Fish oil looks promising for cancer therapy

Complementary medicine means combining conventional medical treatments with something considered less mainstream, like supplements or herbal remedies. Some conventional doctors understand the benefits of combining treatments, but many don’t. That’s why it’s especially helpful when research shows it can work.

Take fish oil for example. The good news about the omega-3 fats found in fish oil just keep on coming. Now researchers have found a way in which it can improve quality of life and extend survival for cancer patients.

When scientists at the University Hospitals of Leicester in the United Kingdom gave omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil to people undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, they found that the fats bolstered their response to the medical treatment and improved their quality of life.

In the tests, the omega-3 fats stabilized the patients’ cancers and lessened their liver difficulties.

This latest study is more evidence of the benefits of omega-3 fats. One reason these nutrients are so important: They perform important functions in cell membranes and influence the way cells communicate with each other and respond to changes in the body.

The body also uses omega-3s for limiting harmful inflammation and researchers believe that this anti-inflammatory effect may help it lower the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and could also contribute to its beneficial role as a factor in treating cancer. Plus, these fatty acids can moderate conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and lupus.

Unfortunately, most of the foods you’ll find in the supermarket contain very little omega-3 fats. Instead, they are usually processed with highly refined omega-6s (think corn oil, cottonseed oil and safflower oil). And when you consume a diet that incorporates too many omega-6 fats and too few omega-3s that imbalance may contribute to extra inflammation in your body.

The potential end result of that imbalance, say researchers: an increased risk of neurodegenerative illnesses and asthma, as well as cancer and cardiovascular complications.

My feeling is that you shouldn’t wait until you’re possibly faced with cancer to start getting plenty of omega-3 fats. That’s why I eat fish several times a week and take fish oil supplements. Fish oil benefits are just too valuable to pass up.

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Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.