Jul 16, 2012
These fats are called essential, not because they are important or necessary (though they are), but because your body doesn’t produce them on its own, so it is essential that you get them in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish, nuts, and some plant sources
One study looked at women who regularly use fish-oil supplements, the most common omega-3 supplements on the market. It found that women who took the supplements daily had a 32% reduced risk of developing the most common form of breast cancer.
The study selected just over 35,000 post-menopausal women and interviewed them about their supplementation practices. After following the women for six years, 880 had developed breast cancer, but the risk was definitely lower for the fish-oil consumers.
Another related study examining the inclusion of omega-3′s in a diet for breast cancer patients examined the relationship between omega-3 fats and breast cancer outcomes. It found that women who consumed the most EPA and DHA (omega-3s) had a 26 – 28% reduced risk for breast cancer recurrence than those women who consumed the least amount of the fats.
One major difference between the two studies was that the first looked specifically at fish oil supplements and the second was specific to dietary sources of omega 3 fats. As a matter of fact, in the second study, researchers found no link between supplements and breast cancer outcomes.
So, what does this mean for you? While the first study used fish oil supplements, it did not preclude dietary sources of omega 3 fats as being any less useful. Because the second study did find that supplements weren’t as effective as the food sources, you would likely be better off getting your omega 3 fats from food in order to see the most promising breast cancer prevention and treatment results.
The best sources of these fats are fish. But as with any fish, being cautious about mercury consumption is important. Fortunately, some of the fish with the highest levels of omega-3 fats also have the lowest levels of mercury. Salmon and sardines are perhaps the best of both worlds. Also, if you aren’t a fish-eater, include plant based sources like flax seeds, walnuts, and even tofu occasionally.