(Health Secrets) Keeping breast cancer away may be as simple as swallowing two fish oil capsules each day, says recent research. This is great news in a year when 210,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with the disease and 40,000 are expected to die from it.
Fish oil is loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids that occur naturally in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines. Several studies have shown that Omega 3 fatty acids can boost heart health, brain function, attention and mood. Other studies have shown that fish oil can extend the life of cells. Findings at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle have shown that when taken directly as a supplement, this mighty oil can offer powerful cancer protection.
The researchers investigated 35,016 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 76, with no history of breast cancer, who were participants in the Vitamins and Lifestyle Cohort Study (VITAL). This is the age range in which diagnosis of breast cancer is most often seen, with the average age at diagnosis being 60.
The women completed a 24 page questionnaire that reflected their use of supplements other than vitamins and/or minerals. They were asked about their recent supplement use, and its frequency and duration. They were then followed for a six year period.
Although most of the supplements reportedly taken appeared to have no affect on breast cancer risk, those women who reported regularly taking fish oil supplements were found to have a 32 percent reduction in risk for invasive ductal carcinoma, the type of breast cancer that is most common.
The researchers looked at 14 other supplements frequently taken by women to reduce menopause symptoms, (black cohosh, dong quai, soy and St. John’s wort among them), but these were not associated with reduced risk. Only fish oil supplements were shown to reduce breast cancer risk.
Contrary to the popular myth, all people need fats and oils in their diets. Fatty acids are the building blocks from which fats and oils are composed. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are those that cannot be made by the body and must be obtained from food or supplements.
EFAs have profound effects in the body. They improve skin and hair, lower blood pressure, normalize cholesterol and triglyceride levels, keep blood clots from forming, and prevent arthritis. They offer beneficial treatment for cardiovascular disease, Candida and skin disorders. EFAs are highly concentrated in the brain where they aid in nerve impulses and proper brain functioning. Impaired ability to learn, hyperactivity, poor memory, depression and mood disorders can result from a deficiency of EFAs.
All the cells in the body crave EFAs, and EFAs are essential for building new cells and proper maintenance of old ones. They are needed for production of hormone-like substances that act as chemical messengers and regulators of body processes.
We need two basic categories of EFAs, omega 3 and omega 6. In addition to fatty fish and fish oil supplements, omega 3 is found in certain oils, such as flaxseed oil and walnut oil. Omega 6 is found primarily in nuts, seeds, legumes such as beans and lentils. In order to supply EFAs, oils must not be subjected to heat by cooking or during processing, because heat destroys EFAs in oils.
The daily requirement for EFAs is 10 to 20 percent of total caloric intake. The most essential of all these fatty acids is linoleic acid, found only in omega 3. Many people have stopped eating fish due to worry about mercury and do not regularly use flaxseed or walnut oil. These choices have promoted widespread deficiency in linoleic acid. The tremendous rise in incidence of breast cancer parallels the movement away from eating fish.
This means that for most people, the only source of omega 3 EFAs is through the use of supplements, but this can be tricky business. Fish oil is highly unsaturated and extremely susceptible to free radical damage and rancidity. Most fish oil sold in drug, discount and conventional grocery stores is already oxidized and rancid, and even some sold in health food stores. If you already have fish oil, cut one of the softgels open and smell or taste it. Fresh fish oil should have almost no odor and only a slight taste. A strong smell or taste means the oil is rancid and should be discarded.
Such molecular damage is the reason why old fish has a pungent, fishy smell. If you plan to eat fish as a source of omega 3 EFAs, eat only the very freshest fish. Canned fish may be a good choice because fish is canned when freshly caught. Frozen fish is equally fresh. But beware of fresh fish cases that have a heavy fish odor.
Fish oil may reduce your risk for breast cancer by 32 percent, as it did for the women in the study. While this is going on, it will also be providing the full range of other benefits that have been documented, including cardiovascular, brain, mood, and energy. This means that if you have made the decision to start taking responsibility for your own health, supplementing with fish oil is a great beginning. In fact, taking fish oil is one area in which conventional and alternative medicine converge. Both agree on its outstanding health benefits.
For more information: