A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is good for our health for lots of reasons! A study published this year specifically reviewed the role of fish oil (the major source of omega-3 fatty acids) in all sorts of health promoting areas, including:
● blocking chronic (unhealthy) inflammation
● heart health
● brain function
● cancer (both prevention and treatment)
● high blood pressure
Omega-3 fatty acids are even good for your hearing !
So, you may wonder why I am suggesting that you may want to decrease your omega-3 intake if you are on chemotherapy. My recommendation is based on a study published this month in JAMA Oncology. Let me give you a little scientific background before I go over the study results.
Many types of cancer will be treated with the “platin” class of chemotherapy drugs. This class is based on a platinum containing chemical that is designed to cause cancer cells to die. They can be very effective at first but then some cancers seem to become resistant to the cancer-killing effect of the drugs. Previous research found that the use of “platins” caused certain stem cells in our bodies to make special types of fatty-acids that cause a resistance to chemotherapy. Those fatty-acids are call “platinum-induced fatty acids (PIFAs). So, if you have a cancer diagnosis, and you are treated with a “platin” medication, your body will likely make PIFAs and those PIFAs may cause a decreased effectiveness of chemotherapy. This is just a fact of physiology. This part has nothing to do with eating fish or taking a fish oil supplement but you need the information to understand why omega-3 fatty acids in our diet can affect chemotherapy.
OK, back to the current study . This study found that one of the important PIFAs (16:4(n-3) is also present in fish and in fish oil supplements. The researchers studied 4 types of fish that are known to be good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and 6 different brands of fish oil supplements. The results showed that all 6 brands of the fish oil supplements contained a lot of the 16:4(n-3). Of the high omega-3 fatty acid fish tested, salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring …. the salmon and tuna were low in 16:4(n-3) and the mackerel and herring were high in it. Since it is known that the 16:4(n-3) can decrease the effectiveness of chemotherapy, the researchers suggest: “Until further data become available, fish oil and fish containing high levels of 16:4(n-3) may best be avoided on the days surrounding chemotherapy.”
Yes, this is National Cancer Control Month . The various foods we eat can have a direct impact on the possibility of us ever developing cancer. That is one of the reasons I love adding my voice to the Wild Oats healthy foods world. If someone you care about is undergoing chemotherapy, share this blog with them. They will talk with their own doctor about it. For all the rest of us who are not undergoing chemotherapy …. well, thank goodness …. and, ley’s enjoy our healthy fish !!