Does taking fish oil increase your risk for prostate cancer?
OK, enough people have asked me about the new study connecting prostate cancer with fish oil usage that I feel like I need to weigh in.
First clarification. No fish oil supplements were used in this study! Yes, you heard me correctly. The media has not bothered to make that distinction. I agree with nutritionist Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, that their reporting of this story is ” disgraceful, incompetent, and scientifically illiterate.”
SO what did the report say?
IT said that men who were found to have higher levels of one fraction of fish oil, DHA correlated to higher prostate cancer risk, while no correlation was found for EPA and ALA. They also had a 71 percent higher risk of developing high-grade, or more aggressive, prostate cancer.
Do you know that low-fat diets can increase DHA levels in much the same way omega-3 supplementation can? And the study did not specify if the men were eating fish at all, and none were taking fish oil supplements. DHA is a very small fraction of total fish oil.
Probably the most significant problem with this study is the attempt to convert a correlation into a cause. For example, people with yellow fingers have higher rates of lung cancer. Why? Because holding their cigarettes stains their fingers! SO the high lung cancer comes from smoking, not from having yellow fingers!
So, do you think any of these factors may have been the actual cause of the cancers in this misguided study?
- 53 percent of the subjects with prostate cancer were smokers
- 64 percent of the cancer subjects regularly consumed alcohol
- 80 percent of the cancer subjects were overweight or obese
Lets look at other studies that did measure fish oil use. A 2010 meta-analysis of available research, found that fish consumption was associated with a 63 percent reduction in prostate cancer-specific mortality, even though no association between fish consumption and a significant reduction in prostate cancer incidence could be found. GreenMedInfo.com recently also discussed this topic, listing a number of additional studies that have shown fish/fish oil/omega-3 to be beneficial against prostate cancer. In general, there is a vast body of information about the health promoting aspects of fish oil.
As stated by holistic physician, Dr. Bob Roundtree, MD:
“Considering the extensive body of literature that supports the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids, there is no credible biological mechanism, nor is one suggested in the article, that would explain why these essential fatty acids might increase tumorigenesis.” (tumor formation)
Quality is a huge issue with fish oils. We carry Designs for Health, whose fish oils are 100% triglyceride form for best absorption. Please read the details here.