Fish oils improve survival of cancer patients

Can Omega-3 Supplements Improve Cancer Patients’ Quality of Life?

PATRAS, GREECE. Chemotherapy and other conventional medical treatments have proven ineffective in improving quality of life and survival of patients with end stage cancer. Greek medical researchers have reported that omega-3 supplementation, specifically fish oil supplementation, markedly increases the survival time for cancer patients with generalized malignancy.

Patients who Took Fish Oil and Vitamin E Survived Longer

Their study involved 60 patients with generalized solid tumors. The patients were divided into two groups with one group receiving 18 grams/day of fish oil (six capsules of MAXEPA three times daily containing concentrations of the following omega-3 fatty acids :170 mg eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and 115 mg docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] per capsule) and the other group receiving a placebo. The fish oil group also received 200 mg of vitamin E daily to compensate for the oxidative effect of the fish oil. Each group included 15 well-nourished and 15 malnourished patients. None of the well-nourished patients suffered from cancer cachexia (abnormally low weight and general weakness). The researchers measured the level of T cells, natural killer cells, and the synthesis of interleukin and tumor necrosis factor before the start of the supplementation and on day 40 of the trial. The study followed all patients until they died. Malnourished patients were found to have a considerably impaired immune function and a decreased production of tumor necrosis factor; both parameters were restored through fish oil supplementation. Malnourished patients overall had a much shorter survival time than well-nourished ones (mean of 213 days versus 481 days). Both malnourished and well-nourished patients who received fish oil and vitamin E survived significantly longer than did patients on placebo. The researchers speculate that fish oils exert their beneficial effect by decreasing the body’s production of prostaglandin E2 which is believed to play an important role in the initiation and progression of cancer. They conclude that supplementation with dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically fish oils with an antioxidant such as vitamin E may offer significant palliative support to cancer patients with end stage metastatic disease.
Gogos, Charalambos A., et al. Dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids plus vitamin E restore immunodeficiency and prolong survival for severely ill patients with generalized malignancy. Cancer, Vol. 82, January 15, 1998, pp. 395-402

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