Nutrition Benefits Cancer Patients

A recent study(1) has found that cancer patients who received individualized nutritional counseling while undergoing conventional treatments had a higher quality of life, less radiotherapy toxicity, and a better long term prognosis.  Patients with colorectal cancer were assigned to three groups and then followed for an average of 6.5 years.  Group 1 received individualized nutritional counseling without supplements.  Group 2 received supplements without nutritional counseling, i.e. they ate whatever they wanted.  Group 3 received neither nutritional counseling nor supplements.  58% of those in group 3, 31% of those in group 2, and only 19% of group 1 had disease progression with distant metastases and/or lymph node invasion.  By the end of the study 30% of those in group 3 had died, 22% of those in group 2 had died, and only 8% of those in group 1 had died!  A similar pattern was seen among the three groups in a quality of life survey and with respect to symptoms of radiation toxicity.

That’s a huge decrease in cancer progression and in improvement in how cancer patients felt with individualized nutritional counseling only!  A cancer drug that got that type of result would easily be a several billion dollar per year blockbuster drug.  So why isn’t nutritional counseling being recommended for every cancer patient?

When you examine what the researchers called nutritional supplements, then the potential for even more benefits become apparent.  Group 2 received “2 cans per day of a high-protein dietary supplement.”  Yes, protein supplements can be helpful in cancer patients.  But imagine if they also had received micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients?  Imagine if they had been put on an individualized custom supplement program along with an individualized diet and exercise program?  Ideally, diet, exercise, and specific quality supplements can be used to modulate inflammation, balance blood sugar, reduce vitamin deficiencies, strengthen the immune system, reduce hypercoagulation, decrease angiogenesis, maintain anti-oxidant status, and reduce the adverse effects and symptoms and in some cases to potentially enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  This is the approach taken by more enlightened nutritional practitioners.



1. Ravasco P, Monteiro-Grillo I, Camilo M. Individualized nutrition intervention is of major benefit to colorectal cancer patients: long-term follow-up of a randomized controlled trial of nutritional therapy. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 96: 6 1346-1353.


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