I undertook research at St George’s Hospital, London, from January 2003 to April 2005 under the supervision of Mr RJ Leicester and Dr JY Kang on the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on the colonic mucosa (lining of the normal colon) of patients with a history of colorectal polyps. This project formed the basis of a thesis, which was successfully submitted to the University of London for the degree of Doctor of Medicine (MD). We randomized patients to either 3 months of dietary supplementation with a new highly purified capsule containing the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or no treatment. Patients had biopsies taken at the time of removing a colorectal polyp, and then again 3 months later.

Patients with a history of colorectal polyps are at increased risk of colorectal cancer, and it has been reported that these patients have increased rates of proliferation (the rates at which cells are dividing to form new cells) and decreased rates of apoptosis (natural cell death) compared to controls. The primary endpoints of the study were the rates of mucosal cell proliferation and apoptosis in the colonic lining, as well as the incorporation of EPA into the mucosal phospholipids (fats within the cell walls). We found that dietary supplementation with EPA was associated with significantly reduced crypt cell proliferation and increased mucosal apoptosis. From our pilot study, a strong case can be made for further research into the potential use of EPA as a chemopreventive agent against colorectal cancer.

Our preliminary research, caught the attention of the media at the time and was featured in the Daily Mail You magazine.