New research published in the March 2009 issue of Annals of Surgery points to a potentially significant advance in the treatment of patients undergoing major cancer surgery. A randomized controlled trial showed that oral nutritional supplements with omega-3 fatty acids resulted in the preservation of muscle mass in patients undergoing surgery for esophageal cancer, a procedure normally associated with significant weight loss and quality-of-life issues.
The lead investigators of the study were John V. Reynolds, professor of surgery at Trinity College Dublin, and Aoife Ryan, assistant professor of nutrition at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development*.
Omega 3 fats are essential fats found naturally in oily fish. Recently food manufacturers have begun to add omega 3 to foods such as yogurt, milk, juice, eggs, and infant formula in light of a body of scientific evidence which suggests that they reduce cardiovascular disease risk, reduce blood pressure, reduce clot formations, and reduce certain types of fat in the blood.
Given these health benefits, the researchers were interested to see whether omega 3 supplements could reduce post-operative weight loss among esophageal cancer patients. Previous studies had found that nutritional supplements containing one form of omega 3 fat, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), significantly reduced weight loss among inoperable cancer patients. Researchers hypothesized that a nutritional supplem
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