Fish Oil supplements protect GERD patients

April 24, 2008

Esophageal cancer is a serious form of cancer that starts in the inner layer of your esophagus, the 10-inch long tube that connects your throat and stomach. The incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma in Europe and the USA has increased considerably over the past 20 years, with an increase per annum greater than that of any other malignancy. Barrett's esophagus leads to this cancer in about 10% of sufferers. Barrett's esophagus is caused by acid reflux (frequent heartburn), and although it can occur early in life, most sufferers are in their 40s and 50s. Although it has been reported to be a precursor to esophageal cancer, 90 per cent of patients never develop the cancer.
In this newly published study researchers from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the Institute of Food Research recruited participants with known Barrett's esophagus and randomly assigned 27 patients (average age 64) to receive daily EPA supplements (three 500 mg capsules per day) and 19 patients (average age 65) to no supplement (control group) for six months. At the end of the study, biopsies were taken in order to measure fatty acid levels in the tissue, while markers of inflammation were also quantified.
COX-2 is an enzyme linked to inflammation and tissue damage and is a suspect in the dangerous changes occurring in esophageal cells of these patients. The level of COX-2 significantly decreased in the EPA group, while there was a slight increase in the control group. The drop in COX-2 levels was related to the increase in the EPA content of the tissue, said the researchers. The researchers state that a higher amount of Fish Oil is likely needed but the decrease in COX-2 indicates that Fish Oils may be protective in these patients. The study is published in the April 2008 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.