Fish oils found in species like trout, salmon and tuna have been linked with a lower risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s. The most recent revisions to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010 recommend people substitute high-fat protein sources with more seafood, including fatty fish. However, a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that these fish fats may not be good for everyone’s health. In the trial, those men with high concentrations of marine-derived omega-3s in their blood showed a 43% higher risk of developing prostate cancer than those with the lowest levels.

Dr. Theodore Brasky, a research assistant professor at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and the study’s lead author said the nutrients commonly found in fish fight potentially damaging inflammation, however they may also increase oxidative damage in the DNA cells – similar to the effects of stress, that may produce fertile ground for cancers to grow. “We have this tendency to talk about good foods and bad foods, good nutrients and bad nutrients,” said Brasky. Brasky’s work suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may have both positive and negative effects on the body.

The study measured omega-3 levels in the participating men – but did not include the mens’ eating habits. Because of this the researchers could not differentiate between the effects of fatty acids from fish from those of supplements. Most of the participants, however, did not take fish oil supplements. Brasky recommends men with a family history of prostate cancer to talk with their doctor about whether fish oil supplements are safe for them. The pills can have concentrated doses of omega-3. Brasky also suggests that men cut down on their fatty fish intake, though not eliminate it entirely.

Andrew Vickers, a statistician specializing in prostate cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center believes that fish oil supplements may pose a higher risk for prostate cancer than fish in the diet. “The problem comes when you take components of a diet and put it in a pill,” says Vickers. Though the omega-3 fatty acids may increase oxidative damage to prostate cells, antioxidants, which can be a part of an overall healthy diet that includes fish, fruits and vegetables might counteract these effects. It’s a good idea to check with your doctor about your diet and supplement intake…..   7/11/13

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