Weight loss and loss of muscle mass are common problems in cancer patients, especially patients going through chemotherapy, which can cause nausea and appetite loss.
Fish oil supplements may stop the loss of muscle and weight in cancer patients, may prevent loss of weight and muscle by interfering with some of the pathways that are altered in advanced cancer.
This holds great promise because currently there is no effective treatment for cancer-related malnutrition.
The finding is important because chemotherapy can cause cancer patients to become malnourished, leading to fatigue, a decreased quality of life, an inability to receive necessary treatments and shorter survival, the authors said.
Before starting the study, researchers suspected that supplementing cancer patients' diets with fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid, might help them maintain or gain muscle.
The study ran for about 10 weeks while the patients completed their chemotherapy treatments. Muscle and fat were periodically measured using computed tomography images.
Blood was collected and weight was recorded at the start of the study and throughout chemotherapy.
Fish oil is safe and non-toxic, and that subsequent studies may find that it also helps maintain muscle mass in patients suffering from other types of cancer, as well as in the elderly.
Malnutrition is a big concern with cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.
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.