(RxWiki News) Cancer affects everything in a person's life, including what and how they eat. The disease and its treatments can actually lead to malnutrition. New research suggests that addressing this issue can have a significant impact.
Providing malnourished cancer patients with nutritional support can substantially improve their quality of life, even if these interventions don't prolong their lives.
"Learn how nutritional support and supplements can help."
Christine Baldwin, Ph.D., RD, Lecturer at the Nutritional Sciences Division at King's College in London and colleagues, sifted through a number of databases to learn how nutritional interventions affected people living with cancer who were either currently or at risk of becoming malnourished.
International guidelines suggest nutritional intervention with dietary advice and/or oral nutritional supplements for these patients. However, these guidelines aren't based on clinical trials, rather expert advice.
For this research, a total of 13 studies involving 1,414 patients were analyzed. Researchers compared weight, mortality, energy intake and quality of life (QOL) among individuals who received nutritional support verses those who received routine care.
The studies found that nutritional intervention had an inconsistent affect on both weight and energy intake, but did have statistically significant improvements in QOL, including emotional issues, breathing difficulties and appetite loss. However, this support did not extend life.
The authors note limitations to the study, but said their findings suggested "improvements in some aspects of QOL may be achieved."
Carol Wolin-Riklin, a registered dietitian at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School, told dailyRx that "nutrition interventions help engage the patient as an active participant in the battle against this sometimes catastrophic disease and give them hope, a sense of purpose and at times the only thing they can control in their treatment plan."
She continues, "By placing the emphasis on oral nutrition support interventions it helps to alleviate a sense of helplessness within the patient and the caregiver. They become more empowered to actively participate in improving their own health.
"This is a very powerful and motivating role and will help to improve quality of life when quantity of life may have become a more defined time period," said Wolin-Riklin, who was not involved in this study.
This study was published February 15, 2012 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.