I have to tell you, I am appalled at the recent issues with the NCI study and its supposed link to fish oil and advanced prostate cancer.
I have already ridiculed the authors, but in case it was not clear, let me restate it in the clearest way possible:
I think the authors, particularly the lead author Theodore Brasky PhD, should be fired from his position and banned from publishing in general, since he is guilty of the worst kind of science. The worst kind of science is science that is flawed, draws flawed conclusions and garners undeserved attention. The worst kind of science will increase your chances of getting sick, if you follow it. The NCI study and the conclusions drawn by Dr Brasky and crew are, in my opinion, far more likely to make you sick with cancer, heart disease and other “age related” illnesses if you follow it.
If you follow it you will: stop all supplementation especially fish oil. Follow the current Big Food agenda of consuming whole grains which will increase your Omega 6 to 3 ratios, massively increase the inflammation in your body and set you up for the numerous age related diseases we still think of as normal including cancer.
If Dr Brasky follows his own advice, statistically he will wind up with a higher chance of cancer and heart disease. Worse yet, he is an epidemiologist and must know this advice cannot be healthy.
Next, I want to commend my colleagues in the medical profession, for being a bunch of cowardly wusses. In particular, I would cite the numerous “web site and TV doctors” who are hired by the media for their expertise. Their advice can be summed up as follows: Well, we don’t really know what to say, since our job is to be conservative and not make waves. If we had any balls, we’d point out that the NCI study is flawed to the core and tell you to ignore the hype. Instead, because we are afraid of being called on the carpet by the established medical hierarchy and losing our jobs for actually having a medically sound opinion and causing controversy by making an honest stand, we’ll say this. It’s probably OK to take fish oil but we’re not sure because there is some data suggesting higher risk so ask your own doctor.
Problem: There is no valid data at all to support this association and odds are “your own doctor” has not taken the time to learn what they really should about omega3’s. They are too busy fighting with insurance companies, hospital administrators and lawyers.
What we should say, if we understood Omega 3/6 biology, is the NCI study and the conclusions drawn by it are flawed to the core and constitute the worst kind of study imaginable. Following its advice is unhealthy and dangerous to you personally. There is no reasonably done study that shows anything but benefit to having Omega 3 levels in the range of 60+%.
And those that understood the study would point out its numerous flaws of which here are a few:
It’s prospective over 8 years and does not account for the fact that the men in question may have already had prostate cancer.
It floridly points out that the Omega6/3 ratio was massively in favor of Omega 6, meaning these people were nowhere near the preventative healthy levels of Omega 3 they needed to be.
It states high dose supplementation is dangerous but the average dosage was 500mg (hardly a high dose!) and did not even show up as meaningful in the levels that were obtained. In short, if these people were really supplementing, even with that low a dose, they should have been a bit higher. The actual difference between their levels and the levels of the prostate cancer free men could only be “made to be statistically significant” by the scale they were using to measure it. The actual amount of difference among all groups was around 0.2%. And again, all of the people in the study were Omega 6 dominant by far.
Populations (usually the things epidemiologists study!) with much, much higher Omega 3 levels and much, much lower Omega 6 levels, have a tiny incidence of prostate cancer and in fact most cancers that have ever been measured, occur at much smaller incidences in these populations. And there are dozens of studies to prove this. Which one gets all the airplay, the ONE TOTALLY FLAWED STUDY that shows something different.
So, I guess as a population, we are more interested in getting cancer than preventing it.
And now to the zombies in the news media. Rushing not to be left behind, each and every newspaper, columnist, blogger, TV reporter etc. etc. jumps on this worst information and propagates it like wild fire.
I am pretty sure Dr Brasky and colleagues knew this would happen.
Even worse is, even though the study has been completely debunked and point out to be false by numerous experts in the field, there are still numerous news media outlets that are STILL publishing this fallacy.
Only a few have come out and recanted their positions. All of them should, but they are already on to the next bad news disaster that is “trending”.
I hope for the sake of your health you are not “trending”. Frankly, it’s liable to get you killed!
Of all of the above, I am most disgusted at the ignorance and cowardice of my colleagues. As physicians we are supposed to give people our best advice. Sometimes, boys and girls, that means developing a new skill: learning to read studies. And sometimes, my dear friends in medicine, that means taking time to read what your patients are reading and advising them correctly as to its veracity. I know you did not ask for all the BS that has been heaped on your from the day you left medical school. I know you did not ask to spend your lives battling people who know nothing and don’t really care about you or your patients.
But, for God sakes don’t be one of them!
If you follow the leader and just try to make your life easy, you will end up not achieving what you swore to do: First, do no harm. Don’t be sheep and cowards. Peoples’ lives and futures depend on it.
Yours in health,
PS while I am at it: there is zero human evidence to support the notion that higher doses of fish oil are “dangerously oxidized in the human body” in people with adequate Omega 3 levels. The major driving force for the oxidation that does happen in the body is free radical oxidation primarily propagated by Omega 6 fats. If you take enough Omega 3’s, (keep your blood levels at 60 to 70%) you will not have the oxidation issue. Studies using anti-oxidants like vitamin E along with fish oil, have shown no improvements in clinical end points. And there is zero human evidence to suggest fish oil actually increases bleeding to a dangerous level and there is zero human evidence to suggest it damages the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to infections. All of these are more biochem text nonsense that have not born out in human beings, where it actually matters. A note to PhD’s: before you quote something out of a biochem text book, find out if it really matters to and in people, since it’s unlikely that cell cultures are going to read your article.