Omega 3 fatty acids reduce cancer mortality
If you consume relatively large amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, via fatty fish and perhaps also via supplements, your chance of dying is lower than if your diet contains low levels of omega 3 fatty acids. Epidemiologists at the American Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center published the results of their study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, in which omega 3 fatty acids reduced the mortality risk of cancer by quarter.
The researchers used data on 70,495 Americans. In the period 2000-2002, when the study began, the Americans were aged from 50-76. In 2006 the researchers reanalysed the data and looked at which participants had died. At the start of the study the participants had filled out questionnaires on their diet, including how much fatty fish and how many fish oil capsules they consumed.
The use of fish oil capsules seemed to reduce the mortality risk by a couple of percent. But the differences between the groups were not statistically significant.
The effects of eating fatty fish, such as mackerel and salmon, were bigger. The differences shown below were statistically significant.
This may be because the supplements taken by the participants in this study did not result in an increase in the intake of omega 3 fatty acids. The consumption of fatty fish did have this effect.
The higher the total intake of fish fatty acids, through supplements and food, the lower the mortality risk.
A relatively high intake of omega 3 fatty acids reduced the chance of dying from cancer. This was true for the participants who - as far as they knew - had (or had had) no cancer at the start of the study, but also for participants who already had a history of cancer at the start of the study. And yes, the differences you see below were statistically significant.
The participants who consumed relatively high amounts of fish fatty acids also died less frequently from cardiovascular disease, but the effect was not strong.
"We found in our prospective cohort study that higher intake of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from diet and supplements was associated with decreased risks of total mortality and cancer mortality", the researchers conclude. "Our results for total mortality are supported by some trials that have demonstrated benefits from omega-3 supplementation, but not by most trials, while there is less information about the effects of omega-3 intake on mortality from cancer."
The research was financed by the American government.
Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Mar 15;179(6):710-20.
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