OTTIGNIES-LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE, Belgium – Omega-3 fatty acids are already popular with people looking for ways to improve their heart health. Now, a new study shows how these chemicals can also be an important part of killing cancerous tumors. Researchers in Belgium say fatty acids, which are common in fish, poison cancer cells and cause them to implode.
DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is one of the omega-3 fatty acids that can slow down the development of tumors. While the recommended amount of DHA is 250 mg per day, which equates to roughly half a serving of sea bass, researchers found that consuming just 50 mg per day shows benefits in fighting the disease.
Study authors state that the fish oil “overwhelms” tumor cells by causing them to oxidize, which leads to cell death. With a lipid metabolism inhibitor, the researchers were able to further amplify this effect and awaken new hope for fighting and slowing down cancer cases worldwide.
Every year, almost every sixth death worldwide cites cancer as the cause. In 2020, doctors diagnosed around 19.3 million new cancer cases and nearly 10 million people died from the disease. Breast cancer in women is considered to be the most commonly diagnosed form. Nonetheless, researchers believe that less than one in five people consume the recommended daily amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
DHA in omega-3 fatty acids is key
(Source: University of Leuven)
In the new study, the researchers tested their method with a 3D tumor cell culture system, which shows that in the presence of DHA, the tumors first grow and then implode. The team also gave mice with tumors a DHA-enriched diet, which shows significantly slower tumor development compared to mice on a conventional diet.
“We soon found out that certain fatty acids stimulated the tumor cells while others killed them,” says Professor Yvan Larondelle from the University of Leuven in a press release. “DHA literally poisons them.”
“It is recommended that you consume at least 250 mg of DHA per day. However, studies show that our diet only provides an average of 50 to 100 mg per day. This is well below the recommended minimum intake, ”conclude the study authors.
The results appear in the journal Cell Metabolism.
SWNS writer Joe Morgan contributed to this report.