Healthy Living Blog

Does Omega-3 Increase Prostate Cancer Risk?

Tina Miller, MS RD Meijer Healthy Living Advisor,


Tina Miller 2011A study published July 11 in the online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, is causing quite a stir.  The study suggests that omega-3 fatty acids are associated with as much as a 71% increased risk for high-grade prostate cancer (a 43% risk increase for all types of prostate cancer.)  These findings confirm previous findings from the same group of researchers who state that, once again, studies suggest that nutrition supplements may be harmful.


Before you throw away your supply of omega-3 supplements, keep in mind that these fats are powerful anti-inflammatories and are associated with a wide array of health benefits including those related to brain function and heart health. Critics of the study state that the researchers did not conduct a “cause and effect” study, rather a study that demonstrates an association between omega-3 and prostate cancer, and that the researchers failed to adjust data for several potential factors that could influence the rate of prostate cancer.


Rather than looking at actual omega-3 intake (from supplements and foods) the researchers measured blood levels of omega-3 fats in the study volunteers.  The higher risk population had just a 0.2% higher level of omega-3 vs. the control population.  Results from this study raise concern, but should not be over-stated.  The study researchers state that it is clear that more research is necessary to determine if a cause and effect relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer.


Plant forms of omega-3 from flaxseed and nuts were not separated from marine sources of omega-3 in this study.  However, a study recently published in BMC Medicine (BioMed Central Online Journal) suggests that people who eat nuts (1 ounce) three times per week, particularly walnuts, are more likely to live longer and have reduced risk for dying from cancers and cardiovascular disease.


The nut study adds to the wealth of data from previous studies that indicate that a diet with moderate nut intake can reduce risk for chronic disease.  This most recent study suggests that nut consumption (1 ounce, 3 times per week) reduced risk for death due to cardiovascular disease by 55% and cancers by 40%.  Nuts are a good source of healthy fats (which the body converts to omega-3), fiber, essential minerals that support metabolism and immune health, and antioxidants.  Portion size is important when it comes to nuts; one ounce of nuts (about 10-12 walnuts) contains about 100 calories.


The bottom line:  Think food first for nutrients.  Healthy fats from fish—we recommend eating 12 ounces of fish per week – and from plant foods  – such as nuts and flaxseed – will promote optimal health while reducing your risk for chronic disease. Talk with your doctor or health care provider if you, or a family member, has a history of prostate cancer and are concerned about taking omega-3 supplements.



Lemony Chicken and Greens Salad

Serves 4


2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp. lemon zest

1/2 tsp. yellow mustard

2 tbsp. Meijer Classic Olive Oil

8 cups Locally Grown Red or Green Leaf Lettuce (or Earthbound Farm Kale Salad)

1/2 medium red onion, sliced

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1 pound Grilled Chicken Strips (or Tyson Grilled & Ready Chicken Breast Strips)

1/4 cup shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese


  1. For the dressing, in a small bowl combine lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard and oil.
  2. In a large bowl combine salad greens, walnuts and onion.
  3. Drizzle greens with dressing; toss lightly to coat.
  4. Place salad on 4 serving plates. Place chicken breast strips on top of each salad.
  5. Top evenly with Parmesan cheese, and serve.

Nutrition Information (per serving):  Calories 358, Fat 18g, Cholesterol 101mg, Sodium 490mg, Carbohydrate 7g, Fiber 3g, Protein 42g.


Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Pecans

Serves 5-6


1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup pineapple juice

2 to 3 Tbsp. Meijer honey (or agave nectar)

1/4 tsp. McCormick ground cumin

1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes

Meijer Vegetable oil (canola or other)

1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Coat grill rack with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat grill to medium (300⁰F to 350⁰F).  For the glaze, mix lime juice, pineapple juice, honey and cumin in a medium bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  2. Peel potatoes (if desired).  Cut into slices 1/2-inch thick; lightly brush with oil.  Grill 15 minutes or just until tender, turning every 5 minutes and brushing with vegetable oil.
  3. Meanwhile, place pecans in a single layer on a sheet of heavy-duty foil.  Place foil on grill.  Grill pecans 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often (watch carefully to avoid burning).  Remove and set aside.
  4. Toss warm potatoes with glaze, add toasted pecans, toss to combine and serve.

Nutrition Information (per serving):  Calories 281, Fat 9g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 85mg, Carbohydrate 47g, Fiber 7g, Protein 3g.