“I’d be very grateful if you could give us the true facts about omega-3 fatty acids and other omegas, because recently the media and the mainstream have advised against taking them.”
This was sent via email from one of our readers regarding the latest omega-3 prostate cancer scare.
It’s true. The mainstream and their cronies have recently blasted almost all the known (and proven!) health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids with headlines like this: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids Linked to Increase in Prostate Cancer Risk”.
Same old story, same old song
The most recent omega-3 results, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, come from the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), which looked at blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in some of the men who participated in this 12-year study.
For those of you who missed our previous alerts on SELECT, here’s some background information:
SELECT began in 2001. The researchers set out to determine whether vitamin E and selenium could prevent prostate cancer. In 2011, they published their first results in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showing that there were no benefits to taking selenium and that taking a vitamin E supplement could increase the risk of prostate cancer.
But before you throw out your vitamin E supplements out yet, there’s one major flaw in this study.
Instead of using vitamin E d-alpha or the full spectrum of tocopherols and tocotrienols, the SELECT researchers used a synthetic form of vitamin E. As I’ve said before, synthetic vitamin E (like any other synthetic vitamin or supplement) is rubbish. It should only be used EXTERNALLY because it comes in a form that the body cannot easily digest.
Now, let’s get back to the omega-3 SELECT results…
To start with, the researchers did not collect any information on the men’s diets. Meaning, they don’t know whether the omega-3 fatty acids in their blood came from food or from supplements.
The researchers compared 834 men from the trial who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer to a comparison group of 1,393 men selected randomly from all 35,000 participants… Now that’s not exactly a fair comparison in terms of numbers. It’s about 559 too many participants in the control group… but hey, who’s counting? Let’s just say, I wouldn’t call this comparison a ‘like for like’ scenario.
They results showed that those with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids had a 43 per cent higher risk of developing prostate cancer, and a 71 per cent higher chance of developing high-grade prostate cancer, which is more likely to be fatal.
I know those are huge percentages… but there is good reason to question these results… and it all starts with vitamin E.
EPA and DHA are the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil, which are the most important and beneficial. EPA and DHA are always found together in nature and they work synergistically in the body. However, due to their fragile nature, EPA and DHA can oxidize and turn rancid very quickly when they are exposed to oxygen.
To protect omega-3, vitamin E acts as a natural preservative to help prevent oxidation… Vitamin E d-alpha and gamma tocopherols work synergistically to prevent oxidation of the fat-containing outer layer of cells and enhance the health benefits of omega-3.
The keyword here is NATURAL. Synthetic vitamin E cannot protect omega-3 against oxidation and nitrogen-based free radicals (free radical stress). This is why all high quality omega-3 supplements always have a bit full spectrum vitamin E added.
So to start with, not only did the SELECT participants not get the health benefits from vitamin E in its natural and most beneficial form, but the synthetic gunk they were given was incapable of optimizing the health benefits of the omega-3s they took (whether it was through food or supplements). If the researchers used full spectrum vitamin E instead, the study may have produced VERY different results… actually showing the real benefits of vitamin E and omega-3s.
Then again, SELECT reeks so much of conflict of interest, that I am hard-pressed not to think that the researchers set out to get negative results. In fact, everything about SELECT has Big Pharma written all over it… especially when you read who was involved…
Merck appears three times, Pfizer twice, Novartis twice, AstraZeneca twice, and Sanofi-Aventis, Abbott, Janssen, and Amgen all appear once. One researcher has financial links to three of those companies, and has also received consulting fees, and payment for lectures and development of educational presentations for Firmagon – a drug that treats prostate cancer. Another researcher is co-founder of Cancer Prevention Pharmaceuticals.
But I’ll leave the last word for Dr. Marji McCullough, strategic director of nutritional epidemiology for the American Cancer Society. Commenting on these results, she said: “”In general, it’s better to try to get nutrients from foods and eat an overall healthy diet. Moderation and variety is what it always comes back to. People don’t need to eliminate fish from their diet. A healthy, balanced diet includes different types of protein sources that favour fish, chicken, and nuts over red meat.”
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Omega-3 Fatty Acids Linked to Increase in Prostate Cancer Risk, published online 17.07.13, cancer.org
The Vitamin E Omega-3 Connection, published online 21.03.13, speechnutrients.com
“Vitamin E and the Risk of Prostate Cancer” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 306, No. 14, 10/12/11, jama.ama-assn.org “H2O: Dangerous Chemical!” Penn State Department of Mathematics, math.psu.edu