Research from the USA linking Omega-3 and prostate cancer

Many of you may be aware of the news that has hit the mainstream media that relates to research from the USA raising health concerns for men by linking Omega 3 to prostate cancer (link to story as reported by Telegraph below).

Naturally the news came as a great surprise and concern to us here at Cytoplan. Like most food supplement companies in the UK we have a range of Fish Oil and Krill Oil products which contain good levels of Omega 3, the essential fatty acid.

Omega 3Omega 3 has a range of proven health claims from EFSA (The European Food Safety Authority) and a huge volume of reputable (and ongoing) worldwide research that continues to indicate that Omega 3 is beneficial for general health and in some cases beneficial for specific conditions and functions.

The HFMA (Health Food Manufacturers’ Association) have today issued an initial statement in response to the research and how the research has been reported in the media. This statement is available below for reading.

We wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments of the HFMA statement which clearly refutes the suggestions regarding Omega 3 and prostate cancer. We would also make it clear that although some media stories on the research seem to focus on Omega 3 supplements (such as oils or capsules) the research implication is any Omega 3 source so this primarily means fresh fish.

Indeed the most puzzling aspect of this story is that the research was not designed to look at Omega 3 supplements and the subsequent publication of the research does not link such supplements with the alleged prostate risk.

After only one day of the research being widely reported an internet search will reveal a substantive volume of eminent and reputable reaction; and almost without exception the responses by professionals and organisations in the health field have been largely critical of the claims made regarding Omega 3 and prostate cancer.

The NHS ‘Behind The Headlines’ for example in their conclusion comment “However, it [the research] cannot show that fish oil supplements cause prostate cancer and it is possible that other confounders affected men’s risk (although the researchers tried to take these into account). The research did not look at the participants’ diets or whether they took omega-3 supplements.”

These two key themes of: a) The research was not into Omega 3 and specifically Omega 3 supplements; and b) The researchers did not know what the diet of the participants (in the research) constituted – i.e. did any of them actually eat fish or take Omega 3 supplements? Are taken up by GOED (Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s) whose assessment of the research includes the following:

  • “If the findings were true, then prostate cancer would be rampant in any country with high seafood consumption (Scandinavia, Japan etc.) and conversely, low level consumption should be protective. Clearly this is not the case.”
  • “The study was not designed to look at omega-3 and confounded with selenium and Vitamin E used in the treatment arms.”
  • “A recent meta-analysis of fish consumption and prostate cancer by Szymanski et al. (2010) reported a large reduction in late stage or fatal prostate cancer among cohort studies.”
  • “Several population based studies have shown a benefit of increased omega-3 fatty acid intakes to reducing prostate cancer risk (Lietzman et al., 2004, Terry et al., 2001).”
  • “No documentation was provided in the paper regarding intake of fish or fish oil in the study group.”

The predominant source of Omega 3 is fish, primarily oily fish, the Government advice has been to eat good levels of fish; for example the NHS Choices website states “A healthy diet should include at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish.” (link to web page below).

The decline in fish consumption in the UK has been cited by many researchers as a reason Omega 3 levels in much of the population is poor and that such poor levels may negatively impact on good health. We would agree with this sentiment and the common advice that good levels of Omega 3 are needed at all stages of life.

Unfortunately many people eat very little fish in the UK either because they do not like the taste or risk of bones, or for many concerns regarding pollution levels in the oceans have been off putting. As such sales of reputable Omega 3 supplements have grown over the years as an excellent alternative to getting good Omega 3 levels.

All fish oil products sold by Cytoplan for example are absolutely clean, stable and have no trace of any of the ocean pollutants, heavy metals, etc. (Detection is now possible in parts per million).

The initial Daily Telegraph article on the research (link below) contains the following two quotes which I think are worthwhile noting:

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said: “Omega 3, such as is found in oily fish, has been the focus of a large amount of research in recent years, the majority of which points to it having wide ranging health benefits when eaten as part of a balanced diet.

“Therefore we would not encourage any man to change their diet as a result of this study, but to speak to their doctor if they have any concerns about prostate cancer.”

Sarah Williams, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “The evidence as to whether omega 3 fats affect prostate cancer risk is mixed and unfortunately this study doesn’t resolve the debate. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers, and the risk increases as men get older.”

If you have any concerns regarding Omega 3 supplements, prostate health, or any other health matters please do not hesitate to contact me Amanda Williams (details below).

Link: NHS Choices: Fish & Shellfish

Link: Daily Telegraph: Omega 3 supplements could raise prostate cancer risk

Amanda Williams
Managing Director Cytoplan
amanda@cytoplan.co.uk, 01684 310099

You can also download the PDF document with the following link (sorry – it may not work for every browser): HFMA statement.pdf


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