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Fish and Prostate Cancer Risk

Recent studies suggest that high intake of omega-3 fats increases your risk of prostate cancer. Should you stop taking fish oil? Nutrition Diva takes a closer look at the pros and cons of fish and fish oil for men.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
Episode #245

A recent study linking omega-3 intake with an increased risk of prostate cancer left many men wondering whether to toss their fish oil capsules in the trash. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, report that that men with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had a 44% increase in low-grade prostate cancer and an even scarier-sounding 71% increase in aggressive prostate cancer.

See also: Diet Tips for a Healthy Prostate

 

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What Do Fish and Fish Oil Do For Your Health?

Before we delve into the details of the recent study, let's quickly review what fish and fish oil are supposed to do for you. Many (but not all) studies have found that people who regularly eat fish have a lower risk of heart disease. The general consensus is that the cardio-protective benefits of fish and fish oil are due to the omega-3 fats they contain. Omega-3s may also confer some protection against certain kinds of brain aging, cancers, eye, and kidney disease. The American Heart Association as well as other public health authorities recommend eating fish (especially fatty fish, like salmon or sardines) at least twice a week. And for a long time, many assumed that a daily fish oil capsule would accomplish the same benefits.

See also my recent interview on WYPR-FM on the Pros and Cons of Vitamin Supplements

Unfortunately, this may have been a false assumption. While eating fish seems to be a good idea, research on fish oil supplements has been disappointing.  I think this is yet another case where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.  Simply taking a fish oil capsule does not provide the same benefits as eating a healthy diet that contains fish. After all, some of the benefits ascribed to eating fish may have to do with what you're not eating because you're eating the fish instead.

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