Omega-3 and angiogenesis

The April 1 issue of “Blood” has an interesting study that examines the role played by n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, gotta love that acronym! Oh, "n" stands for omega, by the way) in angiogenesis, which, in just a few words, is a process whereby tumours develop a blood supply and are able to grow and live as happily as clams at high tide. So clearly one of our goals should be to block the blood ( = food) supply to tumours. As we have seen, a couple of simple ways we can do that is to take curcumin and drink coffee (probably not at the same time, though I haven’t tried doing that, I admit…).
The full study (abstract:, which I was able to read thanks to Sherlock tells us that n-3 PUFAs inhibit the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), a critical process that affects tumor growth and dissemination. So we can now add n-3 to our list of angiogenesis inhibitors. Excellent.

But what about n-6 fatty acids? The abstract tells us that n-6 PUFAs stimulate angiogenesis.  Does that make n-6 one of the bad guys? That’s what I thought, at first. But no, we need both these fatty acids in order to be healthy, so eliminating n-6s from our diet would be a very VERY bad move.

What we lack is BALANCE between the two omegas. Read this: In terms of the consequences for human health, it has been shown that Japanese who migrated to the United States and acquired the local dietary habits leading to an increase in the dietary n-6/n-3 PUFA ratio of 16:1 resulted in health problems in the migrants similar to those that already existed in the local population. Sixteen to one! That’s astounding. Even more astounding: the ideal balance should be 1:1, at the most 4:1. But the average North American diet, and probably European by now, ranges from 11:1 to 30:1. Yikes!

According to Andrew Weil, M.D., This dietary imbalance may explain the rise of such diseases as asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases, all of which are believed to stem from inflammation in the body. The imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may also contribute to obesity, depression, dyslexia, hyperactivity and even a tendency toward violence.(see:; see also:

Now, what happens when we ingest n-3s and n-6s? They get converted by so-called PUFA bioconversion enzymes. Otherwise, these fatty acids would not be of any use to us at all. The researchers state that their findings suggest that n-6 and n-3 PUFAs compete for enzymes involved in PUFA biotransformation. It is widely believed that PUFA bioconversion enzymes have a greater affinity for n-3 PUFAs so that their biotransformation is favored when the dietary n-3 PUFA intake is high. This simply means that the two omegas compete for the attention of these bioconversion enzymes, and n-3s happen to be the winners.

Hmmm, interesting little fact that I didn’t know: n-3 PUFAs inhibit NF-kappaB AND Bcl-2. Well, well. Another good reason to include them in our diet.

At any rate, our bodies are not able to produce these fatty acids from scratch, and in fact that is why they are called "essential" (essential for health, but cannot be made inside the body), so we need to get them from our food.

Dietary sources of n-3s: mainly cold water fish such as salmon, herring, anchovies, but be careful about the potential presence of heavy metals, PCBs and dioxin (!); also, but to a lesser degree, flax, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans, butternuts, nut oils, as well as the seeds of: chia sage, kiwi, lingonberry, black raspberry. For more info: By the way, today I learned that mercury does not get stored in fish oil (only in the tissue). How about that? I also learned that some manufacturers are able to purify fish oil via molecular distillation, which increases the cost, but who wants to be swallowing dioxin or pesticides, after all? I would rather pay more for a high quality product. So, do your research, watch what you buy, and don’t go for el cheapo.

Fanatic Cook tells us that walnuts, soy and canola oil contain more n-6 than n-3. She has some excellent pages on n-3, including this one (, where she informs us that only a TINY part of n-3s from nuts and non-animal sources has anti-inflammatory effects. She explains why. N-3 has to be converted, and, as she notes, if you want to make sure you’re getting enough of the active forms of n-3, it’s best to eat an animal that has done the conversion for you. Interesting. Okay, I am beginning to see more fish in my future. We are lucky to get our fish from a small Tuscan fishing cooperative, so we can be sure that the fish is fresh and that no mass fish slaughters take place in the Tyrrhenian Sea. That’s always a consideration for my tender heart.

Dietary sources of n-6s: poultry, eggs, cereals, whole-grain breads, baked goods, most plant-based cooking oils (sunflower, corn etc.), nuts, borage oil. See also:

In sum, have I reached any conclusions? Well, more research is needed, but I think I will switch from flaxseed oil to fish oil or, perhaps even better, krill oil. The diet of cold water fish consists mainly of krill (a step down the food chain, see image on the left), and the main advantage of swallowing krill oil is that it contains fewer pollutants; a disadvantage is that it has less n-3 compared to its predators. Oh well, we can’t have everything! 


  1. This is very interesting Margaret–I knew our balance of n-3s & n-6s is generally off, but I was not aware (even though I read the Fanatic Cook, I must have missed it) that so many vegan foods lean toward n-6s. And I love your idea of krill oil. Is such a thing commercially available in supplement form?

    Also, as I know you’re interested in animals, my fairly elderly small mixed-breed dog (generic small stray dog) has been semi-diagnosed w/ CNS inflammation, and the vet gave us a 7-day regimen of rimadyl, an NSAID for pets. (To get a more specific diagnosis we’d have to take her to a vet neurologist, & at her age I’m not sure I want to put her through too many tests that frighten the wits out of her, especially as there might be nothing they could do anyhow.)

    I asked the vet about the possibility of curcumin, but he knew nothing about it. I checked online to see if curcumin might be toxic to dogs, but apparently it’s not, as it’s being used in dog cancer studies (cancers of various sorts) as well as arthritis studies. So, I know you’re not a vet (;-), but does it seem to you that after the 7-day rimadyl thing, we might try the C3 curcumin on the dog? I wonder how we would increase its bioavailability for a dog–maybe give w/ a fish oil cap? Warm milk would be bad for her digestion.

  2. Hi Margaret, hope you don’t mind if I answer Melinda’s question, yes you can get krill oil in supplement form I buy mine from the Nutricentre.
    It’s very tricky getting this balance right and I still not sure if I do. I take 1x 500mg life source krill oil (18% EPA 14%DHA) & 1x 460mg evening primrose oil (9% GLA) morning & evening with Curcumin and try to eat trout, salmon or mackerel three times a week. I presume I get enough extra omega 6 from the rest of my diet to balance it to a 1:1 ratio.

    The best of health to you


  3. Sue 🙂 has already answered the krill oil question, so let me go on to the curcumin for dogs one. My answer is yes, absolutely. I did a quick check online and curcumin does have an effect (why I am NOT surprised?) against CNS inflammation, just check out this study:
    No, I would not give milk to a dog (or cat), either. However, there are other ways of increasing the bioavailability of curcumin, and one may be mixing it with bromelain (pineapple enzyme). As for dosage, that’s an issue that I will have to look into later. A blog reader saved his very very ill cat with curcumin, but I forget the mg/kg dosage that he used. I will look it up and contact you later privately.
    Please give your dog a pet from me,

  4. Hi Margaret,
    Whilst on the subject of pets: a very good friend of mine has a beautiful Golden Labrador (Sam). His coat and nose became very dry and two years ago, at the age of 8, he started to develop some rather nasty Mast C tumours. Mast cell tumours are caused by an immune system (hystamine) reaction and are common in dogs with red/gold coats. Poor Sam had some very unpleasant operations and even operations on operations. In August 2006 he had major surgery and my friend doubted that he would last until the following Christmas. I suggested that she gave him Omega 3. He was also given steroids from the vet. For whatever reason Sam has had no more tumours and his coat is beatifully silky again. My friend bought him a young companion and they play together like puppies. I really believe that Omega 3 has helped to save his life.

  5. Margaret & Sue, thank you so much for info re krill and also re curcumin & pets. I did google “foods not safe for dogs” & found one site ( that said no turmeric & no pepper for dogs (among many other things–who woulda thunk avocadoes are highly toxic to dogs??!!). But other sites didn’t mention spices like that. And as I say, these scientific studies are ongoing using curcumin, so I really was just hoping. Btw, the rimadyl does seem to be perking her up, though she’s still blind & a little unsteady on her feet. (Vet sees no retinal evidence for the blindness, which happened overnight a few months ago, and says it might be a brain tumor, and that the limping & occasional knuckling under could be from little tumors pressing on nerves running to certain legs or from CNS inflammation–I figured that if the curcumin isn’t toxic to dogs, it might help w/ any or all of those!!!!!!!) It’s a gorgeous day here in Pennsylvania–first real spring day of the year! Thanks for all your input!

  6. Hi Melinda, I just sent you a TON of links, but I did want to say publicly that I would have no hesitation in giving curcumin to my cats (in fact, I probably will, for prevention purposes, if I can figure out a way to give it to them…cat people will relate to that…). Without bioperine, though!
    While doing this bit of research, I was surprised to find out that even big petfood brands like Royal Canin have recently added curcumin to one of their products. We have gone a long way in such a short while!
    Margaret 🙂

  7. Margaret and all,

    I want to highly recommend the book, “The Omega Diet: The Lifesaving Nutritional Program Based on the Diet of the Island of Crete” by Artemis P. Simopoulos and Jo Robinson (see reviews at ) What an excellent book this is! My husband and I both read it and after reading it, like Margaret, I too was unsure whether to supplement with fish oil or with flax oil. Flax oil, seemed to have more omega 3 oils in it if memory serves me correctly, but my son’s doctor was recommending fish oil for some reason, despite the possibility of lead contamination. There had to be a reason. Who could I ask? Then I remembered my friend Roc Ordman, from high school- first name Alfred, really, but he goes by Roc. Anyway Roc is now a research biochemist and professor at Beloit College in Michigan (see the Wikipedia article on him at He’s the one who did research that determined the optimal dosage of Vitamin C. Anyway I sent dear Roc an email, asking which oil to use. His reply was that fish oil had better bioavailability, whereas flax oil required a conversion by the body. So there you are! I’ve been using flax oil ever since. (And Roc if you ever Google your own name and find this, a jovial “Howdy!”)

    I’ve used a couple of brands. The first one said it was from small fish only, and batch tested for purity. But the most recent brand I found bears the USP grade, which I know means purity, and it is distilled. I didn’t even look at the price, for I was so glad to find a distilled fish oil. I got it at Giant Food here in the U.S., and it is the Natrol brand. I will be sticking with that brand now.

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