Corn oil, canola oil, and breast cancer

December 22, 2008 by  
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The typical American diet includes a lot of omega 6 fats. And women of reproductive age who have high intake of these fats may be increasing their children’s risk of having breast cancer – at least at the genetic level. This is according to a study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Seventh Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research. The study was conducted using laboratory mice and still has to be confirmed in humans.

According to study leader  Dr. W. Elaine Hardman of the Marshall University School of Medicine

“We’re seeing changes in gene expression up to five months after the animals were exposed to a diet containing omega 6 fatty acids during gestation and lactation.The only explanation is that during gestation and lactation, the mother’s diet must be imprinting the genes of the baby.”

Corn oil, which is commonly used by Americans in food preparation, is especially rich in omega 6 fats. Canola oil – also known as rape seed oil, on the other hand, seems to have lower omega 6 fat content and may therefore be a better alternative.

In the study, two groups of mice were compared, one groups was fed with corn oil containing diet and the other group on canola oil containing diet. The incidence of breast cancer was then evaluated in the next generation of mice. The results show that offsprings of the corn oil group had higher incidence, and more and bigger tumors than offsprings of the canola group. The differences were also observed at the genetic level, specifically genes that are involved in fatty acid synthesis and cancer cell activation.

Americans consume high amounts of omega 6 fats. Polyunsaturated fats such as corn oil and soya oil were recommended by doctors 40 to 50 years ago because they were thought to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Hardman thinks there is a link between this increased polyunsaturated fat intake and the rise in the incidence of hormonally-influenced cancers such as prostate, breast, colon cancers.

“…50 percent of corn oil is made up of omega 6 polyunsaturated fats, which have previously been linked to increased rates of breast cancer. In comparison, canola oil has only 20 percent omega 6 fats. Omega 3 fats, which have been linked to lower cancer risk, vary as well. Corn oil has less than .5 percent omega 3 fats while canola oil has 10 percent.”

A shift from corn oil to canola oil is therefore recommended to protect the next generation from breast cancer.

 Photo credit: stock.xchng

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