Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Breast Cancer

Epidemiological research has clearly identified a significant inverse correlation between a woman’s consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fats and her risk for breast cancer.

The evidence is very compelling that consuming omega-3 fatty acids helps prevent breast cancer, and that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in diet is important.

Many  studies have shown that omega-6 fatty acids enhance and omega-3 fatty acids suppress oncogenesis. Correlational studies also indicate that breast cancer incidence is positively linked to omega-6 consumption but is negatively related to intake of omega-3 fatty acids, derived mainly from marine sources.

When human breast cancer cells are exposed to omega-3 fats such as eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (EPA and DHA), cancer cell apoptosis (self-destruction) increases.

One should not consume too much of omega-6 fats in relation to omega-3 fats. The typical western diet contains up to 20 times as much omega-6 fats as it does omega-3s; the optimum ratio for health is more like 4:1. The beneficial omega-3 fats won’t work nearly as well in protecting you from cancer if the diet contains lots of omega-6 fats.

Researchers at the University of Southern California have found that women who consume high levels of dietary omega-3s from fish and shellfish are at significantly lower risk of getting breast cancer.  This study showed that the marine omega-3s in fish oil fight breast cancer by raising levels of an enzyme called N-SMYase (neutral sphingomyelinase) by 40 percent. This enzyme promotes apoptosis, or spontaneous cancer cell death. As proof, spontaneous cancer-cell death dropped by 40 percent when the researchers introduced a chemical (GW4869) that blocks N-SMYase.

New research funded by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has found evidence that a daily dose of walnuts – equal to two servings a day in humans – reduces the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice. The study is the first to investigate the effect of walnut consumption on breast cancer.

This finding should not be at all surprising to those who have had their research eyes open for the last couple of years.

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Yes my dear friends, walnuts might be beneficial to combating breast cancer, but walnuts are obviously not the only good source of omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fats are found in flaxseed, walnuts, and in oily fish, like sardines, salmon, trout, and mackerel.  To limit your intake of omega-6 fats, you can use cold pressed olive oil for cooking and organic butter for (occasional) frying.

Eat at least three servings a week of cold-water fish such as tuna, wild salmon, halibut, mackerel, haddock, cod, and sardines. If you don’t eat fish, you can also take fish oil capsules (2 to 10g a day).

Additional good sources of omega-3 fats are found in flaxseed, walnuts, and in oily fish, like sardines, wild salmon, trout, and mackerel.

Flaxseeds are a highly recommended source of omega-3 fatty acids do to the fact that they are rich in a compound called Lignans.

Note:  To benefit from the flax lignans it is recommended that you eat whole ground flaxseed not flaxseed oil. Plus, when you consume whole flaxseed, not only do you get the best plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, you also get the richest source of dietary lignans. Lignans are converted by bacteria in the intestinal tract to hormone-like compounds called phytoestrogens that have protective effects against hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer.

To obtain the beneficial fatty acids from the flax seeds, they need to be ground first. You can buy either ground flax meal or whole flax seeds from a health food store and grind them yourself in a coffee grinder before use. Because it is high in oil, ground flaxseed will go rancid quickly. You can store flax meal in the freezer for up to one month or in the refrigerator for one to two days.

Flax seeds can be used in baking, sprinkled on cereal or salads, in shakes, and in soups or stews.

To learn more about the benefits of flax seeds for breast cancer click on:

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