Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute research shows supplement helps the heart without increasing men's chances of common cancer.

November 27, 2019

3 Min Read
Omega-3 supplements don't increase prostate cancer risk, study shows

Two new studies from the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute demonstrated that omega-3 supplements will help reduce patients' risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure or death—but not increase their chances of developing prostate cancer.

Their findings were 2019 presented on Nov. 17 at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Approximately 1 in 9 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Association, with 60% of cases showing up in men who are 65 years old or older.

A 2013 analysis published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggested that men with the highest levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids in their blood were at increased risk of prostate cancer.

Viet T. Le, a researcher and physician assistant at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute

Viet T. Le, a researcher and physician assistant at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute, said researchers undertook this study in light of those findings.

“If I’m recommending omega-3 for my patients to save their hearts, I want to make sure I’m not putting them at risk for prostate cancer,” Le said. “Our study found no evidence of a link between the two.”

For their study, the Intermountain research team identified 87 patients who were part of the Intermountain INSPIRE Registry and had developed prostate cancer. These patients were also tested for plasma levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are two common omega-3 fatty acids.

When compared to a matched control group of 149 men, the researchers found that higher omega-3 levels were not linked with elevated prostate cancer risk.

Le earned his master's of physician assistant studies at the University of Utah School of Medicine in 2004. He's been employed at Intermountain Healthcare as a cardiology and research physician's assistant since October 2012 and an assistant professor at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions since June 2015.

Omega-3s effective in reducing risk of cardiac diseases

For the second study presented at the 2019 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, Intermountain researchers looked at 894 patients undergoing coronary angiography, a test that shows how blood flows through the arteries in the heart.

These patients had no prior history of heart attack or coronary artery disease; however, upon their first angiogram, about 40% of those patients had severe disease and about 10% had three-vessel disease, Le said.

Researchers also measured patients’ plasma levels of omega-3 metabolites, including DHA and EPA. They then followed the patients to see who suffered a subsequent heart attack, stroke or heart failure, or who died.

Researchers found that patients with higher rates of omega-3 metabolites had lower risk of those adverse effects regardless of whether they had severe disease or not on their initial angiogram.

“This study is important because we looked at how omega-3 helps patients who have already developed disease, and its effects on survival—both in getting to the first angiography to be diagnosed (versus having a heart attack or worse before even knowing they have heart disease) and thereafter,” Le said.

“While a seeming association between higher plasma omega-3 levels and the findings of severe heart disease upon initial angiogram might raise alarms that omega-3 isn’t beneficial, they did live to see a doctor and get diagnosed,” Le added. “And we saw a link between higher levels of omega-3 and their survival rate thereafter.”

Other members of the research team include: Kirk U. Knowlton, M.D., director of cardiovascular research at Intermountain Heart Institute; Raymond O. McCubrey, MS; Stacey Knight, who holds a doctorate in biomedical informatics with a focus on genetic epidemiology, oversees the Intermountain Geneaology Registry for use in family-based genetic research; Jeramie Watrous, holds a PhD in biological chemistry from the University of California, San Diego, and is an assistant professor of medicine there; Mohit Jain, M.D., holds a doctorate in pharmacology from Boston University and is an associate professor at UCSD; and more.

This research was sponsored by the Intermountain Research and Medical Foundation and the Dell Loy Hansen Foundation, Inc.

Source: Intermountain Heatlhcare

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