Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fats that should be consumed daily, but unfortunately they are one of the more neglected categories of foods in the American diet. Omega 3 oil has an anti-inflammatory action throughout the body, which is particularly important for Americans in order to counteract the abundance of inflammatory foods that we tend to consume. Chronic inflammation is at the root of the majority of chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, and signs of accelerated aging. Research also shows that omega 3 fats are beneficial in preventing or relieving conditions such as depression, anxiety, dementia, skin conditions, infertility and vision problems.

Omega 3 fatty acids are present in both plant oils and marine based oils. For plants, it’s high in flax seed oil, chia seeds, walnuts and hemp oil. It’s also high in oily cold water fish, such as salmon and sardines. The type of oil in plant sourced omega oils is known as alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which must be converted in the body in order to be utilized. The problem is that not everyone has adequate enzymes to efficiently convert the fat, so it’s not as effective. Fish oil is composed of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which can be utilized by the cells directly and don’t need to be converted. Because of these differences between plant based ALA and marine based DHA and EPA, there is an ongoing debate about whether plant based omega 3 fatty acids can sufficiently be used as a replacement for marine based oils.

A recent study investigated that question, and set out to determine if one form has superior benefits in preventing cancer in animals. Cancer is believed to be rooted in chronic inflammation. Many research studies have shown that omega 3 fatty acids can help prevent cancer cells from proliferating and can help reduce tumor size. These fats can also enhance the effects of chemotherapeutic medications. One study even showed that women who consumed high quantities of fish had lower risks of breast cancer.

In this recent study, scientists compared the anti-cancer actions of fish versus flaxseed oil in animals. They gave mice either flax or fish oils prior to tumor development, and after cancer progressed. It was found that both sources of oils helped inhibit tumor growth and development, but much higher doses of the plant-based omegas were required to get the same benefits as fish oil. Overall, the fish oil was calculated to be eight times more effective than flax oil!
Fish is an excellent source of omega 3 fats, but not everyone likes to eat fish, particularly the types that are high in omega 3 oils. Fortunately there are encapsulated fish oil supplements which you can use if you want to avoid the fish flavor. If possible, it’s best to consume fish over flaxseed oil, and be sure to take several grams daily for optimal benefits.

Fish Omega-3 Superior to Flax for Inhibiting HER-2 Tumor Development and Growth

March 19, 2018 in Cancer, Fatty Acids, Home, Home Slider, Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Which Omega-3 source may have better cancer fighting properties, fish or plants? A new study from University of Guelph, Ontario shows that Omega-3s from fish and other marine sources are far superior to flax. The lead researcher, Prof. David Ma, discovered that marine-based omega-3s are eight times more effective at inhibiting tumor development and growth than from plant sources. Omega-3 from marine sources “pack a stronger punch than flaxseed and other oils when it comes to cancer prevention,” according to a statement from the University.

Fish Omega-3 Superior to Flax

“This study is the first to compare the cancer-fighting potency of plant-versus marine-derived omega-3s on breast tumor development,” said the professor in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences. “There is evidence that both omega-3s from plants and marine sources are protective against cancer, and we wanted to determine which form is more effective.”Published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, the study involved feeding the different types of omega-3s to mice with a highly aggressive form of HER-2 human breast cancer. HER-2 affects 25 per cent of women and has a poor prognosis.rof. David Ma exposed the mice to either the plant-based or the marine-based omega-3s, beginning in utero.

The mice were exposed to the different omega-3s even before tumors developed, which allowed us to compare how effective the fatty acids are at prevention,” said Ma. ”

Why is Fish Omega-3 Superior to Flax and other ALA Omegas?

Ma found overall exposure to marine-based omega-3s reduced the size of the tumours by 60 to 70 per cent and the number of tumours by 30 per cent. However, higher doses of the plant-based fatty acid were required to deliver the same impact as the marine-based omega-3s.


The objective of this study was to examine the effect of lifelong exposure to plant- or marine-derived n-3 PUFA on pubertal mammary gland and tumor development in MMTV-neu(ndl)-YD5 mice. It is hypothesized that lifelong exposure to n-3 PUFA reduces terminal end buds during puberty leading to delayed tumor onset, volume and multiplicity. It is further hypothesized that plant-derived n-3 PUFA will exert dose-dependent effects. Harems of MMTV-FVB males were bred with wild-type females and fed either a 1) 10% safflower (10% SF, n-6 PUFA, control), 2) 10% flaxseed (10% FS), 3) 7% safflower plus 3% flaxseed (3% FS), or 4) 7% safflower plus 3% menhaden (3% FO) diet. Female offspring were maintained on parental diets.

Compared to SF, 10% FS and 3% FO reduced (p<0.05) terminal end buds at 6 weeks and tumor volume and multiplicity at 20 weeks. A dose-dependent reduction of tumor volume and multiplicity was observed in mice fed 3% and 10% FS. Anti-tumorigenic effects were associated with altered HER2, pHER-2, pAkt and Ki-67 protein expression. Compared to 10% SF, 3% FO significantly down-regulated expression of genes involved in eicosanoid synthesis and inflammation. From this, it can be estimated that ALA was 1/8 as potent as EPA+DHA. Thus, marine-derived n-3 PUFA have greater potency versus plant-based n-3 PUFA.

Ma explained in a statement that Omega-3s prevent and fight cancer by turning on genes associated with the immune system and blocking tumour growth pathways. “It seems EPA and DHA are more effective at this. In North America, we don’t get enough omega-3s from seafood, so there lies an opportunity to improve our diet and help prevent the risk of breast cancer.”

Based on the doses given in the study, Ma said, humans should consume two to three servings of fish a week to have the same effect. Besides certain foods containing EPA and DHA, supplements and functional foods, such as omega-3 eggs or DHA milk, can offer similar cancer prevention effects, he added.

The next step is to investigate the effects of omega-3s on other forms of breast cancer. “Seeing the significant benefits omega-3s can have in combating a highly aggressive form of breast cancer means omega-3s will likely be beneficial for other types of cancer.”

Source: Liu J, Abdelmagid SA, Pinelli CJ, et al. Marine fish oil is more potent than plant based n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the prevention of mammary tumours. The journal of nutritional biochemistry. 2017. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.12.011.