THURSDAY, March 5, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Omega-3 fatty acids do not appear to protect against cancer and may only have a small beneficial effect in coronary heart disease, according to two reviews published online Feb. 29 in the British Journal of Cancer and the Cochrane Library.

Sarah Hanson, Ph.D., from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a systematic review to examine the association between long-chain omega-3 (LCn3), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), omega-6, and total polyunsaturated fatty acid intakes and cancer risk. Data were included for 47 randomized controlled trials with 108,194 participants. The researchers found that increasing LCn3 had little or no impact on cancer diagnosis, cancer death, or breast cancer diagnosis; increasing ALA had little or no impact on cancer death. A slightly increased prostate cancer risk was suggested with increasing LCn3 and ALA.

Asmaa S. Abdelhamid, M.B.B.Ch., M.D., also from the University of East Anglia, and colleagues examined the impact of increased intake of fish- and plant-based omega-3 fats in a systematic review. Data were included for 86 randomized controlled trials with 162,796 participants. The researchers found little or no effect of increasing LCn3 on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, cardiovascular events, stroke, or arrhythmia, but a slight reduction was seen in coronary heart disease mortality and events. Increasing ALA had little to no effect on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and coronary heart disease mortality and events.

“Considering the environmental concerns about industrial fishing and the impact it is having on fish stocks and plastic pollution in the oceans, it seems unhelpful to continue to take fish oil tablets that give little or no benefit,” a coauthor on both studies said in a statement.

Abstract/Full Text – Hanson (subscription or payment may be required)
Abstract/Full Text – Abdelhamid (subscription or payment may be required)

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