Eating more fish like mackerel and salmon could help prevent cancer, according to a study by scientists in Belgium. It turned out that omega-3 fatty acids can kill tumor cells within days.

One of the acids that make up omega-3, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is “critical to brain function, eyesight, and the regulation of inflammatory phenomena,” may slow the development of tumors, the scientists said.

The team called the find a “major advance” in this area and said the effort began in 2016 when Olivier Feron, professor at the Institute for Experimental and Clinical Research at the University of Leuven, “found cells in an acidic microenvironment (acidosis). replace glucose within tumors with lipids as an energy source in order to multiply. “

After discussing his discovery with his colleague, bioengineer professor Yvan Larondelle, they decided to pool their skills in a research project led by PhD student Emeline Dierge “to evaluate the behavior of tumor cells in the presence of various fatty acids”.

With the support of the Louvain Foundation, the Belgian Cancer Foundation and the Televie Telethon, they soon discovered that “certain fatty acids stimulated tumor cells while others killed them. DHA literally poisons them. “

Professor Yvan Larondelle (UCLouvain / Zenger News)

This natural tumor poison “will act on tumor cells through a phenomenon called ferroptosis, a type of cell death that is associated with the peroxidation of certain fatty acids,” the researchers say. “The more unsaturated fatty acids there are in the cell, the greater the risk of their oxidation.

“Normally, cells in the acidic compartment of tumors store these fatty acids in lipid droplets, a kind of bundle in which fatty acids are protected from oxidation. In the presence of a large amount of DHA, however, the tumor cell is overwhelmed and cannot store the DHA, which oxidizes and leads to cell death.

“By using a lipid metabolism inhibitor that prevents the formation of lipid droplets, the researchers observed that this phenomenon is further exacerbated, confirming the identified mechanism and opening the door to combined treatment options.”

PhD student Emeline Dierge (UCLouvain / Zenger News)

For their study, the researchers used a 3D tumor cell culture system, so-called spheroids, which “imploded” in the presence of DHA acid.

“The team also gave mice with tumors a DHA-enriched diet. The result: the tumor development was significantly slowed compared to mice with a conventional diet. “

They concluded that adults “should consume at least 250 mg of DHA per day. However, studies show that our diet only provides 50-100 mg per day on average. This is well below the recommended minimum intake. “

Professor Olivier Feron (UCLouvain / Zenger News)

A typical dietary supplement contains around 1,000 milligrams of fish oil, which contains 120 mg of DHA, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. The World Health Organization recommends that adults consume at least 250-500 mg of omega-3 daily.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says one serving of mackerel or salmon contains over 4,000 mg of omega-3, making it an extremely dense source of DHA.

The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

(Edited by Judith Isacoff and Fern Siegel)


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