Category Archives: Good Fats and Bad Fats

Conversion to secondary Omega-3s

The Omega-3 in flax oil (ALA) is the primary essential fatty acid that the body cannot make – you must obtain it from your food.

A healthy body uses ALA to make the secondary Omega-3’s – EPA and DHA, which it needs for healthy brain/eye/nerve function. EPA is a key building block your body uses to make prostaglandins – key hormone like substances which control many bodily functions like the “flight or fight” reactions – think stress. So you do need both types of Omega-3.

However all the Omega-3s – ALA, EPA and DHA are alike, in that they all block the actions of some compounds that cause inflammation in your body. Most chronic diseases, like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and arthritis are marked by inflammation. By blocking inflammation, ALL omega-3 fats help to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

How does your body do this conversion?


The first step in this process uses an enzyme called the Delta-6-desaturase (D6D) – this is widely recognized as being the step that restricts the rate of this process. This rate can be impacted by a number of factors – more on this later.

You can get also get EPA and DHA direct from fish oil, but there are some serious limitations for your body if you just take a few fish oil capsules:

1. You only get the effects of better oxygenation and membrane integrity from the ALA in flax-seed oil – see “Oil on the mem-brane”

2. Your body needs to have roughly equal amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 – see “The balancing act- Omega 3:Omega 6”, so taking a gram or two of fish oil in capsules is going to do little to change this.

A very common argument used by the proponents of fish oil, is that humans can only convert limited amounts of ALA to the long chain Omega-3 EPA and even less to DHA.

Yes – some of the initial studies did indicate quite low conversion rates, but as the measurement techniques have become more sophisticated, the estimates of conversion rates have increased substantially. A recently published review on the subject suggests that the conversion of ALA to EPA, as measured in the blood, is in the order of 8 – 20% and the conversion to DHA is 0.5 – 9%5.

But this is only part of the story:

• The conversion rate is influenced by oestrogen levels, so that young women can convert up to 20 times more ALA to DHA than young men (so that they can grow their baby with a healthy brain perhaps?).

• Preterm infants on formula were converting about 15% of the ALA to DHA.

• When a group of healthy individuals were supplemented with flax oil, the levels of DHA in the brain and retina increased, even though there was no change in the amount of DHA circulating in the blood. This explains why all the early studies measuring the rates of conversion of ALA to DHA in either the blood serum or blood platelets did not tell the full story.

So, in a nut shell, the latest research is suggesting that the body is capable of making the amount of secondary Omega-3s it needs from the primary EFAs, delivered to the site where the body needs it.

Considering that humans are thought to have evolved in Eastern Africa, well away from oily cold water fish, rich in EPA and DHA, this is not really a surprising result – aren’t our bodies clever?


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“World Beating Flax Seed Oil”

What makes waihi bush organic farm flaxseed oil the best?

The way its grown

Our certified organic growers are audited annually to ensure they meet the strictest organic standards – not only do they meet the NZ Food Safety Authority standards, but in addition I require our growers to meet the USA National Organic Standards.

Flavour varies from farm to farm, so I select our growers who consistently give us good flavour – most of them grow on the fertile Canterbury plains although I do have growers from South Otago to Hawkes Bay.

The climate it grows in

The small size of New Zealand, with our mountains so close to the sea, gives us an unusual combination of alpine and maritime climates. While we have hot days during the seed-ripening phase, we also mostly have cool nights.

This means that the plants have extra surplus energy to store in the seed as the Omega-3 ALA. A research project at Lincoln University suggests that on average our oils are 5% higher in ALA than other growing regions around the world, because of our unique climate.

The way its looked after

I have perfected the way we look after our seed during the extraction process, protecting it from damaging light, oxygen and heat all the way through to the bottle. We also carefully test and taste our oil to make sure it meets our stringent quality standards.

I have tasted most of the flax seed oils available in Europe, North America and Asia, most of them I would never put in a bottle and I have only found two that come close to us, in having a pleasant nutty flavour – the way all Flax Seed oil should be (if it doesn’t taste like this it will be actively bad for your health).

Our blends

Our blends are unique; in that I have studied the science about the way your body uses both Primary and Secondary Omega-3 and Omega-6 (see the blogs on these EFAs for more information). Other blends, such as Udo’s Choice Oil Blend, supplement Flax seed oil with secondary Omega-6 from Evening Primrose oil. Such a blend completely ignores the science that show that your body uses the same enzymes to convert the Primary Omega-3 and Omega-6 to the many by products your body needs to function in a healthy manner.

