Omega 3 Fatty Acid Levels and the Risk of Prostate Cancer

A recent well publicized research study known as “The SELECT Trail” showed that Vitamin E supplementation increased the risk of Prostate Cancer compared with placebo (NEJM JW Gen Med Oct 25 2011)  Researchers have now used data from that study analyzed separately now claims that individuals with a higher level of omega 3 fatty acids are at a higher risk of developing high grade prostate cancer. The results were published in the Am J Epidemiol 2011; 173:1429.

This was a case – control study in which researchers looked at the plasma omega 3 fatty acid levels in stored blood collected at the beginning of the SELECT trial. They compared the levels in 834 men with prostate cancer and 1393 controls without the disease.  The design of the study does not allow one to conclude that if you ingest omega 3 fatty acid supplements you will develop prostate cancer. The study just noted that individuals with prostate cancer as compared to men without had higher plasma levels of omega 3 fatty acids in their blood.

This particular study raised a great deal of media attention and concern especially with the American College of Cardiology advocating supplementation with fish oils for cardiac protection in recent years. This recommendation came despite two recent studies that indicated just the opposite ( NEJM JW Gen Med May 8 2013, and JAMA 2012; 308: 1024).   It is clear from this controversy that the exact role of omega 3 fatty acids, fish oils, omega 6 fatty acids and vegetable oils is still up for debate. I will advise my patients to eat fish in moderation consuming 1-2 fish meals per week if they enjoy fish.  Eating in moderation and allowing our bodies to use the nutrients they need seems to be the wisest course until more is known.

Fish Oils Fail To Stave Off Mental Decline

Dietary supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids did not prevent cognitive decline in older individuals according to a study which reviewed the subject in the online magazine MedPage, a publication of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  By the year 2040, more than 80 million people will be affected with dementia. There has been increasing interest in identifying dietary factors that could help diminish these numbers.

The study was performed by Emma Sydenham, MSc of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in response to some previous observational studies that suggested that consuming high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids may reduce the likelihood of cognitive decline with aging. Some evidence does exist that fatty acids play an important role in brain health through the maintenance of neuronal functioning while acting as mediators of inflammation and oxidative stress.

Sydenham and associates looked back at three major studies designed primarily to assess the efficacy of Omega-3 fatty acids in preventing cardiovascular disease.  Cognitive function was assessed by various methods in all three well-designed studies.  All three studies indicated that Omega-3 fatty acids played no role in preventing cognitive decline.

Sydenham’s team suggested that more research is needed in this area. I believe this study emphasizes the wisdom of eating a balanced diet prepared in a way to retain the nutrients – inclusive of several portions of cold water fleshy fish per week.

In general, if you provide your body with the nutrients it needs by consuming appropriately prepared healthy portions, your body will extract what it needs.