Alpha Linolenic Acid in Heart Disease and Prostate Cancer.




Journal of Nutrition

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Consumer Data: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Prostate Cancer
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In the late 1970s, scientists learned that the native Inuits in Greenland, who consumed a diet very high in omega-3 fatty acids, had surprisingly low rates of heart attacks. Since that time thousands of scientific studies have evaluated the multiple ways that omega-3 fatty acids promotes not only cardiovascular health, but also the healthy functioning of many other biological activities. Many Americans don't get enough of it in their diets. One reason is that omega-3 oils are very susceptible to spoilage and so many food manufacturers remove it to keep products fresh. Another reason is that omega-3 oils mostly come from cold water fish and wild game— something most Americans don't eat in great quantities.

Omega-3 refers to a group or "family" of unsaturated fatty acids. The first fatty acid in this group is named alpha linolenic acid (ALA) or just linolenic acid, and sometimes it is just called omega-3. Linolenic acid cannot be made in the body and therefore, it is classified as an essential fatty acid and must be obtained from either the diet or in supplement form.

A recent meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nutrition investigated the association between ALA, heart disease mortality, and prostate cancer. Data from numerous studies involving ALA supplementation and heart disease, and ALA and risk of prostate cancer were reviewed. Researchers found that high levels of alpha linolenic acid were linked to a lower risk of fatal heart disease, and may possibly protect from heart disease. However, high levels of ALA were also associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer. The authors concluded that, “This meta-analysis shows that consumption of ALA might reduce heart disease mortality. However, the association between high intake of ALA and prostate cancer is of concern and warrants further study.”1


1. Brouwer IA, et al. Dietary -Linolenic Acid Is Associated with Reduced Risk of Fatal Coronary Heart Disease, but Increased Prostate Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis. J Nutr. April 2004;134:912-22.