Omega-3s May Help Slow Cancer Growth

“This study clearly shows that diet can tip the balance toward a good or a bad outcome,” said senior researcher Yong Q. Chen, Ph.D., from Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “It’s possible that a change in diet could mean the difference between dying from the disease and surviving with it.”

In mice that were engineered with a genetic defect that caused prostate cancer, a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids beginning at birth reduced tumour growth, slowed disease progression and increased survival. The goal of the current study was to explore gene-diet interactions in prostate cancer. It involved mice that were engineered with a genetic defect – they lacked a tumour suppressor gene and spontaneously developed prostate cancer.

The engineered mice and “wild-type” (or non-engineered) mice were fed varying levels of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Both are “essential” fatty acids, which means the body needs them for proper cell function but cannot produce them. Many vegetable oils contain omega-6 PUFA. Fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Nutritionists recommend that people consume equal proportions of omega-3 and omega-6 PUFA. However, in current western diets, the proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 is between 30 and 50 to one.

The mice were fed either a diet high in omega-3, a diet low in omega 3, or a diet high in omega-6. The scientists compared survival rates and weighed the animals’ prostates to measure tumour progression. Mice with the tumour suppressor gene remained free of tumours and had 100 percent survival, regardless of diet. In mice with the gene defect, survival was 60 percent in animals on the high omega-3 diet, 10 percent in those on the low omega-3 diet and 0 percent in those on the high omega-6 diet.; Source: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center