Have you taken your fish oil today? I have, and here’s why-not only is it linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, increased joint health, and hydrated, smoother skin, but a recent study suggests it may help reduce risk of breast cancer.
Here’s what happened: Scientists surveyed over 35,000 postmenopausal women, and found that those who said they regularly used fish oil supplements were one-third less likely than non-users to get the most common form of breast cancer over the next six years. Even with known risk factors like older age and obesity taken into account, the lower risk was still there.
As usual, the scientists urge caution, and stress that the study doesn’t really show cause and effect. In other words, we can’t assume that the fish oil prevented the cancer. “Supplement users may have healthier lifestyles,” said lead author Emily White. “Or they may have other underlying health conditions.” However, the results are interesting enough that Harvard scientists are moving ahead with a clinical trial where participants will take fish oil or a placebo, and see what happens.
Regardless of whether or not fish oil helps reduce risk of cancer, we know for sure that it’s a good source of those “healthy fats” known as omega-3 fatty acids. These are the same healthy fats that have shown to help lower levels of triglycerides in the blood, and even help lower blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week, and suggests those with coronary artery disease talk to their doctor about supplements.
What’s also interesting about this study is that some of the other supplements the researchers tracked, like soy, black cohosh, dong quai, St. John’s wort, grapeseed, garlic, and ginseng had no affect on breast cancer risk. This was actually surprising to the scientists, as they suspected that supplements high in antioxidants would play a bigger role in cancer prevention. Instead, it was fish oil-predominantly an anti-inflammatory-that did the job. Researchers theorize that prolonged inflammation inside the body can increase the risk of cells becoming cancerous-thereby making an anti-inflammatory like fish oil really helpful.
If you want to get your dose of good omega 3s, eat two servings of fish a week, and consider supplements. Just be sure to do your research and buy from a reputable manufacturer, so you’re sure you’re getting the good stuff. You’ve got nothing to lose!
Do you take fish oil supplements? Please share your thoughts.
Photo courtesy DEstranger via Flickr.com.