Study Finds Omega-3s May Help Your Heart, Doesn’t Increase Prostate Cancer Risk

Omega-3 - New research shows that omega-3s may continue to protect against heart disease-related death without the risk of prostate cancer.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as fish and flaxseeds and in dietary supplements such as fish oil.

The study confirmed that omega-3s may be a contributing factor in lowering certain heart disease risks.

If you’re up on your vitamin supplements, you probably know all about omega-3s.

These are the fatty acids that have been shown to have a host of benefits for your body and brain, from possibly fighting anxiety and depression to improving risk factors for heart disease.

But studies over the past few years have looked at a potential link between omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer.

These studies have led to debates over whether or not supplementing with omega-3s is more harmful than helpful.

Now new research, presented yesterday November 17 at the 2019 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia, shows that omega-3s may continue to protect against heart disease-related death, without the risk of prostate cancer.

The study was conducted at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, in response to findings from a 2013 studyTrusted Source that suggested a link between higher omega-3 plasma levels and the development of prostate cancer.

The initial study that spurred the continuing research involved 834 men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Compared with men with the lowest levels of omega-3s, men with higher intakes had increased risks for low-grade and total prostate cancer.

That said, subsequent research from 2017Trusted Source suggests that there’s still inadequate data to determine if fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids are associated with prostate cancer.

“One of the original questions that came up in 2013 when we started this project was a finding from the select trial of an association of prostate cancer development in those who had higher omega-3 levels,” said Viet Le, MPAS, PA-C, cardiology research physicians assistant, and one of the lead researchers of the Intermountain studies.

Le pointed out that they wanted to try and find some clarity about the risks and benefits of the popular supplement.

“We wanted to answer the question of whether it was safe for us to continue recommending omega-3, or fish, as recommended by the American Heart Association,” said Le.

“In particular, this made a lot of sense to assess safety given that we had so many men with coronary artery disease,” he said. “We did not want to introduce the potential harm if there was an association between increasing omega-3 levels in the blood and developing prostate cancer.”

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New data on omega-3s

In one of the recent Intermountain studies, the research team identified 87 patients who were part of the Intermountain INSPIRE Registry, who had developed prostate cancer.

These patients were also tested for two common omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These patients were compared to a matched control group of 149 men, and the researchers found that higher omega-3 levels were not linked with elevated prostate cancer risk.

In a second study, the Intermountain researchers studied 894 patients undergoing coronary angiography, which is a test that shows how blood flows through the arteries in the heart. These patients had no prior history of heart conditions.

On their first angiogram, however, about 40 percent of those patients showed that they did, in fact, have severe disease and about 10 percent of them had three-vessel disease.

The researchers also measured these patients’ plasma levels of omega-3s, including DHA and EPA. The patients were monitored for subsequent heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or death.

The research confirmed that participants with higher rates of omega-3s had lower risk of adverse cardiac effects.

Dr. Manish A. Vira, vice chair for urologic research at Northwell Health’s The Smith Institute for Urology, said the study adds to a growing body of research on omega-3s.

“Given that populations with a high intake of fish in their diet have a lower incidence of prostate cancer, researchers have hypothesized that fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids have protective and prostate cancer lowering effect in men,” said Vira.

However, Vira said more research would be needed to see if similar findings are found when people use supplements and a diet high in fish.

“What remains to be seen is if increased dietary omega-3 through increased fish consumption or pill supplements will result in an improvement in cardiovascular health and decrease in prostate cancer risk,” said Vira.

Where to find omega-3s:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as fish and flaxseeds and in dietary supplements such as fish oil.
  • The main ones are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The bottom line

This new study confirmed that omega-3s may be a contributing factor in lowering risk of certain heart disease.

None of the research pointed to any conclusions that these patients were at a greater risk for prostate cancer based on the consumption of omega-3s.



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