Food and Behaviour Research

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Professor Michael A Crawford

Prof Crawford

Imperial College, London. Faculty of Medicine, Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction

Web URL:

Visit Professor Michael Crawford's page at the Imperial College London website here

Research Interests:

Professor Michael Crawford is a pioneer in human nutrition research and a world-leading authority in the field of fatty acids and lipids in particular, their role in human brain development and evolution, and the implications of maternal nutrition for mental health.

Amongst his several honours and prizes, Michael was elected by his peers to the Hall of Fame at the Royal Society of Medicine in 2010.
His other highly prestigious awards include
- Order of the Rising Sun, October 2015, Tokyo, Japan.                                                                                
- Chevreul Medal  March, 2015, Paris, France.

Professor Crawford has been Director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition since 1990. He is also Founder Trustee of The Mother and Child Foundation and The Little Foundation, and President of the McCarrison Society.

Having worked in the East-end of London on maternal nutrition and health with Newham, the Homerton and Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children, Michael is now based at Reproductive Physiology at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Campus of Imperial College, London.  

His special interest lies is in the role that lipids and essential fatty acids play in interacting with the cellular signalling systems, i.e. the key interaction between nutrition affecting membrane lipids and gene expression. 

He has published over 350 peer reviewed papers and 3 books.  He collaborates in research internationally and is much in demand as a lecturer worldwide.

From 1960-65 Professor Crawford was at the Makerere Medical School in Kampala, Uganda, during which time he studied the nutritional factors linked to endomyocardial fibrosis, which was common there. He also offered a nutritional explanation as to why the incidence of bladder cancer was different in different parts of East Africa. In 1963 he was one of the founders of the Medical College at Muhimbili Hospital in Dar-es-Salaam. He retained his research group at Makerere until 1972, when the position became impossible.

At the Nuffield Institute of Comparative Medicine (1965-89) Professor Crawford equipped and computerised his laboratory to engage in lipid nutrition and showed that deprivation of the essential fatty acids used for the brain’s structure and function resulted in loss of brain cell number in the third generation.

In 1972 Crawford and Sinclair published the first description of the dependence of the brain on arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids and drew attention to the evolutionary implications. Crawford also demonstrated clear evidence of maternal nutrition being a causative factor in low birthweight and complications or prematurity.

Recent Publications:

Ogundipe, Enitan, Samuelson, S., & Crawford, M. A. (2020). Gestational diabetes mellitus prediction? A unique fatty acid profile study. Nutrition and Diabetes, 10(1). 

Ogundipe, E., Tusor, N., Wang, Y., Johnson, M. R., Edwards, A. D., & Crawford, M. A. (2018). Randomized controlled trial of brain specific fatty acid supplementation in pregnant women increases brain volumes on MRI scans of their newborn infants. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids138, 6–13

Ogundipe, Enitan, Johnson, M. R., Wang, Y., & Crawford, M. A. (2016). Peri-conception maternal lipid profiles predict pregnancy outcomes. 114, 35–43.

Stark, A. H., Reifen, R., & Crawford, M. A. (2016). Past and Present Insights on Alpha-linolenic Acid and the Omega-3 Fatty Acid Family. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition56(14), 2261–2267.

Crawford, M. A., Wang, Y., Forsyth, S., & Brenna, J. T. (2015). The European Food Safety Authority recommendation for polyunsaturated fatty acid composition of infant formula overrules breast milk, puts infants at risk, and should be revised. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids102103, 1–3

Matsudaira, T., Gow, R. V., Kelly, J., Murphy, C., Potts, L., Sumich, A., Ghebremeskel, K., Crawford, M. A., & Taylor, E. (2015). Biochemical and Psychological Effects of Omega-3/6 Supplements in Male Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Clinical Trial. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 25(10), 775–782

Gow, R. V, Vallee-Tourangeau, F., Crawford, M. A., Taylor, E., Ghebremeskel, K., Bueno, A. A., Hibbeln, J. R., Sumich, A., & Rubia, K. (2013). Omega-3 fatty acids are inversely related to callous and unemotional traits in adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids, 88(6), 411–418. 

Brenna, J. T., Burdge, G. C., Crawford, M. A., Clayton, P., Cunnane, S. C., Gow, R., Hibbeln, J. R., Sinclair, A. J., Stein, J., & Willatts, P. (2014). RE: Plasma phospholipid fatty acids and prostate cancer risk in the SELECT trial. In Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Vol. 106, Issue 4). Oxford University Press.

Gow, R. V, Sumich, A., Vallee-Tourangeau, F., Crawford, M. A., Ghebremeskel, K., Bueno, A. A., Hibbeln, J. R., Taylor, E., Wilson, D. A., & Rubia, K. (2013). Omega-3 fatty acids are related to abnormal emotion processing in adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids, 88(6), 419–429. 

Crawford, M. A., Leigh Broadhurst, C., Guest, M., Nagar, A., Wang, Y., Ghebremeskel, K., & Schmidt, W. F. (2013). A quantum theory for the irreplaceable role of docosahexaenoic acid in neural cell signalling throughout evolution. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 88(1), 5–13

Daak, A. A., Ghebremeskel, K., Hassan, Z., Attallah, B., Azan, H. H., Elbashir, M. I., & Crawford, M. A. (2013). Effect of omega-3 (n-3) fatty acid supplementation in patients with sickle cell anemia: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97(1), 37–44.

