Fish supplements may reduce risk of cancer

The health benefits of oily fish have been advocated for 20 years. Adding one or two servings a week of mackerel or salmon to the household shopping list is believed to help fend off heart disease and has been claimed to ease the symptoms of asthma and bowel disease, prevent premature birth, boost memory, and cure depression. Now US researchers say that taking fish oil supplements may cut the risk of breast cancer. Previous dietary studies have been inconsistent, possibly because few people meet the recommended target for oily fish consumption. Taking supplements could result in higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids that bring the benefit, they say.

Among 35,000 middle-aged women who took the supplements regularly over six years the incidence of breast cancer was reduced by almost a third (32 per cent), the researchers found.

The results, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, are likely to further boost the booming market for the supplements, worth about $2bn (£1.31bn) globally in 2007, doubling since 2003. Euromonitor, which published the figures, predicted fish oil sales would reach $2.5bn by 2012.

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils – eicosapentaenoic acid (EHA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – reduce inflammation which is a fundamental cause of disease. Claims for their health benefits have proliferated over the last two decades.

The most contentious area has been over their role in brain development. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to the growing brain and growing numbers of parents have been giving their children supplements in the hope it will boost their intelligence and powers of concentration. In 2006, Lord Winston, the TV presenter and fertility pioneer, fronted advertisements for St Ivel Advance, supplemented with omega-3 which was marketed as "clever milk".

Other scientists have been critical of the claims and studies at the University of Teesside in 2006 and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2010 found no evidence of benefit on cognitive function in the general population or older people.

Emily White, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre in Seattle, Washington, who led the latest study showing a protective effect against cancer, said: "It may be that the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements are higher than most people would typically get from their diet."

However, she warned that the findings were preliminary. "Without confirming studies specifically addressing this we should not draw any conclusions about a causal relationship."

A spokesperson for the UK Food Standards Agency said yesterday: "We recommend eating two portions of fish per week including one of oily fish, which has been shown to help protect against cardiovascular disease. There isn't enough evidence at the moment to draw any firm conclusions about other health benefits, for example in relation to cancer or cognitive function."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Account Manager (Junior)

    Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

    Javascript Developer

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

    Solar Business Development Manager – M&A

    £50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Lead IOs Andriod Developer

    £80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Lead Applic...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried