September 26, 2013

Virender Sodhi MD(Ayurved), ND

A recent study published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute has set off a fierce debate about the health benefits of fish oil supplements. The study, titled Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial, essentially reports there is a correlation between prostate cancer in consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, especially those found in fish oil. Reading the actual study, it appears this study may have been misrepresented and misreported by mainstream media. It is important to understand the actual claims reported in this study and provide research to cause any rational person to question the findings being promoted through this study.

The study in question, Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial, was completed by Brasky Et Al at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The researchers reported findings that indicate that men with higher blood levels of omega-3 demonstrated a 4% greater chance of developing some form of prostate cancer when compared to men with lower blood levels of omega-3. The study also reported key findings indicating that higher levels of omega-6 ,or linoleic acid, was associated with a reduction in observed risk of prostate cancer.

Understanding the Intent of the Study

Both of the key findings of Brasky’s study provide research in direct conflict with the findings and recommendations of hundreds of accepted and respected scientific studies; including the American Heart Association, the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Institute of Medicine’s Food Nutrition Board (IOM FNB), and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. While the media has taken Brasky’s findings and created a “buzz” about the dangers of fish oil, it is important to understand that this was not the intent, nor the purpose, of Brasky’s study. In the author’s own words,

First and foremost, the basic tenets of science dictate that the observational study is designed to generate, rather than confirm, a hypothesis. It is widely accepted that observational study designs are not adequate to establish a cause-and-effect relationship. So, based on this study alone, it is incorrect to conclude that omega-3 fatty acids cause cancer.

Unfortunately, this important bit of information has in large been ignored by media publications, effectively causing concern and alarm around a products (omega-3 and fish oil) that has long demonstrated to be an essential component of a healthy lifestyle.

Research Demonstrates Health Benefits of Fish Oil Use

Several studies have demonstrated that fish oil may support prevention and treatment of a tremendous number of diseases and health conditions, including certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, ADHD, joint pain, and anxiety and depression[1].

Interestingly, even Brasky’s study indicates that omega-3 fatty acids, and particularly fish oil, reduces inflammation within the body; the study also reports significant evidence indicating that significant amounts of omega-6, or linoleic acid, are associated with an increased level of inflammation within the body. Research has associated increased inflammation in the body to a general decrease in health and wellness, including an increased risk of most cancers[2].

Raising further question as to the media’s purpose in promoting the dangers of fish oil, the intent of the SELECT study was to examine the roles of selenium and vitamin E in the development and risk of prostate cancer. Although several reports are now claiming fish oil increases the risk of prostate cancer, to be clear: Fish Oil, nor fish oil supplements, were not provided to people in this study; nor were participants’ dietary intake of fish oil or omega-3 supplements measured during the course of Brasky’s study.

Additional Health Benefits of Fish Oil

Research conducted by Wang Et Al (2006), indicates fish and fish-oil supplements reduces all-cause mortality, cardiac and sudden death, and stroke.[3] In addition, supplementing with fish oil has demonstrated to be effective in reducing stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis, lessening pain associated with menstrual period, improved thinking and cognitive abilities in children diagnosed with ADHD, slowing bone loss associated with osteoporosis, reducing kidney damage and improving weight loss results[4].

Recommended Dosage of Fish Oil

Currently, it is estimated that the average American consumes over 10 times more omega-6 than omega-3, mostly from processed vegetable oils. Since health benefits are demonstrated from higher dosage of omega-3 and lower intake of omega-6, current recommendations from World Health Organization include consuming 0.3-0.5 grams of EPA plus DHA and 0.8-1.1 grams of alpha-linolenic acid each day. Currently, the average American consumes less than 10% of the recommended amount of EPA and DHA[5].

Appropriate amounts of EPA and DHA can be realized by consuming fresh, wild caught cold-water fish (salmon, halibut, anchovies) at least twice a week or by supplementing with a high-quality fish oil supplement.

In summary, the study by Brasky et al should not change clinicians’ dietary recommendations or prescribing patterns. Epidemiological studies do not establish cause-and-effect relationships, and this study was not originally designed to answer questions about omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer. The plasma omega-3 data in this study reflect only short-term intake at a single point in time, which, in many cases, may have been years before the first signs of cancer. The results are not supported by biological plausibility, and several other studies contradict the authors’ conclusions. And finally, an obvious question lingers: If eating fish alone raises prostate cancer risk, then populations, such as the Japanese, in which fish is a dietary staple, would have very high rates of prostate cancer. This does not seem to be the case. The final piece of fishy business is why the authors seem so eager to recommend against the use of fish oil supplements, despite their established benefits, when no fish oil supplements were given, and no evidence suggests that they were even consumed, in this study.

FDA Warns of Potentially Fatal Skin Reaction to Acetaminophen: Natural and Herbal Alternatives to Consider

In addition to potentially causing liver damage, internal bleeding, rash, ulcers and diarrhea, the FDA has recently announced a new warning that acetaminophen may cause rare and potentially lethal skin reactions. Specifically, the Food and Drug Administration announced that acetaminophen may cause Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis; conditions that require medical treatment and could prove fatal.

