Exposure to omega-3 fatty acids during a child’s early years may play a role in reducing breast cancer risk later in life. (Shutterstock)
Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly found in plant and seafood sources. If you don’t have high enough levels of omega-3s in your diet, it’s a leading risk factor for death globally, contributing to the development of chronic diseases like cancer.
A healthy diet can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer. This has led to great interest in the role of omega-3 fatty acids — especially in the prevention of breast cancer.
In experimental studies, it has been shown that omega-3 fatty acids during early years of growth and development may play a role in reducing breast cancer risk later in life.
But not all omega-3s are created equal.
Seafood sources eight times more potent
Structurally, omega-3 fatty acids found in plants and seafood are different molecules.
Much of our research to date suggests that the benefits of omega-3 fats can be attributed to those found in seafood including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In contrast, omega-3 fatty acids in plants such as flax and canola containing alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are thought to be less potent.
But scientists have never been sure exactly how much more potent seafood omega-3s are — until recently, when our team at the University of Guelph helped to shed light on this question.
We conducted a study in mice that compared the impacts of ALA versus EPA+DHA on tumour development. The results show that both were beneficial in altering mammary gland development to decrease the risk of developing breast cancer. They also decreased tumour size and multiplicity following the onset of breast cancer.
The study shows EPA+DHA to be eight times more potent than ALA, however. This suggests that omega-3s from seafood sources may be significantly more effective at reducing breast cancer risk and improving prognosis.
How much fish is enough?
So are we getting enough seafood-based omega-3s in our diet?
A typical North American diet provides approximately one to three grams of ALA per day and only 100-150 mg of EPA/DHA per day.
These amounts fall in line with recommendations by the Institute of Medicine.
A growing body of research suggests, however, that dietary intakes of EPA and DHA should be much higher in order to promote optimal health and prevent chronic disease.
This is not a new concept. In 1999, the National Institutes of Health’s report recommended that, in order to promote optimal health and prevent disease, EPA+DHA should make up 0.3 per cent of our daily energy intake.
Based on this recommendation, the DHA-EPA Omega-3 Institute reports that this corresponds to 433 to 600 milligrams of EPA+DHA for children between the ages of one and eight years old.
This level can be attained in the diet by consuming two to three servings of fish per week, or by supplementing with a high quality EPA+DHA supplement.
Optimal doses for children
Intakes of seafood-based omega-3s in children differ from adults.
Previous studies have shown that North American children have even lower intakes of EPA and DHA than adults.
In fact, a study in the United States revealed that 84 per cent of children consume less than one serving of fish or seafood per week.
So by incorporating more seafood or foods high in omega-3 fatty acids — such as omega-3 milk and eggs — early on in a child’s life, it may be possible to reduce long-term risk of developing breast cancer and other common chronic diseases later in life.
About The Authors
David W.L. Ma, Professor of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph and Jessie Burns, PhD Candidate in Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph
- Moghis U. Ahmad
Studio: Academic Press and AOCS Press
Label: Academic Press and AOCS Press
Publisher: Academic Press and AOCS Press
Manufacturer: Academic Press and AOCS Press
Fatty Acids: Chemistry, Synthesis and Applications is a comprehensive source of information about a wide range of industrially important fatty acids. This practical resource provides key insights into the chemistry, synthesis, industrial applications, derivatives, and analysis of fatty acids, and the chemical modifications that transform them for use in products from biodiesel fuels to pharmaceuticals.
Written by a team of industry experts, Fatty Acids includes detailed descriptions of fatty acid crystallization, enzymatic synthesis, and microbial production. This book focuses heavily on the chemistry of trans fatty acids, with extensive explanations of their synthesis and measurement. Further, the book addresses advances in the analytical methodology, including mass spectrometry, of fatty acids as well as their derivatives.
This book serves as a reference manual to a new generation of lipid scientists and researchers; a useful resource for oleochemical industries; and a valuable teaching aid for undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in fields related to the chemistry of oils, fats, and food.
- Includes recent developments in the synthesis of fatty acid derivatives, as renewable raw materials for the chemical industry
- Presents efficient synthetic methods for the dietary trans fatty acids in multi-gram scale allowing scientists and researchers to study dietary effects of individual trans fatty acids on human health
- Addresses uses of fats and fatty acids in foods and nutrition
- Identifies the roles of fatty acids and derivatives in cosmetic technology
Studio: AOCS Publishing
Label: AOCS Publishing
Publisher: AOCS Publishing
Manufacturer: AOCS Publishing
The second edition of Fish, Omega-3 and Human Health reaffirms that the essential fatty acids in the foods we eat form hormones that have powerful effects on human life. While many find it hard to believe that a simple change of diet can affect so many aspects of their lives, this book aims to shift prevailing attitudes about the relationship between foods and disease.
The Truth about Omega 3 and Fish: What Your Doctor or Dietitian Never Told You About Eating Seafood & Fish Oil Supplements
Binding: Kindle Edition
Format: Kindle eBook
Studio: Green Reset Media
Label: Green Reset Media
Publisher: Green Reset Media
Manufacturer: Green Reset Media
There is so much propaganda and misinformation surrounding the eating of fish and seafood that most people fail to realize that we have been talked into consuming a food that is really not good for us (or for the environment; and especially for the fish and other sea life, for that matter). But let me explain...