Fish oil has been found to be a successful supplement to your diet if undergoing the most popular form of treating cancer, chemotherapy. For years the oil has been studied for the treatment of clinical depression, anxiety, and enhancing the benefits from depression medications. Countries with the highest intake of fish in their diets are correlated with the lowest rates of depression among citizens. However, the benefits have been extended and increasing your omega-3 intake can help a patient regain muscle mass lost through the intensive therapy. The process can cause cancer patients to lose muscle mass and become malnourished, leading to fatigue, a decreased quality of life and shorter survival.

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.

Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids: They are necessary for human health but the body can’ t make them; you have to get them through food. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafood including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. They have also become popular because they may reduce the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) at least 2 times a week.

It is important to have a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) in the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and most omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. The typical American diet tends to contain 14 to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.

In the Canadian study, 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% 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.

Mazurak adds:

“Fish oil may prevent loss of weight and muscle by interfering with some of the pathways that are altered in advanced cancer.”

The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, has a healthier balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Many studies have shown that people who follow this diet are less likely to develop heart disease. The Mediterranean diet does not include much meat (which is high in omega-6 fatty acids) and emphasizes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic, as well as moderate wine consumption.

In addition, nuts are a rich source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and unsaturated fat, nuts are a powerhouse food that can promote heart health. Almonds and hazelnuts are also high in vitamin E, which helps promote the function of a healthy cardiovascular system.

In a study completed late last year by Consumer Labs, fish oil was used by 75.7% of persons surveyed, an increase of 1.7% since 2009.

Source: Cancer Online Journal

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.