Toronto: Supplementing diet with fish oil may prevent muscle and weight loss that commonly occurs in cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy.
The process can cause cancer patients to lose muscle mass and become malnourished, leading to fatigue, a decreased quality of life and shorter survival.
Researchers believe that supplementing the diet with fish oil - which contains omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid - may help patients maintain or gain muscle, the journal Cancer reports.
Vera Mazurak of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, led a team that compared the effects of fish oil with that of standard care (no intervention) on weight, muscle, and fat tissue in newly referred non-small cell lung cancer patients.
Patients who did not take fish oil lost an average of 2.3 kilograms whereas patients receiving fish oil maintained their weight, according to an Alberta University release.
Patients with the greatest concentration of fish oil supplementation in the blood had the greatest gains in muscle. Sixty-nine percent of patients in the fish oil group gained or maintained muscle mass.
Comparatively, only 29 percent of patients in the standard care group maintained muscle mass, and overall, patients in this group lost one kilogram of muscle. No difference in total fat tissue was observed between the two groups.
"Fish oil may prevent loss of weight and muscle by interfering with some of the pathways that are altered in advanced cancer," said Mazurak.