Total fat tissue measurements were unaffected by fish oil supplementation, the team noted, and no side effects were observed.
The authors concluded that fish oil supplementation appears to be a safe and effective way to prevent malnutrition among cancer patients, and may ultimately prove to be of benefit for other groups of people, such as elderly patients who also face a significant ongoing risk for muscle loss.
Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Dallas, reacted with cautious optimism to the findings.
"Malnutrition is a big concern with cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation," she noted. "Because first of all they do have wasting from the cancer itself, which is very metabolically active and eats up your energy stores. And then with chemotherapy, there is some inflammation that's detrimental to the heart and muscle, as it can cause muscle breakdown. And preservation of lean muscle tissue, we know, leads to better outcomes."
"So certainly this does seem to be promising," Sandon said. "And other similar studies have looked at omega-3 and muscle preservation and have also suggested that fish oil can act to prevent inflammation caused by both disease and hardcore medications, like chemotherapy agents."
"But I would caution that the amount of pure concentrated fish oil supplement the people in this study were given is a lot," she added. "Much much more than any recommended dietary allowance, along the lines of two to three servings of fish per week."
But, she said, "I would say this is certainly worthy of continuing research and exploration. But meanwhile, people should definitely not go out and start consuming huge amounts of fish oil."
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