Pharmavite, the company behind Nature Made vitamins and supplements, recently led a study that found cancer survivors who use dietary supplements have a higher quality of life (QOL) compared to survivors who did not use supplements.
“The key takeaways from the research are first, that nutrition plays a crucial role in the quality of life in cancer survivors who are at higher risk for malnutrition from the disease and its treatment. Second, dietary supplements (DS) are a cost-effective way to help cancer patients bolster their nutrition and overall health as noted when looking at hospitalization costs. Most importantly, there’s a real need for conversations to be had between healthcare providers and their patients about the impact that cancer and its treatment can have on an individual’s nutrient levels and how food and supplementation together, can help fill those gaps. The study showed just how important these conversations are because two-thirds of cancer survivors reported using supplements within the last 30 days,” explained study author Dr. Susan Mitmesser, VP, Science & Technology, Pharmavite.
The cost of living healthy
The research, published in the journal Cancers, revealed that 68% of cancer survivors reported using supplements within the last 30 days. The study also found that supplement use in cancer survivors was associated with a lower rate of hospitalization and death.
Mitmesser said what’s most revealing is the contrast in costs to the patient. “What better way to see the cost effectiveness of dietary supplementation for overall health than to look at the average annual cost of all-cause hospitalization. This cost shows us how much a cancer survivor is having to get medical care through hospitalization, yet when we looked at supplement use and that cost, supplement use was estimated to cost $3,650 over 10 years, which breaks down to $1.00 a day. For $1.00 a day, supplement use in cancer survivors was associated with a lower probability of all-cause hospitalization and death, while also providing an increase in quality of life. While there are no absolutes, at that price there are huge benefits,” she said.
Furthermore, the research found that after 6 years of supplement use, the benefit of lower hospitalization costs outweigh the cost of dietary supplementation.
Mitmesser told NutraIngredients-USA that this particular study didn’t focus on the specific supplements that cancer survivors were taking, but rather the incorporation of DS in general as a cost-effectiveness strategy for promoting long term health and the positive impact on the quality of life for cancer patients. She said that she would like to see more research done in this area to explore specific supplements.
The report also highlighted the unique challenges cancer patients face, noting that people with cancer struggle with the ability to consume and absorb nutrients, even after treatments subside.
"This study reveals the need for dietary supplementation to be part of the post-treatment conversation between patients and their health care providers,” said Mitmesser.
More research needed
The authors said while the research shed light on the importance of dietary supplements among cancer patients, there is still a need to clarify the role these supplements may play on various comorbidities and side effects in the cancer survivor such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders that involve chronic inflammation. Furthermore, there is a need to elucidate the mechanism of dietary supplements’ effect on immune system modulation affecting cancer survivors.
“The importance of nutritional assessment for both active cancer patients and long-term survivors cannot be underestimated. In particular, for cancer types where the evidence is conclusive, nutritional therapy for cancer survivors should involve education on daily food intake, dietary supplementation self-management and prescription nutrition therapy where warranted,” the authors concluded.
Mitmesser added that this research gets them closer to understanding the role that dietary supplements can play in optimizing quality of life for cancer survivors.
“We hope that this initial study will lead to more research that can help us understand the specificity of dose and nutrient, along with the length of time needed to maintain those benefits,” she said.
2021, 13(24), 6276; doi.org/10.3390/cancers13246276
“Cost-Effectiveness of Nutrient Supplementation in Cancer Survivors”
Authors: A. Shaver, et al.