Omega 3 fatty acids may reduce your risk of colon cancer. Omega 3 fatty acids may increase your risk of colon cancer. Confused? You aren’t alone. Conflicting studies over the past five years have had dramatically different results when looking at omega 3 fatty acid consumption and colon cancer prevention or risk. But it seems, as with most things, a moderate consumption of omega 3’s can have a positive effect on avoiding cancer.
Can Omega 3’s Help with Colon Cancer Prevention?
According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found a reduced risk of colon cancer with increasing omega 3 fatty acid intake. The study subjects who saw the greatest benefits were whites, while African American participants saw the opposite—their risk was actually increased. Scientists cautioned against interpreting this saying it was likely due to chance.
However, the study found that those whites who were in the top fourth of omega 3 consumption had half the risk of colon cancer when compared to those consuming in the bottom fourth.
A related study, this one published in Gut, found that consumption of omega 3 fatty acids aided in colon cancer prevention by reducing the size and number of rectal polyps—a risk factor for colon cancer.
Studies on mice haven’t shown the same results. According to My Health News Daily, mice with impaired immune systems who were given high doses of omega 3 fatty acids actually developed colon cancer. Scientists were looking to see if people in inflammatory bowel disease (commonly associated with a compromised immune system) would benefit from omega 3’s. They found evidence to the contrary.
The mice, all of which had been genetically altered to be more susceptible to bacterial infections, were then exposed to bacteria that increased their risk of developing colon cancer and colitis.
The mice that had received medium and high dosages of the omega-3 fatty acid developed late-stage colon cancer, the researchers found. The other mice did not. From MyHealthNewsDaily:
Fenton said the results show a high dose of fish oil — beyond what you’d normally get from a healthy diet — has the potential to suppress the immune response to a virus or bacteria if you already have a compromised immune system.
Researchers from the mice study suggest people get their omega 3 fatty acids from foods rather than supplements. This helps ensure they are getting moderate amounts that can still deliver health benefits without potentially increasing any risks. Of course, depending on your realistic dietary intake of omega 3 fatty acids, supplementation may be a good choice.