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A Study That May Be A Little Fishy

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Dr. Dave Hnida (credit: CBS)

Dr. Dave Hnida (credit: CBS)

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Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical EditorFish oil has been touted to be a “cure whatever ails you” remedy, but as time goes by its powers seem weaker and weaker.

For example, fish oil may not be as heart protective as we once hoped, yet millions of Americans still take it for that protection despite recent research that says otherwise.

Now comes a study that suggests fish oil is not only “not helpful”, but it may actually do more harm than good.

Researchers publishing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute say that men who have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood may be at a higher risk for prostate cancer, especially an aggressive, deadly form of the disease.

The researchers looked at about 843 men with prostate cancer and found they tended to have higher levels of the omega-3’s in their blood than another group of 1383 men who did not have prostate cancer.

The amount of omega-3 in some of the men with cancer was higher than what researchers thought could come from the diet. So maybe lots of supplements is to blame. Or maybe eating fish and taking a supplement is the reason.

BUT… Does fish oil cause prostate cancer?

The answer to that is… we don’t know.

This study may make it seem like it sure does, but the fact is that researchers could not find a direct cause and effect, they simply found a possible association.

It’s important to understand that this study was not designed to specifically test for the relationship between omegas and prostate cancer. It popped up as researchers analyzed tons of data.

It make me wonder about other, more important risk factors such as the age of the men. Family history. Or race. Huge factors we know influence a guy’s risk.

I highly doubt fish oil is as important as these things.

Now I’m not saying the whole this is a whopper of a fish tale. There may be a relationship here, but it’s simply not clear.

Meaning, don’t go dumping your fish oil down the toilet, or freak out if you’ve been taking fish oil caps for a while and now worry prostate cancer is your destiny.

It simply means, once again — supplements may not be as good as the real deal. We simply don’t know long-term what supplements may do to you, or for you.

Sure, eat fish. We say that all the time (although few of us do.) As for supplements … no one has the absolute answer on that.

Therefore, let this study be a nibble of a warning, but it’s not a full blown catch.

A lot of research yet to be done.

I stopped fish oil regularly since the heart studies seemed to show it was a waste of time. But even if I was still taking it, I’m not sure I would stop based on this one, single not-as-strong-as-we-would like study.

The flag is a yellow for caution. It’s not a red, yet.

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