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Omega 6 Fatty Acids and Cancer

Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15/1-16.7/1. Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established. Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today's Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects. In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a ratio of 4/1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality. A ratio of 2.5/1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer, whereas a ratio of 4/1 with the same amount of omega-3 PUFA had no effect. The lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk. A ratio of 2-3/1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and a ratio of 5/1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10/1 had adverse consequences. These studies indicate that the optimal ratio may vary with the disease under consideration. This is consistent with the fact that chronic diseases are multigenic and multifactorial. Therefore, it is quite possible that the therapeutic dose of omega-3 fatty acids will depend on the degree of severity of disease resulting from the genetic predisposition. A lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies, as well as in the developing countries, that are being exported to the rest of the world.
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] Click here.

Prostate cancer (PCa) is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men. Studies show that consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) modulates the development and progression of prostate cancer. High amounts of omega-6 fatty acids have been linked with increased prostate cancer risk, whereas omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to inhibit PCa growth. However, because omega-3 and omega-6 are both essential fatty acids and part of a complete diet, it is more relevant to determine the ideal ratio of the two that would allow patients to benefit from the therapeutic properties of omega-3 fatty acids. LNCaP prostate cancer cells were treated with dietary-based ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids under hormone-deprivation conditions, and effects on various cellular processes were determined. A low omega-6 to omega-3 PUFA ratio can delay the progression of cells toward castration-resistance by suppressing pathways involved in prostate cancer progression, such as the Akt/mTOR/NFκB axis. It also suppresses the expression of cyclin D1, and activation of caspase-3 and annexin V staining shows induction of proapoptotic events. Taken together, our data demonstrates that maintaining a low omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids ratio can enhance efficacy of hormone ablation therapy.
23659447  [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] Click here

 One of the main determinants of “silent” inflammations in our bodies that promote the development of cancer is the balance between omega-6 fatty acids (which favor inflammation) and omega-3 fatty acids (which reduce it). Here I discuss how to measure this key ratio, and how to act on it.

 Since World War II, the farm animals that give us meat, butter, milk, cheese, cream and eggs are no longer nourished with grass and leaves; they are fed soy and maize instead. Grass is very rich in omega-3s, but maize contains none at all, and soy products contain very little. The animal products that we eat now are thus highly unbalanced, with far too many omega-6s and very few omega-3s. Since these foods are (erroneously) the basis of the Western diet, studies show that almost all of us are out of balance in terms of our omega ratio, with a considerable excess of omega-6s.

 On average, people in the West have 10 to 15 times more omega-6s in our bodies than omega-3s. This is one of the reasons why all the diseases that are nourished by inflammation (arthritis, allergies, heart trouble, Alzheimer’s, depression and cancer) are in constant progression in Western countries.

 To check your own omega-6/omega-3 ratio, you can ask a technician to draw your blood and send it to a specialized lab that measures omega-6s and omega-3s present in the hematids. (But be careful – not the levels present in the serum, but in the membrane of the hematids, in other words, the red blood cells). The ratio between them is a relatively constant reflection of the proportions of omega-6s and omega-3s throughout the body, including the brain.

 If the ratio omega-6 (total) / omega-3 (total) is higher than 10, your body is in a state of inflammation – inflammation that is at least “silent” and possibly manifest (arthritis or other illness). In order to better protect yourself from cancer, you should ideally bring this ratio down below 3.

If you have cancer in an active phase, some naturopathic practitioners recommend you bring the ratio to under 1 – in other words, you should aim to have more omega 3s than omega-6s in your body. Be careful, though, because when the omega ratio drops too low – under 0.5 – it may increase the risk of hemorrhage, as we see in certain Inuit populations. (Nosebleeds are among the first symptoms).

 How can we act on the omega-6/omega-3 ratio? 

 The omega-6s and omega-3s in our bodies come exclusively from our diet. They thus reflect exactly what we eat and drink. To lower the omega ratio, all we need to do is reduce dietary sources of inflammation-promoting omega-6s: red meat, especially if it is produced by industrial farming techniques and if it does not carry an “omega-3” label; dairy products; eggs not marked “omega-3”; sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil.

Use olive oil, rapeseed oil or a mixture. We should also increase all sources of omega-3s: oily fish twice a week (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon); omega-3 eggs; nuts; lambs’-ear salad; green vegetables; linseed or flaxseed oil and flax seeds. Some people also take omega-3 supplements (roughly 1g or 0.03 oz of the EPA-DHA combination) to make sure they have a regular and constant absorption of omega-3s even when they are traveling and find it difficult to maintain a healthy daily diet. You can measure your omega ratio again after a period of at least two months: this will give your biology time to catch up with the changes in your diet. If you have followed the nutritional guidelines, your ratio will drop rapidly, and you should also begin to see positive changes such as silkier hair, stronger nails, softer and less blemished skin, and a better mood.

For more on this subject, visit Dr. Mercola


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