CRN publishes commentary criticizing latest omega-3 research in Natural Medicine Journal

WASHINGTON — The limitations within a recent study linking omega-3 fish oil and increased prostate cancer risk ought to be taken in consideration, according to a commentary published in the August issue of Natural Medicine Journal

Published July 11 in the online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the report in question suggested 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% increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer. The study also found a 44% increase in the risk of low-grade prostate cancer and an overall 43% increase in risk for all prostate cancers.

According to co-authors Duffy MacKay, the Council for Responsible Nutrition's VP scientific and regulatory affairs, and Barry Ritz, CRN senior scientific advisory council vice chair, the study was an epidemiological study — meant to generate a hypothesis, not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. However, the study's researchers intended to look at the relation between selenium and vitamin E supplementation on prostate cancer risk. At no point during the study were the subjects given fish or fish oil supplements. Also, dietary intake of fish or fish oil supplements was not documented, creating no data to back the conclusion that supplemental omega-3 fats are correlated to an increase risk of prostate cancer.

Additionally, MacKay and Ritz noted that the conclusion of the study contradicts the recommendations of reputable health organizations as well as the greater body of scientific evidence which demonstrates the established benefits of both fish and fish oil, saying this study “should not change clinicians’ dietary recommendations or prescribing patterns.”

“With nearly a fifth of all U.S. adults taking omega-3 fish oil supplements each year, it’s not only essential to counter balance the consumer headlines that often make sweeping conclusions,” MacKay said. "But it’s equally important to engage the scientific and clinician communities in a dialogue so that the science is critically interpreted. Part of our role at CRN is to make sure the science is interpreted fairly.”

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