CancerOmega-3 Fatty Acids

Effect of fish oil on weight loss during chemotherapy

Involuntary weight loss is a major contributor to mortality and morbidity in patients with advanced cancer.

Researchers at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, studied patients with nonsmall cell lung cancer first-line chemotherapy.

First, the details.

  • 40 patients were assigned to a treatment group.
    • Fish oil 2.2 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)/day
    • Standard care
  • Blood was collected and weight was recorded before and during chemotherapy.
  • Skeletal muscle and adipose tissue were measured using computed tomography images.

And, the results.

  • Patients receiving standard care experienced an average weight loss of 2 kg whereas patients receiving fish oil maintained their weight — a significant difference.
  • Patients with the greatest increase in EPA blood levels after fish oil supplementation had the greatest gains in muscle — a significant response.
  • Approximately 69% of patients in the fish oil group gained or maintained muscle mass vs only 29% of patients in the standard care group.
  • Overall, the SOC group lost 1 kg of muscle.
  • No difference in total adipose tissue was observed between the 2 groups.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Nutritional intervention with 2.2 grams of fish oil per day appears to provide a benefit over standard of care, resulting in the maintenance of weight and muscle mass during chemotherapy.”

2/28/11 19:03 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.