Current body of evidence for omega-3 strong

15 July 2013

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15 July 2013 - Consumers and healthcare professionals are encouraged to consider the findings of research linking omega-3 and prostate cancer alongside pre-existing, robust evidence that demonstrates the positive health benefits of fish oil, the Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) said today.

ASMI believes that because the study findings are inconclusive, they do not warrant any changes to the way in which omega-3 supplements are used.

"The U.S. study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute was designed to measure the effects of Vitamin E and selenium - not omega-3 - on prostate cancer. Therefore, no firm conclusions can be drawn. The study findings indicate an association, but do not demonstrate cause and effect," said Steve Scarff, ASMI Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Director.

"Furthermore, no documentation on the intake of fish or fish oil supplements in the study group has been provided, and the way in which the level of omega-3 was measured provides only a snapshot of information, rather than the full picture."

In the study, omega-3 levels were measured in plasma samples, obtained from one blood sample taken annually in non-fasting individuals.1 This method only measures short-term intake of omega-3 in the body and can be influenced by a single meal or even timing of a fish oil dose.

Previous studies into prostate cancer and omega-3 have produced differing results, suggesting that the fatty acids could be protective rather than harmful.2-4
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to provide several positive health effects based on their anti-inflammatory properties. There is a strong body of evidence that supports fish oil supplements in both preventing heart disease, and in patients who have suffered heart disease.5-6

Consistent with recommendations from other health authorities worldwide, including the World Health Organisation, the Heart Foundation recommends Australian adults consume about 500mg of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats every day from oily fish or fish oil supplements, rising to 1000mg for those with heart disease.5

"Most experts advise that omega-3 fatty acids are consumed directly from sources such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna. Given that fish is not consumed universally, supplements have a key role to play in boosting omega-3 intakes, and studies have shown that omega-3 supplementation can be just as effective as eating oily fish7," Mr Scarff continued.

"It's important to remember that omega-3 supplements are intended to support general health and wellbeing. Consumers should keep to the recommended doses that are advised by a healthcare professional and/or on the packaging of the products, and those who wish to take these products for specific health conditions should seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

Media contact: Michelle Sollitt-Davis - ASMI PR Manager
Ph: 02 9923 9410 | M: 0422 084 951 | Email:

About ASMI: The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) is the peak industry body for the Australian self care industry representing consumer healthcare products including over-the-counter medicines and complementary medicines. ASMI's mission is to promote better health through responsible self-care. This means ensuring that safe and effective self-care products are readily available to all Australians at a reasonable cost. ASMI works to encourage responsible use by consumers and an increasing role for cost-effective self-medication products as part of the broad national health strategy.

1. Theodore M. Brasky, Amy K. Darke, Xiaoling Song et. al. Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Online Edition published 10 July 2013.
2. Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (2013). Omega-3s and Prostate Cancer Risk [Peer commentary on the paper "Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial" by Brasky T.M. et al, 2013, JNCI, doi:10.1093/jnci/djt174.].
3. Lietzman MF, Stampfer MJ, Michaud DS, et al. Dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:204-216.
4. Terry P, Lichtenstein P, Feychting M, et al. Fatty fish consumption and risk or prostate cancer. Lancet, 2001,357:1764-6.
5. Heart Foundation. Position statement and Q&A on Omega-3. Available at [last accessed 12 July 2013]
6. Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after myocardial infarction: results of the GISSI-Prevenzione Trial. Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell'Infarto miocardico. Lancet. 1999 Aug 7;354(9177):447-55.
7. Advice on fish consumption: benefits and risks. The Scientific Advisory of Nutrition and the Committee on Toxicity 2004.