Scientists at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, have revealed that omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil may be around eight times more effective for halting the development of aggressive breast cancer tumors than those from plant-based sources.
Study co-author Prof. David Ma, who currently works in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. It is expected that around 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, and around 40,920 women will die from the disease.
There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil: one is eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the other is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The third type ofomega-3 is the plant-based a-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in soy, canola oil, and flaxseed.
For their study, Prof. Ma and colleagues compared the effects of these three types ofomega-3 on breast tumor development in mice that were bread to develop HER2-positive breast cancer.
“This study is the first to compare the cancer-fighting potency of plant-versus marine-derived omega-3s on breast tumor development,” says Prof. M. “There is evidence that both omega-3s from plants and marine sources are protective against cancer and we wanted to determine which form is more effective.”
Each mouse was exposed to one of the three different omega-3s from before birth. The team found that mice exposed to the fish oil-derived omega-3s EPA and DHA experienced a 60-70% reduction in tumor size, as well as a 30% decrease in the number of breast tumors.
The same doses of plant-based ALA did not have the same impact against breast cancer tumors as EPA and DHA. To get the same effect, the mice had to be exposed to much higher doses of ALA.
Overall, the team found that EPA and DHA were eight times more effective at preventing the development of breast cancer tumors than ALA.
Chemically fish oil contains a variety of fatty acids, that include EPA and DHA. In a typical supplement, you will find 120mg of EPA and 180mg of DHA and 700mg of other oils, including other omega-3s.
It is true that plant sources do not contain any EPA or DHA, however they are not just composed of ALA either.
If your metabolism is healthy, your body can convert the other omega-3s, including ALA into EPA and DHA. Clinically, I find that the cleaner my patient’s diet, the more likely they are capable of making the conversion. So, my vegetarians typically can use flax seed oil rather than fish oil. That works out well as they often refuse to eat any animal products.
The Bottom Line:
If you are taking omega-3s to help prevent breast cancer, use the fish oil. Take a minimum of two pearls per day with food. Avoid any brand that does not clearly state that they have removed the mercury. I use doses of four, six or even eight per day, short term, to reduce inflammation. However, if you are a vegetarian, flax seed oil is a good alternative if you choose to avoid all animal products. You may want to increase the dosage to provide more omega-3s for conversion to EPA and DHA.
Source: Medical News Today January 29, 2018