Fish Oil Saves the Day, Again

In addition to all the other benefits, fish oil may prevent muscle atrophy in cancer patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Chemotherapy is notoriously brutal on the body, causing nausea, hair loss, muscle loss, and more. But now, 40 lung cancer patients in a study of chemotherapy-induced muscle wasting may have shown that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil block the muscle-ravaging effects of chemotherapy.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and used fish oil supplements, not fish. Sixteen of the 40 chemotherapy patients were given 2.2 grams of omega-3 fatty acid while the remaining 24 chemotherapy patients received no fish oil.

After 10 weeks the group that did not receive fish oil lost an average of 5 pounds of muscle. The group that took the fish oil did not lose any muscle weight, and in fact some people gained weight. The fish oil supplements did not change fat tissue, only muscle.

Currently there is no effective treatment for cancer-related malnutrition.

Among the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids: shown to prevent retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and severity and duration of psychotic disorders. Eating fatty fish such as salmon also has been shown to reduce the risk of heart failure, building on previous research suggesting these fish and omega-3 fatty acids in general help fight risk factors for a score of heart-related conditions by lowering triglycerides (fats in the blood) and reducing blood pressure and heart rate.

On the other hand, research has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids are ineffective against atrial fibrillation and Alzheimer's disease.

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Review Date: 
March 1, 2011
Last Updated:
October 18, 2012