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

Publication Date


Document Type



Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging

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.