Omega-3 Fatty Acids Reduce Risk of Colon Cancer


A new study adds evidence to the association between high intake of omega-3 fatty acids and reduced cancer risk.

The research, part of the large, ongoing Physician’s Health Study at Harvard School of Public Health, compared blood levels of  omega-3 fatty acids in men who developed colorectal cancer with men who did not develop colorectal cancer. They found that, in men not taking aspirin, those with the highest levels of omega-3s had a 40 % reduced risk of colorectal cancer compared to those with the lowest blood levels of omega-3s.  In men taking aspirin, there was no difference in risk between these two groups.

Researchers believe that omega-3 fatty acids lower the risk for colon cancer by reducing inflammation in the bowel. Inflammation is a cancer-promoter. Aspirin also reduces inflammation, and so, provided the same anti-inflammatory benefits as fish oil. (Hall, NM et al. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2007;16(2):314-21.)

This study doesn’t say how much fish oil needed to reduce colon cancer risk. Generally, 2 to 4 grams a day is recommended for people with active inflammation, such as inflammatory bowel disease. For prevention, 1-2 grams a day is sufficient. Fish oil works best to reduce inflammation if it replaces polyunsaturated fats such as corn or soy oil, or saturated fats (found in meats, butter, and other fatty animal products).

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