By now you’re all familiar with the study published online by Brasky et al. in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute entitled, “Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial.” It was widely publicized in the mass media, showing an increased risk of prostate cancer for men with higher vs lower omega-3 blood levels. Dr. James H O’Keefe, world renowned cardiologist and Director of the Preventive Cardiology Program at Saint Luke’s, colleague, and co-author on a number of my scientific papers, has given this study exceptional thought and attention. I share with you his insightful response to why it is largely irrelevant clinically below.
Dr. Hector Lopez, board-certified specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, with a concentration in spine, sports and musculoskeletal medicine with post-graduate training in nutritional biochemistry has also provided an in-depth analysis examining in objective detail what risks, if any, long chain fatty acid present to the prostate in Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Friend or Foe to Prostate? More than meets the eye to recent controversy over omega-3 levels and prostate cancer risk.
Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus
This was a retrospective case-control study that showed miniscule differences in omega-3 blood levels: 3.62% in the no-cancer control group, 3.66% in the prostate cancer group. For example, a headline in the Huffington Post read: “Omega-3 supplement taken by millions linked to aggressive prostate cancer.” This is blatantly untrue. To have an omega-3 blood level of 3.6 to 3.7% range is compatible with little to no fish consumption, and no fish oil capsule intake in BOTH arms of the study.
Japanese men consume about 8 times more fish than American men, and on average have an omega-3 index of 8 to 10% (over twice as high as either group in this study). Japanese men have a prostate cancer level that is less than one-sixth that is noted in American men. Prior studies from other investigators have suggested if anything lowers rates of prostate cancer, it is with higher intake of fish and omega-3 fatty acids.
Higher omega-3 levels have been consistently and strongly correlated with lower risks for cardiovascular mortality, sudden cardiac death, all-cause mortality and genetic aging at a cellular level (slowing telomere attrition). William Harris PhD, the ‘CodFather’ of omega-3, and I are looking at the GISSI trials to see if we can shed light on this issue with randomized trial data. Stay tuned, we will let you know what it shows. In the meantime, here is Dr. Harris’s in-depth analysis.
Bottom line: In my opinion, this study is largely irrelevant clinically. And on a personal note, I will continue to emulate the Japanese and keep my omega-3 levels at or above 8%.
James H O’Keefe, MD
Director, Preventive Cardiology Program