Omega-3 was found to reduce the size and number of polyps in humans at risk of suffering from colon cancer. (Photo: Stock File/ FIS)
Omega-3 might help prevent colon cancer: study
Friday, March 26, 2010, 17:30 (GMT + 9)
The free fatty acid form of the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA-FFA) found in fish was found to reduce both the size and number of polyps in a small study of patients with an inherited condition that can develop into colon cancer.
"EPA-FFA should be considered for chemoprevention in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)," researchers stated.
They added that EPA-FFA’s potential preventative effect against sporadic colorectal neoplasia should also be looked into, the researchers say.
EPA-FFA has shown anti-colorectal cancer activity both in vitro and in laboratory animals, according to the report published in the 18 March online issue of the journal Gut by Dr Mark Hull of St James's University Hospital, Leeds, UK, and his colleagues.
FAP is a condition of the large intestine and rectum that causes about one in every 100 colon cancers if untreated. About one in 7,000 to one in 22,000 people have FAP, eMaxHealth reports.
To research EPA-FFA’s effects in humans, the researchers randomly divided 55 FAP patients into two groups to either receive an enteric-coated formulation of EPA-FFA of 2 g per day or a placebo for six months. All 55 patients had ileorectal anastomoses from previous colectomies, and this study was centred on alterations in the rectal remnant.
EPA-FFA cut the amount of polyps by an average of 22.4 per cent compared to placebo (p = 0.012) on intent-to-treat analysis, and it reduced the sum of polyp diameters by 29.8 per cent (p = 0.027). Although the global polyp burden got worse in the placebo group during the study, it improved slightly in the group consuming EPA-FFA, according to the study’s authors.
The treatment group had a 2.6-fold rise in mucosal EPA levels compared to the placebo group (p = 0.018), reports Reuters.
"The particular preparation of EPA that we used delivers approximately four times as much beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acid per day as is derived from eating two to three portions of fish a week,” said Hull, study author. “The drug is also designed to be released into the small intestine, minimizing nausea and halitosis often associated with taking over-the-counter fish oil supplements.”
In terms of side effects, EPA-FFA was comparable to placebo and was well tolerated, the report said.
"The selective cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitor celecoxib [of brand name Celebrex] is licensed for use as an adjunct to endoscopic surveillance in FAP but has significant cardiovascular toxicity," the researchers noted. "The effect of EPA-FFA was similar in magnitude to that observed with celecoxib."
SLA Pharma AG, marketer of EPA-FFA capsules with the brand name ALFA, funded the study.
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