Elevating omega-3 reduces breast cancer incidence in animal model
Tuesday, February 26, 2013. The January 2013 issue of The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry published the finding of researchers at Ontario's Guelph University of a protective effect for increased omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in mice bred to develop mammary cancer.
Professor David Ma of Guelph University's Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences and his associates bred mice capable of synthesizing their own omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with another breed that develops aggressive mammary cancer. Their offspring were monitored throughout their lives for the onset of tumors, and tumor and mammary gland tissue were assessed for omega-3 levels. An additional group of mammary cancer-prone mice were fed diets enriched with omega-3 and were similarly monitored.
Animals bred to manufacture omega-3 developed one-third fewer tumors than breast-cancer prone mice that did not produce the fatty acids, and their tumors were smaller. They also had higher tumor levels of omega-3 fatty acids and lower levels of omega-6. Similar findings were obtained in the mice that were given omega-3 in their diets. "Using complementary genetic and conventional dietary approaches we provide, for the first time, unequivocal experimental evidence that omega-3 PUFA is causally linked to tumor prevention," the authors conclude.
"It's a significant finding," Dr Ma said. "We show that lifelong exposure to omega-3s has a beneficial role in disease prevention – in this case, breast cancer prevention. What's important is that we have proven that omega-3s are the driving force and not something else."
"This model provides a purely genetic approach to investigate the effects of lifelong omega-3s exposure on breast cancer development," he added. "To our knowledge, no such approach has been used previously to investigate the role of omega-3s and breast cancer."
"The fact that a food nutrient can have a significant effect on tumor development and growth is remarkable and has considerable implications in breast cancer prevention," he continued. "Prevention is an area of growing importance. We are working to build a better planet, and that includes better lifestyle and diet. The long-term consequences of reducing disease incidence can have a tremendous effect on the health-care system."