Have you heard the latest hype on fish oil? A recent observational “study” suggested a link between DHA blood levels and a higher rate of prostate cancer. Several news agencies, eager to cast doubt on the benefits of omega-3 supplements, ran with the sensational story. And why not?
Thousands of studies have found only positive benefits of omega-3s. A negative study would be sure to grab attention. It appears that is exactly why the bogus “study” made the news. But the scientific community saw right through the claims. Multiple experts have dismissed the research, pointing out major flaws both in the data used and the writers’ failure to show a clear cause and effect.
In a response published in The Huffington Post, Dr. Johnny Bowden, a nationally known expert on nutrition, blasted the “study” and called the media’s portrayal of the story “disgraceful, incompetent, and scientifically illiterate.” The Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 found the writers’ conclusions were “irresponsible and blatantly ignore the totality of the scientific evidence that has been collected over multiple decades.” Dr. Anthony D’Amico, professor of Radiation Oncology at Harvard Medical School and chief of Genitourinary Radiation Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said, “The study really cannot make the conclusion that it’s trying to, because these types of studies are not cause and effect.”
Here are some of the biggest problems with the “study”:
- Scientists failed to document if any of the participants actually took fish oil supplements or even the amount of fish the men in the study consumed.
- The data used was not specifically designed to examine the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer.
- The results they cite are based on an incredibly small difference of DHA levels in the blood—just 0.2%.
- DHA levels in the blood are constantly fluctuating and are not considered a reliable testing standard. Eating a single serving of fish can cause a 100% increase in DHA blood levels.
- If the “study’s” findings were accurate, prostate cancer should be rampant in countries with high seafood consumption, like Japan. But the National Cancer Institute cites Japanese men as having the lowest incidence of prostate cancer in the world.
If this weren’t enough, multiple studies of fish consumption and prostate cancer over the last decade have reported a reduction in cancer rates. For example, in 2001 a peer-reviewed journal, The Lancet, reported a significant connection between a lower incidence of prostate cancer and high fish consumption. In 2003, researchers at Harvard studied 48,000 men and also found a correlation between high fish consumption and a reduced risk of prostate cancer. In 2008, the Physician’s Health Study reported a similar finding. These are just three of the more recent studies, there are many more.
The final verdict?
The scientific community has deemed the “study” as bogus because it is based more on weak association and overreaching assumptions than clear scientific facts.