Omega-3 could be useful in halting weakness in patients with advanced cancer


Almost a third of all deaths from cancer are due to a syndrome known as cachexia, which is difficult for both patients and families.

It is characterised by an important loss in muscle mass, often accompanied by considerable weight loss. When patients with cancer develop cachexia, as occurs when the disease is very advanced, they become very fragile and weak, to the point that just walking becomes an almost impossible task.

Some experts describe cachexia as an alteration by our own metabolism, so that the body’s response to cancer leads to decomposition of muscle and adipose tissue, which is stored in fat.

Although cancer-related cachexia has not been given much attention for a long time and no treatments have been developed to halt it, its biology is increasingly well understood.

For instance, recent studies have shown that the rapid muscle loss seems to be related to inflammation. And as omega-3 fatty acids have known anti-inflammatory properties, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid, they have been investigated as potential treatments for cachexia.

Since the 1990s, a number of articles have been published on the possible use of omega-3 for this syndrome and has been shown to help improve patients’ appetite and gain weight, an affect that lasts for several weeks.

Many advanced cancers have a bad prognosis, but it is essential for affected persons to be able to enjoy a decent quality of life for as long as possible. In this respect, omega-3 seems to have a role among the medical strategies to alleviate the fragility and weakness characteristic of cachexia in patients with advanced cancer.


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