Important scientific news: Omega 3 DHA reduces the incidence of cancer .
A team from the Institute of Experimental and Clinical Research (IREC) of the University of Louvain (Belgium) led by oncologist Olivier Feron, has just published in June 2021 in the American scientific journal “Cell Metabolism” the report of their research started in 2016 on the reactions of cancer cells exposed to different types of fatty acids.
The main conclusion is that DHA reduces the development of cancer cells . In addition, the work of the researchers made it possible to demonstrate the mechanisms of action.
This is obviously a fundamental advance in the field of nutrition and health.
In this article, we explain the main basics to you.
Reminder of the nutritional benefits of DHA
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is the most elaborate form of the Omega 3 fatty acid family, or at least the one with the most interesting physiological properties.
There is a scientific consensus to place the Adult Daily Requirement at 250 mg of DHA.
This is the level necessary to observe positive effects on:
- Maintenance of nervous and brain tissues
- Cardiovascular functioning and regulation
- The eye system
DHA also reduces inflammatory phenomena.
As we explained to you in a previous article on the benefits of DHA , the body can synthesize DHA from basic Omega 3: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) .
ALA is a precursor of DHA which is mainly found in vegetable oils rich in Omega 3.
However, this does not allow, except in exceptional cases, for the body to produce a sufficient quantity of DHA to cover our daily needs.
It is considered that on average only 1% of ALA is transformed into DHA.
We would therefore need to consume 250 grams of rapeseed oil per day, or 25 grams of Omega 3, to cover our daily needs!
Note that DHA should not be confused with EPA, the other important Omega 3.
Indeed, the synthesis of EPA in the body, from Omega 3 'ALA' is much more effective.
On average, 10% of ALA is likely to be transformed into EPA. This allows a satisfactory intake with regular consumption of vegetable oils rich in Omega 3.
In practice, DHA must be provided by fatty fish and/or food supplements .
Consumer studies carried out in France estimate that the average daily intake of DHA is around 50 mg, or 5 times less than the recommended dose!
DHA acts against the development of cancer cells!
DHA is also associated with a reduction in the incidence of cancer cells.
Cross-checking of statistical observations had highlighted positive correlations by comparing populations with high or low intakes of DHA and the incidence of cancers .
However, the multifactorial nature of these pathologies means that it is always difficult to draw conclusions from statistical data alone, as long as the mechanisms of action have not been identified.
It is this previously unexplained property that is the subject of an important discovery today: the biochemical mechanism that allows DHA and other related fatty acids to slow down the development of tumors.
The specific mechanism of this action of DHA can be summarized as follows.
- It was known that the development of cancer cells is accompanied by an acidification of their immediate environment (acidosis). This is the Warburg effect.
- In a situation of acidosis, the most aggressive cancer cells (and generators of metastases) favor lipid nutrition rather than carbohydrates for their development.
- The IREC team was able to highlight:
- That cancer cells did not react in the same way to all fatty acids. Some promote their development, and others inhibit it.
- That DHA, when present in significant quantities in the body *, via a complex mechanism called Ferroptose (peroxidation of certain fatty acids constituting cancer cells) acted like a real poison on these cells and led to their death.
* The IREC team considers that intakes of 250 mg/day are a satisfactory level to trigger this phenomenon. It is likely that new scientific work will quickly clarify this fundamental information.
A fundamental advance for health nutrition
It is already established that a good diet is one of the important factors reducing the overall occurrence of cancers. And conversely, poor nutrition, a factor of stress and tissue inflammation, is one of the aggravating environmental factors.
IREC's work highlights the quasi-curative role of DHA against cancer cells since it destroys them.
However, this action remains indirect and is not established against macro tumors but simply against cancer cells.
At this stage it is more prudent to speak of the preventive effect of DHA, for daily doses to be confirmed which are estimated at at least 250 mg/day.
(We prefer to remain deliberately cautious, awaiting new scientific information).
- Peroxidation of n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the acidic tumor environment leads to ferroptosis-mediated anticancer effects – by O Feron et Al - Revue 'Cell metabolism' June 2021