Unintentional weight loss often accompanies cancer therapy because of poor appetites and treatment side effects. A healthy diet will maintain optimal nutrition status, though a “healthy diet” will be different for cancer patients than the general public because calories and protein are the focus. Nutritional drink supplements may improve calories and protein for cancer patients. Nutrition drinks on the market today offer variety and choice.
1. When is Supplementation Recommended?
Not every cancer patient will experience poor appetite and weight loss. Patients who have problems eating enough to maintain their weight should try some form of nutritional beverage. Losing 10 percent of your weight is considered severe; if this happens, tell your doctor.
If weight loss is a concern, boost calories and protein through nutrition drinks such as Boost or Ensure. If insurance does not cover nutrition beverages, purchase the store brand version to save money. The taste and nutrition content is comparable. Also, consider the “Plus” version of these supplements, as they have more calories and protein per ounce.
Commercial Options for Calories and Protein
Powdered instant breakfasts are also an option. Mix these with whole milk to get maximum nutrition.
You may get tired of drinking the same beverage every day, so use a recipe to add different flavors to beverage (see Resources.) If a milky beverage does not appeal to you, try a juice type supplement, such as Resource Breeze or Enlive, which you can order from a pharmacy.
To make your own “nutrition beverage,” mix 1 c. whole milk and with 1/3 c. powdered milk. Use this mix in recipes where you would normally use milk, such as pudding, mashed potatoes or cream soup. This homemade option will not contain the vitamins and minerals that commercially prepared nutrition drinks do, but it will help you increase your calorie and protein intake.
Ramon Colomer and colleagues, in the May 2007 “British Journal of Nutrition,” reviewed many studies that included omega-3 fatty acids in nutrition beverages. The research shows that a nutrition supplement that includes omega-3 fatty acids may benefit patients with advanced cancer and weight loss. A patient can take a nutrition supplement plus an omega-3 supplement, or order specialized nutrition beverages that already contains omega-3s. The recommendation is 1.5g daily of omega-3s.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Nutritional drinks containing omega-3 fatty acids may be difficult to find and expensive. Two supplements are Prosure from Abbott Nutrition and Peptamen AF from Nestle Nutrition.
If you find that a normal diet provides you with adequate calories and protein, continue to follow it. However, if you are losing weight, do not wait until weight loss is severe to start adding nutrition beverages to your daily meals. Maintaining good nutrition status is easier than improving poor nutrition status and may improve a cancer therapy outcome.tocancer.com
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