While Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Team work on some new and exciting projects, you may notice less posts on the Eating and Living Moderately Blog. We have created a “blog shelf” below to keep you entertained and educated. Get caught up on the latest nutrition education by clicking on each year below. We will send you nutrition updates, but we will not be inundating your mailboxes on a weekly basis. If you want weekly “love” and inspiration, subscribe to our Mom Dishes It Out blog for weekly posts and recipes. Mom Dishes It Out provides expert advice from mom Registered Dietitians and mom Speech Pathologists on the “how to” of health promotion!
The EALM Blog Shelf
Please feel free to peruse our posts organized by year below. Or take a look at the categories listed at the bottom of the page to find a post in the desired.
Eating a plant-based diet provides a plethora of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin A to fight free radicals caused by exercise (where free radicals are produced at a greater rate).
You are forced to focus on your dark leafy greens like spinach and collard greens and high Vitamin C foods like peppers and oranges to absorb the non – heme iron found in plant foods.
Pre training foods like bagels, yogurt and peanut butter are already a part of your daily intake.
You’re at an even greater advantage to prevent heart disease by exercising and eating the healthy fats such as almonds, avocados and lean proteins like beans and fish.
Your physical activity and plant based lifestyle are dually protective against diabetes. Vegan diets have been shown to lower one’s average 3 month blood glucose.
You must make extra effort to get your 8 essential amino acids needed for muscle and hormone synthesis by eating a variety of protein sources like beans, peanut butter, tofu and quinoa.
You may need to take an omega 3 Fatty Acid supplement if you are not consuming deep sea fish. There are vegetarian marine algae forms of DHA available.
Caution – place extra emphasis on eating complex carbohydrates such as whole-wheat pasta, barely, and millet. Avoid grabbing easy and available processed stand – bys like chips, packaged cookies, and boxed macaroni and cheese.
Don’t fall prey to quick soy proteins sources like veggie burgers, “unchicken” fingers and fake meat. These products are highly processed, high in sodium and artificial fillers. In addition, limit soy intake to whole soy foods like tofu, tempeh, miso and edamame. Choose one soy food /day.
Bring on the Vit. B12. Vit. B12 is generally not found in plant sources. Milk, Fortified breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast are vegetarian friendly form of this water-soluble vitamin needed for red blood cell synthesis.
Fat Is the New FAD—Product Review: “Be Bright” Non-GMO Superfood Oil Blend By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
While all foods are super foods in their own right, Coromega has created a unique blend of this past year’s favorite fats. Chia, coconut, avocado, hemp, and black cumin fatty acids are now available in an all-in-one delicious oil.
Pros: Easy way to get your kids’ and your bodies the fatty acids we need; Formulated to be taken straight on a spoon or added to a smoothie; GMO free; Great for tropical and Asian flavoring.
Pros/Cons: Must be refrigerated and not a cooking oil; however, can be added as a salad dressing or grain topper; Has sugar but for a legit reason—a hint of non-GMO cane sugar is added to bring out the product’s delightful coconut-cream-meets-piña-colada flavor!
In addition, Coromega’s use of sugar promotes the microbiology stability of the product: It is used to bind free water in the formulation to prevent pathogen growth (which requires water). They chose not to use sweeteners, like xylitol, because they wanted Be Bright to be formulated with natural ingredients and believe pure cane sugar is the best option. The sugar is used at a very low absolute level, only 3 grams per serving. When compared with an energy bar at 14–25g or a can of Coke at 38g, that’s a really small amount!1
Put the oil to your taste test with this Asian Soba Noodle recipe!
Make this for dinner or take for lunch the next day. To make this dish a complete meal, add chicken or tofu for protein.
Be Bright Soba Noodles
½ cup rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1t ginger, minced
2t be bright oil blend
2T coconut oil
2 zucchinis, diced
8oz soba noodles or whole-wheat spaghetti
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped basil
1 cup chopped cilantro
1. Prepare dressing and set aside: in a small saucepan, warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Add the garlic and ginger. Turn off the heat source, and let cool about 5 mins. Add the Be Bright oil blend, lime juice, and zest. Stir and set aside until the noodles and vegetables are ready to be dressed.
2. Cook the soba noodles as directed on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water.
3. Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan on medium to high heat and sauté the zucchini until tender.
4. In a large mixing bowl, toss the noodles with the dressing, zucchini, herbs, and onions. Option: Add tofu or chicken and mix. Chill for one hour and enjoy.
1. As told by the PR company of Coromega Be Bright Oil.
Life after menopause… By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
Menopause, the permanent end of menstruation and fertility, is defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period. Women typically enter peri-menopause and then menopause in their 40s and 50s. The average age for menopause is 51.1 The transition into this phase in a woman’s life cycle and living optimally thereafter can be ameliorated through diet and physical activity. Embrace life after menopause by following these five tips for living life healthfully.
Eat your estrogen through soy! Soybeans contain a hormone-like substance called phytoestrogen. It can mimic the effect of estrogen and have a vast impact on your overall health before, during, and after menopause. Fermented forms of soy are ideal. So choose miso, tempeh, natto, tofu and young soybeans in the pod known as edamame. Stick with eating soy in the real form rather than via supplements and bars.2
Stand up straight. Now is the time to use light weights to counter osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, otherwise known as weak bones, is due to risk factors such as age, genetics, and dietary deficiencies in both calcium and Vitamin D. Women experience an increased rate of bone loss during menopause and for the ten years thereafter. Though osteoporosis is not reversibleat this age, woman can manage, slow and or even stop it by strength training among other things. The act of weight training increases the activity of osteoblasts (bone building cells) and increases muscle strength which counters the effect of gravity. The effect of gravity on weak bones is observable as “hunch back.” So stand strong—and be sure to incorporate light weights or resistant weight training twice a week.3
Prevent weight gain in the waist area that is often associated with menopause. All you have to do is curb carb consumption at meals. With a decrease in estrogen, women are likely to see an increase in belly fat. While you cannot reverse aging, you can prevent a wide waist by limiting carbs at mealtime. When you eat carbohydrates and even protein, a hormone known as insulin increases to transport the carbohydrates (also known as sugar) into your blood cells. When insulin levels rise, research demonstrates there is likely an increase in belly fat deposition. Therefore, if you prevent insulin from spiking by minimizing the amount of carbohydrates you eat at a meal, not only will you be cutting calories, but you will also be preventing excess belly fat deposits. Women should use 45 grams of carbohydrate per meal and 15 grams of carbohydrate per snack as a guide.4
Stay happy and heart healthy with essential fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are associated with decreased depression, inflammation and triglyceride levels.5 And women are more likely to experience both depression and heart disease after menopause.6 The key to omega 3 fatty acid intake is first ensuring that you are eating the right form—the fish form such as wild salmon, trout, bass and canned chunk light tuna. These fish contain higher amounts of the omegas known as DHA—docosahexaenoic acid. DHA is the specific fatty acid studied whereas the vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids (pumpkin seeds, walnuts and even algae) contain ALA—alpha-linoleic acid. Only ten percent of ALA gets converted to the beneficial form of DHA. So go fishing for dinner.5
Decrease vaginal discomfort…including dryness and incontinence. Some tricks of the trade help to reduce the pain and improve your sex life. During and after menopause, there can be thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls. The decrease in the hormone estrogen affects the moisture level causing vaginal dryness and “pelvic relaxation.” Incontinence is the inability to hold urine from your urethra due to pelvic relaxation.7 The positive news is that research from the Mayo Clinic suggests limiting alcohol, caffeine and or acidic foods to lessen irritation. Practicing yoga and kegel exercises and participating in vaginal physical therapy can reduce pain and even incontinence.8
1. “Menopause.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 May 2014. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/basics/definition/con-20019726>.
2. Hyman, Mark, MD. “How Soy Can Kill You and Save Your Life – Dr. Mark Hyman.” Dr. Mark Hyman. DrHyman.com, 25 Feb. 2013. Web. 24 May 2014. <http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/08/06/how-soy-can-kill-you-and-save-your-life/#close>.
3. “General Facts on Osteoporosis.” National Osteoporosis Foundation (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 24 May 2014. <http://nof.org/files/nof/public/content/file/2681/upload/899.pdf>.
