New study results determined that omega-3 fats do not protect against cancer, contrary to what most people might believe. The research has been led by the University of East Anglia and demonstrated that although an increased intake of omega-3 fats is advocated globally because of a common belief that it will protect against, or even reverse, illnesses such as cancer, heart attack, and stroke, it does not.
However, two systematic reviews issued today, February 29th, found that omega-3 supplements may somewhat reduce coronary heart disease mortality and incidents, but slightly increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Omega-3 Might Trigger Some Cancers
If 1,000 people consumed omega-3 supplements for about four years, three people would not die from heart disease, six people would avoid a coronary incident, for instance, a heart attack, and three people would end up suffering from prostate cancer.
Omega-3 is a kind of fat, and small quantities are good for health, as it can be found in the food we eat, such as nuts and seeds, as well as fatty fish like salmon. Omega-3 fats are also consumed as listed supplements, and they are widely used.
The team of scientists analyzed 47 trials that focused on adults who did not have cancer, who were at high risk of cancer or had a prior cancer diagnosis, as well as 86 trials with proof on cardiovascular incidents or deaths.
Over 100,000 cases were randomized to intake more amounts of omega-3 fats, or maintain their regular intake, for at least a year for both reviews. The team then analyzed the number of people who died, received a cancer diagnosis, suffered from a heart attack or stroke, and/or died of any of these illnesses.
Fish Oil Tablets Give Close to no Benefit
Lead author Dr. Lee Hooper, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Our previous research has shown that long-chain omega-3 supplements, including fish oils, do not protect against conditions such as anxiety, depression, stroke, diabetes or death.”
These systematic reviews comprised information from thousands of people over long time frames. This massive quantity of data has demonstrated that if people consume omega-3 supplements for a few years, they might somewhat reduce the risk of heart disease, but might be diagnosed with some cancers. The overall impacts on people’s health are small.
“The evidence on omega-3 mostly comes from trials of fish oil supplements, so health effects of oily fish, a rich source of long-chain omega 3, are unclear. Oily fish is a very nutritious food as part of a balanced diet, rich in protein and energy, as well as important micronutrients such as selenium, iodine, vitamin D, and calcium—it is much more than an omega-3 source,” Dr. Hooper explained.
“But we found that there is no demonstrable value in people taking omega-3 oil supplements for the prevention or treatment of cancer. In fact, we found that they may very slightly increase cancer risk, particularly for prostate cancer,” he added.
Taking into consideration the environmental issues regarding industrial fishing and the effect it is having on fish sticks and plastic pollution in the oceans, it seems rather silly to continue taking fish oil drugs that have almost no health benefit.
The two systematic reviews have been published in the British Journal of Cancer and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.