (oil is not a whole food, no matter how virgin it is) and I make sure to eat Omega 3 rich seeds (chia, flax or hemp) daily.

    I don’t know whether Omega 6 foods make one hungrier, but I know that oils are 100% fat (twice as many calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein) and they don’t activate the stomach’s stretch receptors. So while they provide loads of calories, they don’t “register” in the stomach.

    • Vickie
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      Thank you Hanlie, that was exactly the information I needed.

      • KCLAnderson
        Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        Thank you Hanlie…I find that fats are definitely part of the satiety equation, and that is important to me.

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Hey Hanlie – I thought oils DID activate the stretch receptors thereby slowing the emptying of the stomach which brings on the feeling of satiety. So oil or fat (like in avocados) would be (therefor) more contributory to satiety than (say) something lower in fat (like carrots).

      Nuts and bolts: Fat eaten, absorbed in the intestines. Intestines secrete something called CCK as a result. CCK slows the stomach’s emptying and makes you feel full.

  • Posted June 18, 2012 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    oooh you KNOW I love the links.

    off to clickandread.

  • Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Wait – aren’t omega 6 things supposed to be good for us!? Or is that only omega 3.

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Omega 6s are good for us, but in proper ratio with omega 3s. Since food manufacturers increased the use of oils (not all oils, but corn oil and soybean oil are loaded with omega-6 versus, say extra virgin olive oil) with omega-6 the ratio has gotten screwed up. The Psychology Today article link (which didn’t work for some reason, but which I have fixed, explains it better).

  • Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the info Karen. I also appreciated Hanlie’s comment as it helped shed some more light on this for me!

  • Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    This was super interesting…need to spend some time exploring the links and reading! Thanks for the info :)

  • Cindy
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this, Karen. I have fallen over the cliff and have been struggling the last couple of months. I hadn’t really increased sugar consumption, just fats. I couldn’t figure out why I was back to that empty pit feeling. I also wonder about the depression/anxiety relationship. I went through a period during my weight loss efforts when I was consistently eating clean and eating lots of omega3s, but experiencing more anxiety than ever before. I figured that since I had taken away my drug of choice for dealing with anxiety, food, my anxiety had worsened. Admittedly, the anxiety tapered with time. Now I wonder if only I were more consistently consistent I might better control the anxiety now that I am better managing the food/emotion dynamic. I will pay more attention to the omega 6/3 ratio.
    I always appreciate and learn from your great posts. All the best to you, Cindy.

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Cindy…I have noticed that in the warmer, lighter months I have less anxiety, so that might be part of it, too.

  • Posted June 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Amazing what they can discover over something you consume regularly. This is good info. I’ll have to check my intake. :-)

  • Posted June 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I was perusing a science journal and this caught my eye (it was on the side bar): http://sciencenordic.com/vegetable-oils-promote-obesity

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      Thank you!

  • Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I have a link to this post (of yours) running tomorrow.

    When I (originally) read this post, I bought a package of ground flax seed. But I didn’t apply it (to my daily routine) until this week.

    I have learned the hard way to make a copy of posts when I link to them because whole blogs disappear on a very regular basis. I would like a copy of your original blog and all the comments. Your site is not letting me copy – ? can you please email me a copy?

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