New Study Refutes Link Between Fish Oil Supplements & Prostate Cancer

Exciting news for those of you out there who are regular consumers of fish oil supplements!

A recently released analysis on a small subgroup of study subjects that assessed omega-3 fatty acid levels in plasma is misleading and irresponsible according to Life Extension scientists at in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

It was conducted by researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Wash., and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. They widely identified the analysis of a small subgroup (about 6% of the overall study population) as suggesting that too much fish oil might boost prostate cancer risk. Researchers from Life Extension, an organization dedicated to finding new scientific methods to enhance and expand the healthy human life span, say the study’s misleading findings and irresponsible reporting by most national media outlets may scare people away from continuing to take omega-3 supplementation that is very beneficial, if not life-saving, to their health. They go on to note the numerous studies that show potentially positive results.

The Ohio State study used data from a clinical trial on vitamin E and selenium supplementation for cancer prevention. And it added on a single blood test for omega-3 at baseline to determine whether there was an association between plasma levels of omega-3 fatty acids and incidence of prostate cancer.

The media didn’t mention or discuss how the research conducted only one blood test for omega-3 fatty acids at baseline. While they were following study subjects for six years’ time. (And in another very small group up to nine years’ time). Given that the study authors did not capture whether or not the study subjects actually ingested any fish oil supplements, and despite the fact that plasma omega-3 fatty acid testing reflects short-term dietary response, not long-term intake in cells and tissues, the mainstream news media circulated the message that  a very small difference in the average total long-chain omega-3 blood level between men who did develop prostate cancer and those who did not.

Unfortunately, the media did not report that the difference was so small that consuming a fish dinner the night before the only test for either six or nine years’ time would impact the results. The study itself is a correlation-based study that did not test for causality but merely for associations between variables. And therefore it is hypothesis-generating, not in any way meant to be interpreted as identifying cause and effect.

“From these findings it is clear that unlikely fish oil supplements were not consumed to any degree remotely applicable to health-conscious individuals ingesting fish oil supplements,” Said Steven V. Joyal, M.D. and chief medical officer for Life Extension.

“The danger of this deeply flawed, compromised analysis is that aging men obtain health information through the mainstream media. And they will cease omega-3 fatty acid ingestion,” says Dr. Joyal.

“We hope this study will stimulate more research into the role of omega-3 fatty acids in prostate health,” notes Michael A. Smith, M.D. and senior health scientist for Life Extension. “Conversely, the consequences may be profound if aging men shun omega-3 fatty acid supplementation as a result of this flawed study and follows its implied recommendations to consume more omega-6 fats, which people are already ingesting in elevated amounts in the typical Western diet, resulting in an imbalance in omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids and a pro-inflammatory internal environment,” adds Dr. Smith.

According to Life Extension, hundreds of research trials have demonstrated strong, consistent, positive evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA+DHA from fish oil may contribute to health. To the heart, brain, and mood and even help support healthy joint function in arthritis. These results were collected over the past two decades.

Additional research suggests fish oil may be beneficial for health in patients suffering from certain types of cancer. For example, a recent analysis of omega-3 consumption and prostate cancer by Szymanski in 2010 reported this. In fact, large reduction in late stage or fatal prostate cancer was among cohort studies. Furthermore, a new meta-analysis showed a significant inverse relationship between EPA+DHA levels and risk of breast cancer. The analysis was this year, by Zheng of 16 independent cohort studies involving over 16,000 breast cancer events. And more than 527,000 participants.

Other studies have shown that DHA and EPA decrease proliferation and increase cell death in prostate cancer cells. And that omega-3-enriched diets slow prostate tumor growth in animals. A clinical trial published in 2011 gave patients about to undergo prostatectomy either a low-fat diet plus fish oil supplementation. Or a Western diet with no supplements for four-to-five weeks prior to surgery. Researchers analyzed prostate tissue after surgery. And the group taking fish oil supplements showed a 32.2% decrease in malignant cell proliferation.

It seems clear to me that this debate will continue – will you join in? Do you take any supplements for your health? Do you see any impact? Let us know!