Brand, A., Crawford, M. A., & Yavin, E. (2010). Retailoring docosahexaenoic acid-containing phospholipid species during impaired neurogenesis following omega-3 α-linolenic acid deprivation. Journal of Neurochemistry, 114(5)

Brough L, Rees GA, Crawford MA, Morton RH, Dorman EK. (2010) Effect of multiple-micronutrient supplementation on maternal nutrient status, infant birth weight and gestational age at birth in a low-income, multi-ethnic population. Br J Nutr. 104(3): 437-45

Wang Y, Khalid F, Woodward A. Kirby A, Crawford MA (2009) The use of buccal cell lipid analysis as an non invasive method to establish the baseline, compliance and effectiveness of an RCT involving a test of a lipid supplement in school children. Nutr Health. Accepted.

Sumich A, Matsudaira T, Gow RV, Ibrahimovic A, Ghebremeskel K, Crawford M, Taylor E. (2009) Resting state electroencephalographic correlates with red cell long-chain fatty acids, memory performance and age in adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Neuropharmacology. 2009 Jul 22.

Gow RV, Matsudaira T, Taylor E, Rubia K, Crawford M, Ghebremeskel K, Ibrahimovic A, Vallée-Tourangeau F, Williams LM, Sumich A (2009) Total red blood cell concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with emotion-elicited neural activity in adolescent boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 80(2-3):151-6.

Stark AH, Crawford MA, Reifen R. (2008) Update on alpha-linolenic acid. Nutr Rev; 66(6):326-32.

Crawford MA (2007) A role for lipids as determinants of evolution and hominid brain development : in Poly-unsaturated Fatty Acids, Neural Function & Mental Health. Biologiske Skrifter 56, Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters ed O. Mouritsen & M A Crawford.

Crawford MA. (2006) Docosahexaenoic acid in neural signaling systems.
Nutr Health;18(3):263-76

Visioli F, Crawford MA, Cunnane S, Rise P, Galli C. (2006) Lipid transport, dietary fats, and endogenous lipid synthesis: hypotheses on saturation and competition processes. Nutr Health. 2006; 18(2):127-32.

Rees GA, Doyle W, Srivastava A, Brooke ZM, Crawford MA, Costeloe KL. (2005) The nutrient intakes of mothers of low birth weight babies - a comparison of ethnic groups in East London, UK.  Matern Child Nutr. 1(2): 91-9.

Crawford MA, Ghebremeskel K, Hibbeln JR, House S, Hunter D, Morley DC, Nicholson P, Stuart K. (2005) The Lancet and the Royal Society are both right and wrong. Lancet; 366(9487):714-5

Crawford M. A. (2004) Docosahexaenoic acid and the evolution of the brain: a message for the future. Lipid Technology, 16 (3), 53-57.

Crawford MA, Golfetto I, Bitsanis D, Min Y, Thomas B, Ghebremeskel K (2004) Is arachidonic acid a prerequisite for vascular and neural development in the human embryo and fetus? J. Neurochem, 90: Supplement 1: p 83.

Min Y, Crawford MA (2004) Essential Fatty Acids. In The Eicosanoids, ed Peter Curtis Prior, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., West Sussex, England Chap 22: pp257-276.

Muskiet FA, Fokkema MR, Schaafsma A, Boersma ER, Crawford MA (2004) Is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) essential? Lessons from DHA status regulation, our ancient diet, epidemiology and randomized controlled trials. J Nutr. 134(1):183-6.

Wang Y, Crawford MA, Chen J, Ghebremeskel K, Campbell TC, Fan W, Parker R, Leyton J. (2003) Fish consumption, blood docosahexaenoic acid and chronic diseases in 65 Chinese rural populations, Comp. Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A; 136 : 127-40.

Crawford M.A., Golfetto I, Bistanis D, Ghebremeskel K, Min Y, Moodley T, Poston L, Phylactos A, Cunnane S, Schmidt W. (2003) Arachidonic and Docosahexaenoic Acids in Protection Against Central Nervous System Damage in Preterm Infants. Lipids 38 (4), 303-315.

Cunnane SC, Francescutti V, Brenna JT, Crawford MA. (2000) Breast-fed infants achieve a higher rate of brain and whole body docosahexaenoate accumulation than formula-fed infants not consuming dietary docosahexaenoate. : Lipids 2000 Jan;35(1):105-111.

Crawford MA, Bloom M, Cunnane S, Holmsen H, Ghebremeskel K, Parkington J, Schimdt W, Sinclair AJ and Leigh Broadhurst C (2001) Docosahexaenoic acid and cerebral evolution. In Fatty Acids and Lipids – New Findings, ed Hamazaki T, Okuyama H., World Rev. Nutr. Diet, Basel, Krager, 88: 6-17.

Crawford M, Galli C, Visioli F, Renaud S, Simopoulos AP, Spector AA (2000) Role of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids in human nutrition. Ann Nutr Metab 2000;44(5-6):263-265.

Ghebremeskel K, Min Y, Crawford MA, Nam JH, Kim A, Koo JN, Suzuki H. (2000). Blood fatty acid composition of pregnant and nonpregnant Korean women: red cells may act as a reservoir of arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid for utilization by the developing fetus. Lipids. 2000 May;35(5):567-74.

Crawford MA (2000) The placental delivery of arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids: implications for the lipid nutrition of the preterm infant. Am J Clin Nutr. 71:275S-284S.

Crawford MA, Bloom M, Broadhurst CL, Schmidt WF , Cunnane SC , Galli C, Ghebremeskel K, Linseisen F, Lloyd-Smith J and Parkington J (1999) Evidence for the unique function of DHA during the evolution of the modern hominid brain. Lipids 34, S39-S47.