4. Cipullo, Laura. The Diabetes Comfort Food Diet Cookbook. New York: Rodale, 2013. Print.
5. “Fish Oil: MedlinePlus Supplements.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 04 Sept. 2013. Web. 26 May 2014. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/993.html>.
6. “Depression in Older Persons Fact Sheet.” NAMI. NAMI – The National Alliance on Mental Illness, Oct. 2009. Web. 24 May 2014. <http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=7515>.
7. “Urinary Incontinence.” NAMS. The North American Menopause Society, n.d. Web. 23 May 2014. <http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/causes-of-sexual-problems/urinary-incontinence>.
8. “Yoga, Kegel Exercises, Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy.” NAMS. The North American Menopause Society, n.d. Web. 23 May 2014. <http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/effective-treatments-for-sexual-problems/yoga-kegel-exercises-pelvic-floor-physical-therapy>.
Is Your Cow Grass Fed? By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
We all know that organic dairy has become the thing to buy in health stores nationwide, but there has been a movement recently towards grass fed dairy products over just organic ones. Why is that?
Grass fed dairy comes from cows eating a natural diet of alfalfa sprouts, grass, and hay, not corn or soy feed. Grass fed cows are not treated with hormones or given any genetically modified products. Some studies have shown that grass fed dairy contains higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids than traditional or even organic milk. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to protect against heart disease and even stroke, and we cannot make them naturally, so we need to get them from the foods we eat. These are a few of my favorite companies making dairy products with grass-fed dairy; give them a try and see if you can taste the difference!
Kerrygold Cheese and Butter, has a wide selection of good butters and cheese free of artificial flavors and sweeteners that come from entirely grass fed cows in Ireland, who graze outside for over 300 days every year!
Maple Hill Creamery, produces the 100% grass fed milk that goes into their yogurt cups and drinkables. Their yogurts have no added thickeners, preservatives, or unnatural flavors. I met a Maple Hill Farmer at Food Fête who is committed to raising cows that eat only grass and never corn or grains.
Organic Valley, has a whole line of products, from milk to cheese to soy products and meat that are organic and free of hormones and pesticides. They also have exclusive grass milks, made only from cows fed grass, nothing else.
Thanks in part to Maple Hill Creamery, a new labeling initiative is being taken on to certify grass-fed verification and traceability so you know when you buy grass fed, that’s exactly what you’re getting! So be on the lookout for labels that say “100% GrassFed”!
The brand Vita Coco, known for their delicious coconut water never made from concentrate, is debuting their very own line of coconut oil. This oil has been used for centuries in ayurvedic therapies and has been making a comeback recently on the general market. The great thing about this tropical fat is that you can eat it and wear it.
Coconut oil has a variety of uses from the kitchen to the powder room. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but no need to freak out just yet. This type of plant-based saturated fat (or medium chain fatty acid) raises both your “healthy” HDL and your “lousy” LDL, but does not create an unhealthy balance between your HDL and LDL*. Your heart is more in danger when your HDL and LDL are closer in number to each other. Also, because of its saturated chemical structure, coconut oil has a high smoke point. This means that coconut oil can reach high temperatures in the pan or an oven without producing cancer-causing compounds like some other oils. Coconut oil is also solid at room temperature, like butter, which means that it can usually replace butter as a cholesterol-free, non-dairy fat source in, say, your next brownie recipe. Look below for another fun idea to try in the kitchen.
Do you want to feel like you’re in the Bahamas without getting on a flight? Take some coconut oil (about a teaspoon at a time) and slather it on your body as a lotion. This versatile oil leaves your skin feeling silky and hydrated, and the lauric acid (the type of fatty acid in coconut oil) is linked to killing harmful bacteria and boosting one’s immunity.
The researchers are still in disagreement on all of the exact long-term benefits of coconut oil as an anti-viral compound with even the potential power to fight HIV, but there is no doubt that this a delicious addition to your pantry and your vanity.
