Month: April 2011

New Study: Will Omega-3s Boost Your Risk of Prostate Cancer?

Two yesterdays ago, I said I was going to “post this tomorrow.” On one hand, that didn’t happen. On the other hand, a one-day delay is still more timely than usual for me, so I’m counting this as a blogging victory. Whip out the kazoos!

As some of you’ve already seen, a major study came out this week with some unexpected findings about DHA, an omega-3 fat abundant in fish. The study linked high blood levels of DHA to aggressive prostate cancer (and trans fats to lower prostate cancer rates). To date, it’s the biggest fat-and-prostate-cancer study of its kind—which makes these findings all the more peculiar. Given the widespread use of fish oil supplements for quelling inflammation and boosting cardiovascular health, it’s a little spooky to think DHA is really a double-edged sword. But is this study really a slam against fish fat?

This analysis wound up as a guest post for Mark’s Daily Apple, so head over there to read the full thing:

Overall, the study itself isn’t too shabby—and the researchers readily admitted their findings surprised them. But this study is far from a harbinger of doom for seafood lovers. The take-home points, and some additional thoughts:

  • Serum fatty acids aren’t a perfect mirror of diet—and the men with higher levels of DHA weren’t necessarily eating more fish. In fact, it seems low-fat diets can actually increase DHA status in the blood the same way omega-3 supplementation can.
  • The “highest levels of serum DHA” reported here were based on percentage of fatty acids—not absolute value. Here’s a great explanation of why percentage-based measurements may be misleading in studies like these.

Another major study, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, also found a slight (but non-statistically-significant) link between prostate cancer and DHA levels in the bloodbut at the same time, found zero association between dietary fish fat and the disease. And as I wrote in the post on Mark’s Daily Apple, nearly all previous studies have shown fish consumption to have either a neutral or protective association with prostate cancer. Blood levels of DHA and dietary intake don’t seem to follow the same pattern in relation to this disease.

That said: I’m pretty weary of long-term mega-dosing of fish oil for other reasons. Thanks to all their double bonds, omega-3s are relatively unstable and prone to oxidation, just like other polyunsaturated fats. It’s quite possible that the anti-inflammatory benefits appearing short term could eventually collide with a new set of problems that take longer to appear: those stemming from oxidative stress. Moderate supplementation probably won’t cause harm, but regularly taking huge doses of fish oil should probably be done with caution. The best strategy for achieving a great omega-3/omega-6 ratio is reducing your intake of high-omega-6 foods like grains and industrial oils, rather than simply chugging back more omega-3 to compensate.

Edit: Paul at Perfect Health Diet has a more technical discussion of omega-3s, angiogensis, and cancer that does make DHA seem a little fishy. Highly worth reading!

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Resurfacing

Thanks to the slew of “Are you dead?” emails I’ve gotten recently, I’m ending my undeclared hiatus to say that… yes, I am. I got smooshed under a food pyramid last month, anvil-from-the-sky style. Tragic and bloody! Fortunately, one of my many corporate sponsors has taken over to bring you this message.

Actually, I’ve had my hands tied lately with things other than death—the biggie being a book I’m writing. (A real one, contract and all!) More details to come. And, like a frustratingly slow-to-ripen fruit, the promised “wheat and heart disease” post is nearing completion. I don’t expect anyone to believe me anymore, but it’s true. A huge thank-you to those of you who’ve had the patience to keep checking back here for that. Your page-refreshing efforts will soon be rewarded.

Other stuff:

Wise Traditions Conference 2011: I’ll be speaking at The Weston A. Price Foundation’s annual conference in Dallas this year—about the China Study, veganism, and anything else they’ll let me gush on about. I hope to see some of you there! The theme this year is “Mythbusters,” and it’s guaranteed to be a great experience.

For those of you who can’t attend that, come hang out with me at the Ancestral Health Symposium coming up in August, which I’m going to try my darnedest to attend. Check out that awesome lineup of speakers! It’s like all the coolest people from the internet will be crammed together in the same building.

Time to give up fish if you’re a dude? A new study came out this week showing that high blood levels of DHA—the omega-3 fat abundant in fish—are linked to aggressive prostate tumor growth. Check out the abstract here and a regurgitated news story here. It’s the largest prospective study so far to examine serum fatty acids and prostate tumor occurrence, so this is one to pay attention to. But as usual, there’s more to the study than the media’s reporting. Check back here tomorrow for a closer look at the full text.

Sucky Science Award of the Day goes to an article by Dr. Tim Harlan at Huffington Post, titled Low-Carb Diets Linked With Type 2 Diabetes:

I can’t imagine why anyone would follow a diet — any diet — that takes entire food groups away from you. There’s no reason to give up great foods like pasta, potatoes, beans and corn to lose weight or to be healthier. Giving up these foods is one of the main reasons that the Atkins diet is not a diet that can be sustained for the long term. Further, such diets seldom prepare people for eating real food. …

Hear that, low-carbers? Your diet doesn’t prepare you for eating real food. Time to practice for Reality with some Twinkies.

There’s been concern for years about the long term health risks of such diets. We’ve seen that those eating higher protein diets that are also high in saturated fat were more likely to develop heart disease than those whose higher protein diet came from vegetable protein sources.

No we haven’t!

The rest of the article is pretty entertaining, too. Read it and weep.

Some housekeeping. I added a subscription button to this site (was it seriously not there before? What a blogging failure I am!). That should make it easier to deal with my chaotic posting schedule. And despite dragging my feet for years, I finally woman-ed up and joined Twitter. I don’t understand it yet, and that makes me nervous. I promise I won’t post 80 million daily updates about when I blink and brush my teeth.

That’s all for now. More posts to come very soon!