Four Horsemen of Aging, Part III, Eat The Right Fats For Flexibility

Last week we discussed Inflammation, the first of the “Four Horsemen of Aging”.

This week we’re going to discuss something called oxidative damage.

Here’s how it works. You’ve probably heard of nasty little molecules known as “free radicals”. These “free radicals” do lots of damage to our body. They actually age us. They attack our cells and our DNA. And they also do incalculable damage to our cell membranes.

Even though damage to the cell membranes takes place under the radar, (after all, you can’t see cellular damage except with a microscope), what happens to your cell membranes actually matters a great deal. Nothing will age you faster than an assault on your cell membranes, and here’s why.

The membranes are critical to cell health—they’re what hold the cell together. Cell membranes have to be flexible enough to allow information to pass in and out but stiff enough so that they don’t collapse. They’re delicate structures (one of the reasons trans fats are so harmful is that they damage the cell membrane).

Cell membranes are made up largely of fats (lipids) called phospholipids and the oxidative damage done to cell membranes is called lipid peroxidation. And here’s the thing: the fats that are most vulnerable to this kind of oxidative damage are the very fats we’ve been told to eat more of –unsaturated fats like vegetable oils!

Saturated fats- the very fats we’ve been told by the Diet Dictocrats to avoid at all costs- are actually much more stable and thus less susceptible to oxidative damage than unsaturated vegetable oils!

Does that mean we shouldn’t eat unsaturated fats? No. But it does mean they need special protection in the form of antioxidants if we’re going to get their full benefit.

The vulnerability of unstable fats to oxidative damage is actually the reason why health practitioners always recommend a little vitamin E with your fish oil. Fish oil, a highly unsaturated fat which is also one of the healthiest, most anti-aging compounds on the planet, is nonetheless made up of delicate fatty acids extremely vulnerable to damage from both heat and oxygen (that’s why you can’t cook with either fish oil or flaxseed oil).

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and will protect the delicate structures of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish (and flax).

Next week in Part IV, we’ll discuss one of the many reasons you shouldn’t eat too much sugar- a nasty little “horseman of aging” called Glycation!




  1. Alan

    Where did part 2 go?

  2. Linda Clinton Witbek

    Dear Jonny,

    I just watched and listened to the video of you being interviewed on The Popular Diets. You are without a doubt, on top of your game. I am deeply inspired by your passion and knowledge. Keep up the great work!

  3. Jeff

    Perhaps the second horseman of old age is memory loss! I don’t remember it! Crap!

  4. Dr. Jonny

    Thank you so much Linda!!


  5. Dr. Jonny

    Hi Alan

    In the new transfer to the new website and format, part two got “lost” in cyberspace. We’re working on it and it will be soon!


  6. janine

    i have read for helping to keep inflamation down you should cut down starcy veg like potatoes. what is best to eat i am vegetarian and dont eat cheese or drink ,miik

  7. Dr. Jonny

    Hi Janine,

    The quickest way you can make a difference right away is to cut back on high omega-6 oils like corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil and the like and up your intake of omega-3’s (fish oil, flax oil, wild salmon, etc). And to decrease sugar! (i.e. white potatoes, rice, etc.)

    hope that helps


  8. maha

    Hi Jonny
    Is canola oil a good choice for cooking? I use olive oil for salads and with anything cold. If canola is not a good choice, what oil do you recommend other than cold pressed coconut oil, because it,s not available where i live.
    Thank you so much for the valuable information we receive from you.

  9. Dr. Jonny

    Hi Maha

    I’m not crazy about canola oil- and even if you used Spectrum or one of the organic, cold pressed brands, i’m not sure it’s good for high heat since there ARE some omega-3’s in there… if you’re using high heat peanut oil stands up very well but it is very very high in omega-6; macademia nut oil is even more resistant to heat than olive oil; a third choice is to simply use lower heat. And Barlean’s coconut oil by the way is available on my website if you’d like to try it!


  10. Jill

    I make flaxseed muffins…does baking them destroy the lignans and benefits of the flax seeds? When I make porridge out of flax I’ve been told to not use boiling water or microwave it for that reason.

  11. Dr. Jonny

    Nope! we have flaxseed muffin recipe in “The Healthiest Meals on Earth”!



  12. Ann Korach

    Dear Jonny.

    I am a former professional ballet dancer as such , I have ALWAYS been fighting my weight even employing Stillman.
    Who was a out of his mind, no wonder he was murdered.
    While I read Atkins and did not read his book in its’ entirety, which I should have, was right on the money and even more so in the revised edition.
    Your book, which is heavily footnoted, is my bible.
    I teach a body conditioning class and I have extolled the virtues of your book. I have given the book to many of my clients-patients who have had excellent results.
    Sincerely, Ann

  13. jade

    Use whole flaxseeds but not grounded one for baking muffin? if it is grounded, the omega-3s will become rancid in cooking, right or wrong?

  14. Dr. Jonny

    no, use ground flaxseeds- or flaxmeal (like Barlean’s fortiflax). We can’t digest the whole seed. And nope, if it’s ground the omega-3’s will not become rancid from baking; they stand up to those temperatures according to my best sources in chemistry. Not high heat like frying or sauteeing, but certainly baking. Just as salmon does.


  15. Dr. Jonny

    Thank you so much Ann! I’m assuming you’re talking about “Living the Low Carb Life”? It’s going to be re-released in a vastly expanded and updated version in Jan 2010; hope you like it!@

    and thanks for the kind words!


  16. Anon.

    When will Part IV which will discuss glycation be made available?

  17. Dr. Jonny

    thanks for asking- i actually moved these basic discussions over to the book blog, since the book is now available:


  18. R

    Linda Clinton from pine st. Philadelphia?
    Hi, its me Roberto! I have been looking for you, I still have the lovely book you gave me.
    Please reply my email if is you.