Guest: Dr Ross Walker
Presenter: Henry Acosta
Guest Bio: Dr Ross Walker is an eminent practising cardiologist with a passion for people and health. Considered one of the world’s best keynote speakers and life coaches, he is the author of seven best-selling books, an Health presenter in the Australian Media, including regular appearances on the Nine Network’s ‘Today Show’ and ‘A Current Affair’, and Sky News, Switzer Business. He also has a weekly radio show on Sydney’s 2UE/ 4BC & 2CC with other regular segments on 2UE, 6PR, 4BC and 3AW. Dr Ross Walker provides a service in all aspects of echocardiography, focusing on stress echocardiography, at his medical practice in Sydney’s Lindfield.
Segment overview: Omega-3 Fatty Acid is very vital in the body’s metabolism, however, 80% of Australians don’t get enough Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. Dr Ross Walker talks about the Omega-3 Index, a self-administered finger-prick test that can measure the patients’ Omega-3 levels and help them improve their Omega-3 intake and reduce their current risk of Coronary Health Disease (CHD).
Health Professional Radio – Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Henry Acosta: Hi, welcome to Health Professional Radio. Today we have our returning guest Dr. Ross Walker. Dr. Ross is one of Australia’s premiere cardiologist and author of multiple best-selling books. He’s with us today to talk about omega-3 fatty acids and how everyone around the nation needs it. Did you know that 4 out 5 Australians don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet? And there’s an omega-3 index test that helps measure its levels on your body. So we’re here to talk about omega-3 fatty acids and the new tool that can help measure its levels on your body. Welcome back to the Health Professional Radio Dr. Ross, always a pleasure to have you back on the show.
Dr. Ross Walker: It’s my pleasure to be on the show Henry.
H: Can you tell us a little bit more about the omega-3 fatty acids and how it benefits a person’s overall health?
W: Absolutely. Omega-3 fatty acids are a vital component of many aspects in metabolism especially the cell walls. The covering of the cell wall or membrane in a healthy person is 75% fat. But here is the problem, a lot of the times in our modern diets, and the way we behave, we’re putting bad fats into that membrane and we need to get good fats there. Good fats, a lot of people think that saturated fat which you get in meat, eggs and dairy is bad for you. I’m not saying it’s not true. In fact, they’re neutral but they are very good fats for you and the omega-3 fats which you get in fish and fish oils and also the more on saturated fats that you get in things like olive oil, and nuts, and other foods like that and avocados. So it’s very, very, important to have a good level of omega-3 in your diet. Now, here is the problem, as you rightly said in the introduction, 80% of Australians are not getting enough omega-3 in their system. And the report is we’re not really sure who is getting a good level. So you might have a couple of fish meals a week and think, ‘Well, that’s all I need’, and still have low omega-3 levels in your bodies and the best way now testing that is with this new test called the ‘Omega-3 Index’. Now, what the omega-3 index is? Is a measurement of how much omega-3 you have in your red cell membranes because it’s very easy to access the red cell membranes just through a pin prick test on the finger and you just get one drop of blood and that can intake the amount of omega-3 you got med at the red cells which is a very, very good marker to the general amount of the omega-3 that you have through all the cell membranes through the body. That’s why it’s so important to know and as I said, most Australians don’t get enough omega-3 either through eating fish regularly especially oily fish which has the highest amounts of omega-3 or by taking supplements. I give you a personal example Henry. I don’t particularly like eating fish, I see fish for therapy, meat for enjoyment and so I don’t really like it. I do have fish when I can, but I would much prefer the supplement by taking omega-3 supplements. So I had my own omega-3 kits. Now, if you’re 4% or below, you’re really in the dangerous level of omega-3s. If you’re between 4-8%, it’s still really not adequate. If you’re above 8%, you’re doing well. I was absolutely delightedly when my results came back that my omega-3 index is close to 12%. And that’s for someone who hardly eats fish because I take a back of omega-3 supplementations. And you say, ‘Well I can. What’s the evidence that that helps?’ Well I can tell you there is a big study done in New England Journal of Medicine when I looked at omega-3 levels, they found very clearly that if you have omega-3 levels above 8%, then your risk of sudden death is 90% lower than people having omega-3 levels below 4%. So it’s a very, very accurate test. It’s a much creative predictor of risk for cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular death, and its cholesterol levels. And so this is somethings I think are really, really important and from a cardiologist’s point of view, a very exciting new innovation for all Australians, for all people around the world. And so my simple message to you is, ‘Know your omega-3 index and if it’s bad, do something about it’.
H: Why do you think Australians don’t get enough of this in their diet?
W: Well, you look aside people like the eskimos. An eskimo diet is basically fish and … and they have huge amounts of omega-3 indices. But there are places like Australia, like America, that maybe don’t eat as much fish and unfortunately, these days especially with Northern Hemisphere fish, there has been a lot of damage to the fish population through shipping, through the contamination of waters. Not so bad in Australia, but still many Australians eat fish but probably not enough and still not everybody even if you do it, they sketch a good level of omega-3. I just think it’s dietary and I think it maybe absorption as well, maybe some of modern diets, and something that we starting to talk more and more about now that it’s in all of my publications and on my own shows. I talk about this all the time, is the gut microbiome. And talking about the help of the bacteria in our guts. And with our modern process packaged diets, what’s happening is we get less diversity in our gut microbiome, so we just don’t absorb things as well, I think that’s another factors in all of these.
H: You have a talk coming up this March at the Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference. Can you share with us a little teaser on what you going to talk about in the conference?
