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Fish Oil Helps Cancer Patients

May prevent weight loss and wasting in those with disease

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 10, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Fish oil may help prevent cachexia, the severe wasting and weight loss experienced by people with some types of advanced cancer, says a British study in the current issue of Gut.

Cachexia, a result of changes in metabolism and loss of appetite, is a major factor in the illness and death of patients with advanced cancer.

This study included 200 people with pancreatic cancer. A high-calorie, high-protein supplement was given to 105 of the patients, while 95 of them received an energy-dense, high-protein supplement enriched with omega 3 essential fatty acid and vitamins E and C. Each group drank 480 milligrams a day for eight weeks.

Omega 3 essential fatty acids are found in fatty fish such as salmon and herring.

Before the study, the patients had lost about 17 percent of their body weight and were losing more than 3 kilograms of weight a month. After eight weeks of taking the supplements, weight loss had stopped in both groups.

When they examined the data more closely, the researchers found a direct and significant association between the amount of weight and muscle bulk gained and the amount of fish oil supplement consumed by patients.

This association was not found in the patients taking the supplement without the fish oil.

Patients taking the fish oil supplement also reported a much improved quality of life.

The authors write that further research is necessary to confirm their findings.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about omega-3 fatty acids.

SOURCE: BMJ Specialist Journals, news release, Sept. 10, 2003
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