Fish Oil Causes Prostate Cancer? Looks Like The Mainstream Media Got it Wrong Again
So many of us take omega-3 essential fatty acid supplements (mainly in the form of fish oil) because research has consistently shown them to be a potent anti-inflammatory, as well as extremely heart protective. But a new study out of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has cast omega-3s in an unfavorable light—concluding that this essential nutrient could significantly raise a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. But let’s clarify a few things before we ditch one of the most beneficially nutrients of all time. To come to this conclusion, the researchers reanalyzed findings from a previous study—the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial—which found that vitamin E in its synthetic form of dl-alpha-tocopherol increased prostate cancer risk by 17 percent.
In their reanalysis, researchers determined that men with the highest levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids had a greater risk for low-grade, high-grade and total prostate cancer. Interestingly, higher levels of the pro-inflammatory omega-6 linoleic acid and even trans fats were associated with reduced risk of low-grade and total prostate cancer.
So based on the results of this study, should you rev up your consumption of trans-fats and ditch your omega-3s and stop eating fatty fish like salmon? No, and here’s why:
First, this study was not a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of fish consumption or fish oil and its effects on prostate health. It was specifically set up to test the connection between selenium, vitamin E and prostate cancer. Therefore, the fish oil or fish consumption of the patients they analyzed was not controlled in any way. In fact, the researchers had no way of knowing whether the participants’ blood levels of omega-3s came from eating fatty fish like salmon or taking fish oil supplements, nor did they have any measurement of how much fish was eaten or what doses of fish oil were taken.
Second, the results are questionable, to say the least. Inflammatory omega-6s and trans fats reduce the risk of certain prostate cancers? Even if this were the case, no reputable doctor on Earth would recommend that anyone increase their intake these fats. Furthermore, the researchers based their conclusions on an extremely small percent difference in the participants’ omega-3 levels—definitely not what most people would consider “significant.”
Finally, many studies designed to specifically test omega-3s and their effects on prostate cancer have shown that this nutrient can actually protect the prostate and prevent cancer, including a 30-year study of more than 6,000 men published in The Lancet, a study of almost 48,000 men published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and a study out of New Zealand published in the British Journal of Cancer.
Solid scientific research confirms without a doubt that your body needs omega-3 fatty acids for heart and eye health, brain health and so much more. The fact that your body can’t make omega-3s on its own makes them even more important of a nutrient to get every day, either through your food (fatty fish) or supplements.
The bottom line is that this one negative study is not by any stretch reason enough to stop taking your fish oil. The benefits of omega-3s are too great to pass up—especially when the evidence suggesting otherwise is incredibly flawed.
Larissa Long has worked in the health care communications field for more than 13 years. She co-authored a self-care book titled Taking Care, has written countless tip sheets and e-letters on health topics, and contributed several articles to Natural Solutions magazine. She also served as managing editor of three alternative health and lifestyle newsletters — Dr. Susan Lark’s Women’s Wellness Today, Dr. David Williams’ Alternatives, and Janet Luhrs’ Simple Living.
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