Before you buy, make sure the coconut oil is as minimally processed as possible. Vita Coco’s version is Extra Virgin, USDA certified organic, 100% raw and cold-pressed, meaning that all the nutrients are retained since the product is never heated. For more information about this product, you can follow Vita Coco on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #eatitwearitswearbyit, or by visiting their website vitacocococonutoil.com.
Mommies Nutrition Made Easy For Mother’s Day By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
Pregnancy is both an exciting and life-changing experience. Your body undergoes many changes and with pregnancy lasting approximately 38 to 40 weeks, EALM thought it would be helpful to give pregnant moms three easy to follow daily nutrition samples.
Just So Know:
An additional 25 grams or more of daily protein is needed while pregnant. The extra protein is essential in helping your baby grow while in utero.
Eating for Smart Minds
Among the nutrients needed during pregnancy, DHA and EPA – essential fatty acids are of utmost importance. DHA and EPA are associated with brain development and better vision in children. The body cannot make these nutrients so eat up! (Just be sure to not exceed an intake of 3 grams per day while pregnant1.
Building Strong Bones
Calcium is a vital nutrient to consume during pregnancy. It is currently recommended that pregnant mothers ingest 1,000 mg of calcium daily to maintain optimal stores for both her and baby1.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. It is recommended that pregnant mothers consume 600 IUs of Vitamin D per day. Vitamin D is found naturally in few foods such as, fatty fish and eggs but is often fortified in foods such as milk, yogurt and even orange juice.
Importance of Folic Acid3
Folic acid is an essential B vitamin in pregnancy. It helps prevent premature delivery and birth defects such as spina bifida. It is recommended pregnant moms get 600 mcg Folic acid per day.
What About Coffee?
Drinking 1-2 cups of coffee per day is safe during pregnancy. Phew!!
Here are 3 days of meals adequate in calories, calcium, protein, and necessary nutrients, broken into the three trimesters. (Please click on each plan for a larger viewing size)
1. Brown, Judith E., and Janet S. Isaacs. Nutrition through the Life Cycle. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, CENGAGE Learning, 2011. Print.
2. “Vitamin D.” — Health Professional Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health, 24 June 2011. Web. 10 May 2014.
3. “Folate.” — QuickFacts. National Institutes of Health, 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 May 2014.
Prostate Cancer: News and Recommendations By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among males, following skin cancer. It is currently most common in men over 50 years of age. An estimated 1 in 5 men will be diagnosed with cancer. Prostate cancer involves the prostate, an organ associated with the male reproductive system. We spoke last week about breast cancer and wanted to continue to raise the awareness of our EALM readers by covering the ins and outs of prostate cancer; including nutritional and lifestyle recommendations to benefit the health of men.
Causes and Contributing Factors:
As of now, the medical community has no knowledge of a definitive cause of prostate cancer. However, the American Cancer Society has highlighted some documented risk factors:
Prostate cancer is more common in men over the age of 50. And about 6 in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men over the age of 65.
It has been suggested to run in families. In fact, having a brother or father with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer himself.
Some studies have suggested that inherited mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes (seen in families with higher risks of breast and ovarian cancers) may increase the risk in some men. Though these genes most likely account for a smaller percentage of prostate cancer cases.
Diet and Lifestyle:
It remains unclear how big of an effect diet has on the development of prostate cancer, although a large number of studies have found that diets higher in red meat intake, dairy products and diets high in total fat increase a man’s chance of getting prostate cancer. A study performed in Canada found that a diet high in saturated fat was associated with a “3-fold” risk of death following a prostate cancer diagnosis[i] when compared to a diet low in saturated fat[ii].
Conversely, diets consisting of fiber-rich foods, lycopene (found in tomatoes), and cruciferous vegetables have been shown to be associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. It is important to note that lycopene is more easily digested after cooking, so look for recipes with cooked tomatoes like homemade marinara sauce, tomato soup, and ratatouli. Fish and intake of foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, have been linked to a decreased risk of death and recurrence of prostate cancer[i]. A recent article published in the Chicago Tribune states “men with early stage prostate cancer may live longer if they eat a diet rich in heart-healthy nuts, vegetable oils, seeds, and avocadoes”[iii]. It is because the heart-healthy fats found in nuts and vegetable oils increase antioxidants, which act to protect against cell damage and inflammation[iii].
