Omega-3s are Essential for Men’s Health

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January 9, 2015
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

My patient Jonathan called not long ago, anxiously asking for an emergency appointment. We found a time for him to come in that day.  He rushed in and told me he’d just read a new study linking omega-3 essential fatty acids with an increased risk of prostate cancer.

I’ve been recommending omega-3 supplements to many of my patients, including Jonathan, for years. So who wouldn’t be worried when an amazingly effective, thoroughly-proven health supplement—that you’ve been taking—gets hit with a surprise “Dangerous Side-Effects!” headline?

Jonathan asked if he should immediately stop taking his omega-3s supplement—even whether it was too late to undo the risks he now feared he faced.

Fortunately, of course, I had already researched and dismissed the prostate-cancer link.  The study that made that claim was multiply flawed. The entire natural health industry agreed.  For starters: no data were kept on the men’s dietary habits, other than that they ate a lot of fish. How much is a lot?  That wasn’t studied. That alone is a red flag the size of Texas, as is the near certainty that the fish they ate were contaminated with heavy metals and the like, a results-skewing variable that wasn’t addressed. Nor were there data on other supplements they might have taken or for how long.  Both are essential ingredients in a study like this. Finally, they measured the men’s omega-3 EFAs level, which can change considerably in a matter of hours, only once.  That’s just silly.

I explained all of this to Jonathan, who was understandably quite relieved.

Omega-3s’ Remarkable Health Benefits

I also re-emphasized for Jonathan the reasons why I all but insist that men, especially, take advantage of the incredibly numerous health benefits omega-3s provide.  Because men are affected by heart disease at an earlier age than women, they likely benefit from omega-3s sooner than women.

Here are some of omega-3s’ many health benefits for men:

  • In Japan, men consume 8 times more omega-3s than American men and have a rate of prostate cancer death less than 1/7th the rate in the US.
  • Far from increasing the risk of prostate cancer, for men who already have prostate cancer, omega-3s have been shown to reduce the likelihood of death by 63%.
  • Studies suggest that an increase in omega-3s intake would probably reduce the incidence of sudden death, not just among men but in the population at large.
  • Small amounts of omega-3s have resulted in a 45% reduction in sudden deaths and a 35% reduction in cardiac deaths.

The list of omega-3s benefits goes on and on. Emerging research indicates that omega-3s may be effective for repairing, reducing, or eliminating autism, asthma, bipolar disorder, ADHD, diabetes, hepatitis, hypertension, stroke, macular degeneration, pneumonia…and more. Truly a “wonder oil.”

Sources of Omega-3s—What To Watch For

With the so-called prostate cancer “link” behind us and all sorts of other proofs-of-safety in place, there’s still ongoing research into the optimal composition and source of omega-3 supplements.

As your own best caretaker, there are issues you should try to learn about.  Keep in mind that if you embark on an omega-3 supplement regimen, all supplements are not created equal.  You’ll find a range of offerings, from a range of suppliers, offering a range of formulations, for a range of prices.

You can quickly rule a supplement in or out if you go by two key criteria:

  1. Recent research tells us that an optimal formulation of DHA and EPA, the two most common omega-3 essential fatty acids, is 2.5 parts DHA to 1 part EPA. Most omega 3 supplements are not formulated this way because EPA is a less expensive material. In fact, most have a ratio that is the opposite of the optimum ratio, with more EPA than DHA.
  2. Unfortunately, you can’t trust that any fish you can buy is clean of toxins. So I strongly encourage my patents and readers to get their omega 3s from supplements that have been purified to ensure mercury or other dangerous substances the fish might have ingested have been eliminated.

Given omega-3s’ incredibly long list of health benefits, I firmly believe, given the potential threats to health that men in particular face—particularly prostate and coronary issues—it’s not a question of whether you should be taking an omega-3 supplement.  It’s just a question of which.

Please get on it, gentlemen.

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