Many of us believe nutritional supplements are little magical pills that give you the vitamins and nutrients you need for optimal health. Well if you believe that, the latest research may be a bit disturbing. A new study confirms there’s a link between fish oil supplements and increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in the United States. And senior men, over the age of 65, are at an increased risk. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1-in-6 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, which amounts to approximately 240,890 new cases every year. Fortunately, the disease is very treatable if found early. In fact, prostate cancer has a nearly 100% five-year survival rate in the first two stages. Today some 2 million U.S. men in the count themselves as prostate cancer survivors, including famous celebrities, such as Robert DeNiro, Ian McKellen, Charlton Heston and Colin Powell.
Chances are pretty good that many of these men—and celebrities—took supplements on a daily basis, as more and more Americans are making a habit out of taking vitamins on a daily basis. In fact, a recent government study found that more than half of American adults take at least one dietary supplement. According to Dr. Darwin Deen, clinical professor in the department of family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, “People are looking for help with what they believe is a problem but trying to solve it the wrong way. Our diet contains too many processed foods that do not have the nutrients we need to keep us healthy— soda and chips—so people respond by taking vitamins.” And the problem? Well Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has confirmed the link between high blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and an increased risk of prostate cancer.
The Journal of the National Cancer Institutepublished the latest findings showing that high concentrations of EPA, DPA and DHA—the three anti-inflammatory and metabolically related fatty acids derived from fatty fish and fish-oil supplements— are associated with a 71% increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer. The study also found a 44% increase in the risk of low-grade prostate cancer and an overall 43% increase in risk for all prostate cancers. Since high-grade prostate cancer is more likely to be fatal, this information is especially alarming.
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This study further backs a 2011 study done by Fred Hutch scientific researchers where a link was found between high blood concentrations of DHA and a more than doubling of the risk for developing high-grade prostate cancer. The fact there have been many studies done that suggest Omega-3 fish oil supplements possible contribution to prostate Cancer is what is alarming.
“The consistency of these findings suggests that these fatty acids are involved in prostate tumorigenesis and recommendations to increase long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake, in particular through supplementation, should consider its potential risks,” the authors wrote.
Like anything, moderation is key. It is well known that eating a healthy, balanced diet that is full of the colors of the rainbow is a good rule of thumb. But what about supplements? While there was an increased risk for prostate cancer from fish-oil supplements, a diet of fatty fish was also shown to contribute. And something else to think about: Japanese men are known for consuming a diet with a high concentration of fish oil, yet they are known to have a lower risk for prostate cancer.
Along with De Niro, McKellon, Heston and Powell, my husband also takes supplements. Doctors recommend supplements. What is the answer? Well I think it’s moderation and eating smart combined with exercise and smart living. And a healthy knowledge of what you’re genetically predisposed to from your own family or culture is also important.
Why are these supplements approved by the FDA, especially since studies over the past few years have linked fish oil supplements to prostate cancer? New research is always pointing to new issues associated with health problems; to the point that it’s difficult to discern what one can eat and do on a daily basis. What are your thoughts? Have you found supplements to be helpful for you and your loved ones? We’d love to hear in the comment section below.