Send to

Choose Destination
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Oct 7;14:382. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-382.

Echium oil is not protective against weight loss in head and neck cancer patients undergoing curative radio(chemo)therapy: a randomised-controlled trial.

Author information

Cancer Centre, General Hospital Groeninge, Loofstraat 43, B-8500 Kortrijk, Belgium.



Therapy-induced mucositis and dysphagia puts head and neck (H&N) cancer patients at increased risk for developing cachexia. Omega-3 fatty acids (n-3 FA) have been suggested to protect against cachexia. We aimed to examine if echium oil, a plant source of n-3 FA, could reduce weight loss in H&N cancer patients undergoing radio(chemo)therapy with curative intent.


In a double-blind trial, patients were randomly assigned to echium oil (intervention (I) group; 7.5 ml bis in die (b.i.d.), 235 mg/ml α-linolenic acid (ALA) + 95 mg/ml stearidonic acid (SDA) + 79 mg/ml γ-linolenic acid (GLA)) or n-3 FA deficient sunflower oil high oleic (control (C) group; 7.5 ml b.i.d.) additional to standard nutritional support during treatment. Differences in percentage weight loss between both groups were analysed according to the intention-to-treat principle. Erythrocyte FA profile, body composition, nutritional status and quality of life were collected.


Ninety-one eligible patients were randomised, of whom 83 were evaluable. Dietary supplement adherence was comparable in both groups (median, I: 87%, C: 81%). At week 4, the I group showed significantly increased values of erythrocyte n-3 eicosapentanoic acid (EPA, 14% vs -5%) and n-6 GLA (42% vs -20%) compared to the C group, without a significant change in n-6 arachidonic acid (AA, 2% vs -1%). Intention-to-treat analysis could not reveal a significant reduction in weight loss related to echium oil consumption (median weight loss, I: 8.9%, C: 7.6%). Also, no significant improvement was observed in the other evaluated anthropometric parameters.


Echium oil effectively increased erythrocyte EPA and GLA FAs in H&N cancer patients. It failed however to protect against weight loss, or improve nutritional parameters.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Identifier NCT01596933.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center