In the news on Monday we reported on the launch of a new European-funded project to investigate the cancer-preventing powers of garlic. Today news on the role of disease prevention through diet continues as we report that scientists in Oslo, Norway reveal fatty fish could have the power to destroy cancer cells.
Researchers from the Institute for Nutrition Research at the University of Oslo claim that fatty acids from fish oils and fatty fish can destroy the power station - the mitochondria - in certain types of cancer cells, making the cells commit suicide.
These are the conclusions in a new thesis that Hilde Heimli, at the Institute for Nutrition Research, presented in October 2002.
In her thesis Hilde Heimli examined how polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid is ingested by different leukaemia/lymphoma cell lines and how some types of cancer cells commit suicide in this setting, in other words programmed cell death or apoptosis.
Heimli argues that if omega-3 fatty acids are to be capable of killing cancer cells, the cells have to contain a certain enzyme that activates these certain fatty acids. Cancer cells that contain less of this enzyme do not react to fish fat.
"Polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish also can initiate a less regulated cell death called necrosis. The reason for the necrotic cell death is an increased production of reactive oxygen species in the cells. It is possible to appose this necrosis by the presence of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E," Hilde Heimli told Norwegian website Kreft.no.
Heimli claims that although her experiments are developed from cancer cell lines - cells that originally came from leukaemia patients, she believes that there should be no reason why cancer cells of other origins should not commit suicide when exposed to fish fat.
"The experiments have been done in dishes in a laboratory setting. The polyunsaturated fatty acids that are used are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),which are the same type as found in fatty fish or regular fish oil capsules.
The fatty acids are added to the food given to the cancer cells in a way that is most like the body's own process," explained Heimli.
The study was supported by the Norwegian Cancer Society.