Regular intake of fish oil lowers your risk of liver cancer
Both diet and lifestyle affect your risk of developing liver cancer. According to a large population study published in Frontiers in Nutrition, regular intake of fish oil lowers your risk of contracting the disease. In fact, it seems that fish oil has a number of different cancer-preventing mechanisms that even reduce the risk of other types of cancer.
Primary liver cancer (hepacellular carcinoma) is a cancer in the cells of the liver.Cholangiocarcinoma also known as bile duct cancer occurs in the bile duct mucosa inside or outside the liver. The most common symptoms of liver cancer are nausea, poor appetite, weight loss, tiredness, and jaundice. In some cases, it feels as if the liver has increased in size and there is discomfort in the right side of the stomach region. Liver cancer may also cause abdominal fluid retention.
Only 10-12 percent of patients with primary liver cancer survive longer than 5 years. Cirrhosis increases the risk of liver cancer, especially if it is caused by excessive alcohol intake or hepatitis B. Smoking, aflatoxin, and certain chemicals also add to the risk. The same goes for fatty liver that is caused by an accumulation of fat in the liver cells.
Alcohol abuse may cause fatty liver disease, whereas overweight and too much fructose can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is part of metabolic syndrome, an early stage of type 2 diabetes.
As discussed, lifestyle and body weight play a central role in the development of liver cancer. It also looks as if lack of omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to the problem.
Fish oil supplements lower the liver’s content of lipids
Earlier studies of mice have shown that the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, that are found in fish oil can prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver caused by a refined, western-style diet. These two omega-3 fatty acids are also able to lower the risk of liver cancer caused by carcinogens. Earlier human studies have even shown that fish oil supplementation can reduce the liver’s lipid content and underlying liver dysfunction. However, we still lack larger studies to determine whether fish oil supplements have the potential to lower the risk of liver cancer.
Fish oil supplements lower the risk of liver cancer
The new population study of more than 400,000 volunteers includes both men and women of different races in the age group 37-73 years. The scientists gathered data from a large population study in the UK Biobank (2006-2010). The participants’ diet habits and fish oil consumption were registered using questionnaires. None of the participants had liver cancer at baseline. The scientists then looked to find if there was a connection between fish oil and liver cancer by including other registers. They adjusted for alcohol abuse, lifestyle, and other confounding risk factors.
It turned out that around one third of the study participants (3.4%) were regular users of fish oil. During the eight-year follow-up period 262 cases of liver cancer were recorded – including 127 cases of primary liver cancer and 110 cases of bile duct cancer. Those participants who took fish oil had a 52% lower risk of developing primary liver cancer and a 40% lower risk of bile duct cancer. The higher their fish oil consumption, the lower their risk of developing primary liver cancer. The scientists therefore concluded that regular fish oil intake is linked to a lower liver cancer risk. The new study is published in Frontiers in Nutrition
Omega-3 fatty acids and their anti-cancer mechanisms
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential, which is why we need them from our diet. We have the two types known as EPA and DHA in our cell membranes where they have a host of different physiological functions. Oily fish and fish oil contain EPA and DHA that are easily utilized by the body. Omega-3 fatty acids work together with omega-6 fatty acids in an intricate, biochemical interplay. The ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 is very important. Unfortunately, modern diets contain far too much omega-6 from plant oils and industrially processed food and far too little omega-3. This can set the stage for chronic inflammation and other imbalances. Previous studies of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other types of cancer show that omega-3 fatty acids have the following anti-cancer mechanisms:
- They inhibit inflammation
- They regulate the immune defense
- They can trigger cancer cells to poison themselves by way of lipid peroxidation
Obesity epidemic, liver cancer, and fructose
Fructose plays an overlooked role in the obesity epidemic and the increasing rate of liver cancers in our part of the world, according to an article that is published in Biomolecules. The problem arises when too much fructose burdens the liver and turns it into a virtual lipid factory. This causes so-called non-alcoholic fatty liver that is associated with inflammation and an increased risk of developing fibrosis, liver cirrhosis, and primary liver cancer.
Fructose is found in things such as sugar, fruit, wine, juice, soft drinks, coffee creamers, salad dressings, ready meals, and sweeteners such as corn syrup and HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup).
Wei Jiang et al. Relationship Between Fish Oil Use and Incidence of Primary Liver Cancer: Findings from a Population-Based Prospective Cohort Study. Frontiers in Nutrition 31. December 2021
Will Chu. Mechanism could explain why Omega-3 fatty acid is toxic to tumor cells. NUTRAingredients.com.
Saraswoti Khadge et al. Long-chain omega-3 polysaturated fatty acids decrease mammary tumor growth, multi organ metastasis and enhance survival. 2018
Hanane Moussa et al. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Survey in Men under Active Surveillance for Prostate Cancer: from Intake to Prostate Tissue Level. Nutrients 2019
Brittany Dewdney. A Sweet Connection? Fructose´s Role in Hepacellular Carcinoma. Biomolecules. March 2020
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