The adverse reaction to acetaminophen may cause blisters, rash, flu-like illness, damage to eyesight and internal organs. According to the FDA, acetamin-related skin reactions have accounted for nearly 70 hospitalizations and 12 deaths over the last 40 years.

The complete FDA Consumer Update is available at:http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm363010.htm

Natural and Herbal Alternatives to Acetaminophen

Fortunately, natural and herbal alternatives to acetaminophen have been widely used for thousands of years. In many cases, a systematic Ayurvedic approach to pain management will completely eliminate the need for artificial or synthetic pain medications. An Ayurvedic approach to pain management should include a combination of herbs and food designed to reduce inflammation, reduce toxicity and promote inner health; and combined that with yoga, massage, acupuncture and exercise.

Herbs and natural pain relievers to consider instead of acetaminophen should have demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties and include:

  • Capsaicin
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Boswellia
  • Ashwgandha

Many of these natural pain relievers are available in over the counter topical creams and rubs, or can be consumed in their raw form, added to dishes, or drank in teas. Capsaicin for example, works by dulling the body’s pain perception, encouraging the release of pain-relieving endorphins and providing pain-killing action[6].

News Report: Big Breakfast Could Speed Up Weight Loss – Refuting the Evidence

A new study released in the journal Obesity reported that eating the most calorically dense meal at breakfast demonstrated improved weight loss results when compared to eating the most calorically dense meal later in the day. Specifically, this study provided women with two different 12-week meal plans; one plan provided 700 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch, and 200 calories for dinner; the other group was given 200 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch and 700 calories at dinner.

While both groups of women lost weight after 12 weeks of controlled eating, the group eating more calories for breakfast lost significantly more weight than the group eating more calories for dinner (17.8 lbs compared to 7.3 lbs lost)[7].

Interestingly, what was not highlighted in the coverage of this research was the fact that both groups of women lost weight when placed on a regimented eating plan for a period of time. While this research is compelling and warrants further study, the author did not make mention of how these findings compare to a meal plan that promotes a steady intake of calories divided over several small meals each day.

The research pertaining to breakfast conducted by Jakubowicz Et Al (2013) is supported by previous research conducted by Wyatt Et Al (2002) in findings that show the majority of people who lost more than 30 pounds (74%) and kept it off for over one year, ate breakfast every morning; leading to the conclusion that eating breakfast in some form is a key characteristic common to successful weight loss efforts and may be a factor in the long-term success[8].

Reviewing the research, one quickly realizes that the losing weight with a large breakfast claims are compared to weight loss achieved by eating a larger amount of calories at night, Wyatt’s conclusion, that eating breakfast is a characteristic common to successful weight loss points to the possibility of successful weight loss through regular consumption of a nutritionally balanced breakfast.

Other research by Schlundt Et Al (1992) demonstrated improved weight loss when breakfast was consumed, even when the same amounts of calories were combined into lunch and dinner. However, Schlundt also reported that while all participants in the study lost weight, 70% added the weight back within 6 months of the conclusion of the study[9]

Regardless, the recent findings warrant further study; especially weight loss results compared to a controlled eating plan that provides a nutritionally and caloric balance throughout the day.

A healthy breakfast helps prevent obesity, certain cancers, diabetes and it provides energy for improved cognitive and metabolic function. Experts recommend a balanced breakfast of between 400 and 500 calories that includes whole grains, fresh fruit, and lean sources of protein.[10].

Consumer Watch: Avoid Household Products Containing Triclocarban

Antibacterial soaps and personal care products have gained wide favor for the germ phobic citizens of Western countries. Found in many soaps, mouthwashes, deodorants, and first aid products, many antibacterial products contain a substance known as triclocarban. Triclocarban is a chemical used to eradicate microbial substances, including bacteria. While the long-term health effects from exposure to triclocarban have been unknown, new research presented by Sood Et Al (2013) demonstrates an increased risk of certain cancers associated with repeated exposure to the chemical.

Specifically, Sood reported that chronic exposure to triclocarban, or TCC, resulted in a significant increase in the number of non-cancerous to pre-malignant cells found in the human breast. Researchers observed significant cellular changes after only one exposure to TCC[11]. Interestingly, the research also recommends using the popular Indian spice curcumin to slow, and even prevent, formation of pre-malignant cells resulting from exposure to TCC.

Preventing Exposure to Triclocarban

The most effective way to avoid exposure to the harmful effects associated with triclocarban is through savvy consumer awareness; specifically by reading the ingredient labels on the cleaning and personal care products before using them, avoiding products containing triclocarban, triclosan, or TCC.

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate triclocarban, but that does not mean you cannot avoid the chemical. Ikea and The Body Shop have committed to selling only personal care products free of triclocarban, and several large retail, grocery and department stores have dedicated shelf space to triclocarban-free products.

References