IT’S the weekend and I just wanted to clear up a few misconceptions that seem to floating around on the internet. Quite a few people have asked me about recent newspaper and online articles that have been reporting on the prostate cancer and omega-3 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggesting omega-3 fatty acids from fish and supplements increase risk of prostate cancer.
The problem with much of the research done on vitamins these days is that many of the trials are not randomized and controlled, which is exactly what happened with the prostate cancer and omega-3 study. These ‘results’ were not taken from a randomized controlled trial, but a trial that compared omega-3 levels in men with prostate cancer against healthy men. Although the men with prostate cancer had higher levels of omega-3, that is rather like comparing men with prostate cancer who play golf with healthy men who are not golf players, and then suggesting playing golf triggers prostate cancer.
It is also unclear whether those diagnosed with prostate cancer were taking supplements, or eating more fish, because previous studies showed positive effects of omega-3 on prostate cancer. In 2010, a large-scale meta-analysis of 31 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that there was a 63 percent decrease in the risk of death from prostate cancer with high fish consumption.
In fact, numerous others studies conducted on omega-3 fatty acids by the Harvard School of Public Health classed omega-3 deficiency as a bigger killer than a high intake of trans fats. The study found that omega-3 deficient diets cause up to 96,000 preventable deaths a year in the US. The researchers estimated the number of deaths resulting from 12 preventable causes and omega-3 deficiency ranked as the sixth highest killer of Americans.
There are also many cultures, such as the Japanese, who eat high amounts of oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids and have the lowest prostate cancer death rates in the world.
But don’t forget – the quality of your omega-3 fish oil supplements is important. With fish oils, it’s important not to just look at the amount of fish oil, which might say 1,000mg. The most important piece of information is the amount of EPA and DHA that the supplement contains should may be on the back of the label.
You’re aiming for 770mg EPA and 510mg DHA each day. The fish oil should be from natural deep-sea fish, not farmed fish and each batch screened for contaminants such as dioxins, PCBs and heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium. Nordic Naturals is one of the best, cleanest brands you can take. If you want to know where to get it, drop me an email.
Szymanski KM, Wheeler DC, Mucci LA: Fish consumption and prostate cancer risk: a review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr2010;92:1223-1233.
The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors” stud, April 2009, PLoS Medicine.