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Cancer and Nutrition
What Every Caregiver Should Know

by Hillary Wright, Staff Writer

(Page 3 of 7)

In addition to cancer-related weight loss, there are many other reasons people with cancer lose weight. Causes include depression, fatigue, pain, altered taste perception, side effects of treatment, or obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract. In these cases as well, consumption of a high calorie, high protein, EPA-containing beverage may help reverse weight loss.

Psychological distress also can play a major role in weight loss. The anxiety that comes with receiving a diagnosis of cancer, the intensified feelings of anxiety and depression, and the possibility of pain, all can cause weight loss. Once a particular psychological issue is addressed, some of the weight loss may be reversed.

The Search for Treatment

Promising new science shows that it may be possible to prevent or reverse cancer-related weight loss by providing a specific combination of nutrients that can help restore the body’s metabolism. One key nutrient is the omega-3 fatty acid EPA, which helps to counteract the metabolic changes that lead to weight loss. Research shows consuming 2 grams of EPA daily may help stabilize weight loss by reducing production of tumor factors that cause weight loss. Researchers who examined the effect of EPA in clinical studies found two important results. According to a study published in Nutrition and Cancer, EPA supplementation stabilized weight in patients with cancer-related weight loss, and increasing the dose of EPA from 2 to 6 grams per day did not lead to weight gain.

In a study published in the British Journal of Cancer, researchers hypothesized that providing EPA in combination with calories, protein, vitamins and minerals may result in weight gain rather than just weight stabilization. Study participants drank a high protein, high calorie, therapeutic nutritional beverage with EPA. After only three weeks of drinking two cans of the therapeutic nutritional beverage per day, in addition to a usual diet, patients increased muscle and were able to eat more food. In addition, a sub-group of the patients also participated in a smaller study to test their physical activity level. Published in Clinical Nutrition, the study found that some patients, who once had been too weak to be active, were able to get out of bed and resume normal activity after eight weeks.

By including a high-protein, high-calorie therapeutic nutritional beverage with EPA, along with a nutritional assessment and management by medical professionals, the nutritional status and quality of life for people with cancer experiencing cancer-related weight loss can improve.


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