Omega-3 Fats Cause Prosate Cancer? Really?

Omega-3 Fats Cause Prosate Cancer? Really? 1

Would you be surprised if I recommended eating Twinkies and fast food in order to prevent prostate cancer?

Well, if you believe a recent study published on how omega-3 fats may INCREASE prostate cancer risk, then you MUST believe the statement that “Twinkies and fast food prevent prostate cancer.” Here’s why…

Recently yet another study has come to light that questions the benefits associated with omega-3 fats, such as those found in fish oil…

In this study, researchers followed 2,227 men, of which 834 went on to develop prostate cancer and 156 had aggressive, or high-grade prostate cancer…

After testing the blood of the patients, they discovered that those who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood were 43% more likely to develop prostate cancer and 71 % more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer.

Opponents of natural medicine then went on every news show and proclaimed that all men should stop fish oil!

So, what’s going on here?

Let me start by spoiling the ending of this newsletter…

Fish oil doesn’t cause prostate cancer, nor does it lead to more aggressive prostate cancer. In fact, I’d have no problem recommending it to anyone who’s been diagnosed with practically any form of cancer!

By the researchers’ own admission, this was not a double-blind clinical trial, which is considered the gold standard. This study was simply reporting or correlation, not causation…

The researchers in this study have no evidence that a single subject of this study took fish oil, nor do they have evidence that any of them even consumed more fish! They made no effort to discover what foods these subjects consumed that may have contributed to the higher omega-3 levels in the blood!

Why? You may ask…

Because this study was never designed to find out if omega-3 fats protect from or cause prostate cancer, the researchers simply went back to old data from a previous study, tested the blood for omega-3 fats, and looked for a connection!

So, how much omega-3 fat did they find in the blood?

The appropriate way to test for omega-3 fatty acid levels is to look at the fats that reside within the red blood cell. Any fats that reside within the membrane, considered the “skin” of the red blood cell, will estimate long-term omega-3 fatty acid intake.

In other words, the more omega-3 fat intake, the higher the level will be in the red blood cell membrane.

The researchers didn’t test membrane fatty acid content, they opted for the “serum” fatty acid levels, a test that can only tell us what types of fat the subject consumed over the last 48 hours.

In other words, it appears that people who have prostate cancer are more likely to have eaten fish, fish oil supplements, or consumed some other source of omega-3 fats within 48 hours of the blood being drawn.

The researchers didn’t look to where the omega-3 fats came from only that they were present in the blood!

Let’s look at the three groups of people and how much omega-3 fat was found in their blood.

The the blood of the cancer-free subjects contained 3.52% of the total fatty acids as omega-3 fats. The blood of the low-grade cancer group had 3.66% of their total fatty acids as omega-3 and the advanced cancer group had 3.74% of the total fat in the serum as omega-3…

This means that the difference between the no cancer group and the high-grade cancer group was 0.22%, or one-fifth of one percent more omega-3 fat.

Hmmm…I imagine that the difference between these two groups would be the serum equivalent of consuming one singe sardine per day, and you’d likely have to choose the runt of the can

Is it possible that the people who had prostate cancer were trying to do something healthy by eating more fish or by taking fish oil supplements? Sure!

Is it possible that the more aggressive the cancer, the more likely these men were to eat more fish or take more supplements? Sure!

Is it possible that those who eat more fish may be getting more mercury or pesticides from that fish? Sure!

So, we could punch holes in this study all day, but the fact remains that this isn’t the only study that evaluated omega-3 fats and prostate cancer…

A 2010 meta-analysis study of 31 studies on fish consumption and prostate cancer risk found no correlation, positive or negative, for prostate cancer risk…

In this same 2010 study, 4 of the 31 studies looked at death from prostate cancer and it was determined that there was a 63% decrease in risk of death in those who consumed the highest level of fish. (Am J Clin Nutr 2010;92:1223-1233.)

An ongoing, 22 year study on physicians has found that the doctors who consume fish 5 times weekly are at 36% decreased risk of dying from prostate cancer…(Am J Clin Nutr 2008; 88: 1297-303.)

A study in New Zealand examined the relationship between red blood cell omega-3 content and prostate cancer risk (by the way, this is the proper way to test omega-3 intake). The researchers found that those with the highest omega-3 within the red blood cell membrane were at 40% reduced risk of prostate cancer. (Br J Cancer 1999;81:1238-42.)

So, back to the most recent study…

The fact remains that this study was not evaluating the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on prostate cancer risk, it was evaluating exposure to omega-3 containing foods (even that is questionable), which brings more than just omega-3 fats…

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish also brings mercury, dioxins, DDT, PCBs, chlordane, and other toxins. So, if someone is eating more fish, they’re getting more omega-3 fats, but they’re also getting more toxins…

Just two of the toxins mentioned above, PCBs and chlordane, have been linked to a 3 and 11-fold increase in prostate cancer risk. (J Occup Environ Med 2006;48:700-707.)

In addition, if the fish that these subjects were consuming was fried, fried fish has been associated with a 32% increased risk of prostate cancer! (Prostate. 2013 Jun;73(9):960-9.)

Now to the Twinkies and French Fries…

In 2011, a study found a similar correlation to omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer risk. In a nutshell, the higher the omega-3 blood levels, the higher the risk of advanced prostate cancer…

The problem was that the researchers also found that the higher the trans-fatty acid level in the blood, the lower the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.

So, by these findings, you should stop eating fish and eat more Twinkies, French fries, and processed fast food!

Hmm…you don’t hear any doctors in the news reporting on that finding! You don’t hear doctors on CNN suggesting that we all go out and eat McDonalds and Doritos because the trans-fats in those foods may decrease our risk of prostate cancer…

Of course not! It’s a double standard that’s propagating misleading and irresponsible opinions.

The likelihood is that omega-3 fat intake, when consumed or supplemented from clean sources is totally fine.

Is it going to cure prostate cancer? No. Is it going to cause prostate cancer? No. Omega-3 fats are no more likely to cause prostate cancer than Twinkies and fast food are to prevent it!

So, continue to take your fish oil and pay special attention to the quality of fish that you consume, focusing on the smaller fish from clean waters!

My go-to fish oil supplement is WholeMega by New Chapter and I recommend 2 capsules twice daily for most folks!

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