Using Food to Combat Cancer-Related Fatigue

Patients in a small study who were placed on a certain diet plan for three months saw a decrease in fatigue from breast cancer treatments.
Persistent fatigue is a common effect for patients who were treated for breast cancer, and while there is no cure for the malady, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, led by Suzanna M. Zick, N.D., M.P.H., sought to determine if a diet rich in antioxidants would improve fatigue.
The randomized pilot trial included 30 breast cancer survivors, whose diagnoses ranged from stage 0 (ductal carcinoma in situ) to stage 3 who completed cancer treatments. Half (15 patients) were assigned to the fatigue reduction diet (FRD), which entailed consuming a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods for three months. They were compared to the other 15 patients – the control group – who stayed on the general health curriculum (GHC). Primary outcomes were change in fatigue (measured by the Brief Fatigue Inventory), and the secondary outcomes were: change in sleep quality, serum carotenoids and fatty acids.
There were three in-person visits between the researchers and the participants: screening, baseline and the end of the treatment after three months. In between that time, there were six telephone counseling visits—which the authors say can be a feasible intervention for breast cancer survivors in the future – and participants kept diet records every day.
“The FRD intervention improved fatigue and sleep in breast cancer survivors compared to the GHC,” authors of the study wrote. “FRD diet could provide a non-toxic treatment strategy for persistent fatigue.”
After three months, fatigue improved by 44 percent in the FRD group, compared to only eight percent in the GHC group. The FRD group also saw nearly a 50 percent improvement in sleep quality, while the GHC group so no change or a negative impact.

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