Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
August 28, 2022
OXLAMS is an acronym for Oxidized Linoleic Acid Metabolites!
Wow. What a complicated term. What does it mean?
- It means bad stuff.
- It means destructive byproducts of an element in the food which most of us eat every day.
- It means metabolic dysfunction and mitochondrial dysfunction over time.
- It means the elephant in the room that could be killing us slowly.
Humans have adjusted very slowly to a change in diet over the years of evolution. But the years of evolution have not kept up with the dramatic and rapid changes in the foods we eat. Some of these foods have inherent chemicals, which can slowly accumulate in our body. The slow accumulation of these unhealthy elements can and will be our downfall metabolically. And metabolic disease is the precursor to serious chronic diseases and cancers, which are prevalent in modern societies today.
One study published in 2019 suggests that 88% of the US population is metabolically unhealthy. And in my opinion, that is an underestimation.
The more we educate ourselves of these toxic elements in our food system, the more we can take appropriate steps to prevent serious chronic diseases that become debilitating and life-threatening as we age.
The biggest problem is that some of these toxic elements do not cause any harm that is apparent in our body over a short period of time. Yet, the buildup of these toxic elements and the damage that they potentially create are serious concerns for all of us.
It is difficult to convince a person who is healthy today that the ingredients in the food they are enjoying now, can kill them decades down the road. A proactive individual who wants to improve his or her overall wellness must avoid these elements, which we don’t think about as a threat.
What are OXLAMS?
I wrote about linoleic acid in a previous blog. Linoleic acid (LA) is the precursor to oxidized linoleic acid metabolites (OXLAMS). OXLAMS in human plasma have been linked to pathological conditions such as chronic pain, obesity, Alzheimer’s dementia and neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Recent clinical studies have shown that lowering dietary linoleic acid can reduce the synthesis and/or accumulation of OXLAMS in circulation and in human tissues. This paper describes and cites numerous peer-reviewed medical studies, which explain how excess linoleic acid and its oxidized forms are singularly damaging to the human body.
How do OXLAMS damage our body?
In the 20th Century in the United States, individuals more than tripled their consumption of linoleic acid from 2% of energy needs to 7%. That coincided with a marked increase in fat tissue accumulation of linoleic acid. Today, consumption of linoleic acid is up to 20% or more of energy needs. And this linoleic acid remains in the fat tissues for an extended period.
The half-life of linoleic acid in adipose tissues is approximately two years. Therefore, the gradual mobilization of LA from adipose stores into circulation will allow continued production of potentially destructive OXLAMS.
The energy producing machines in our cells are called mitochondria. The inner lining of the mitochondria is made of cardiolipin, which contains four fat molecules. The composition of these fat molecules is different for different tissue cells. When we eat too much LA, it bumps out the healthy fats in cardiolipin and replaces them. Then, LA oxidizes, forms OXLAMS, and kills the mitochondria. This leads to mitochondrial dysfunction. No mitochondria – no energy.
Cancer cells are basically cells with damaged mitochondria. In animal studies, when linoleic acid is increased to between 4% and 10% of an experimental diet, these animals develop various types of cancer.
As linoleic acid is broken down into OXLAMS, cascading damage occurs. This is true for cancers, obesity, and most chronic diseases.
In addition, excess dietary LA increases the brain’s vulnerability to inflammation via the production of OXLAMS. In rodents, circulating LA readily crosses the blood brain barrier. In humans, excess maternal LA intake has been linked to atypical neurodevelopment. It can be concluded that dietary LA may adversely affect the brain.
What actions should we take?
There has been much discussion about the human diet’s ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The prevailing wisdom, but a fundamentally flawed concept, is that we should increase our omega-3 levels to balance out this ratio and bring it to a healthier ratio of 1:1. However, the basic problem is too much omega-6 linoleic acid in our diet. We must avoid the excess levels of LA. The fact is that excess LA cannot be neutralized by the addition of omega-3 fatty acids.
Bottom line: we must stop eating the foods that are high in LA.
So, what should we eat?
My answer is to follow my Better Belly Blueprint.
Ideally, you would eat grass-fed beef and lamb with all their organs and animal fats, pastured eggs where the hens are not additionally fed soy or corn products, some raw honey, and a few seasonal fruits. You could include a very few plants that are low in antinutrients and linoleic acid.
Adhering to this way of eating, you will avoid grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, most vegetables, and especially vegetable and seed oils. Be careful with olive and avocado oils since they still have significant amounts of linoleic acid.
If you want to check a specific food for linoleic acid amounts, you can use the USDA Food Database. Enter a chosen food, scroll down to the section labeled “polyunsaturated”, and check “PUFA 18:2” (i.e., linoleic acid).
You also could check out Self Nutrition Data. Enter your food choice and serving portion; then scroll down to “omega-6 fatty acid”.
You will be shocked at how many food items contain Linoleic Acid! Even if you aren’t following a Standard American Diet, you find these ingredients frequently in Keto and Paleo friendly products. I shared a graphic on social media last week with a guide – make sure to check it out and share with your loved ones!
My new book, Eat As If Your Life Depends On It, will be available on Amazon within a week or two. It will be available in paperback as well as hardcover. In my new book, I summarize the rationale for a paleo, keto, and carnivore diet as well as how and why I blended them into my Better Belly Blueprint way of eating. This is an interactive book in that it also includes an example of a completed three-day food journal as well as a blank three-day food journal for you to fill out yourself. In addition, I explain a method for you to transition slowly into the concepts of my Better Belly Blueprint over a period of nine weeks. Transitioning slowly will help you avoid most adaptation issues that could occur if you jumped 100% into a change in diet. You’ll be transformed into a well-nourished, energetic, cognitively alert individual. Also, you will enhance your immune system to become as robust as possible, which will assist in overall wellness.
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