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The New American Family—mother and dad are overweight and the children are overweight, too: Obesity can now be inherited

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If you have recently been to a U.S. theme park, it is startling to most to notice the waistlines of American families. Mom and Dad are overweight and more often than not, every child is overweight, too. Many experts were quick to comment that obesity must be related to genetic susceptibility. Really, what about mother and father’s lifestyle and the lifestyle messages they teach their children? That line of thinking may be about to change. According to a French biochemist, “this is the first time that we have shown a trans-generational increase in obesity” linked to omega intake referring to a newly reported study which found that overeating when it is combined with the wrong balance of fats in the diet can cause obesity to be carried over from one generation to the next. Click here to read in further detail.

When Walter Willett, MD, MPH, Chair, Harvard University Department of Nutrition and Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, commented in the January 2000 issue of Time magazine that the most significant change in nutritional science of the 20th century was the fact that Americans ‘changed the fats in their diet’. We moved away from dietary sources of omega three and omega six fatty acids to trans hydrogenated fats in increasing amounts with a profound abundance of omega six to omega three fatty acids in our diet. Fats are one of the fundamental three building blocks of our diet (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) essential for cellular membranes, brain function, immune function, hormonal function, cardiovascular health, energy, just to name a few. Books such as “Smart Fats” by Michael Schmidt, DC, CCN and “The Omega Three Connection” by Andrew Stoll, MD are but a few to chronicle what it is essential to get enough good fatty acids in our diet in a proper ratio of omega three: omega six.
As this study notes, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in a typical Western diet has shifted from an optimal five-to-one to 40-to-one in the United States. In the breast milk of American women, the average ratio has gone from six-to-one to 18-to-one. American women have the lowest tissue stores of DHA, an important omega three fatty acid, in the world. It has been established that an imbalanced ratio can be linked to conditions such as depression which has become all-too-common among the American population.
Fatty acid deficiency and imbalance are truly public health crises to be addressed by the American scientific and medical community. The epidemic of inflammation related to neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, to cardiovascular/heart disease, to immune system imbalances such as autoimmune diseases, to allergies and asthma, to the risk of stroke, hormonal imbalances, behavior and learning disabilities are all related to this very fatty acid deficiency and imbalance. Europe embraced this beginning with important research in the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. The U.S. was a ‘slow adopter’ and only recently did the American Heart Association and its physician community embrace adequate good fats for heart health.
It is critical that every American physician follow the lead of the integrative medical community which began in 1980 thanks to educational leaders like Jeffrey Bland, PhD to address, educate, and empower their patients regarding fatty acid sufficiency and balance. Future generations will depend upon the conventional medical community embracing this research and making sure it is the standard of care for all Americans and for future generations. We cannot afford to wait as heart doctors waited for years to embrace essential fatty acids. Integrative medicine has long made fatty acid sufficiency and fatty acid balance the standard of care for medical practice. It is critical that conventional medicine include this critical nutrient for every American as well.
Deborah Ray, MT (ASCP)

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