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Maintaining Weight Through Cancer

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Excess body fat is blamed for up to 20 percent of all cancer-related deaths, but the fact remains that many people living with cancer and undergoing cancer treatments find themselves facing the opposite problem - how to gain weight, or at least prevent further weight loss.

Excess body fat is blamed for up to 20 percent of all cancer-related deaths, but the fact remains that many people living with cancer and undergoing cancer treatments find themselves facing the opposite problem how to gain weight, or at least prevent further weight loss.

Cancer can often cause a drastic change in one's metabolism, making a healthy body weight very difficult to maintain. This loss of weight, referred to as cachexia or wasting syndrome, affects both body fat and lean muscle mass. It is believed to be caused by increased inflammatory messengers as well as tumour-derived factors that cause appetite suppression and an overall hyper-catabolic (wasting) state.

Weight loss especially from muscle shortens the survival time of cancer patients. The key is to find effective natural ways to help the patient gain body weight and improve quality of life. Here are some research-proven methods to help maintain and regain a healthy weight:

  • Ensure an adequate diet by consuming between five and eight mini-meals each day.
  • Use high-quality cold-processed whey isolates to ensure adequate protein intake, as the essential amino acids will help maintain protein stores and counteract muscle wasting.
  • Pick foods that contain the most calories but are still nutritious, such as organic seeds and nuts. Instead of filling up on low-calorie dense foods, such as soup and salad, consume the most calorie-dense portion of your meal first.
  • Avoid highly refined "white" foods, excess sugars, and hydrogenated trans fats. In 1995, research based on the work of Nobel laureate Otto Warburg discovered that cancer cells thrive in a high sugar environment and actually use the extra glucose as a primary fuel source. Many of the most medically endorsed weight-gain liquid formulas are loaded with sugars such as pure sucrose, corn maltodextrin, and corn syrup.
  • Mind your EPAs. According to research presented in the International Journal of Gastrointestinal Cancer in 2003, high-grade fish oils may reverse some aspects of cachexia. Other research from the Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Institute in Birmingham, UK, indicates that the fatty acid EPA is the only natural agent that can interfere with the action of a tumour factor called PIF, believed to be a major cause of muscle wasting. Studies published in Nutrition and Cancer in 2000 suggest that two grams of EPA may be needed daily to help counteract weight loss.
  • Consume plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables. These foods exert their protective actions upon cells through their unique antioxidant activity, which has been shown to be much more effective than individual antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.

Since cachexia is associated with almost 50 percent of cancers, it is important to know your options when dealing with this complication. It is comforting to know that there are many natural ways to help maintain a healthy body weight in the face of disease.

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