Omega-3 fatty acids have been touted for the past few years as a new wonder drug.  Through repeated studies, they have shown to be beneficial to brain health, cardiovascular health, and decreasing inflammation and pain in the neck, back, and other areas of arthritis patients to mention a few.  Omega-3 fatty acids are not made by our bodies; we get them either through diet or supplementation.  They have been championed by doctors over recent years as a good reason for increasing your dietary intake of fatty fish (salmon is a good example).

However, recently there has been uproar about the fact that Omega-3 fatty acids can cause an increase in your risk for prostate cancer.  Major media hammered this headline on July 10th and it has caught fire over the past 2 weeks.  So, to the question, do Omega-3 fatty acids cause prostate cancer?

The short answer: no.  Recent studies have actually shown the opposite.    Let’s take a look at Omega-3’s and the flaws of this study.

First, the data that was brought forth in this paper was not from a study that was formed with the specific intent of showing that Omega-3 intake will increase prostate cancer risk.  These pieces of data used to build this paper were taken from the SELECT study, a 2008 study about the effectiveness of Vitamin E and/or Selenium supplementation for the prevention of prostate cancer.  This shows nothing more than a weak correlation, not that these Omega 3’s directly caused the increased risk.

Second, the levels of Omega-3’s in the blood in the study are not overly high.  They are actually modest levels and the separation between the groups is a difference of 3.66% for cancer subjects versus 3.52% for non-cancer subjects.  Neither of these levels is thought to be significantly high.

Third, the levels were tested via blood testing as well, which is not a good method for testing the long term levels of the blood concentrations.  Blood testing of a person shortly after consuming fatty fish would be largely different than testing someone who had not recently ingested fatty fish or supplements of Omega-3 fatty acids.  The protocol for the SELECT study also did nothing to monitor the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids supplemented or the amount of Omega-3 rich food that these subjects consumed.

Finally, this study fully ignores many risk factors that might have been present in the subjects of the two study groups that could very well account for the difference in the amount of risk between them.  Risk factors like race, PSA levels, smoking status, and age were not accounted for in these results.  These are all widely respected as significant risk factors for the formation of prostate cancer.

Is it coincidence that the Japanese and Mediterranean populations have some of the highest levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in their diets, yet show some of the lowest rates of prostate cancer?  Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be greatly beneficial for 50-60 health conditions over the recent years.  The benefits of them far outweigh the risks.  An article by Dr. Michael Murray offers another good breakdown of this controversial study and of other recent studies about Omega 3’s and their beneficial impact on prostate cancer.

This is a good example of the national media making a major story out of flawed information.  Is it possible that Omega 3 can cause an increased risk of prostate cancer?  Sure, anything is possible.  Is it likely?  In my clinical opinion, it is not.  Consult with your physician before reacting to this new information.  The majority of clinical data still indicates that healthy men should be consuming 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA daily and those suffering from conditions they have been shown to help should talk to their physician about how much more than that would be appropriate in their case

Here’s to your health and finding the truth, rather than simply accepting what media purports to be the truth.

Dr. Joshua McDowell

Premier Chiropractic

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