Kokolulu Cancer Support blog…
By Dr. Mary Hardy
Consumption of the essential fatty acids from cold-water fish (commonly called fish oil) provides a wide range of health benefits. Dietary fish oil, either from fish itself or supplemented in capsules, is effective in helping tomanage systemic inflammation, afinal common pathway for many chronic diseases. However, for many conditions, such as cancer, the amount of omega-3 fish oils needed is higher than can be achieved with diet alone.
Many of you will have seen that more advanced cancer is often accompanied by a lot of systemic symptoms, such as1:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss, especially loss of lean body mass or muscle.
Inflammation contributes or helps to cause these effects. Fish oil, by no means a cure for advanced cancer, is part of the solution to these problems. Controlling these symptoms, starting as early as possible, maintains a better quality of life and controls some of the damage caused by cancer. Being as well as possible during treatment, allows you to take your best shot at cancer.
It’s perverse, but just when you need to eat to keep your strength and body weight up, cancer patients often experience a decline in appetite, in part caused by the cancer itself.
In healthy patients, a recent study showed that fish oil stimulates appetite2. Twenty subjects (10 men and 10 women) were given a fish oil supplement containing 3 grams of omega three fatty acids (O3FA)- 1.9 grams of eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and 1.1 grams of docosahexenoic acid (DHA) for three weeks. The fish oil supplement did not show an increase in appetite before breakfast, but subjects reported feeling less full after eating. Many cancer patients stop eating prematurely because they feel too full really quickly. Female patients only reported a significant increase in the desire to eat more.
What’s the bottom line?
- Fish oil can interfere with some of the serious consequences cancer-related increases in inflammationbring.
- Minimal doses needed for effect start at 2 grams of EPA + DHA. Some studies have used even higher doses but those may be harder to tolerate.
- All fish oil supplements are NOT alike. Consult with a knowledgeable professional to pick a high quality supplement.3
- Be careful with higher doses of fish oil if you have abnormal bleeding, very low platelets or are scheduled for surgery or other invasive procedures. As always, speak with your doctor or other health care provider before using.
- Cerchietti LC, Navigante AH, Castro MA. Effects of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic n-3 fatty acids from fish oil and preferential Cox-2 inhibition on systemic syndromes in patients with advanced lung cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2007;59(1):14–20.
- Damsbo-Svendsen S, Rønsholdt MD, Lauritzen L. Fish oil-supplementation increases appetite in healthy adults. A randomized controlled cross-over trial. Appetite. 2013 Jul;66:62–6. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.02.019. Epub 2013 Mar 6.
- McManus A, Merga M, Newton W. Omega-3 fatty acids. What consumers need to know. Appetite. 2011 Aug;57(1):80–3. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.03.015. Epub 2011 Apr 8.