New Research Posits DHA’s Protective Role In Cancer

It’s hard for me to hear about Omega-3’s (EPA and DHA) and not think of Alice and Fred Ottoboni’s work in this domain. They’ve done more to help me understand the importance of these substances than anyone else, and it’s hard to consider their book, Modern Nutritional Diseases as anything less than brilliant.

So it was with great interest that I read this article:
Fatty Acid Metabolite Shows Promise Against Cancer In Mice
. I know…I know…another rodent study. And another study touting a cancer cure. How many of these do we have to endure?

Well, probably many. There’s something about this that I find intriguing:

A team of UC Davis scientists has found that a product resulting from a metabolized omega-3 fatty acid helps combat cancer by cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients that fuel tumor growth and spread of the disease. […] The metabolite is epoxy docosapentaenoic acid (EDP), an endogenous compound produced by the human body from the omega-3 fatty acid named docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is found in fish oil and breast milk. In animal studies, the UC Davis scientists found that EDP inhibits angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels in the body.
[…]
The researchers also found that a metabolite of arachidonic acid (ARA), an omega-6 fatty acid, has the opposite effect of EDP. The ARA metabolite, epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs), slightly increases angiogenesis and tumor progression in mice.

That we should seek out ways to ensure our diets are high in Omega-3’s and low in Omega-6’s won’t be news to most of us. There are many potential health benefits from doing each. However, what intrigues me about this research is that it postulates a precise mechanism by which DHA is protective against (certain types of?) cancer, and how Arachadonic Acid is tumogenic…this is the type of thing that excites me. This, at least, is something testable.

And what of the Ottobonis? And of a ketogenic diet? Well, I’m reminded of their fantastic exploration of fatty acid metabolism in Modern Nutritional Diseases (1st. Edition), where, after a fascinating review of the biochemical pathways of essential fatty acids, eicosanoids, prostaglandins and arachadonic acid (Cox-2 and lipoxygenase pathways) they write:

The tremendous importance of blood glucose in influencing what the biochemistry of the body does with major nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) cannot be overemphasized. Blood glucose, the ultimate metabolic product of most carbohydrates, exerts this influence by prompting the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. Insulin, in turn, stimulates the enzymes that cause the sythesis of body fat and cholesterol (Figure 5-1). Insulin also stimulates the production of arachidonic acid (Figure 203), precursor of harmful eicosanoids. As such, insulin is a major contributor to diseases that range from heart disease and stroke to type-2 diabetes and cancer. (MND, 53)

It’s worth noting the date in my edition of Modern Nutritional Diseases: 2002. Chances are, Alice and Fred Ottoboni were on to this even before then.

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