A fishy tale? Maybe not…

01 August 2019

Matt Lambert, one of our nutritionists, gives us the low-down on the fish and bowel cancer story that was in the news last week.

Eating fish regularly slashes the risk of bowel cancerEating three portions of fish a week reduces risk of bowel cancer. These are just some of the headlines you may have come across last week. And not surprisingly, the research was funded by World Cancer Research Fund.

The evidence

So, what did the researchers do and what did they discover? Nearly half a million people from across Europe and the UK were included in the study and were followed for 15 years. The researchers collected information about their lifestyle and diet through questionnaires.

What they found was that those who ate more than three portions of fish a week had a 12 per cent lower risk of developing bowel cancer, compared to those who ate less than one portion a week.

The researchers suggested that it was the omega-3 found in fish (oily fish is the richest source of these fats) that was responsible for the reduction in bowel cancer risk.

While the biological reasons by which fish consumption potentially lowers bowel cancer risk are not fully understood, one of the suggested theories is due to the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3. Previous research suggests that cellular inflammation encourages cancerous tumours to grow and spread. But more research is needed to tell us exactly how omega-3 may be protecting us from bowel cancer.

Recommendations

Does that mean we are updating our cancer prevention recommendations to include eating fish? Not just yet! While the study is robust, it has not been evaluated by our independent panel of experts, known as the Continuous Update Project (CUP) panel, but the conclusions of the study follows previous research that a healthy diet, in particular, those that follow a Mediterranean based diet (which includes fish), helps to lower your risk of cancer.

In the UK, dietary advice is to consume at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines and mackerel). It’s also a good idea to eat a wide variety of fish and to buy sustainably sourced fish.

So what next? Well, you can start by trying some of our delicious and healthy fish recipes. Also, keep an eye out for future research. The more research that is done the more likely we are to be able to draw any firm conclusions.

My favourite fish recipes

My favourite fish has got to be salmon, not only is it packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fats but it’s also a good source of vitamin D. Marinated with herbs and lemon, and served with crushed garlic new potatoes and a vibrant mixed salad makes it the perfect summer dish.

And what Brit doesn’t love a curry? Try substituting your usual lamb or beef with tilapia.

As the weather is warming up this summer, why not get outside and try these monkfish kebabs on the barbecue? Don’t forget your sunscreen though!

Or if you’re after a quick win, cook our one-tray fish bake.

Find out more about our funded research on fish and bowel cancer.

Matt Lambert | 01 August 2019

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