Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Heart Healthy Fats May Raise Prostate Cancer Risk

Diets come in all different shapes and sizes and we adopt them for different reasons. The strange thing, it seems, is that no matter which route we choose, with good intentions and high hopes, we might reduce risk of developing one disease while tipping the scales in favour of another! In other cases, the outcomes we might expect are quite different from what we actually get. You see, according to a new study, consuming lots of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids may in fact raise the risk of developing prostate cancer in men.

In a study of 3,400 men in the United States, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre were interested to see how different inflammation-related fatty acids related to the development of prostate cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, while omega-6 and trans fatty acids are pro-inflammatory.

In the report, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers were surprised to find that the men in the study with high blood levels of a heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, were at an increased risk of developing a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer. In fact, their risk was 2.5 times greater than men with the lowest blood levels of DHA. It was also found that men who had higher blood ratios of trans fats compared to DHA had a 50% lower chance of developing this aggressive form of prostate cancer.

The results were contrary to what the researchers expected, which highlights the complexity of nutrient interactions with our physiology. You can't simply predict what will happen, especially when studying single nutrients in isolation of their actual food sources! But until further research is compiled that might explain the peculiar findings of this study, it is safe to say, based on a solid foundation of research, that choosing more omega-3 fatty acids over trans-fats in your diet is the healthier route to go.