W: Well I think I already have Henry. I’m talking exactly about this subject. I’m talking about firstly, the benefits of omega-3s and having a good diet of omega-3 either through diet or supplementation. I think, when people get it through diet, that’s the way to go because when you have say a good piece of fish, a good piece of quality fish that hasn’t been contaminated by mercury or dioxins. If you getting that fish to your system, you are not just getting the good omega-3s, you’re also getting good proteins as well. But again, if that’s not available to you or you have low omega-3 index in the bloodstream by all means supplements. I just want people to realize no matter how you get omega-3 in the system, it’s vastly important to get omega-3s in some way. That will be message that I’ll be giving to the pharmacists to the conference in March.
H: What are the other improvements that a person can do on their diet? Other than adding omega-3 supplements to having a healthier lifestyle?
W: I’m glad you asked me that. I’ve been talking about this for years. Diet is simple Henry. Can I dismiss to anyone who still have this non-sense going through their heads. Low fat diets are completely rubbish. We need fat in our system, we need good quality proteins, and we don’t need the sort of processed carbs that we are getting, and we don’t need the processed fats that we’re getting, the trans-fats and the other synthetic forms of fats. So really, the quick summary of diet is, ‘Eat less and eat more naturally’. So what I say to people, we should be really cutting what we eat by about 30% because this is the problem. In our society, we all eat more food than we need to. We were designed to wonder in the jungle for 30-40 years with a spear. We weren’t designed to have breakfast, lunch dinner, sitting our bums all day. And so what happens is that, as we get all that, most people are accumulating that little spare tire around the belly and that abdominal fat is not just an ugly lump of lard, it’s a toxic reservoir that holds on the walls synthetic chemicals we get exposed to as well. So firstly, cut back on your food by about 30%, I say to people, eat on smaller plates, eat smaller helpings, don’t have second helpings, avoid desserts most of the time, and don’t graze between meals. We’re not cows for goodness sake. You don’t need to eat between meals. These people are going to have snacks because they’re hungry. There’s nothing wrong with being a bit hungry, get over it. We just don’t need to consume as much, number 1. Number 2, go home with the blow torturing ‘get rid of your pantries’. If it’s in a box or a container with the ‘use by date’ in the side, it can’t be good for you. And don’t forget what for a … written on the side, ‘Low fat, No cholesterol’. That’s stuff is good for you and if it’s in a box, you should be trying to avoid it most of the time. I’m not saying everything in the box is bad for you, but the best food for you is what I called the ‘Paleolithic Principle’. This is not the paleo diets. The Paleolithic Principle is if you can kill it and eat it straight away or grow it in your backyard then it’s good for you and after that all bits are off. And also with that, avoid what I called ‘White Diet’. White diet is sugar, salt, white bread, white rice, Australian pasta, I’ll get on that the seconds, and potatoes. Because all these stuff wax your sugar through the root. And why am I saying Australian pasta, well, Henry you have interviewed a lot of people on the show about this gluten sensitivity that we’re seeing now on Australia. Now, why we see it Australia? Why they see it in America? Because we have this particular type of wheat called triticale, which has been a hybridized wheat that has a huge amount of gluten. Whereas in places like Italy where they mainly had Durum wheat. Durum wheat has very low gluten rates. I just don’t see gluten sensitivity. Now of course, about 170 people have frank celiac disease, it’s a different thing with the gluten sensitivity. Some people say to you on celiac, well most of them aren’t. Most of them are just sensitive to gluten because Australian wheat is loaded with gluten. So to me, what’s healthy for you is good natural foods. The best diet in the world that has ever been tested is the Mediterranean Diet, which involves plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grain bread, that whole works, all of those things are very, very important and little bits of olive oil, little bit meat, eggs, dairy, fish, nuts, and all of those other things.
H: What are the most common misconception that you want to tackle around omega-3 fatty acids and fats in general within our diet?
W: The most common misconception to me is that cholesterol in diets is bad for you. So, the cholesterol you might get in an egg or a prawn that does not end up as fatty plaques in the wall of your arteries, that’s completely non-sense. In fact, the best bit of an egg is the yellow bit because it has good quality cholesterol. It has choline which is great for memory. It also has gluten which is really for your eyes. So, get rid of these non-sense about dietary cholesterol is bad for you and this non-sense that saturated fat is bad for you. There’s a little known university Henry in the UK called Cambridge, one of the greatest learning institutions in the world. Couple of years ago, they released a paper that looked at 600,000 people, 72 trial metro analysis. And it showed that there was absolutely no link between the intake of meat, eggs, and dairy. And in fact, two major studies have come out in the Europe in the last couple of years. 30, 000 people over 15 years have shown that those who had the highest intake of high fat dairy, the highest intake had around of 30% were actually in type 2 diabetes. So we got to expect getting rid of all these ridiculous myths that are being perpetuated over the last 30, 40, 50 years of that diet. Diet is simple. Eat less and eat more naturally. That’s for you need to know and part of it should be a good fishing diet.
H: Awesome. Well, that’s all our questions for today Dr. Ross. It was a pleasure having you here on the show.
W: It’s always a pleasure talking with you Henry, anytime you are found a bit delighted to come and again.
H: Sure. That’s not a problem. And that was Dr. Ross Walker and we just finished talking about omega-3 fatty acids, how it’s important to be in your diet, and the new tool that pharmacists can use for detecting its levels on your body. Thank you for coming back on the show Dr. Ross. We always appreciate returning guests and hope that we have you back here in the new future.
W: My absolute pleasure Henry.
H: If you’ve missed this interview, you can find us on SoundCloud and iTunes. It’s available both as transcripts and as an audio archive at www.hpr.fm. And if you wanted to get in touch with Dr. Walker, his website is drrosswalker.com. I’m Henry Acosta and you’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio.