Examination of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Intake in Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition

Conference Location

Phoenix, Arizona








Purpose: Malnutrition and inflammation negatively impacts weight maintenance, treatment tolerance, and survival in oncology patients. Omega-3, polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3) have been shown to decrease weight loss associated with malnutrition and to a lesser extent, decrease inflammation. Head and neck cancer (HNC) patients are at increased risk for malnutrition. Exploring adequacy of intake and the effectiveness of common modalities to increase omega-3 intake in HNC patients is needed. The purpose of this observational study was to evaluate whether oral supplement (OS) intake was associated with Omega-3 intake. It was hypothesized that OS consumers would have a higher intake of omega-3 because OS contain sources of omega-3.
Methods: Three, random, multi-pass, 24-hour dietary recalls were collected from newly diagnosed HNC patients at the start of treatment. The recalls were collected from a subset of participants in the International Nutrition Audit in Foregut Tumours (INFORM) study.
Results: At the start of treatment for HNC (n=10), 4 participants were consuming OS and 6 were not. The average omega 3 intake for OS consumers was 2.18 g ± SD 0.64 g and 1.53 g SD ± 0.73 g for nonconsumers (p = 0.188). When sex and adequate intake (AI) requirements for omega-3 were considered, the OS group met 136% of AI ± SD 40.1% and the non-OS consumers met 123% ± SD 71% (p = 0.74).
Conclusions: There was no difference in omega 3 intake between patients consuming oral supplements and non-consumers. Both groups met the adequate intake amount for omega-3. The variation in dietary habits between subjects may obscure the results. Thus, following omega-3 intake over time and within subjects to control for intra-individual variability should be considered. Additional research is needed before concluding whether or not OS consumption increases omega-3 intake in head and neck cancer patients.


Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging