Entries in Fish Oil (7)


Fish Oil Might Help Fight Breast Cancer

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s a supplement that millions of Americans take each day, hoping to reduce their risk of heart disease. But a new review of research suggests that fish oil might protect against another killer: breast cancer.

Chinese researchers looked at 21 studies and found that a higher intake of fish oil, but not necessarily fish itself, appears to be linked to a lower risk of breast cancer later in life. Specifically, they found that a high intake of fatty acids found in fish oil was associated with a 14 percent reduced risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

If it’s real, the link could have big implications for women and their health. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in U.S. women other than non-melanoma skin cancers, and the second deadliest cancer in women, following only lung cancer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These findings could have public health implications with regard to prevention of breast cancer through dietary and lifestyle implications,” the authors wrote in their study, published Thursday in the journal BMJ.

But while it is known that a healthy diet and lifestyle decrease the risk of breast cancer, past studies have reached different conclusions when it comes to the consumption of fish oil and breast cancer risk.

Science Still Slippery on Fish Oil Health Connection

One thing we do know is that including oily fish in your diet is good for you, a reason that it is recommended by many nutritionists. The benefits of fish oil supplements are less clear, although this has not stopped fish oil from becoming big business.

Americans spent $739 million on fish oil supplements in 2008, according to the trade publication Nutrition Business Journal. Proponents have primarily touted them as heart-healthy, and past research has also pointed to the effects of fish and fish oil on breast cancer risk.

But this research has been less than conclusive. On one hand, two large prospective studies and several case-control studies have suggested a protective effect on breast cancer risk. On the other, a number of studies have found no such association.

Dr. Kathy Helzlsouer, breast cancer expert and director of the Center for Prevention and Research at Mercy Health Services in Baltimore, Md., said the reasons behind the finding that fish oil supplements were linked to a lower risk of breast cancer, but that fish consumption was not, are unclear.

She also called the link between fish oil consumption and breast cancer prevention “modest,” and noted that it is still hard to say that these supplements deserve all the credit.

“Whether this is cause and effect is not certain,” Helzlsouer said, adding that the authors themselves admit in the paper that more research is needed to better understand the reasons for their findings.

What Women Should Do

The good news is that there is little out there to suggest increasing your intake of fish oil is harmful, and you might even be doing yourself some good.

But Helzlsouer says she believes the best, and perhaps tastiest, option to achieve the benefits of fatty acids found in fish is to eat more oily fish.

“I usually recommend consumption of fish rather than supplements,” she said. “I believe fish consumption is a healthy part of the diet and I have recommended it.”

Here are a few tips women should consider to reap the possible benefits of fish oil:
•    Nutritionists suggest one to two servings per week of oily fish like salmon, sardines or tuna;
•    If you’re not a fan of fish, taking a daily fish oil supplement might not be a bad idea;
•    The two important omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish are: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Try to look for these if you decide to go with a fish oil supplement.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Fish Oil No Lifesaver, Study Finds

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Fish oil -- a supplement taken daily by millions of Americans -- may not help you live longer, a new study released Tuesday suggests.

The study is the latest piece of research feeding the debate over whether regularly taking omega-3 supplements -- most commonly in the form of fish oil -- helps the heart.

A number of clinical trials have found that fish oil seems to lower risk of heart attack, sudden death, and even stroke -- though exactly how this works remains unclear. Yet, other studies have found little evidence of connection between these often pricey supplements and health benefits.

In the new report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, lead study author Dr. Evangelos Rizos and his colleagues completed an extensive review of existing data. They pooled results from 20 studies that included almost 70,000 adult patients.

Through rigorous statistical analyses, they said, they found no significant risk reduction in those getting increased omega-3 in their diet or through supplements.

Fish oil supplements are among the most popular dietary supplements among Americans. Though it is hard to pin down an exact figure for sales of such products, an article in Forbes magazine noted that, according to the Nutrition Business Journal, over-the-counter fish oil supplements accounted for $739 million in sales in 2009. Meanwhile, in 2010 Americans spent nearly $4 billion on products fortified with extra omega-3s, according to the market research firm Packaged Facts.

While the news may be disappointing to many expecting to live longer and have healthier hearts by taking these supplements daily, it's not the first time such findings have been reported. In April, a South Korean study of 20,000 people found a similar lack of heart benefits, and in June a separate study suggested that brain benefits, too, may have been oversold.

The results have some top cardiologists convinced that consumers should pause before buying these supplements.

"There's never been any compelling evidence of a clinical benefit," said Dr. Steven Nissen, professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine.

Despite these mixed results, however, many physicians still recommend these supplements, which can cost $40 or more per bottle.

"Patients and doctors like the idea that it is natural and has no real side effects," said Dr. Howard Weintraub, clinical director of New York University Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.

And some doctors say the findings of the new study are no reason to cut bait on fish oil.

"Meta-analysis, particularly when neutral, should not be used to draw a conclusion," said Melvyn Rubenfire of the University of Michigan.

Rubenfire said many of the studies included in this report did not have long enough follow-up, noting that heart and stroke prevention studies "are generally designed with five-year duration." Many patients studied here, he said, were followed for less than three years.

Rubenfire added that he believes this information "should dampen the enthusiasm for routine costly supplement in healthy persons" -- but that he and many experts agreed that omega-3 supplements are still a good strategy for patient with high triglycerides.

Some experts also note that the report is limited because the authors only included results from 20 of the thousands of studies on this topic, as many of these studies vary in terms of the types of patients and the doses of fish oil studied.

"This inherently makes it hard to group them together for one analysis," said Dr. Merle Myerson, director of cardiovascular disease prevention at Continuum Health Partners.

