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Metabolism. 2000 Jul;49(7):931-6.

Lipolysis and lipid oxidation in weight-losing cancer patients and healthy subjects.

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Department of Internal Medicine II, Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Increased lipolysis has been suggested as one of the possible mechanisms underlying cancer cachexia. The study aim was to assess whether lipolysis is increased in weight-losing cancer patients, considering their differences in food intake and body composition. Sixteen healthy subjects and 18 cancer patients with different tumor types and a weight loss of at least 5% in the previous 6 months were included in the study. Food intake was recorded for 4 days. After an overnight fast, [1,1,2,3,3-2H5]glycerol was infused to determine the rate of appearance (Ra) of glycerol as a measure of whole-body lipolysis, and [1-13C]palmitic acid was infused to determine the Ra of palmitate as a measure of adipocyte fatty acid release. Palmitate oxidation was determined by measuring 13CO2 enrichment in breath samples, and body composition was measured by bioelectrical impedance analysis. After adjustment for energy intake, whole-body lipolysis was significantly higher in cancer patients versus healthy subjects (6.46 +/- 0.63 and 4.67 +/- 0.46 micromol/kg +/- min, respectively, P < .05). The difference in adipocyte fatty acid release did not reach statistical significance. The rate of palmitate oxidation was also significantly higher in patients than in healthy subjects (1.15 +/- 0.10 and 0.93 +/- 0.07 )micromol/kg x min, respectively, P < .05). No differences in body composition were observed between groups. In conclusion, whole-body lipolysis (as measured by the Ra of glycerol) and palmitate oxidation were elevated in weight-losing cancer patients, but fatty acid release was not significantly different.

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