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Br J Cancer. 1999 Sep;81(1):80-6.

The effect of an oral nutritional supplement enriched with fish oil on weight-loss in patients with pancreatic cancer.

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University Department of Surgery, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, UK.


Previous studies have suggested that administration of oral eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) will stabilize weight in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. The aim of the present study was to determine if a combination of EPA with a conventional oral nutritional supplement could produce weight gain in these patients. Twenty patients with unresectable pancreatic adenocarcinoma were asked to consume two cans of a fish oil-enriched nutritional supplement per day in addition to their normal food intake. Each can contained 310 kcal, 16.1 g protein and 1.09 g EPA. Patients were assessed for weight, body composition, dietary intake, resting energy expenditure (REE) and performance status. Patients consumed a median of 1.9 cans day(-1). All patients were losing weight at baseline at a median rate of 2.9 kg month(-1). After administration of the fish oil-enriched supplement, patients had significant weight-gain at both 3 (median 1 kg, P= 0.024) and 7 weeks (median 2 kg, P = 0.033). Dietary intake increased significantly by almost 400 kcal day(-1) (P = 0.002). REE per kg body weight and per kg lean body mass fell significantly. Performance status and appetite were significantly improved at 3 weeks. In contrast to previous studies of oral conventional nutritional supplements in weight-losing cancer patients, this study suggests that an EPA-enriched supplement may reverse cachexia in advanced pancreatic cancer.

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