A new study, reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that breast cancer survivors have less fatigue if they consumed higher quantities of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (a major component of an “anti-inflammatory diet“). The researchers studied the potential effects of dietary omega-3 versus omega-6 in a population of 633 breast cancer survivors. Specifically, the authors wanted to know if a higher intake of omega-3 foods has a beneficial impact on fatigue, a common complaint of breast cancer survivors. Cancer related fatigue is thought to be due, in large part, to systemic inflammation that occurs as a consequence of cancer treatment and stress (physical and psychoemotional.) Read more about the role of inflammation and cancer (here).
The authors report significantly lower levels of fatigue (based on fatigue scores) and systemic inflammation (as assessed by finding lower levels of a blood marker of inflammation, CRP or C-reactive protein) among the breast cancer survivors who consumed higher quantities of foods containing omega-3 fatty acids and less foods containing omega-6 fatty.
Although this study is not conclusive in proving a direct link between omega-3 fatty acid intake, systemic inflammation and fatigue, it does strongly suggest this association.
Omega-3 fatty acids have multiple health-related benefits on cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, immune system support and various psychoemotional conditions (i.e. depression, anxiety and stress.) Increasingly, we are seeing more data supporting an anticancer role of omega-3 fatty acids in potentially reducing the risk of cancer development and progression (read more).
To read more about dietary recommendations regarding fats (the good, the bad and the ugly), download my free guide “Integrative Oncology Essentials.”
Consuming foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (and low in omega-6 fatty acids) decreases systemic inflammation, and appears to reduce cancer related fatigue. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may also have similar beneficial effects.
Additional Resources and Information:
Did you know that exercise reduces fatigue in cancer survivors? Here’s a great talk on this subject from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center:
Saturated fats, such as those from meats and dairy products can promote inflammation, oxidation and cancer progression: