Omega-3 and cancer recovery: How supplementation helps reduce hospital stays after operations

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Omega-3 fatty acid Immune system

Results showed that patients on an n-3 PUFAs regime had lower levels of inflammation markers. ©iStock
Results showed that patients on an n-3 PUFAs regime had lower levels of inflammation markers. ©iStock
Omega-3 supplementation boosts immunity and helps reduce inflammation among gastrointestinal cancer patients after surgery, new meta-analysis reports.

Many types of Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer are ranked as the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Surgery is the primary treatment for patients with early-stage GI cancer with patients often facing complications due malnutrition, tumour-induced immune suppression, surgical stress and inflammation.

Recent studies have indicated that nutritional intervention can reduce these problems, with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) particularly promising because of their inflammation benefits.

“However, interpretation of these studies is problematic due to methodological limitations and small sample sizes. Moreover, the results of several recent RCTs are controversial. Thus, the purpose of this systematic review is to evaluate the potential role of n-3 PUFAs in the outcome of GI cancer patients after surgery,”​ wrote researchers in the journal BMC Cancer.

They assessed nine RCTs, comprising 623 participants.

Results showed that patients on an n-3 PUFAs regime had lower levels of inflammation markers.

The academics, from China’s Capital Medical University, stated: “The results of our study showed that n-3 PUFAs significantly decreased the level of inflammation and increased immune function.

“Thus modulation of immune responses and reduction of inflammatory responses together lessens postoperative hospital stay for GI cancer patients.”

Best nutrition option

The paper added it was best to start nutritional support five to seven days before surgery, and it should be continued into the postoperative period, adding “n-3 PUFAs are the best option for postoperative management compared with isocaloric nutrition.”

The researchers noted several limitations with their analysis. They pointed out the intake of n-3 PUFAs varied considerably within countries, and this may explain the the diversity of results across some studies.

The outcome estimates were taken from published data. Therefore, systematic biases could not be minimized and the data in some cases was incomplete, they added.

However, they concluded: “We confirmed that the addition of n-3 fatty acids improved immune function and reduced the level of inflammation in GI cancer patients postoperatively. Thus, despite these limitations and although further larger trials are needed, these fatty acids should be widely used in the clinic.”

Source: BMC Cancer

DOI: 10.1186/s12885-017-3248-y

“Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on patients undergoing surgery for gastrointestinal malignancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis”.

Authors: Jing Yu, et al

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