Omega 3 Cancer Scare?….Don’t Mistake Correlation For Causation

All of a sudden I’m getting text messages from my friends that fish oil capsules cause prostate cancer. I quickly found the study and report online and was like what the hell?? How did this happen?

Then I began researching and found people who are much brighter than I already shooting the study down and calling it BUNK.

Basically it’s a garbage study and you can just ignore it. But I decided to write a little about it and of course you can check this link for yourself…………..

Fish Oil and your Prostate – Blog

Fish oil

Fish oil (Photo credit: ArtsieAspie)


So I learned a lot and there is some old saying that goes, “Don’t mistake correlation for causation”.

The problem with research into correlations between cause and effect like this is the amount of extraneous variables that are impossible to control. Conclusions from correlations are based on presumption, the correlation can be coincidental or simply not directly related specifically to the two variables being measured i.e. the variables are too broad in definition.

Basically the topic is something that needs to be taken into context. If Omega 3′s suddenly cause cancer, then I think we can draw a line under every nutrition topic in the world and say “We haven’t got a fucking clue what’s what any more”.

I’m guessing it’s more of a consequential factor of other poor dietary habits (i.e processed food). Natural foods, which are part of our evolution, are not linked to cancer. It’s always the processed crap.

It’s like how red meat causes cancer issues. It’s simply a huge meta-analysis and over-statement to say red meat causes cancer. What’s more likely is that people who eat  red meat also eat the pie, pastry, chips and sides that come with it and are also linked to sedentary lifestyles.

At the same time, its important to look at these studies and learn from them. Usually there is some kernel of fact hidden in the data.

In this case there is a probable link between excess omega 3 and cancer. Similarly, there is also good cause to view omega 3 as having many health benefits.

As with paracetamol, take 8 a day and inflammation is reduced, headache symptoms are reduced, even fevers are reduced. Take 80 and there is a high chance of liver damage.

We would expect 200g of protein per day to be perfectly healthy, and yet probably feel intuitively that if all 200g came from lysine – still 200g of protein – that we’d fall ill eventually.

EFA’s are the same. There is a balance between them that probably promotes optimal health, and that level will be far higher than the minimum daily amounts to maintain life.

Our diets are generally high in omega 3 in relation to 6 and 9 (by factors more than 10 times). So average people using omega 3 supplements, without very high 6 and 9 will inevitably have a poor balance. In addition, the omega 3 used as a food stabilizer is poorly processed and probably has little health benefits and inevitably many negative effects.

Don’t get me wrong this type of research is useful however, I think the likely cause is processed food as opposed to directly being omega 3 fatty acids and the lifestyles of the individuals consuming these foods that create the elevated risk of cancer.

I’m going to continue with my Omega-3 supplementation. I’m convinced by the slew of unbiased research and anecdotal reports before this that advocate its benefits from both a health and performance perspective.




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