Irish Cancer patients at risk from ill-informed dietary advice

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Fad diets harming Irish cancer patients

Having a poor diet can even have major implications for the overall outcome of cancer treatment, say doctors.


IRISH CANCER DOCTORS have warned of an “alarming level” of malnutrition in Irish patients with cancer, with ill-informed and fad dietary advice causing great harm.

Research from 1,000 patients across three Cork hospitals found that cancer patients with documented malnutrition experienced worse levels of toxicity and side effects from chemotherapy.

Having a poor diet can even have major implications for the overall outcome of cancer treatment, according to doctors.

Speaking at the Irish Society of Gastroenterology winter meeting, Consultant Medical Oncologist Dr Derek Power presented the research, showing that half of patients with cancer were overweight or obese.

Of these patients, between 25-45% of them had significant signs of severe deterioration in their muscles, including muscle wasting, or cancer cachexia. In patients with normal and low BMI levels, muscle wasting levels were even higher.

Power also highlighted the importance of informing patients early on in their treatment, and the positive role that a qualified dietician could have in cancer treatment.

European research has reinforced this view, explaining that early intervention in a cancer patient’s diet can help them “maintain an acceptable quality of life”.

A joint statement issued by the Irish Society of Medical Oncology, Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute urged cancer patients to take heed of these warnings on fad diets.

They said: “Unfortunately, there is no ‘magic diet’ or eating pattern that will cure a patient of their cancer.

It is also irresponsible for individuals, no matter how well intended, to communicate inaccurate advice which could prey on the vulnerabilities and needs of patients who are undergoing treatment for cancer by proposing a diet that has no real evidence to support it.
The statement adds that that a high protein, high calorie diet is recommended for cancer patients, especially those who have suffered involuntary weight loss.