Omega-3 Fatty Acids


Also known as: fish oils, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)/docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), alpha-linolenic acid (the plant version of omega-3).

Potential uses: To possibly reduce the risk for breast, colon, or prostate cancers.

Usual dose: You can get omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel, as well as walnuts, soy foods, and flaxseeds. About 2 to 3 servings of omega-3 fatty acids a week is best. Eating fish has become more of a health concern due to high levels of mercury and other contaminants. Farm-raised salmon have been found to contain higher levels of toxins (other than mercury) than fish caught in the wild. Therefore, experts recommend varying the type of fish you eat. Wild-caught fish are okay about twice a week, while farm-raised salmon should be limited to once a month. Fish oil capsules, another source of omega-3 fatty acids, are also available.

Are there any risks? If you consume 3 or more grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids, you may increase your risk of bleeding. Other side effects include stomach upset and low blood pressure. When consumed as part of regular portions of food (not through supplements), these side effects are rare.

What does the research show? In studies done in animals, the results suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may increase the ability of chemotherapy medicines such as doxorubicin and epirubicin to kill cancer cells. Studies show that the average United States diet is low in omega-3 fatty acids.

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