After years of positive reports about the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish and fish oil, some naysayers have come forward to make waves.
A scary headline recently accused fish oil of increasing a man’s risk for prostate cancer. Startling, indeed! But I’m accustomed to taking a closer look at headlines since they too often don’t tell the whole story – especially when it comes to nutritional claims and counter claims.
The study in question drew its conclusions from data collected for another study. That study keyed on people taking omega-3 fatty acid fish oil supplements.
According to an article published online by ABC News, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser told interviewer Dr. Raheleh Sarbaziha that the original study from which this data was drawn was not specifically designed to look at the exact relationship between omega-3 fatty acid intake and prostate cancer. Besser advised men to discuss their supplement usage with a physician before discontinuing it entirely. Dr. Besser is quoted as saying that the study is not proof that omega 3′s cause prostate cancer.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, said that men who had higher levels of omega-3s in their system had a statistically significant higher risk for developing prostate cancer. The scientists said that they had not determined if the increased level of omega-3 in the men with prostate cancer was from supplements or from eating fatty fish.
Benefits of omega-3s
There are documented benefits linked to omega-3 fatty acids. According to the MayoClinic.com, omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid, which have been shown in clinical trials to reduce inflammation and lower risk for heart disease. Other benefits include decreasing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, reducing risk for blood clots, boosting immunity and improving arthritis symptoms. Even more studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids improve memory for adults and learning ability for children.
Health seekers have turned to omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements for a couple of reasons.
Some people dislike fish, especially fatty fish, which is the best food source of omega-3s. Anchovies and sardines are two of the richest sources, but a lot of people complain about the “fishy taste” so fish oil capsules are an ideal compromise. Try our Omega-3 Fish Oil today!
Contamination is yet another concern. Fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel may be overfished, farmed (and fed antibiotics), or tainted with mercury. Also, some fish are expensive… certainly more so than supplements.
Consumers can skip the fish and choose other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including vegetarian omega-3 supplements (vegetable oils such as soybean, canola, walnut, and flaxseed) and foods such as walnuts and flaxseeds.
The American Heart Association recommends eating one to two servings a week of fish, particularly fish that's rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The AHA cites studies that link consumption to a reduced risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death.
All fish are good sources of protein. To avoid potential contaminants – such as mercury – vary your fish consumption to include all types of fish and shellfish!
Susan Burke March is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, who as chief nutritionist for eDiets promotes the dietary health and wellbeing of consumers worldwide.