Eating a very high amount of fruits and vegetables per day, 5-9 servings is ideal and focus on foods darker in pigment, as those tend to be higher in antioxidants.
Specifically cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, as they have been found to have cancer-fighting properties.
Increasing intake of omega 3, our recommendations can be found here. However, we feel it’s important to mention that a recent study found a possible link to an increased cancer risk and the digestion of omega 3s. However, the study did not question where the omega 3s came from. Therefore, it remains unclear whether it is omega 3s from food or the omega 3s from supplements increase prostate cancer risk in men. All in all, we recommend eating natural sources of omega 3s in moderation, like eating fish and a handful of nuts a few times per week[iv].
Similar to omega 3 supplementation, medical professionals advise patients to avoid using supplements, unless authorized by their doctors. In 2012 it was found that vitamin E supplementation could actually be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Although this has yet to be definitively proven in studies, many believe that drinking 2-3 cups of green tea could help fight off cancer cells. While there is little evidence to this, we don’t think it would hurt swapping your second cup of coffee with a nice cup of green tea.
Exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer reoccurrence. It is recommended that men get an average of 30 minutes of exercise about 5 days per week.
What activities do you do with your family to keep healthy and active? What are your favorite recipes with lycopene, cruciferous veggies, and omegas? We especially love this Tomato Soup recipe from Cooking Light!
For more resources and information on prostate cancer, we recommend the following websites:
[i] Epstein, Mara M., Julie L. Kasperzyk, Lorelei A. Mucci, Edward Giovannucci, Alkes Price, Alicja Wolk, Niclas Hakansson, Katja Fall, Swen-Olof Andersson, and Ove Andren. “Dietary Fatty Acid Intake and Prostate Cancer Survival in Örebro County, Sweden.” American Journal of Epidemiology. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 10 July 2012. Web.
[ii] Berkow, Susan E., Neal D. Barnard, Gordon A. Saxe, and Trulie Ankerberg-Nobis. “Diet and Survival After Prostate Cancer Diagnosis.” Nutrition Reviews 65.9 (2007): 391-403.
[iii] Cortez, Michelle F. “Healthy Fats May Prolong Lives of Those with Prostate Cancer.”Chicago Tribune: Health. Chicago Tribune Company, LLC, 3 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.
The Latest Diet Recommendations for Breast Cancer By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
Breast Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women today. It is estimated that 1 in every 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, equaling a quarter of a million women being diagnosed each year. As many of you may know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In effort to raise the awareness of our EALM readers, we wanted to highlight the importance of diet and lifestyle, on not only your overall health, but also in relation to breast cancer.
The Role of Diet and Lifestyle:
In a recent article featuring Mary Flynn, registered dietitian and co-author of the book “The Pink Ribbon Diet,” she states, “because the majority of breast cancer cases don’t have a genetic link, you have to conclude that lifestyle factors, including diet, play a large role.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics takes a similar stance, stating that “while there is no certain way to prevent breast cancer, it has been found that leading a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk and boost your odds if you do get breast cancer.”
Highlighted below are the risk factors. However, we want to stress that if you find you fall under a few, or more than a few, of these categories it is important not to panic. If you are concerned, please talk with your doctor and follow the recommendations for when and how often to get mammograms. Here are risk factors provided by the Center for Disease Control:
Beginning your menstrual cycle before the age of 12
Starting menopause at a later than average age
Never giving birth
Not breastfeeding post-birth
Long-term use of hormone-replacement therapy
Family history of breast cancer
Previous radiation therapy to the breast/chest area, especially at a young age
Being overweight, especially in women of the postmenopausal age
What About Insulin?
An article written by Franco Berrino, et al., states that elevated serum insulin levels are associated with an increased risk of recurrence in breast cancer patients1. The authors also found each of the following to be associated with breast cancer incidence: high plasma levels of glucose (>110 mg/100 mL), high levels of triglycerides (>150 mg/100 mL), low levels of HDL cholesterol (<50 mg/100 mL), large waist circumference (>88 cm), and hypertension (SBP > 130 mmHg or DBP >85 mmHg). The article also states that those with both metabolic syndrome and breast cancer have the worst prognosis.1 In addition, recent research has shown significant positive associations between obesity and higher death rates for a number of cancers, including breast cancer2.
