I can't fault researchers for doing their jobs. But sometimes, the things they choose to study seem a little silly to me. Take, for example, this researcher from the University of Guelph in Ontario. He wanted to determine whether omega-3 oils from plant or marine sources work better at preventing cancer.
For a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, this researcher investigated the three types of omega-3 fatty acids, a-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and their effects on a very aggressive form of breast cancer called HER-2.
EPA and DHA might be the omega-3s you're most familiar with, as they're found in fish, algae, and phytoplankton. When people talk about "fish oils," these are typically the oils they're referring to. But ALA, a plant-based oil found in flaxseed and soy, canola, and hemp oils, is known to be beneficial too. This researcher just wanted to know which oils worked the best.
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The researcher used mice genetically engineered to be susceptible to HER-2 to study the oils' effects. He began exposing the mice to either ALA or EPA and DHA in utero so that he could evaluate their effects on cancer prevention. His findings confirmed that omega-3s can be a powerful cancer-fighting tool: the mice who received the marine-based oils experienced a 60-70% reduction in tumor size and a 30% reduction in number of tumors.
What about the ALA mice? They also experienced benefits. It just took higher doses to get the same results.
The researcher concluded that people should focus their efforts on getting two to three servings of seafood a week, since EPA and DHA are "more effective." But since omega-3s affect cancer growth by supporting the immune system, turning on important genes, and blocking the pathways that lead to tumor growth, I'd like all the help I can get. I don't want to take the chance that the flashy superstars EPA and DHA are missing smaller opportunities to fight cancer that ALA can take care of.
I understand that when it comes to making dietary recommendations, sometimes it's easier to suggest people make one change at a time. In that case, you certainly do want to focus on whatever will give you the biggest bang for your buck. And I think eating seafood regularly is a good idea. But if your goal is getting enough omega-3 fatty acids to aid in your cancer-prevention fight, you don't have to change your diet at all or try to keep track of which oils are in what foods. You can simply take Complete Daily Oils. It contains EPA, DHA, and ALA, so all your bases are covered.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD