MONDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may be able to avoid the accompanying muscle loss and malnutrition by taking fish oil supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids, new research suggests.
The finding is based on a small study involving just 40 lung cancer patients. Nevertheless, it raises hope that a simple, noninvasive intervention might go a long way towards countering the fatigue, poorer prognosis and impaired quality of life that can result from chemo-induced muscle mass loss.
"Fish oil may prevent loss of weight and muscle by interfering with some of the pathways that are altered in advanced cancer," study author Dr. Vera Mazurak, of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, said in a news release. "This holds great promise, because currently there is no effective treatment for cancer-related malnutrition."
Mazurak and her colleagues report their observations in the Feb. 28 online edition of Cancer.
To explore the therapeutic potential of fish oil supplements, the authors offered 16 cancer patients undergoing an initial 10-week chemotherapy regimen a daily dose of 2.2 grams of a particular omega-3 fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic (EPA).
While these patients took fish oil supplements throughout their chemotherapy treatment, a second group of 24 patients underwent the same regimen minus the fish oil.
The results: continual muscle and fat measurements revealed that the group that took no fish oil supplementation lost an average of just over 5 pounds; the supplement group lost no weight.
What's more, blood analyses revealed that those in the fish oil group who had the biggest bump in bloodstream EPA concentrations also had the greatest muscle mass gains.
Specifically, nearly 70 percent of those in the fish oil group either kept their pre-chemo muscle mass or gained muscle. By comparison, less than 30 percent in the non-supplement grou
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