Fish Oil Increases Risk of Colitis, Colon Cancer in Mice

2010-10-05 12:11

It seems contradictory: fish oil supplements are often recommended because they contain omega-3 fatty acids associated with a reduction in inflammation. Now, however, researchers at Michigan State University have found that fish oil increases the risk of severe colitis and colon cancer in mice prone to inflammatory-like bowel diseases.

DHA in fish oil is linked to cancer risk

Although most people are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and are encouraged to include more foods rich in this essential fat and to take fish oil supplements, there is a caveat. According to Jenifer Fenton, a food science and human nutrition researcher at Michigan State University, “our findings support a growing body of literature implicating harmful effects of high doses of fish oil consumption in relation to certain diseases.”

This concern has led some academics to work on establishing intake guidelines for omega-3 fatty acids. Excessive intake of the omega-3 DHA could be especially harmful for people who have chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases, according to the new study.


Researchers discovered that mice given high doses of fish oil developed lethal, late-stage colon cancer, and that the increased inflammation associated with DHA use caused the tumors to develop in only one month. Even low doses of the fatty acid resulted in an increase in the severity of the cancer and in aggressive progression of the disease.


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