I couldn’t help but wonder at the “fish oil and prostate cancer” headlines this week that were apparently intended to “scare” men from eating fish and taking fish oil. The research details being proclaimed, that fish oil is associated with prostate cancer risk has been debated before, but I consider the emphatic fears being communicated both new AND unbalanced. Even previous researchers with these concerns have stated, “Overall, the beneficial effects of eating fish to prevent heart diseases outweigh any harm related to prostate cancer risk.”
This is a good opportunity to write a response to today’s headlines with a different perspective on fish intake and explain why I still eat plenty of ocean fish (like my wild-caught salmon for lunch today) AND still take my supplement of Omega 3 Essential Oils (ultra pure, professional quality fish oil). Fish oil and the essential fatty acids they contain are one of the most researched and recommended nutrients of all time. Let’s be reminded why…
Literally hundreds of studies have been performed concluding that eating fish is good for us and that the essential oils contained in cold water ocean fish produce health benefits and lower many disease risks. In fact, the research on omega-3 oils is so compelling, that we consider these oils to be ESSENTIAL for health, as essential as a vitamin, thus the term “essential fatty acids”. They cannot be produced by the human body, but are mandatory to be present for optimum health. We MUST consume omega 3 oils from our diet!
As you make decisions on your personal nutrition plan, consider the balance of research on fish oil intake and then make an informed decision that makes the most sense for you! And consider this most recent research article on the risks of prostate cancer in balance as you make your decision.
In case you missed it, here is a recent headline… “A high intake of omega-3 fatty acids from foods and supplements could increase the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer by 71%, a new study has found…” from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, July 2013. This seems to be at odds with research from Japan where men consume more fish and fish oil than anywhere on the planet and have among the lowest rates of prostate cancer and the longest life expectancies.
For balance, here is a summary of some pertinent POSITIVE research findings on fish oil that were NOT mentioned in the recent news release, but are well documented and have been in the news in the past and are from well-respected research journals, some of which contradict the headlines:
- Prostate Cancer: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids REDUCE Risk of Advanced Prostate Cancer.” Believe it or not, this article, published in Clinical Cancer Research and in a news release March 25, 2009 showed that men consuming the highest amount of fish oil omega-3 fatty acids had a 63% REDUCEDrisk of aggressive prostate cancer compared to men with the lowest amount. This contradicts the more recent study, indicating more research is needed and there may be another factor at work.“There was an association between fish consumption and a significant 63% reduction in prostate cancer-specific mortality (death).” Yes, this study is also contrary to the more recent headlines and showed a 63% reduced risk of death from prostate cancer for those consuming more fish. This study indicates that men have less chance of dying from prostate cancer if we consume more fish and fish oil. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nov. 2010.
- Breast Cancer: “Women with a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) had a 14% reduction in risk of breast cancer compared to those with a low intake.” British Medical Journal, July, 2013.
- Colon Cancer: “Patients who consumed more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids had a reduced risk of distal large bowel cancer (39% reduced risk of cancer).” Science News, Dec 2009.
- Brain Health: “An analysis of 185 studies suggests that fish oils can stall the negative effects of junk food on the brain.” British Journal of Nutrition, May 2013.
- Death Risk: “Overall, those with the highest levels of EPA, DHA, and DPA (fish oils) had a 27% lower risk of total mortality (death) due to all causes.” This study in those over age 65 revealed a 40% lower risk of heart disease death, which is the #1 killer of American men and women. Those with the highest blood levels lived 2.2 years longer than those with the lowest levels. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2013. Remember, living longer is a great measure, since it is the ultimate of health outcomes!
- Alzheimer’s Risk: “Subjects who ate fish once a week or more had a 60% lower risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease than those who consumed fish less frequently.” Arch Neurology, July 2003.
- Dementia Risk: “… > 180 mg/day of DHA (a fish oil) is associated with a 50% reduction in dementia risk.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006.
- Hearing Loss: “Participants who had 2 or more servings of fish per week compared with those having < 1 serving had a 42% lower risk of developing age-related hearing loss.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.
- Vision Loss: “Participants with the highest fish oil intake were 30% less likely than peers to develop CGA and AMD (age-related eye disease causing vision loss).” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009.
- Cholesterol: “Including walnuts and fatty fish in a healthy diet lowered serum cholesterol and triglycerides… which affect coronary heart disease favorably.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009.
- Brain Health: “Reduction in total cerebral brain volume, visual memory, executive function, and abstract thinking was found among those with the lowest 25% of DHA (fish oil) intake compared to those whose intake was higher.” Neurology, Feb 2012.
- Artery Health: “Fish consumption is associated with decreased progression of coronary artery disease in postmenopausal women.” American Heart Association annual scientific session, 2004.
- Muscle Building: “Omega-3 fatty acids stimulate muscle protein synthesis (muscle building) in older adults and may be useful for the prevention and treatment of muscle loss of aging (sarcopenia).” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011.
- Weight Loss: “…studies have indicated that fish protein may have a greater effect on satiety compared to other protein sources of animal origin.” “…subjects ate less after the fish protein lunch without feeling less satiated.” Eur J Clin Nutr, 2006. Fish has a natural “hunger-satisfying” effect and supports weight loss.
Choosing whether to eat fish or to supplement with fish oil or other nutrients must be an individual decision. Weigh ALL the evidence and your personal risks, including family history and risks for things like heart disease, dementia, colon cancer, obesity, or prostate cancer (for men) and make an informed decision. Currently, just 1 in 36 men will die of prostate cancer, while about 1 in 2 will die from heart disease, so keep things in perspective. And, in the mean time men, here are a few things we know we can do to lower our risk for prostate cancer, whether you eat fish or not:
- Lose weight if overweight. Even moderate obesity increases risk of death from prostate cancer by 34% and for women increases breast cancer risk of death by 70%! Remember, as many as 1/3 of all U.S. cancers are due to obesity.
- Avoid soda and sweet beverages. Drinking them raises prostate cancer risk by 40%!
- Limit rice and pasta, which raise prostate cancer risk by 31%!
- Limit sugary breakfast cereals, which raise prostate cancer risk by 38%!
- Maintain appropriate sexual activity. 21 or more ejaculations per month (compared to 4-7 per month) is associated with a lower prostate cancer risk of 33%!
- Consider vitamin K-2 from food or supplements, which is associated with a 63% lower risk for advanced prostate cancer (Metabolic K-2).
- Increase lycopene from tomatoes and watermelon. High intake is associated with a 60% lower prostate cancer risk.
Never forget than an overall health promoting diet and lifestyle is crucial for optimum health. Supplements will never completely counteract the negative health effects of obesity, smoking, pollution, or eating harmful foods. I want to sound that message loud and clear. Maintain optimum body chemistry through great overall nutrition and then supplement based on your life stage, your health goals and your personal risks. Nurture your body at every opportunity!
For Optimum Health,
Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.