Myerson said she thinks that while government guideline committees will consider this study, they won't "change or challenge current recommendations."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fish Oil Delivers Few Heart Benefits, Study Finds

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Millions of Americans take fish oil supplements, hoping to keep their hearts at their healthiest. But a new study has raised questions about these popular dietary supplements, especially whether they can replace a healthy, balanced diet.

Fish oil, a combination of omega-3 fatty acids, is a centuries-old staple of pharmacy shelves, and scientists have devoted much research to investigating its effects on heart health. So far, the evidence has been inconclusive -- some studies have found fish oil has been major in preventing heart attacks, strokes and sudden cardiac death, while others have found fish oil has no benefits at all.

In the current study, researchers from South Korea analyzed 14 clinical trials involving more than 20,000 patients with cardiovascular disease who had taken fish oil supplements for at least one year and found the supplements did not reduce their risk of having another heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure or any other cardiovascular catastrophe.

The study was published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study confirms what fish oil skeptics have been saying for years.

"The fish oil story is still fishy," said Dr. Robert Eckel, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and past president of the American Heart Association.

Fishy or not, fish oil is one of the most popular dietary supplements sold in the U.S. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, over-the-counter fish oil supplements reeled in $739 million in 2009 alone, according to a report in Forbes magazine. Foods fortified with extra omega-3s, such as margarine and peanut butter, roped in nearly $4 billion for manufacturers in 2010, according to Packaged Facts.

GlaxoSmithKline makes prescription fish oil, Lovaza, intended to treat people with high blood fats, called triglycerides. The prescription form delivers omega-3s at high doses – about 1,000 mg. Over-the-counter fish oil supplements typically contain as little as 300 mg of two omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.

"The question is, what do these relatively small doses of omega-3 fatty acids do? As this study shows they do nothing," Eckel said.

Eckel said that there is no evidence showing that fish oil is harmful.

But others say the possible heart benefits of fish oil should not be so quickly dismissed. In a commentary published with the study, Drs. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said the authors excluded two large studies investigating omega-3 fatty acids that found beneficial effects of fish oil supplements.

Those studies would have swayed the analysis to show a protective effect of fish oil against cardiovascular disease, they wrote, and "the data should not simply be ignored in evaluating overall evidence."

Still, many experts say the best way to get fish oil is just to eat fish. The American Heart Association currently recommends that people get their dose of omega-3 fatty acids from eating two servings of fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, per week. For the fish-averse, a slightly different kind of omega-3 fatty acid can be found in flaxseed, walnuts soybeans and canola oils.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can Fish Oil Lower Suicide Rates?

Design Pics / Michael Interisano/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Could a component in fish oil help lower the high rates of suicide in soldiers? While it’s still too early to tell, the Army seems interested in finding out.

As detailed in an article in USA Today, researchers from the National Institutes of Health measured the blood levels of the omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA for short) in two groups of military personnel: those who had committed suicide, and those who had not.

What they found was that, among men in the service, those who had low DHA levels were 62 percent more likely to have committed suicide. The findings were published last month in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

The authors stopped short of suggesting that using fish oil supplements would necessarily cut military suicide rates, and they emphasize that more research is needed before passing out omega-3s can be considered an effective approach.

Last year, 159 active duty military servicemembers killed themselves — a downtick from the record high of 162 such suicides in 2009. But more National Guardsmen and Army reservists are committing suicide too, with 145 killing themselves last year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fish Oil Boosts Breast Cancer Therapy in Mice, Study Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Pairing fish oils with drugs commonly prescribed for breast cancer could help bolster treatment of the disease, according to a new study presented at the 102nd annual American Association of Cancer Research meeting.

Researchers at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia tested the combination in mice, using tamoxifen, a commonly prescribed breast cancer drug, and fish oils.  They found that when both substances were paired together, the incidence of mammary tumors in the mice were reduced.

It is yet to be known if fish oil could have the same positive effect in human breast cancer patients.´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Fish Oil Fights Weight Loss Caused by Chemotherapy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(EDMONTON, Alberta) -- Researchers at the University of Alberta suggest that adding fish oil supplements to the diets of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy could help prevent loss of muscle mass.

In this study, researchers compared 16 lung cancer patients who took fish oil to 24 patients who didn't. Muscle mass and fat tissue were monitored by CT scan periodically during initial chemotherapy cycle lasting about 10 weeks. Patients taking fish oil maintained their weight, while those who did not take fish oil lost an average of about 5 lbs., most of which was muscle mass.

The main ingredient in fish oil -- omega-3 fatty acids -- is thought to decrease inflammation in the body.

Critics of the study note that patients and researchers knew who took fish oil, so the effects could have been influenced by patient expectations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Researchers Say Fish Oil Pills Are No Help During Pregnancy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Researchers say that taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy won't boost a baby's brain development or prevent postpartum depression for mothers, according to MedPage Today.

Maria Makrides of the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide, Australia told MedPage that "overall cognitive scores were nearly identical and language scores tended to be lower in children exposed to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-rich fish oil during gestation than scores in controls."

For new mothers, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported there is "no significant difference in the prevalence of depressive symptoms in the first six months postpartum between women who took the fish oil pills and those who didn't."

Dr. Emily Oken of Harvard and Dr. Mandy B. Belfort of Children's Hospital Boston both agree that eating fish may be better than taking a supplement, citing evidence that "points to lower postpartum depression risk and better neurodevelopment with dietary consumption of fish in pregnancy" in comparison to fish oil supplements, MedPage reports.

"It may be that the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish are more bioactive or that other beneficial nutrients within fish, such as selenium, vitamin D, and iodine, are also important," they wrote in JAMA.

However, Oken and Belfort recommend that "for now, women should continue to aim for the recommended daily intake of DHA through low-mercury, high-DHA fish intake or supplements," MedPage says.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio