An observational study has concluded that increasing your intake of omega-3s found in oily fish can reduce your risk of dying from colon cancer by 70 percent. These findings, published in the medical journal Gut, suggest that colon cancer and other related conditions can be managed with proper diet, among other things.
Dr. Jules Garbus, a colorectal surgeon at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. said in an article on Health.com, “We have long suspected the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. This study begins to show a correlation between ‘healthy living’ and reducing death from colorectal cancer.”
The study was led by Dr. Andrew Chan, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Chan and his team tracked data from 1,659 people diagnosed with colon cancer over a period of 10 years. The researchers found that out of 561 patients who died over the course of their study, 169 deaths were due to associated conditions caused by colon cancer, 153 deaths were from heart disease, and 113 deaths were from other types of cancer. The other cases were attributed to other factors. However, what was more noteworthy was the observation that patients who consumed at least 0.3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish daily after their cancer diagnosis had a 41 percent reduction of dying from the disease, compared with those who consumed less than 0.1 gram per day. Dr. Chan found that the reduction of risk was associated with omega-3s coming from both food and fish oil supplements, although only a few of the patients they tracked used supplements.
Furthermore, the study noted that increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake by at least 0.15 grams a day after a colon cancer diagnosis reduced the risk of dying from the disease by 70 percent. A reduction of daily intake was also linked to a 10 percent higher risk of death from the disease. Those who increased their intake of omega-3s also had a 13 percent lowered risk of dying from other causes compared to a 21 percent increased risk who decreased their intake.
Despite these praise-worthy results, other cancer experts remain unconvinced. Dr. Arun Swaminath, who directs the inflammatory bowel disease program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City has cautioned that more research is necessary to validate these results. This study, he said, took data on intake of omega-3s from “food frequency questionnaires,” which “have significant weaknesses to the point that some have questioned whether they should be abandoned altogether.” Moreover, Dr. Swaminath recalled previous studies that claimed fish oil to be good for heart health until subsequent, more rigorous research “punctured the idea that fish oil was good medicine….it’s not clear if [Chan’s study] falls into the same trap as previous studies that found similar associations, but didn’t stand up to rigorous scrutiny.”
That being said, Dr. Swaminath added that should “this association… turn out to be true, then it will be great for patients, and I see little downside [other than out-of-pocket costs] to adopting this strategy.”
Omega-3 fatty acids provide many health benefits
Even excluding for caution and thinly-veiled disbelief, there are several benefits to increasing your intake of omega-3s. An article on AuthorityNutrition.com lists some health benefits to take note of:
- The blues brothers no more — Omega-3s have been studied to alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Depressed patients who regularly consumed omega-3 supplements were found to be less depressed after a few weeks.
- “Eye” can see you — Omega-3s have also been studied to improve eye health. Those who consumed ample amounts of omega-3s every day had a significantly reduced risk of macular degeneration, studies have concluded.
- Baby, one more time — Researchers have noted that omega-3s are crucial to the brain and development of infants.
These are just a few benefits omega-3s have been proven to give. Whatever their relationship is with colon cancer, it wouldn’t hurt to add oily fish in your diet today.