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Fish-Oil Fats May Stop Cancer Weight Loss


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Fish-Oil Fats May Stop Cancer Weight Loss

Fri September 12, 2003 05:50 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Dietary supplements enriched in omega-3 fatty acids, a component of fish oil, may help cancer patients gain weight, new research suggests.

Weight loss and muscle deterioration are common problems for people with advanced cancer. In animal studies, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to protect against this problem, also known as cachexia.

The current findings, reported in the medical journal Gut, are based on a study of 200 patients with pancreatic cancer who received a diet supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids or a similar supplement lacking these fatty acids for 8 weeks. The subjects were instructed to consume two cans per day of the assigned supplement.

In the overall analysis, both supplements were equally effective in stopping the loss of body weight and muscle tissue, Dr. K. C. H. Fearon, from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in the UK, and colleagues report.

However, on average, patients only consumed 1.4 cans per day of supplement--well below the recommended dose of 2 cans per day.

When the data was reanalyzed taking this into account, the authors found that as the amount of the omega-3 supplement consumed went up, so did weight and muscle gain. In contrast, this effect was not seen with the supplement lacking omega-3 fatty acids.

The team also found that only weight gain with the omega-3 supplement was actually tied to an improved quality of life.

Because many patients did not take the recommended daily amount of supplements, "further trials are required to examine the potential role of omega-3 enriched supplements in the treatment of cancer cachexia," the investigators conclude.

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