Nutrition in Cancer Patients

Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2019 Aug 14; 8(8):1211. doi: 10.3390/jcm8081211.
Ravasco P.


Background: Despite being recognised that nutritional intervention is essential, nutritional support is not widely accessible to all patients. Given the incidence of nutritional risk and nutrition wasting, and because cachexia management remains a challenge in clinical practice, a multidisciplinary approach with targeted nutrition is vital to improve the quality of care in oncology.

Methods: A literature search in PubMed and Cochrane Library was performed from inception until 26 March. The search consisted of terms on: cancer, nutrition, nutritional therapy, malnutrition, cachexia, sarcopenia, survival, nutrients and guidelines. Key words were linked using "OR" as a Boolean function and the results of the four components were combined by utilizing the "AND" Boolean function. Guidelines, clinical trials and observational studies written in English, were selected. Seminal papers were referenced in this article as appropriate. Relevant articles are discussed in this article.

Results: Recent literature supports integration of nutrition screening/assessment in cancer care. Body composition assessment is suggested to be determinant for interventions, treatments and outcomes. Nutritional intervention is mandatory as adjuvant to any treatment, as it improves nutrition parameters, body composition, symptoms, quality of life and ultimately survival. Nutrition counselling is the first choice, with/without oral nutritional supplements (ONS). Criteria for escalating nutrition measures include: (1) 50% of intake vs. requirements for more than 1-2 weeks; (2) if it is anticipated that undernourished patients will not eat and/or absorb nutrients for a long period; (3) if the tumour itself impairs oral intake. N-3 fatty acids are promising nutrients, yet clinically they lack trials with homogeneous populations to clarify the identified clinical benefits. Insufficient protein intake is a key feature in cancer; recent guidelines suggest a higher range of protein because of the likely beneficial effects for treatment tolerance and efficacy. Amino acids for counteracting muscle wasting need further research. Vitamins/minerals are recommended in doses close to the recommended dietary allowances and avoid higher doses. Vitamin D deficiency might be relevant in cancer and has been suggested to be needed to optimise protein supplements effectiveness.

Conclusions: A proactive assessment of the clinical alterations that occur in cancer is essential for selecting the adequate nutritional intervention with the best possible impact on nutritional status, body composition, treatment efficacy and ultimately reducing complications and improving survival and quality of life.

Information NutriBib

Reference work for leading, current and selected literature in the field of clinical nutrition

Publications on clinical nutrition have grown steadily in recent years and the scientific evidence has been improved by numerous observational as well as intervention studies. Various umbrella organisations, such as the Swiss Society for Clinical Nutrition (GESKES), the German Society for Nutritional Medicine (DGEM) or the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) publish guidelines on nutrition in various clinical situations at regular intervals. Thus, a large amount of literature is available for evidence-based nutritional medicine.

The NutriBib aims to filter out authoritative publications in the various fields of nutritional medicine and thus to provide an overview of the abundance of literature. A large number of experienced nutrition experts contributed to the selection of relevant sources and allow a broadly based selection. Nevertheless, the literature selection cannot be considered exhaustive. Specific literature can be found by entering search words (using the magnifying glass at the top right) or by searching the table of contents.

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List of abbreviations

DGEM German Society for Nutritional Medicine (German Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährungsmedizin)
GESKES  Swiss Society for Clinical Nutrition (German Gesellschaft für klinische Ernährung der Schweiz) 
ESPEN European Society of Clinicl Nutrition and Metabolism