A purified form of omega 3, the "good fat" found naturally in certain fish and nut oils, reduced dangerous polyps among people prone to bowel cancer, a study published on Thursday found.
Fifty patients were enrolled in the investigation, all with a genetic mutation that prompts the development of polyps -- precancerous growths in the bowel that often develop into tumours requiring removal of large sections of intestine.
Twenty-eight were randomly assigned to a group that received a two-gramme daily dose of a new, highly purified form of omega 3, while the other 27 were given a dummy lookalike, or placebo.
After six months, the number of polyps had risen by almost 10 percent among the placebo group but fell by 12 percent for those taking the omega 3 capsules, amounting to a difference of more than 22 percent.
In addition, polyp size increased by 17 percent among the placebo takers, whereas it decreased by 12.5 percent in the capsule group, a difference of just under 30 percent.
These results are similar to a drug called celecoxib, marketed as Celebrex, which is used to inhibit polyps among genetically vulnerable patients.
However, celecoxib has been linked to cardiovascular side effects among older patients. In contrast, the omega 3 -- full name eicosapentaeonic acid, or EPA -- supplement was "very well tolerated," say the doctors.
The paper is published online by Gut, a journal of the British Medical Association