In other research, omega 3 fats (alpha-linolenic acid, EPA, DHA) have been shown in animal studies to protect from cancer, while omega 6 fats (linoleic acid, arachidonic acid) have been found to be cancer-promoting fatty acids. Flax seed oil and DHA (most beneficial from an algae source) can both be used to increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids. DHA originating from a marine source was found to be the most efficient source. To learn more about fatty acids in your daily diet check out our blog post on Fatty Acids.2
Get a minimum of 4 hours of exercise per week – aim for a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week for optimal health. Some experts recommend yoga to breast cancer patients, as the practice of yoga can ease anxiety, depression, and stress.
Limit alcoholic beverages to 1 per day, or none at all
Try to maintain a healthy weight (a mid range), especially following menopause
Eat plenty of:
Dark, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale
Legumes: dried beans and peas, lentils, and soybeans
Researchers and medical professionals suggest that cancer survivors eat a variety of antioxidant-rich foods each day (since cancer survivors can be at an increased risk of developing new cancers).
Diet and Yoga and Decreasing Stress:
Regardless of whether you are an individual with breast cancer, in remission from breast cancer, or woman trying to reduce your risk, the message is to maintain an active life while consuming a largely plant based diet with a focus on consuming omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, trout and sardines. Find ways to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables such as joining a community agriculture share. Be sure to try the many different forms of yoga for a form of movement and as way to decrease stress. To help manage insulin levels, focus on eating carbohydrates, proteins and fats at each meal and two of the three at snacks. This will slow the absorption of the carbohydrates thereby preventing a high blood sugar and insulin surge. Start with small goals and build upon them each week.
What’s your favorite recipe high in antioxidants? What is your favorite way to decreases stress? Do you have a favorite app that helps you achieve optimal wellness?
1. Berrino, F., A. Villarini, M. De Petris, M. Raimondi, and P. Pasanisi. Adjuvant Diet to Improve Hormonal and Metabolic Factors Affecting Breast Cancer Prognosis. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1089.1 (2006): 110-18.
2. Donaldson M.S.. Nutrition and cancer: A review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet. Nutr. J. 2004; 3:19–25.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men in the United States. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. Some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of certain cancers and have anti-inflammatory properties but the ACS reports that such studies are still inconclusive. But with so much talk about the Mediterranean diet and omega-3 fatty acids lowering the risk of heart disease, chances are that you or someone you know is probably consuming more fish oil supplements or eating more fatty fish like salmon, herring, or mackerel. Despite the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, a recent study found that fish oil may increase the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.
The latest study on the association between prostate cancer and omega-3 fatty acids, “Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial,” was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and was funded by National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The study analyzed levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of 834 men who had been diagnosed with cancer, and 156 of them were diagnosed with high-grade cancer. (In the study, researchers defined omega-3 fatty acids as EPA, DPA and DHA.) They then compared the results with blood samples from 1,393 cancer-free men. Men with the highest level of omega-3 had a 43% increase in risk for prostate cancer and a 71% increased in risk for high-grade cancer (the most fatal) (Brasky, JNCI 2013).
It’s important to note that the study shows that there is an association between increased omega-3 fatty acid plasma levels and prostate cancer but does not demonstrate that the intake of omega-3 fatty acids causes prostate cancer. The study measured blood levels in the participants but did not include information on their eating habits. Thus, the effect between fatty acids from a fish source or supplements is not differentiated. As of now, the cause and effect relationship of the two is still unknown and much more research is needed. The study concludes that men with a history of prostate cancer should discuss with a health professional if fish oil supplements are safe for them. Since fish oil supplements are a concentrated form of omega-3 fatty acids, it can add up to a lot.
While the study sends a conflicting message to many who follow the Mediterranean diet or taking supplements, it’s simply important to remember that consuming any food in excess is not healthy. Men would benefit from consulting their doctor while continuing to read relevant research on this topic before taking fish oil supplements.