So if you need to supplement with secondary Omega-6 you MUST supplement with secondary Omega-3 as well to keep your metabolism in balance

Thus I developed the technology around cold pressing blackcurrant seed oil to provide a tasty source of the Secondary Omega-3s your body needs to balance the Secondary Omega-6s from Evening Primrose seed oil (more later).

To get your body functioning correctly and into balance (See Omega-3 Blog) as quickly as possible I have designed a three-stage program.

Flax Boost

This tasty blend is mostly Flax Seed oil, but has physiologically balanced amounts of Secondary Omega-3 and Omega-6 from Blackcurrant and Evening Primrose seed oils. These bypasses an enzyme blockage caused by the stresses of modern life (the delta-6-desaturase or D6D enzyme).

This blend ensures that your body responds quickly, so that you are motivated to continue taking the oil because your body feels better.

A number of studies have shown that within 4 – 6 weeks of consuming high quality Flax Seed oil, the D6D enzyme will be working correctly, allowing you to progress to the slightly cheaper Flax Original.

The only people who are exceptions to this are diabetics and a very small number of people where the D6D is non functional – these people need to stay on Flax Boost.

Flax Original

New Zealand’s first home-grown Flax Seed oil hit the market over 17 years ago and has been New Zealand’s favourite Flax Seed oil ever since.

When you switch from Flax Boost to Flax Original, you need to be very aware of your physical and mental state. If it stays the same or continues to improve then your D6D enzyme pathway is functioning normally, which will be the case for most people. If you are one of the few where the D6D does not function normally then you will need to go back to eating Flax Boost.Flax Original has a Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio of 0.3, so if eaten regularly over 3 – 6 years will reduce the Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio of your body to close to the ideal 1:1 needed for optimum wellness.

Flax Balance

Contains Omega-6 and Omega-3 in equal amounts, so is designed to keep you in a state of wellness by providing balanced amounts of the key fats needed as building blocks for the millions of new cells your body creates every day. This is the diet your body evolved with and needs to have for optimum wellness.

How do you tell if your body has reached the desired 1:1 Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio?

Most likely it will be the return of the original symptoms that got onto taking Flax Seed oil in the first place.

How so?

These symptoms were caused by an imbalance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio i.e. too much Omega-6. This time they will be caused by an excess of Omega-3 – which is easily fixed by switching to Flax Balance.

How long will it take before you are ready for Flax Balance?

It varies enormously of course because we are all different in the way we eat and live, which is why no one oil blend is right for everybody all of the time, as some “experts” would have us believe.

Tip of the Day

For an energy lift try making a smoothie of Flax Seed oil, yoghurt and some fresh or frozen berry fruit – the perfect way to consume Flax seed oil (more later)

Also see

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Are they pulling the ‘OIL’ over your eyes


This post aims to clarify how the oils you can buy are produced and how to tell good quality oils and be confident they will not damage your health.  

Seed Oils

These are all the type of oils you are being offered on the shelf in your local supermarket, don’t assume that all oil is equal so read the labels and ingredients carefully, a lot of oil is blended.

Cold pressed

This term means that the seed is extracted using a screw press, but the seed is not pre cooked to break down the cell structure and release more oil.  That does not mean that temperatures reached in this process are not high enough to start the breakdown of EFAs.  Cold pressed should mean quality oil, but in fact is often used on oil labels where the oil has been Refined (See below).

How can you tell unrefined oil? There is an easy infallible test – if it doesn’t smell and taste of the seed that came from, it has been refined.  

Unfortunately many of the “cold pressed” oils on the shelf have been refined, which involves some pretty nasty processes. (read on…)  

Expeller Pressed


The oil is extracted by a screw press and may or may not have been cooked, so the term is often used instead of cold pressed.  So while there has been no solvent use, it does not mean the oil has not been refined.

Solvent extracted 

Oils like soy, rice bran, grape seed and corn on the supermarket shelf are usually extracted the “modern” way, using an oil based solvent because this method is capable of cheaply extracting oil from low oil containing sources like these.

