Q: I hear that taking an omega-3 supplement and eating salmon increases my risk for prostate cancer. That doesn't sound right. What's the deal? — Greg S., Houston
A: Those fishy reports from a new study didn't pass the smell test, did they? We'll explain.
The study: The research you're referring to looked at men's blood plasma levels of omega-3s and found that those with the highest levels had a 43 to 71 percent increased risk of prostate cancer. That sounds pretty startling. But ...
The blood test they used reveals only recent consumption of omega-3-rich foods or supplements. Researchers didn't know which guys in the study recently had eaten fish or taken a supplement! Plus, other studies make us think that guys who are diagnosed with prostate cancer may increase their intake of omega-3s (lots of prior data show it's beneficial). So high levels may be from guys getting diagnosed with prostate cancer, not the other way around. And besides, no one in the study (with or without prostate cancer) had very high levels of omega-3s!
One more thing: The Japanese eat far more fish (salmon and ocean trout may have more to recommend them than just their omega-3s), consuming more fatty acids than North Americans. Plus, they have a lower risk for prostate cancer.
What we know about omega-3 benefits: A diet high in walnuts (a very potent source of omega-3s) seems to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer, according to a new study in mice. And omega-3s may inhibit growth of breast cancer. In our humble opinions, there's a lot of research to indicate that DHA omega-3 helps protect you from diabetes; decreases joint pain and inflammation; helps prevent dry macular degeneration; and makes your brain function as if it were six years younger! So we believe the benefits for men and women far outweigh the risks, and suggest you take 900 milligrams of algal DHA omega-3 a day, like we do.
Q: My son is a high school freshman, and he's going out for football this year. He's a big, strong, healthy kid, but he's outweighed by a lot of his teammates. There were big kids on the team when I was his age, but this is different. What's going on? — Tom T., Indianapolis
A: This might not come as a surprise, given the obesity epidemic in North America, but the U.S. has a record number of overweight athletes. Some sources say 45 percent of high school linebackers are overweight. And in college teams, an estimated 16 percent of offensive linemen weigh in with extra-high body mass index, waist circumference and estimated body fat percentage. By the way, even in the NFL it's an issue: Its website has a page titled, "Positive Taking Charge of Your Diabetes."
Why is the obesity crisis rolling over our fittest groups of male teens and young adults? Well, they're as likely to gobble fast, processed and fatty food as everyone else, and in the offseason, when their calorie expenditure drops, they often keep eating the same unhealthy calories as they did midseason. That causes big weight gain — putting an extra strain on the heart and kidneys, and triggering joint pain and depression.
If you want to help your son avoid packing on fatty pounds, point out what a good player Cleveland Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin is at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. And help him set out a nutritional plan that builds muscle, power and flexibility.
• Don't rely on red meat for protein; think skinless chicken, fish, legumes and whole grains.
• Avoid all beverages with added sugars and any sugar syrups (he'll have to read food labels).
• Develop a taste for a variety of vegetables and make sure to eat them every day.
If, in the next couple of years, he develops into a really big guy and wants to play the line, convince him that it's better to emulate players like Michael Strahan (so big, so fast), not players like William "Refrigerator" Perry.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Dr. Michael Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.sharecare.com.