Saturday, April 11, 2009

Omega 3 Fatty Acids Help Cancer Patients Maintain Muscle Mass

A new study shows that omega 3 fatty acids can prevent loss of muscle mass and preserve body composition in patients who undergo surgery for esophageal cancer.

Scientists from Dublin conducted a randomized double-blind study to find astonishing effects of omega 3 fatty acids for helping cancer patients maintain muscle mass following lengthy and usually debilitating major surgery for cancer of the esohagus.

Lead researcher John V. Reynolds, Professor of Surgery at Trinity College Dublin and St James’s Hospital and colleagues compared nutritional supplements given to cancer patients before and after cancer surgery. The study showed that a purified form of EPA from Omega 3 fatty acids, given orally in liquid form, resulted in preservation of muscle mass. Patients who were given a nutritional boost without omega 3 fatty acids experienced weight loss comprising 100% loss of muscle mass.

Dr. Reynolds explains, “The surgery is a serious operation lasting several hours and can take weeks to recover from surgery and up to six months to recover pre-illness quality of life. Weight loss is extremely common both before and especially after this type of surgery, and any approach that can preserve weight, in particular muscle weight and strength, may represent a real advance”.

Dr. Reynolds suggests that omega 3 fatty acids, given five days before any major surgery, immediately after, and for three weeks thereafter, could help any patient having major surgery recover more quickly. Maintaining muscle mass after major surgery led to fewer complications, less inflammation and fever, quicker recovery among the group who received omega 3 fatty acids. The purified EPA from omega 3 fatty acids used in the study was more expensive, but in the end, the researchers say omega 3 fatty acids, used as nutritional support for surgery patients, could save health dollars.

For the study, the researchers used two types of nutritional supplements with the same amount of calories, protein and other nutrients, beginning five days before the patients were scheduled for surgery for esophageal cancer. One group took the omega 3 fatty acid supplement.

For fourteen days after cancer surgery of the esophagus, nutrition was given to the patients through a feeding tube. Both groups continued nutrition for three weeks after surgery. The patients given omega 3 fatty acids maintained body composition, but the control group had severe weight loss after esophageal cancer surgery, losing an average of four pounds of muscle mass.

Dr Aoife Ryan PhD, a research dietitian at St James’s Hospital, Dublin says the benefits seen from omega 3 fatty acids among the cancer patients are significant.

“The results were extraordinary in the sense that no previous nutritional formulation had revealed such an outcome, with supplemented patients maintaining all aspects of their body composition in the three weeks following surgery. Patients given the standard supplement without omega 3 lost a significant amount of weight comprising 100% muscle mass. In fact, 68% of patients suffered ‘clinically severe’ weight loss post surgery in the standard group (without omega 3) versus only 8% in the omega 3 group. The significant finding was that the patients did not lose just fat, as one would expect with weight loss, but instead they depleted their muscle stores significantly. Research has shown that a loss of 5lbs of weight produces significant effects on quality of life and a patient’s ability to mobilise and perform simple activities of daily living. Losing 4 lbs of muscle is even more significant”.

The researchers would like to see more studies to determine whether nutritional supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids, given throughout cancer treatment should be considered. He says the findings are unlikely to be unique to patients who undergo cancer surgery. Any patient in need of major surgery for problems unrelated to cancer might benefit from the added nutritional provided by omega 3 fatty acids including liver transplantation or major cardiac surgery.

Source: Trinity College Dublin

You can buy essential fatty acids from: Good Health USA, including Krill oil, Eskimo oil, and Hemp oil. Omega 3 fatty acids have many benefits including promotion of good cholesterol levels. Omega 3 fatty acids control inflammation in the body. Omega 3 fatty acids also reduce the risk of heart disease, and may also help protect men from developing advanced prostate cancer.

Never take nutritional supplements that can interfere with bleeding or other medications without your doctor's knowledge. ◦