Fitness & Fat Loss

Omega 3 Fatty Acid Intake May Reduce Colon Cancer Death Risk

fish collectionRegular intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help patients suffering from colorectal cancer (CRC), also referred to as colon cancer, prolong their lives. A study published in the journal Gut suggests that a high dietary intake of marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) may significantly lower risk of death from the disease.

While omega-3s are obtained from plant and animal sources, the fatty acids found to be beneficial in this study were from marine animal sources such as cold water fish and krill. These include types known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA).

The researchers analyzed two large studies, one involving 121,700 US registered female nurses, aged between 30 and 55 in 1976, and the other involving 51, 529 male health professionals, aged between 40 and 75 in 1986.

The participants were asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire regarding medical history and lifestyle factors. This was repeated every two years. A food intake questionnaire was also completed and dietary data taken every four years.

Among the 1659 participants who developed colon cancer, 561 died, including 169 that died due to the disease and others from other causes.

The researchers found that participants who recorded a higher dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids after colon cancer diagnosis had a lower risk of dying from the disease. This indicates that increasing dietary intake of the fatty acids after diagnosis may confer benefits to patients with colon cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the US, skin cancers excluded.[1]

Omega 3 Effects On Cancer

The topic on omega-3 effects on cancer requires a long article on its own. But let’s look at this very briefly.

Not too long ago, a controversial study linked omega-3s to increased risk of prostate cancer. This finding has since been found to be inaccurate and mainly a result of misreporting by a sensationalist media. Some quarters assert that the study itself was flawed.[2] But what are the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on cancer?

Research on this is continuing and sometimes conflicting. However, several studies indicate there may be benefits.

The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 may promote cancer cell death.[3] One study showed omega-3 may enhance the therapeutic properties chemotherapy in cancer patients as well as help alleviate pain.[4] EPA and DHA fatty acids may also inhibit the growth breast cancer cells.


[1] American Cancer Society

[2] Alliance of Natural Health International

[3] American Institute of Cancer Research

[4] PubMed

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