Recently, a study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute linking omega-3 fatty acids to a high risk of prostate cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids are usually found in fish, flaxseeds, etc and are considered good for health especially the heart as they lower cholesterol levels. They are generally recommended by doctors and dieticians as part of a healthy and well-balanced meal. But according to the trial conducted by these researchers, those who had higher concentrations of omega-3 in their blood were 46% more likely to get prostate cancer than the others. We asked Nutritionist Neha Chandna about the possibilities of such a health risk and how much omega-3 do we really need in our diet.
Do you think omega-3 fatty acids can lead to serious ailments like cancer?
I wouldnâ€™t completely agree with the study as it has many shortcomings. It does not consider the source of omega-3 whether it is coming from pills or diet, does not take into account the subjectâ€™s health status before the study. Cancer is a result of various factors like smoking, nutrition, exercise, environmental toxicity, stress and none of these things were taken into account. So, it is very irrational to conclude that omega-3 increases the risk of prostate cancer. In fact, populations with the largest intake of omega-3 (from fish) such as the Japanese, Eskimo and the Inuit of Greenland have some of the lowest rates of prostate cancer. There are also a couple of studies which have proven that eating fish regularly reduces the risk of prostate cancer.
Why do we need omega-3?
What are the best sources of omega-3?
The best source of omega-3 is fish and vegetarian sources are flaxseeds and walnuts.
How much of omega-3 do we really need?
A healthy individual without any heart or health issues can eat fish 2-3 times/week or take 500 mg of EPA + DHA through fish oil supplements/day i.e. 2 capsules of 1000 mg/day. Someone with a heart problem can have 2-4 capsules daily after consulting their doctor.
Can too much of omega-3 be harmful?
Avoid taking excessive omega-3 through supplements (more than 4 capsules/day) as it can increase the risk of bleeding, can cause gas, bloating, diarrhoea. Diabetics should take fish oil capsules under a doctorâ€™s supervision as they may experience a rise in blood sugar levels after taking them.
Is it best to get oneâ€™s intake from natural sources instead of capsules?
Natural sources are always the best. Get it from your diet such as eating fish 3 times/week or having 2-4 tablespoons of flaxseeds daily. But if you cannot then opt for fish oil supplements. There are various genuine brands available these days in the market that sell fish oil capsules.