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Value of Omega-3 Oral Nutritional Supplements in Chemo (radio) Therapy

Published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, October 2021

View online here

Nutritional support can be so important in patients undergoing chemoradiotherapy but opinion is divided on the value of using oral nutritional supplements that are enriched with omega-3 polyunsaturated acids in this patient group.   If you want to get a better feel for the current evidence, this systematic review and meta-analysis is worth a look:

The aim of this meta-analysis was to review randomised controlled trials involving the use of liquid nutritional supplements enriched with omega-3 fatty acids or capsules of omega-3  during chemo (radio) therapy, and to assess the effects on nutritional status and clinical outcomes in patients. 

The systematic review identified 22 studies including 1155 patients with outcomes that included: 

  • body weight, BMI, immune and inflammatory indicators, plasma omega-3 fatty acids and adverse events
  • subgroup analyses looked at types of omega-3 fatty acids, and dose, duration and form of supplementation.

Meta-analysis found:

  • A significant improvement in body weight (WMD = 0.59 kg, 95% CI: 0.06, 1.13, P = 0.03) and body mass index (WMD = 0.43 kg/m2, 95% CI: 0.07, 0.79, P = 0.02)
  • A significant increase in plasma total omega-3 fatty acids (SMD = 2.52, 95% CI: 1.27, 3.78, P<0.0001)
  • A significant reduction in plasma C-reactive protein (CRP) (SMD= -0.53, 95% CI: -0.80, -0.25, P = 0.0001), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) (WMD = -0.40 pg/mL, 95% CI: -0.80, -0.01, P = 0.05) and interleukin 6 (IL-6) (WMD = -1.25 pg/mL, 95% CI: -2.41, -0.10, P = 0.03) 
  • A significant reduction in the incidence of adverse events (RR= 0.72, 95% CI: 0.54, 0.95, P = 0.02).  

The review concluded that this meta-analysis provides evidence that the consumption of omega-3 PUFA-enriched oral nutritional supplements exert beneficial effects on nutritional status and clinical outcomes in patients undergoing chemo (radio) therapy’

However the authors also suggested that more in-depth studies were needed with well-designed RCTs and longer intervention periods to ascertain the optimal dose and duration of omega-3 PUFAs intervention on nutritional and clinical outcomes of cancer patients who receive chemo/radiotherapy.

Interested to know more and critique this evidence? Take a look at the review yourself here.