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Omega-3s Help Post Op Cancer Patients

New research from Ireland shows that the omega-3 fatty acid EPA may offset the severe loss of muscle mass common in patients following esophageal cancer surgery.

The double-blind randomized control trial was conducted by researchers at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and published in the March 2009 issue of Annals of Surgery.

The researchers recruited 53 participants for the study.  They chose patients undergoing surgery for esophageal cancer surgery because it is one of the most physically stressful operations a person can go through.  Weight loss is very common after this type of surgery and enabling patients to preserve weight may represent a huge advantage.

The participants were randomly assigned to receive either a nutritional supplement containing 2.2 mg of EPA or a control without the EPA.

The patients received the supplement twice daily for the five days preceding their surgery.  They were then given the formula through a feeding tube for 14 days immediately following the surgery. Once the patients were able to consume the supplement orally, they continued taking the supplement until 21 days after surgery.

The patients given the EPA supplement maintained all aspects of their body composition.  The patients receiving the placebo saw severe weight loss following surgery, with an average loss of 4 pounds.

According to Dr. Michael Meguid, a surgery professor at State University of New York, these findings show that omega-3 supplementation should become the norm for people undergoing surgery rather than a preference. He encourages surgeons to supplement patients with omega-3 both before and after gut and esophageal cancer surgery.

ALA, EPA and DHA are all omega-3 fatty acids. Their health benefits have been widely studied, particularly with respect to heart and brain health. Studies have shown EPA and DHA to be more beneficial but they are also harder to get since they come primarily from fish, which most people don't get enough of in their diets.

If fish isn't a part of your daily diet, an easier way to get more omega-3s is by taking a high quality fish oil supplement high in EPA and DHA and certified for purity.

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