Fenton cautions people may not need to avoid fish oil; what the research shows is needed are guidelines on dosing. With any nutrient, there is a "bell curve" effect. On the left of the curve are those deficient in a nutrient; on the right are those in excess.
She said people already receiving enough omega-3 fatty acids through their normal diet and foods have no need for added supplementation.
"With fish oil, we don't yet know how much is appropriate," said Fenton, also a researcher with the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station. "There are many examples of taking supplements, nutrients or chemicals in excess that can promote cancer (for example, beta-carotene supplementation in smokers). Supplementation is most useful when the person taking them is deficient in that specific nutrient."
The research team's findings could have an important preventive health impact, specifically in light of the high rates of colon cancer in the United States. Individuals with inflammatory bowel disease have an increased risk of developing colon cancer, and when the cancer metastasizes it can be fatal.
The next step, Fenton said, is to test omega-3 fatty acid levels in people with inflammatory bowel disease. To that end, she is continuing to build relationships via MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine campus in Macomb County with gastrointestinal specialists to develop a cohort of patients.
"To help develop guidelines, we need to see how these findings correlate to human populations," she said.
|Contact: Jason Cody|
Michigan State University