OMEGA 3 BENEFITS
A Silent Killer in Our Midst,
1 of this article, Dr. Barry Sears explained what silent inflammation
is and how it affects our health. This week, he discusses the
role our genes play in this and what we can do to prevent illness.
What’s behind this growing epidemic of silent inflammation?
Blame it on your genes. Science tends to favor those biological
characteristics in a particular species that make them better
equipped to pass their genes on to the next generation.
These are the genes that give the next generation an unfair advantage
over others. Over the last 150,000 years, science has been working
hard to favor the lucky few of our ancestors who had a higher
chance for survival after birth, a survival long enough to be
able to procreate. In those days, lack of food was a real problem,
not to mention the constant hazard of alien bacteria, parasites,
fungi, and viruses.
Nature dealt with these hurdles in a number of ways. It favored
those individuals who were more efficient at storing fat, which
would enable them to survive during lean times. Body fat is vital
for survival. It’s compact, high energy, and travels with
you wherever you go.
Insulin is the hormone that allows us to easily store away fat
for a rainy day. Thus, our early ancestors needed to develop the
genetic propensity for producing large amounts of insulin whenever
they ate excess calories during the times of feasting. Our genes
evolved to increase insulin in two ways: eating too many carbohydrates
or eating too many calories.
If the genes that increased our chances for survival also increase
the likelihood of silent inflammation, then how did we get as
far as we have? The answer lies with diet and lifestyle. For much
of our time on earth, humans followed an anti-inflammatory diet
that has worked in concert with our pro-inflammatory genes. Ten
thousand years ago this was a diet rich in fruits and vegetables,
lean protein, and long-chain omega-3 fats (coming primarily from
fish) while simultaneously poor in omega-6 fats. This Paleolithic
diet had virtually no grains or starches. It was the diet of hunters
and gatherers and acted as a way to manage our increased genetic
propensity to generate inflammation and excess insulin. As a result,
silent inflammation was kept under control.
With the advent of agriculture, things started to change, but
it has only been in the last two generations that our diet has
gotten completely out of harmony with our genes. Of course, we
can’t go back to the hunter/gatherer caveman days. But we
can alter our current eating habits to better reflect the anti-inflammatory
actions of the Paleolithic diet. This diet was able to keep the
immune system at full alert without causing chronic silent inflammation.
It’s the diet we should all be following now if we truly
want to keep silent inflammation under control and reach the Zone
We are constantly feasting on unlimited amounts of inexpensive
food that is rich in carbohydrates. But our DNA still lives in
the Stone Age, even if we don’t. Our genes haven’t
had time to adapt to the doughnut generation. So if we eat too
much on a regular basis, our cells pump out more and more insulin.
As a result, we sock away more and more fat, and voila! We now
have an obesity epidemic on our hands and a corresponding epidemic
of silent inflammation. The very genes that saved us thousands
of years ago are now our biggest liability.
The same is true of our ability to generate a strong inflammatory
response. This was the only way to survive microbial or parasitic
invasions. As recently as seventy years ago, we had very few weapons
against infectious diseases except a strong inflammatory response
to kill such organisms. All we could do was hope and pray that
our immune system would protect us against these ravages.
Those of us with over-active immune systems had a better chance
of survival than those with weaker immune defenses. Thus, we’ve
inherited a genetic predisposition for an intense inflammatory
response from our ancestors who were the only ones to survive
these constant microbial attacks. Today we are faced with far
fewer infectious disease threats and we have a whole arsenal of
drugs to take against microbial infections.
Unfortunately, we no longer need our genetic propensity for mounting
an excessive inflammatory response. We are stuck with this propensity
since our genes haven’t had time to evolve. This sets the
stage for increased silent inflammation, which gets activated
by our diet and lifestyle. Our dramatic increased intake of vegetable
oils (rich in the building blocks for pro-inflammatory eicosanoids)
and our decreased consumption of fish oil (rich in the building
blocks for anti-inflammatory eicosanoids) is one dietary habit
that has activated this inflammation.
Controlling Your Genes
While it’s true that you can’t replace your genes,
you can change their expression by altering your diet and lifestyle.
Reaching the Anti-Inflammation Zone will alter the functioning
of these genes and reverse the course of silent inflammation throughout
As long as our diet can counter-balance our increased insulin
and inflammation responses honed by evolution, then life is good.
It’s only when things get out of balance that chronic silent
inflammation begins to emerge. The modern-day version of this
Paleolithic diet is the Zone Diet that I have been writing about
for the past ten years. This is the key to returning to a state
of wellness and keeping yourself there for a lifetime. Silent
inflammation is no longer elevated, as you are in new physiological
state in which your inflammatory genes are balanced by an anti-inflammatory
diet to keep silent inflammation under control. This is the molecular
definition of wellness.
Reaching the Zone also incorporates a host of new strategies
against silent inflammation in addition to the Zone Diet. Certain
anti-inflammation foods like extra-virgin olive oil, wine, sesame
oil, turmeric, and ginger, are featured prominently to fight silent
inflammation. A comprehensive exercise plan is needed to help
keep insulin levels in check. Cortisol reduction strategies such
as meditation will boost these hormonal benefits even further.
Think of these lifestyle changes as if they are “drugs”
that you have to take on a daily basis to control silent inflammation.
The power of the Anti-Inflammation Zone lies in keeping the hormones
you can control (eicosanoids, insulin, and cortisol) in their
appropriate zones (not too high and not too low) so that you can
live a longer and healthier life—in essence, maintaining
a state of wellness. Or you can choose to do nothing--but then
you’ll have to face the ravages of aging, a consequence
of increasing levels of silent inflammation. The choice is in
Excerpted from The Anti-Inflammation Zone - Reversing The
Silent Epidemic That's Destroying Our Health. Copyright 2005
by Barry Sears, Ph.D. Used by permission.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and
Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose,
treat, cure, or prevent any disease. As with any natural product,
individual results will vary.
For more information about Dr. Barry Sears, his incredible fish
oil supplements, or the popular Zone Diet, please visit www.zoneliving.com.
If you purchase any Zone Labs, Inc. products, part of the
proceeds support CBN ministries.
Dr. Barry Sears is a leader in the field of
dietary control of hormonal response. A former research scientist
at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his efforts over
the past 25 years to the study of lipids and their inflammatory
role in the development of chronic disease. He holds 13 U.S. patents
in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal
regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
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