The list of health benefits associated with a diet rich in oily fish now includes a lowered risk of death in patients suffering from colon cancer, according to a new study.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Andrew Chan of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, found that patients who ate at least 0.3 grams of omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish on a daily basis after diagnosis with colon cancer, were 41 percent less likely to die from the disease than those who ate less than 0.1 grams per day.
The study also found that in patients who increased their consumption of omega 3 by 0.15 grams per day after diagnosis, the risk of dying decreased by as much as 70 percent, while those who decreased their daily intake faced a 10 percent increase in risk of death.
Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to suppress tumor growth in other research, but the new study demonstrates a measurable link between consumption of omega 3 and the risk of dying of colorectal cancer.
"The experts had long back suspected the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acid supplementation and now this study has, going a step ahead shown a link between 'healthy living' and reducing death from colorectal cancer," said Jules Garbus, colorectal surgeon at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.
Eating even small amounts of oily fish produced benefits
Although the results aren't conclusive, the evidence suggests that even small amounts of omega 3 in a patient's diet can have a significant effect. The average portion of oily fish contains 1.8 grams of omega 3, but a fraction of that amount was shown to be effective in lowering the risk of death dramatically.
The researchers said that as little as one or two servings a week might still produce beneficial results.
"If replicated by other studies, our results support the clinical recommendation of increasing marine omega 3 fatty acids among patients with bowel cancer," said Dr. Chan.
The results showed that some people benefited more than others, depending on body type and other factors.
From the Telegraph:
"The researchers looked at nearly 200,000 people from two large cohort studies which monitored diet and cancer prevalence.
"Regular intake seemed to be especially beneficial for those who were tall, had a BMI below 25, and who did not take a regular aspirin, who lowered their risk of death by 85 per cent, 90 per cent and 88 per cent respectively."
Since the study focused primarily on those whose intake of omega 3 came from eating fish, it is unclear whether omega 3 in supplement form will produce similar results.
Some scientists were skeptical about the results, and said that more research is needed to confirm the benefits. One expert pointed out that the study was based on "food frequency questionnaires," which may not be entirely reliable. Some question whether these types of studies have any merit at all.
Other sources and benefits of omega 3 fatty acids
However, there are many proven health benefits of a diet that includes lots of oily fish, and doctors say that one or two servings per week is a good idea, particularly if it means eating less red or processed meat.
Omega 3 fatty acids have even been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression, and might be used successfully to replace SSRIs in the treatment of depressive symptoms. Other benefits include lower blood pressure, inflammation relief and protection against diabetes, to name a few.
To gain the most benefit from consuming oily fish, it's important to buy only fresh fish and to cook and serve it as soon as possible. Some fish, such as sardines, herring and mackerel, are higher in omega 3 fatty acids and require servings of only around 5 ounces per person.
Other sources of omega 3 fatty acids include flaxseed, hemp seed, walnuts and chia seeds. If you choose to buy nutritional supplements, be sure they come from trusted sources and contain only 100 percent organic ingredients.