Several studies over the years, ranging from well-executed to flawed, have shown that supplementing with Omega 3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil capsules might benefit everything from the functioning of the heart to mental health and the brain.
We’ve mentioned a few times the possibility of fish oil to help symptoms of schizophrenia. And how a meta-analysis (a study of over 70 studies!) showed that giving kids fish oil supplements boosts I.Q. And how Omega 3 fatty acid deficiencies may be associated with depression.
Now, a new study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle confirms a 2011 study which shows a strong link between taking fish oil supplements and developing prostate cancer.
The study showed that:
…high concentrations of EPA, DPA and DHA – the three anti-inflammatory and metabolically related fatty acids derived from fatty fish and fish-oil supplements – are associated with a 71 percent increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer.
The study also found a 44 percent increase in the risk of low-grade prostate cancer and an overall 43 percent increase in risk for all prostate cancers.
Even though the center is partially funded by pharmaceutical companies, the “natural enemies” of nutritional supplement companies, the numbers are so startling that we have no choice but to sit up and pay attention.
High-grade prostate cancer is often fatal.
What Can We Do?
We’re really big on eating healthy foods as part of your mentally health lifestyle. Unfortunately, it can be a challenge to meet all our nutritional needs through diet alone. Poor soil conditions such as demineralized soils and heavy pesticide usage have an impact on the quality of our fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as our grains.
Factory-farmed chickens and eggs can contain pesticides and other contaminants, plus they are missing important fatty acids which come from greens and insects, which free-range chickens ingest when they hunt and peck.
Heavily processed, pasteurized and homogenized milk from dairy farms lacks essential nutrients. In many cases a dairy cow has never stepped foot on grass from the moment she’s born until the day she dies.
The average hamburger is also missing fatty acids and other nutrients due to the poor feed quality and crowded conditions on beef cattle ranches.
Farmed fish are often lacking in essential nutrients and wild-caught fish frequently contain toxic levels of mercury and PCBs.
So, we reach for nutritional supplements such as vitamins, herbs, and fish oil. And because supplements are not whole foods, they are simply not perfectly balanced nutrition. They are concentrated and targeted nutrition, more like medication than nutrition.
We have to ask: do the benefits outweigh the risks?
We know that a healthier-than-average diet does help with emotional symptoms. Eliminating sugar and highly processed foods, limiting or avoiding alcohol, eating your veggies, and if you have depression, bipolar disorder or any other mental illness, making sure you eat regularly are all a good place to start.
Maybe we have to try harder to get our essential fatty acids through the foods we eat, too and fish is one of the best sources for the Omega 3s. Perhaps add fish to your diet a couple of times a week (if you’re not allergic.) Wild-caught salmon, sardines, mackerels, are good choices—at least that’s what the current research shows!
In the meantime, if you are taking fish oil supplements, speak to your doctor or nutritionist before you stop.
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Last reviewed: 11 Jul 2013