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Should men keep consuming fish and fish oil supplements?

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A very, very disturbing report was published yesterday:

A second large, prospective study by scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has confirmed the link between high blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Published July 11 in the online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the latest findings indicate that high concentrations of EPA, DPA and DHA – the three anti-inflammatory and metabolically related fatty acids derived from fatty fish and fish-oil supplements – are associated with a 71 percent increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer. The study also found a 44 percent increase in the risk of low-grade prostate cancer and an overall 43 percent increase in risk for all prostate cancers.

(Women of course should keep on consuming fish or fish oil supplements. In addition to all the benefits listed below:

Regular use of fish oil supplements, which contain high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, was linked with a 32 percent reduced risk of breast cancer.

In the first population-based study in women of childbearing age, those who rarely or never ate fish had 50 percent more cardiovascular problems over eight years than those who ate fish regularly. Compared to women who ate fish high in omega-3 weekly, the risk was 90 percent higher for those who rarely or never ate fish.)

For males, a risk-reward calculation should be made of the risk vs.the benefits of omega-3 consumption. Because, while the risks are great, so are the rewards.

Here’s what I wrote in 2008:

Jon’s Health Tips: Eating Fish

I eat a lot of fish – mostly salmon, but lots of other fish as well. However, I avoid swordfish and tuna, especially tuna steaks and albacore because of high levels of mercury, and tilapia because of high levels of omega-6. I eat fish because its healthy and I like it, and when I’m eating fish I’m not eating meat. I supplement my fish consumption with fish oil or flaxseed oil on days that I do eat meat.

My daughter, who is a pediatrician and vegetarian, also uses flaxseed oil and gives her 3 children fish oil supplements.

Here’s why: (see link above for details on each of these)

Fish reduces asthma and allergies

Eating fish may explain very low levels of heart disease in Japan

Eating Fish May Prevent Memory Loss and Stroke

A diet rich in fish and omega-3 oils, may lower your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the November 13, 2007, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. People who ate fish at least once a week had a 35-percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and 40-percent lower risk of dementia.

Oily fish can protect against rheumatoid arthritis

Eating fish and foods with omega-3 fatty acids linked to lower risk of age-related eye disease

The evidence of health benefits has grown even stronger since then. Here is a small sampling:

1. There is mounting evidence that omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil supplements not only help prevent cardiovascular diseases in healthy individuals, but also reduce the incidence of cardiac events and mortality in patients with existing heart disease. A new study, published in the August 11, 2009, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, extensively reviews data from a broad range of studies in tens of thousands of patients and sets forth suggested daily targets for omega-3 consumption.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids=Reduced Risk of Colon Cancer

3. Omega-3 fatty acid kills neuroblastoma cancer cells

4. New research has shown for the first time that omega-3 in fish oil could “substantially and significantly” reduce the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis.

5. Eating at least two servings of oily fish a week is moderately but significantly associated with a reduced risk of stroke, finds a study published on bmj.com today. But taking fish oil supplements doesn’t seem to have the same effect, say the researchers.

And most important:

6. Older adults who have higher levels of blood omega-3 levels—fatty acids found almost exclusively in fatty fish and seafood—may be able to lower their overall mortality risk by as much as 27% and their mortality risk from heart disease by about 35%, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University of Washington. Researchers found that older adults who had the highest blood levels of the fatty acids found in fish lived, on average, 2.2 years longer than those with lower levels.

Categories: General

One Response

  1. Marian Cole says:

    Despite this recent study the benefits of fish oil are far greater than the risks. I think if you are worried avoid taking supplements and just ensure you have enough oily fish in your diet.