The nutrition world was taken by storm last week when a research paper was published suggesting omega-3 intake may be linked to prostate cancer. Something that is often recommended to increase intake of, suddenly is being that it could possibly be detrimental to health.
Omega-3 has been the subject of a huge amount of research and numerous studies have shown positive effects on cardiovascular function, skin health, joints, brain function and also contributing to supporting the body in ill health in many other ways.
The study in question was carried out by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre and was a sub trial of SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial). Using this studies data, researchers selected 834 participants diagnosed with prostate cancer and a randomly selected group of 1393 of 35,500 participants. Researchers found that men with high levels of Omega-3 in their blood were 43% greater risk of prostate cancer than those with low levels of Omega-3 in blood.
This study has been criticised heavily by top nutritionists stating that the study only shows a correlation and so does not equal causation, plus the study does not show whether the omega-3 intake was supplement or food based and pointing out the researchers jump to blaming supplementation. Marylin Glenville commented “It’s like saying that if the majority of men with prostate cancer played tennis compared to healthy controls then tennis could trigger prostate cancer”.
Dr Michèle Sadler, Scientific Adviser to Health Food Manufacturers Association (HFMA), said: “This new study from Ohio State University was not designed to investigate the role of omega-3 intake and prostate cancer, rather to test the effects of selenium and vitamin E on cancer prevention and hence no firm conclusions can be drawn. This type of evidence can indicate an association, but does not demonstrate cause and effect.”
In 2010, a large-scale analysis of 31 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high levels of fish consumption did not increase the risk of prostate cancer diagnosis. In addition, in the same meta-analysis, data from four studies found a 63% decrease in risk of death from prostate cancer for high fish consumption.
Nutri Advanced, a supplement company have issued a statement confirming the study shows no evidence of causation in relation to Omega-3 fatty acids supplements and prostate cancer risk and would encourage people to continue supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids until further research has been carried out.
The verdict: It’s important to use your head and question research. If your diet doesn’t include oily fish in it then I would recommend a supplement aiming for at least 770mg EPA and 510mg DHA per day. The supplement should also be free from nasties such as metals and other contaminants. A particular favourite is Eskimo 3 which has been tested for quality over and over again. Stay clear of supermarket versions as these are known to be the highest toxicity around.
Daniel O’Shaughnessy Dip ION FdSc mBANT CNHC is a qualified Nutritional Therapist & Metabolic Balance coach. A specialist in stress and gastrointestinal health and weight management, he has clinics across London. He is also the cofounder of Bodhimaya and holds transformative, educational and rejuvenating retreats in the UK and around the world. For more information please visit http://thenakednutritionist.co.uk or call 0208 1234 135.
Brasky T, Darke A, Song X, Tangen C, Goodman P, Thompson I, Meyskens F, Goodman G, Minasian L, Parnes H, Klein E, Kristal (2013) Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial. Journal Natl Cancer Inst. Jul 10. [Epub ahead of print]. Accessed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23843441
Szymanski KM, Wheeler DC, Mucci LA (2010) Fish consumption and prostate cancer risk: a review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 92:1223-1233.
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