and practitioners, have been confused by reports that flax
oil can promote prostate cancer. Based on my 20 years of
experience researching fats and health, I have a different
view of the subject.
acids (EFAs) are substances from fats that must be provided
by foods because the body cannot make them and yet must
have them for health. EFAs
exist in two families: omega-3 (also known as ALA, alpha-linolenic
acid) and omega-6 (LA, or linoleic acid). From these two, the
body makes several derivatives, hormones, and other active
According to the Prostate Forum, several labs have found that omega-3
ALA is one of the most powerful growth stimulants for human prostate
cancer cells in tissue culture. And, based on the findings of four
studies, the Prostate Forum recommends against the use of flax
oil by men with prostate cancer because flax oil is the richest
available food source of ALA. The reasoning is that this oil should
cause the most prostate cancer because it contains the most ALA.
Most of our available information
that suggests a correlation between prostate cancer and ALA is
from epidemiological (or population) studies. Direct data from
animal and human studies are limited. In addition, there are many
other studies showing protective effects of ALA and its derivatives
against prostate and other types of cancer.
EFAs are chemically very active molecules. The body cannot make them. They
are required for vital functions in all cells and tissues. It doesn't make
sense that the same substances with a long history of anti-cancer benefits
are blamed for causing cancer. So then, what other issues are overlooked
when medical professionals (untrained in nutrition-in this case, ALA and
flax oil), issue edicts against the use of essential nutrients?
Study authors have, in fact, stated
clearly that the correlation of ALA with increased prostate cancer is not proof that ALA causes prostate
cancer. They point out that that the mechanisms involved in this
finding remain unknown. I believe there are several areas to explore,
- Cancer-causing oxidation products of ALA formed during cooking of
- Toxic damage done to ALA molecules during heating and processing;
- Lack of balancing molecules such as phytosterols and antioxidants,
which are found in seeds, but are removed or damaged during processing
and cooking practices;
- Free radical formation from fatty acid oxidation. Free radicals
increase diseases such as cancer;
- ALA-based free radicals (products of processing) that can damage
genetic material (DNA) and lead to tumor formation;
- Decrease in the level of antioxidants, because they are used
up to deal with ALA-based free radicals produced in the body;
- Any imbalance of omega-3s to omega-6s, especially too many omega-6s and/or
not enough omega-3s, which is common.
- Alterations in hormone synthesis due to fat metabolism;
- Immune-inhibiting antibiotics that end up in meat;
- Hormones and pesticides in meat, butter, and other dairy products,
which affect cancer initiation and growth;
- Vegetable oil packaging, which relies on plastics and industrial
chemicals unsuitable for human consumption, but can nevertheless
affect the body after oil intake.
Born in 1942, I'm in the
age group when men should pay attention to the condition of their
prostate glands. I cannot give you medical
advice or make decisions for you, but I can tell you what I do.
Omega-3 is deficient in the
diets of most people in affluent societies. Due to food processing
and choices, the
average intake of omega-3 has
decreased to less than 20 per cent of what it was 150 years ago.
About 90 to 95 percent of the population gets less omega-3 than required
for good health (making omega-3 the essential nutrient most often lacking
in people's foods).
Flax is a great source of essential omega-3, but is deficient in the
equally essential omega-6 oils. Exclusive use of flax oil can lead
to an omega-6 deficiency within two to eight months, causing symptoms
such as dry eyes, skipped heart beats, thin skin, joint pain, eczema
and psoriasis-like skin problems, increased susceptibility to infection,
and deterioration of immune function. These can all be reversed
either by lowering omega-3 (ALA) intake or by increasing omega-6 intake.
I do not use, and recommend against, the use of flax oil by itself,
but do recommend this omega-3-rich oil in combination with omega-6-richer
oils to get the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio right.
The prostate gland appears
to be quite sensitive to environmental toxins. Among these may
be plasticisers and
in plastics. I recommend against using plastics for packaging,
especially liquids (water, oil, milk, juices, vinegar, alcohol
and tinctures). Liquids move, continually washing the inside of
their containers. Any toxic molecules in plastic containers might
dissolve in the liquid or food. Drift of molecules from plastic
into liquid is the reason why water in plastic bottles can acquire
a 'plastic' taste. Due to the chemical similarity of oil and plastic
molecules, the drift of molecules from plastics into oils is even
more likely than the drift of molecules from plastic into water.
- I do use and recommend an oil blend containing
flax with sunflower
and sesame oils from organically grown seeds, made with health
in mind, and in the right omega-3 to omega-6 ratio to prevent omega-6 deficiency.
In fact, I created the formula for such a blend, and I use it daily
with my food.
- I do insist that my oil blend is packed
in brown glass, further
protected by a box to keep out all light, as well as refrigeration
in factory, store, and home to extend freshness.
- I also use and recommend zinc, selenium, antioxidants, phytosterols,
saw palmetto, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, anti-inflammatory
herbs, and maitake extracts or mushrooms as part of a prostate-nourishing
- I use and recommend optimum intake of
all components of health:
20 minerals, 14 vitamins, eight to 11 essential amino acids, two
essential fatty acids, detoxifying fiber, digestive enzymes, friendly
bowel microorganisms, antioxidants, herbs (phytonutrients), filtered
water, clean air, and sunlight.
- I engage in and recommend physical activity
(work or exercise) to stay fit. I indulge myself in and recommend rest, sufficient
sleep, recreation, the passionate pursuit of worthwhile goals,
time spent with friends, a sense of humor, good balance between
work and play, heart-felt gratitude, and faith in the grand scheme
- I use ALA on a daily basis, combined with
LA in my oil blend, as part of my program for health, along with lots of fresh organic
green foods, proteins, support for digestion, and carbohydrate
intake limited to the amount I burn. I take supplements of minerals,
vitamins, antioxidants, and herbs.
- I do not worry that ALA from oils made
with health in mind might give me prostate cancer. After all, common sense insists and research
confirms that ALA (undamaged and accompanied by sufficient undamaged
LA and natural antioxidants) is essential for life and for health.