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Omega-3 Supplements May Improve Lean Mass in Cancer Patients

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EDINBURGH–Omega-3 supplementation may help alleviate cancer-related weight loss, as well as help increase lean body mass, according to research published in the October issue of Gut (52, 10:1479-86, 2003) (gut.bmjjournals.com). Researchers from Europe, Canada and the United States, led by Ken Fearon, M.D., of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, enrolled 200 patients with advanced pancreatic cancer in their double blind, multi-center trial.

For eight weeks, subjects were randomly assigned to receive either a protein- and energy-dense supplement enriched with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants or a control supplement. Subjects were advised to drink two cans of supplement per day, although compliance averaged 1.4 cans per day.

At baseline, the study subjects were losing weight at an average of 3.3 kg/month, but over the eight-week study period, weight loss and decreases in lean body mass stopped in both groups. Because compliance was not good in either group, researchers investigated whether the supplements may have had a dose-dependent response and found some advantages to the omega-3-enriched supplement.

Patients in the treatment group exhibited significant correlations between supplement intake and increases in weight and body mass compared to a non-significant correlation in the placebo group. The changes in the treatment group were associated with elevations in plasma levels of the omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Additionally, the relationship between supplement intake and change in lean body mass was significantly different between the treatment and control groups, with weight gain being associated with improved quality of life only in the treatment group. Researchers concluded that while omega-3 fatty acids did not provide a therapeutic advantage over the control supplement since both supplements arrested weight loss, omega-3 enrichment dose-dependently induced a net gain of weight and lean tissue, as well as improved quality of life.

Source: Natural Products Industry Insider.

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