Monday, July 15, 2013

Guess What's Bad for You Now

The latest news tells us that the Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have been linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer. An NBC news item gives a pretty good description of the research leading to this conclusion including the sample size and methods.  It goes on to say how shocking this news will be to many Americans.  My regular readers, however, will know how to handle this news and not be shocked at all.

In summary, researchers tested over 2000 men to determine the level of certain Omega-3 acids in their blood.  “Those with the highest blood levels had a 71 percent higher risk of high-grade prostate cancer, compared to those with the lowest levels. Overall, their risk of any kind of prostate cancer was 44 percent higher.  This is bad news for men who take fish oil supplements or eat large amounts of fish regularly.  Once again something we thought was good for us, has now revealed a downside.  So is it time to be shocked or panic?

First, as my readers know, correlation is not causation.  If A has been linked to B, for example, A may cause B; or A and B may both be caused by some distinct third factor; or A and B may be totally unrelated and any correlation is merely a coincidence.

Second we know that supplements are not generally recommended.  Except in special circumstances, it is preferable, healthier, to get our nutrients from the food we eat.  Further along in the article we learn that “recent studies have shown taking extra omega-3 has little effect on heart disease,” contrary to the current American Heart Association recommendations regarding the possible need for fish oil capsules, i.e., supplements.

Finally, from a perspective standpoint, we know to practice moderation.  More of a good thing is not necessarily better.  In fact, it is often the case that a little may be good, but a lot can be dangerous.  Another aspect of perspective reminds us that we can’t spend our time worrying about or being afraid of everything.  It’s not a good use of our time and energy to readjust our lives after each piece of scary or shocking news.

So relax.  The answer once again is correct behavior according to the model presented (and defended) in these short essays.

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