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Animal study: anti-cancer effect EPA and DHA 8 times greater than that of ALA

A diet with a reasonable amount of the omega-3 fatty acids ALA, EPA and DHA protects against cancer and other chronic diseases. Of those fatty acids, the anti-cancer effect of EPA and DHA is perhaps 8 times greater than that of ALA. Canadian nutritional scientists were able to quantify this through animal studies. This research says something about an aggressive form of breast cancer in the first place, but the Canadians suspect that the results are also relevant for the prevention of other cancer types.

The researchers, affiliated with the University of Guelph, experimented with a type of lab mouse that is inclined to develop an aggressive variant of breast cancer, in which the cancer cells produce an extra amount of the growth factor receptor HER-2 neu. The more of those receptors breast cancer cells create, the more aggressive they are. A fifth of women with breast cancer have this type of breast cancer.

The researchers divided the mice into 4 groups. Each group received feed with a different fatty acid composition.

10% SF 10% of the feed is safflower oil. Safflower oil mainly contains omega-6 fatty acids. There are indications that a diet with too much of this type of fatty acids increases the risk of cancer and a number of other chronic diseases.

3% FS 7% of the feed is safflower oil and 3% is flaxseed oil. Flax seed oil containts the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. A diet with relatively large amounts of that fatty acid may protect against breast cancer - and a number of other chronic diseases.

10% FS 10% of the feed is flaxseed oil.

3% FO 7% of the feed is safflower oil, 3% is fish oil. Fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Those fatty acids are more active in the body than ALA. Converted to humans, the mice in this group received about as much fish fatty acids as Japanese. They eat oily fish 2 to 3 times a week.

If mice were fed with 10% FS or 3% FO, they remained cancer free longer. The first figure below shows this.

Animal study: anti-cancer effect EPA and DHA 8 times greater than that of ALA

The figure above shows that 10% FS and 3% FO reduced the total tumor volume in the mice.

When the researchers looked at the effect of the fatty acid composition of the diet on the functioning of the genes, they noticed that omega-3 fatty acids inhibited inflammatory genes.

"This study is the first to compare the cancer-fighting potency of plant- versus marine-derived omega-3s on breast tumour development", research leader David Ma says in a press release. [ January 26, 2018] "There is evidence that both omega-3s from plants and marine sources are protective against cancer, and we wanted to determine which form is more effective."

"The mice were exposed to the different omega-3s even before tumours developed, which allowed us to compare how effective the fatty acids are at prevention. It's known that EPA and DHA can inhibit breast tumour growth, but no one has looked directly at how effective these omega-3s are compared to ALA."

"It seems EPA and DHA are more effective at this. In North America, we don't get enough omega-3s from seafood, so there lies an opportunity to improve our diet and help prevent the risk of breast cancer."

"Seeing the significant benefits omega-3s can have in combatting a highly aggressive form of breast cancer means omega-3s will likely be beneficial for other types of cancer."

"Furthermore, it can be estimated that on a per molecule basis, the relative tumor inhibitory effect of plant derived ALA was approximately 1/8 as potent as marine-based n-3 PUFA containing EPA and DHA", the Canadians wrote.

Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 27 December 2017. In Press, Accepted Manuscript; 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.12.011.

Alpha-linolenic acid, the broad-spectrum breast cancer cell slayer 07.01.2018
Salmon, mackerel and other oily fish improve post-breast cancer chances 26.07.2017
Fish oil capsules protect against breast cancer 21.08.2010

Cancer Prevention & Survival
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Breast Cancer

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