Hexane is the main solvent used and is a cheap byproduct of petroleum refining, so it’s a perfect solution to use it to extract oil from seeds cheaply – it surely doesn’t matter if it leaves a small residue in the oil?  Well maybe it is a neurotoxin, which can give the glue sniffers the high they are after – but hey?  


Refined oils

Most oils in the supermarket have been through the whole industrial process which involves: 

Cleaning & Cooking: 

The seeds are mechanically cleaned and then cooked at temperatures well over 100°C. This breaks down the cell structure to aid oil extraction, but such high temperatures start the oxidation process. 

Oil extraction:

The cooked seeds are expeller pressed at high pressures and temperature and the seed cake is then solvent extracted. The damaged oils which result from these processes need to be cleaned up so that they are palatable. 


Phosphoric acid and water are mixed with the oil to strip out the lecithin (which helps your body to digest oil), minerals and chlorophyll. 


Caustic soda or soda ash are added to settle out the damaged fats, waxes and phospholipids which can promote oxidation. But these two steps also take any naturally occurring antioxidants like Vitamin E or A. 


Fullers earth, activated clay or activated carbon are used to remove the last of the soaps and protective pigments. These three steps are all done at high temperatures, which cause substantial oxidation of the EFAs. 


Steam at destructively high temperatures and pressures is passed through the oil to remove all the volatile flavour components, some of the damaged oil fragments and any remaining natural antioxidants. 

What is left is a pale, bland flavourless, oil which contains damaged EFAs and is extremely susceptible to oxidation. 

Of course light is extremely damaging to oils, so to allow such oils to be put on the supermarket shelf in a clear plastic bottle, a synthetic antioxidant is added – many of these are suspected to promote cancer. 


What does this mean for the health of you and your children?

Refined oils are similar to white flour and white sugar in that they are empty calories with none of the cofactors needed for healthy metabolism.  

Yes, they do contain some undamaged Omega-6, but most people have way too much Omega-6 in their body anyway and you seriously need to cut down on the amount you eat.  

These oils also contain nasty byproducts of the refining process so are actively damaging to your health – your body uses the fats present in your bloodstream to make millions of new cells each day so you need to eat only undamaged fats.  

So what are your options for getting healthy undamaged oil from the supermarket?


The Good Oils to Cook with:

If you can find unrefined Macadamia, almond or canola oil they are high in Omega-9 and good to use.  

However there are really only two readily available options – Olive oil or Avocado oil and of these only the Virgin or Extra Virgin have not been solvent extracted or refined.  

These two oils come from the flesh of the olive or avocado, so are extracted by a very different method.  For supermarket oils the fruit is ground to break down the cell structure and churned to release the oil.  The fibre and juice are separated from the oil by a sophisticated centrifuge.  

The different grades are:  

Extra virgin

Solvent extraction is not permitted for virgin labeled oils.  Because there can be a lot of oxidation during the grinding and churning process, only oil that has been tested to have low damage and superior taste can be called extra virgin.  



Non solvent extracted oil which has lesser taste and higher levels of oxidation – but still good oil.  


This is a rather misleading name as you could think that this means lower calorie/fat which it isn’t. It is solvent extracted from the pomace after the virgin oils and has been refined so that it has no flavour components left. Not a healthy oil.  

The Good Oils Not to Cook with:

The unrefined nut and seed oils with high levels of Omega-6 – see Omega-6 blog, should not be used for cooking. Cooking exposes them to heat, light and oxygen all at once and the Omega-6 molecule is much more easily damaged than the Omega-9 molecule because of the extra double bond.  

Extra Virgin Flax seed oil is also a very healthy oil – see Omega-3 blog, but is even more easily damaged by cooking because Omega-3 contains 3 double bonds.  


Most oils in the supermarket have been so badly damaged in the manufacturing process that they are not fit to put into your body.
So don’t be fooled by the big letters saying ‘Cold Pressed’ – check the label to see if it is unrefined – if it doesn’t say unrefined assume it has been refined or try the taste.
The readily available good oils are Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive, Avocado and Flax Seed oils

Tip of the Day

A healthy and tasty  combination to use in cooking is about half and half butter and Virgin or Extra Virgin Olive oil (See Butter vs. Margarine blog)  


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Butter or Margarine for my health?

