Food and Behaviour Research

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Professor Michael A Crawford

Prof Crawford

Imperial College, London. Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition. Department of Cancer and Surgery, Division of Reproductive Physiology, Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Chelsea and Westminster H

Web URL:

Visit the IBCHN website here

Research Interests:

Professor Crawford has been the Director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition since 1990. Having worked in the East-end of London on maternal nutrition and health with Newham, the Homerton and Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children, he is now 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 300 peer reviewed papers and 3 books.  Amongst his several honours and prizes, he was elected by his peers to the Hall of Fame at the Royal Society of Medicine in 2010. 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.

Professor Crawford has been awarded the CHEVREUL medal in 2015 for his outstanding contribution to the identification of DHA as an important determinant in the evolution of the human brain and its fundamental role in brain growth and development.

For more details of Michaels work, and his tireless campaign to improve mental health and wellbeing by improving nutrition of the mother, see 


Recent Publications:

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.