Dear Mark: PUFA Confusion, Mushroom Coffee, Swiss Water Process, and Timing the Fast

Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering four questions from readers. First, should someone homozygous for the FADS variant that increases PUFA conversion eat less or more PUFA? Next, what’s the deal with all the mushroom coffees out on the market? Are they actually beneficial? Third, when looking for a healthy decaf coffee, what should you watch for? And finally, how should a breakfast skipper/intermittent faster deal with increased morning hunger caused by morning workouts?

Let’s find out:

I’m confused. I’m 75% Norweigan, the rest mixed european. My FADS (myrf) is homozygous. My genetic report says this variant has “higher than average levels of arachidonic acid, LDL and total cholesterol levels due to upregulated elongation of omega 6 PUFAs to pro-inflammatory compounds. Consider limiting sources of omega 6 PUFAs especially AA.” So this says PUFAs are bad for me because they are pro-inflammatory, but you are saying they aren’t bad because they get converted to Omega 3’s which are anti-inflammatory. Is this not the FADS gene you are talking about, but one of the others?

It is confusing, I agree.

If you have “upregulated elongation,” you should limit omega-6 PUFAs in the form of linoleic acid. A large amount of the linoleic acid you eat will be successfully converted to arachidonic acid, a precursor for inflammatory compounds. You’ll also be better at converting alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to the omega-3s found in fish (DHA and EPA), but linoleic acid is a lot easier for most people to stumble across than ALA.

If you have “downregulated elongation,” you should still limit linoleic acid. Unconverted linoleic acid is fragile, unstable, and liable to oxidation. You don’t want it hanging around or being incorporated into your tissues. Nothing worse than a mitochondrial membrane loaded with linoleic acid.

The point is that in most ancestral diets, omega-6 PUFA in the form of linoleic acid was available in much smaller amounts than it is today. Industrialization has concentrated its availability in the food system. Today, we get seed oils in everything—baked goods, fast food, restaurant food, chicken and pork (from the feed). Back then, we had to remove nuts and seeds from their shells to get a dense crack at some linoleic acid. High levels of linoleic acid are bad for the carriers of all the various FADS alleles, just for slightly different reasons.

Great article as always Mark.

Just wondering about mushroom coffee? The type that includes reishi & other varieties supposedly high in immune boosting compounds. Any benefit?



We had the founder of Four Sigmatic, Tero Isokauppila, on the podcast awhile back. Interesting guy and a great line of products. His signature one is mushroom coffee.

Are there benefits?

Well, mushrooms are legit. You don’t even have to wade into the world of magical immunomodulatory, brain-nerve-regenerating, adaptogenic mushrooms to see some interesting effects. Common culinary mushrooms like brown, white, oyster, porcini, and chanterelle mushrooms may all produce major health benefits, including blood pressure regulation, nerve cell growth stimulation, immunomodulation, and cancer protection.

What about the mushrooms often included in these mushrooms coffees, like reishi, chaga, lion’s mane, and cordyceps?

Reishi: Stimulates the immune system, including a boost in natural killer cell and T-cell activity. It reduces fatigue in breast cancer patients and neuroasthenia patients (neuroasthenia is a confusing medical condition characterized primarily by fatigue, so this is a big effect). In potential colorectal cancer patients, it appears to reduce the number and size of adenomas (benign tumors that could presage the formation of less benign ones) in the colon.

Chaga: Full of phenolic compounds, many of which have anti-cancer potential. Reduces oxidative stress in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, even protecting against DNA damage.

Lion’s Mane: May reverse mild cognitive decline in the elderly, help people with nerve damage regenerate destroyed nerves and regain their ability to walk, and act as a nootropic in healthy people.

Cordyceps: Included with immunosuppressant therapy, helps kidney transplant patients improve kidney function and avoid kidney transplant side effects. Increases lactate threshold in elderly folks during exercise; an increased lactate threshold means you stay aerobic and burn fat for longer before relying more heavily on glycogen.

Coffee is legit, assuming you tolerate caffeine. And even if you don’t, decaf coffee remains a great source of phytochemicals.

Is “Swiss water process” all you need to look for in a decaf coffee to avoid all the nasty chemicals and solvents Mark talked about?

Yes, that’s all you need.

I have been intermittent fasting, last food around 8 or 9 pm and then not eating until around noon, and this has been working great. But I have added in a morning workout and now I am getting hungry sooner, sometimes right after the workout. I suspect I need to up my calories overall. Should I just go ahead and eat “WHEN” as you say, and not worry about the IF timing, or should I try to get more calories in during my current compressed window?

There’s value in both. I find it plausible that feeling the sensation of hunger—true hunger, as arises after a hard workout with very little in your stomach—is worth experiencing on a semi-regular basis. It’s a feeling humans are “meant” to feel, as our ancestral environments often dictated we go without food despite desiring (and even “needing”) it.

WHEN is also a valuable tactic. To eat when hunger ensues naturally is to honor your physiology. If anything is a valid and accurate indicator of your body’s immediate nutritional requirements, it’s your subconscious instincts and urges.

I’ll give a third option, too. Instead of skipping breakfast, why not skip dinner? Have your last meal at 4 or 5 PM, do your morning workout in a fasted state, break the fast at 8 or 9 AM right after. You could even follow a “eat only when the sun’s up” rule to make things simpler.

Good luck, and let me know what you decide to do.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading, and be sure to help out down below with your own comments and answers (and questions).


About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!