Nutritional guidance for cancer patients


According to a new article in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, “Consistent online dietary recommendations are lacking for patients during and after cancer treatment.” This will hardly come as a shock to many in the prostate cancer community, but an article like this one may help to initiate development of better guidelines.

Champ et al.  set out to assessed the dietary recommendations for cancer patients during and after treatment by evaluating data on the websites of 21 out of the 23 member institutions of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Their article is also discussed in a commentary on the Medscape Oncology web site that was published last Friday.

Here are their basic findings:

  • Only 4/21 of the NCCN member institutions actually included any nutritional guidelines of their web sites.
  • The authors were able to categorize data  in terms of meal frequency, diet type, macronutrient content, and other specific recommendations.
  • Half the institutions (2/4) promoted a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet recommending 5:1 and 7:1 ratios of carbohydrate to fat food types.
  • The other half (2/4) promoted weight maintenance during treatment, endorsing a 1:1 ratio of carbohydrate to fat.
  • One third of all NCCN web sites (n = 7) offered links to nine external websites.
  • 4/9 external sites provided nutrition guidelines.
    • Half (2/4) favored a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.
    • Half (2/4) favored high-caloric intake to maintain weight.

As indicated above, Champ et al. conclude bluntly that “Consistent online dietary recommendations are lacking for patients during and after cancer treatment.”

Frankly, it is high time that much better guidance on diet and other lifestyle factors (like exercise) was available to cancer patients. Such guidance clearly needs to recognize that “one size does not fit all.” The dietary guidance needed for a younger, relatively healthy, but somewhat overweight male receiving treatment for localized prostate cancer is unlikely to  have much in similarity to the guidance necessary for an older woman with metastatic colon cancer and cachexia (cancer-related wasting).

We would like to think that the new president of the NCCN will see the development of nutritional guidance as being a key priority for the organization, and we will have the opportunity to bring this to his attention in the near future.

3 Responses

  1. About time.

  2. Who are the leading doctors in the nutritional treatment of prostate cancer?

  3. Five physicians who are widely regarded as having significant expertise in this area would be Mark Moyad (of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor), Aaron Katz (of Winthrop Hospital in New York), Snuffy Myers (in private practice in Virginia), David Heber (at the University of California Los Angeles), and Dean Ornish.

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