Good Oils or Bad Oils?     

 Here’s hoping those of you in the U.S.A. had a safe and thoughtful July 4th. This is a peculiar year with different kinds of celebration or none at all.

I’m going to jump right in to a reader’s question since it is the source of today’s blog. Melita wanted to know if it was a good idea for Chronic Kidney Disease patients to take fish oil, flaxseed oil, or virgin coconut oil. As my children used to say when they were little and we were doing a home experiment to find out if something was true or not, “Let’s find out.”

Before we start, I want to make it clear to Melita and everyone else that it is important you ask your nephrologist the questions you have. I am not a doctor, have never claimed to be one, and can only do some superficial researching for you while you wait to speak with your nephrologist. Another thought to keep in mind is that every patient is different. Usually, you eat according to your labs… unless your nephrologist has something else to say.

Let’s start with fish oil. Back at the end of 2016, the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which is part of the National library of Medicine, which is itself part of the National Institutes of Health, conducted a literature review concerning Omega 3 (part of fish oil). I found it at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241408/.

“At least until more clear recommendations are available, the omega-3 PUFA intake guidelines released by American Heart Association (AHA) suggest rational intake goals (approximately 1g EPA + DHA per day) in advanced CKD. Fortunately, safety profile of omega-3 doses recommended by AHA is excellent. Aside from minimal gastrointestinal side effects (e.g., nausea, stomach upset, eructation, fishy aftertaste), omega-3 consumption at these doses do not cause other serious adverse effects and thus can be considered safe in advanced CKD patients.”

I needed some help with the initials. Maybe you do, too.

PUFA means polyunsaturated fatty acid.

EPA means eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.

DHA means docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.

The definitions above were hobbled together from numerous sources.

One thing to keep in mind is that the above literature review was from the point of using omega-3 for the pruritus (itching) that may accompany more advanced CKD. However, it does show us that omega-3 is safe for CKD patients.

On to flaxseed oil. The Mayo Clinic at https://advancingthescience.mayo.edu/2019/09/30/people-with-kidney-disease-should-be-cautious-with-supplementspeople-with-kidney-disease-should-be-cautious-with-supplements/#:~:text=Flaxseed%20oil%2C%20the%20most%20commonly,which%20translates%20to%20167%2C500%20Americans says no to flaxseed oil. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases that they cited:

“Flaxseed oil, the most commonly used high risk supplement that contains phosphorus, was taken by 16 percent of patients with normal or mildly reduced kidney function. In addition, 1.3 percent of patients who were unaware they had moderate kidney impairment took flaxseed oil, which translates to 167,500 Americans. And while phosphorus is not listed on the flaxseed oil nutrition information label, a tablespoon (about 10 grams) of whole flaxseeds has about 62 milligrams of phosphorus, or about 7% of the daily value for a person without chronic kidney disease. In addition, flaxseed and flaxseed oil may interact with blood-thinning and blood pressure drugs, and may decrease absorption for any oral drug, according to Mayo Clinic.”

Now, if you remember, we as CKD patients need to limit phosphorous, as well as potassium, protein, and sodium. As the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health at https://www.uwhealth.org/healthfacts/nutrition/320.pdf tells us,

“You may also need to control your phosphorus intake through diet and medicines. If phosphorus builds up in the blood it can cause weak and brittle bones and skin itching. Over time, your heart and blood vessels can become damaged. To control phosphorus levels, phosphorus binding medicines must be taken at the proper time.… “

Years ago, I wrote a blog about why flaxseed and products containing flaxseed are not good choices for us as CKD patients. It seems the same is true of flaxseed oil.

Well, what about virgin coconut oil? I have a vague memory of coconut being a no-no, but I think we need more than that. I’d often wondered about the use of the term ‘virgin,’ so I tackled that first. Medical News Today at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282857#types defined the term for us:

“Extra virgin coconut oil comes from the fruit of fresh, mature coconuts. Processing does not involve high temperatures or added chemicals.”

Got it. While I could not find anything specifically related to the use of virgin coconut oil by CKD patients, I did find many articles mentioning that the oil could be related to cardiovascular detriment. We know that the kidneys and the heart interact closely with each other and that by protecting your heart, you are also protecting your kidneys. WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/coconut-oil-and-health#1 simplifies this issue a bit:

“The American Heart Association says to limit saturated fat to no more than 13 grams a day. That’s the amount found in about one tablespoon of coconut oil.

Fans of coconut oil point to studies that suggest the MCT-saturated fat in coconut could boost your HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol. This, they claim, makes it less bad for your heart health than the saturated fat in animal-based foods like cheese and steak or products containing trans fats.

But it also raises your LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol.

A quick cholesterol lesson:

  • LDL — helps form plaque that blocks your arteries
  • HDL — helps remove LDL

‘But just because coconut oil can raise HDL cholesterol doesn’t mean that it’s great for your heart,’ Young says. ‘It’s not known if the rise in beneficial cholesterol outweighs any rise in harmful cholesterol.’

At best, she says, coconut oil could have a neutral impact on heart health, but she doesn’t consider it ‘heart-healthy.’ ”

Anyone of these three oils could be a separate blog by itself. If you’d like to see a blog about one of them, just let me know.

Before I forget, remember Flavis the low protein medical food products? We tried their Fette Tostate, a cracker toast and found it very pleasing. When I was having stomach issues associated with chemotherapy, I tossed a few of them into chicken noodle soup – the only food I could tolerate at the time. They absorbed the broth and were just plain delicious.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You need to reexamine (and I don’t know the details) the amount of phosphorus absorbed from flaxseed. Whole flaxseed is poorly absorbed and digested. That’s why it’s a good bulk promoter of gut evacuation. However, ground flaxseed presents more nutrients to the gut. Since flaxseed oil is from crushing flaxseed, the amount of phosphorus I would expect to be more in line with ground flaxseed. But you need to evaluate the risk of whole flaxseed separate from ground/oil. So you need to note that in studies and “expert” comment, you have to differentiate. Exactly what status of flaxseed were your comments based on?

    • Thanks for bringing up these points, Jeri. My “expert” comment was the quote from the Mayo Clinic later on in the blog – in the paragraph about flax seed oil. As you can see from this paragraph, phosphorous isn’t the only reason not to partake of flax seed oil. My comments were based on the Mayo Clinic’s information.


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