A recent study on dietary influences on IQ turned up a surprising connection: children who ate margarine regularly scored significantly lower on intelligence tests than their peers. The study was conducted by researchers from Auckland University in New Zealand and published in the journal Intelligence.

After adjusting for other factors that might influence IQ, including socio-economic status, the researchers found that children who ate margarine daily scored three points lower on IQ tests by the age of three-and-a-half than children with lower margarine consumption. By the age of seven, the average IQ scores of some margarine eaters were six points below those of their peers.
The researchers suggested that the reason for this may be the trans fats present in margarine, which are now well known for their damaging effect on our metabolism.


The partial hydrogenation method used to make many margarine’s involves bubbling hydrogen through an Omega-6 or 9 oil (i.e. soybean or OLIVE oil) at high pressure and high temperature (120 – 240 oC) in the presence of an aluminium/nickel catalyst (leaving residues of nasty heavy metals in the product).

Hydrogenation attacks the double bond present in both Omega-6 and 9 oils in a random fashion, potentially either – shifting them along the molecule, rotating them into trans fats or clipping the molecule into fragments. The potential number of different molecules made by this random process is staggering and has never been fully characterised.


Because of the image damaging trans fat problem with hydrogenation, many margarine manufacturers now use a method called interesterification to make a margarine with lower levels of trans fats. This involves complete hydrogenation of an Omega-6 or Omega-9 oil, which means the damaged fragments of fat created by this process are still present.
The resulting solid fat is then mixed with an Omega-6 or Omega-9 oil in the presence of enzymes or catalysts to modify the triglyceride structure of the blended oil into molecules that do not normally exist in nature but which give the right texture.

Does this process make a margarine which is any better for your health? Well actually recent evidence suggests not.
The first longer term human study showed that after only four weeks on a diet with a high proportion of interesterified margarine, there were substantial adverse health effects. Fasting glucose was raised by 20%, to a level considered pre-diabetic and insulin production was reduced. This diet also reduced the HDL: LDL ratio in a similar manner to Trans fats.
(Yes I have read the rebuttal of this data by Nestle, who are major producers of interesterified fats, and they used a very dubious statistical model to suggest the results weren’t valid.)

Try This

If you are not convinced, try this little experiment – take a lump of butter and margarine and put them on a plate somewhere accessible out of the sun.
When I did this, it took three days for a mouse to find them and eat all the butter. When I threw the margarine out 3 months later it was still sitting there totally inert – the mouse wouldn’t eat it, insects hadn’t touched it and no fungus had grown on it. In other words IT IS NOT FOOD – there are no enzymes in nature or in your body to digest it.
Since your body uses whatever fats are in your blood stream to make the cell walls of the billions of new cells it makes daily, eating bad fats like margarine is going to affect many bodily processes.

So is it surprising that your brain and your children’s brains don’t function as well if you have margarine – not to me!

Butter is Better

So go and enjoy a moderate level of butter in your diet – I do (well according to my family it’s not a very moderate amount at all – they accuse me of having toast on my butter).

Tip of the Day.

 You can make very healthy soft butter by combining a softened 500 g pack of butter with a 250 ml bottle of Flax Original in your food processor. Store in the fridge, preferably in a light-proof container.

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What are the Omega-3 fats?

Omega 3’s are one of the two Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs – see Omega-6 blog) and the one you will hear most about in the media.
It is called an EFA because your body is not able to make the primary Omega-3 (alpha linolenic acid – ALA – see diagram) from other fats, so you have to get your supplies of Omega-3 in your food.

The richest source of Omega-3 (ALA), readily available in stores, is flax seed oil (61%). Flax seed oil also contains 16% Omega-6 and 14% Omega-9.
(Due to crazy labeling laws in NZ we are not permitted to put the Omega-6 content on our labels, unless we have more than 40% Omega-6, so our labels do not show the Omega-6 content).
Organic flax oil is produced by a sustainable process (unlike fish oil).

The only other readily available plant oils with useful amounts of Omega-3 are hemp seed oil and walnut oil (See Table).
There are a few unusual nut and seed oils which do contain useful quantities of ALA , but they are not readily available and are expensive.
You will get a little Omega-3 out of free range or grass-fed meats and green leafy vegetables – so be like Pop-eye and eat your spinach

You recall (from the Omega-6 Blog) that our bodies evolved with an equal 1 : 1 ratio of Omega-6 : Omega-3, but most people now have a ratio of between 10 to 30 : 1 in their body – way too much Omega-6.
So how do you get enough Omega-3 in your diet to get your body back into the balance it needs to be WELL?

If you look at the Omega-6 : Omega-3 ratio of what are often considered the Omega-3 oils, the flax seed oil is the only one with more Omega-3 than Omega-6, so eating more hemp and walnut oil is not going to do much to improve the balance of Omega-6 : Omega-3 in your body.

So flax seed oil is the only readily available source of ALA which has the potential to reduce the major imbalance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 in your body and get it back to close to 1:1, as nature designed you to be.
That does not mean you should take straight flax seed oil every day for the rest of your life – that has the potential to be just as bad for you as too much Omega-6. Once your balance is restored then you need an oil like our Flax Balance to maintain wellness.

There is a lot of work showing very strongly that it’s not enough to treat lack of Omega-3 like – say a shortage of zinc and take a zinc supplement.
You need to get flax oil into your diet (rather than a couple of fish oil capsules) to get your Omega-6 and Omega-3 in BALANCE to get the major benefits to your wellness (more on this shortly).
The secondary Omega-3’s are obtained from plant oils like blackcurrant and from fish oils – more on that to come.

David Musgrave

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    Tip of the Day

Eat free range or organic eggs – they will give you useful amounts of Omega-3.

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What are Omega-6 (or polyunsaturated) fats

Omega-6 family

This has one of the two Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) – so-called, because our bodies are NOT able to make the parent Omega-6 (linoleic acid – LA) from other fats if there is not enough in our food.

I just need to reinforce this point – it is an Essential nutrient and you have to get the amounts your body needs, from your food, or your health will be deteriorating.

There is a wide range of Omega-6 oils available, the most common being safflower (75%), grape-seed (70%), sunflower (66%), corn (55%), hemp (54%) and soybean oil(51%). The Omega-9 oils – Canola (19%), peanut(32%) and rice-bran (33%) also contain significant amounts of Omega-6.

You will note that the list above has pretty much all the oils readily obtained from the supermarket in NZ and widely used for cooking and making salad dressings. These are also the oils commonly used in processed food.

(Another oil commonly used in processed food is cottonseed oil (52% Omega-6) and since cotton, as a crop, has very high pesticides usage and much of cotton sown around the world is with GE cultivars, cottonseed oil is not a great oil to have in your diet).

The nett result of our high usage of Omega-6 oils is that people on a typical Western diet have no problem with lack of Omega-6 and the advice to use lots of polyunsaturated margarine etc. is not actually good for you (more on this later)

There is compelling evidence that 10,000 years ago, our bodies evolved with EQUAL amounts of Omega-6 and Omega-3 in our diet.

Now days our bodies typically have at least 10 or, some studies suggest, up to 30 times more Omega-6 than Omega-3 – not good.

This imbalance is probably the biggest single change in our diet from caveman days and responsible for a lot of modern health issues.

What do I need to do to get my body back in balance?
Change the oils you use for cooking and salad dressings to Omega-9 oils (see Omega-9 blog) and get more Omega-3 in your diet (more on this later).

David Musgrave

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What are Omega-9 fats?

There is some confusion in many peoples minds about what the different “Omega’s” are, so lets try and shed a little light on the subject.

Omega-9 family
These are not Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s), because our bodies can make Omega-9 from other fats if there is not enough in our food.
They are still very healthy fats and one of the key components of the “Mediterranean diet”.
A number of studies have shown that, compared to a typical Western diet, a Mediterranean style diet can have substantial benefits for total mortality, heart health, syndrome X and diabetes, mental health and breast cancer in older woman,.
The most well known source of Omega-9 is olive oil (73%) but other readily available sources include avocado oil (71%), canola oil (63%), peanut oil (46%) and rice-bran oil (39%).
Omega-9 oils only contain one “double bond” (I will explain later), so they are relatively stable at higher temperatures and are some of the better oils to use in cooking – lovely when combined with a little butter.

I will be covering Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats next.

Tip of the day – My favourite flax seed oil food combination is a pumkin soup with a hint of curry and served with a good dollop of sour cream and a tablespoon of Waihi Bush Organic Farm flax seed oil – Yummmm.

David Musgrave

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