Research findings muddy water on oil supplements

IF YOU take fish oil supplements, and you're a man, you may be wondering whether to stop following a shock study last week.

It was widely reported that research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found omega-3 fatty acids were associated with an increase of between 43% and 71% in the risk of developing prostate cancer.

It seems that while nutrients commonly found in fish fight potentially damaging inflammation, they may also increase oxidative damage to the DNA in cells.

What that means is that they may prepare an environment in which cancers can grow.

However, at this stage, scientists are not able to completely explain the connection with some in the medical community suggesting that more research is needed before jumping to conclusions.

However, lead author Alan Kristal, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, said the study reinforced that nutritional supplements may be harmful.

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Ian Olver has also said: "There is a view out there that extra vitamins and antioxidants are good for you.

"And people take more thinking that more is better."

That said, this latest, negative report on fish oil contradicts previous research that shows it offers many benefits.

Fish oil has also been shown in numerous international studies to reduce inflammation associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease and to help improve cognitive function.

If you are taking fish oil supplements, talk to your health practitioner about the dose and the appropriateness for you.

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At a glance

The Cancer Council recommends people:

  • Eat fish (preferably oily) at least twice a week
  • Include some plant foods and oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.
  • These recommendations are consistent with those made by Heart Foundations around the world and the Dietary Guidelines for Australian adults.


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