The effect of substitution of the carbohydrate component of the diet by calories derived from fish oil on host body weight loss and tumor growth rate has been studied in an experimental colon adenocarcinoma (MAC16). This tumor produces extensive host weight loss and reductions in both total body fat and muscle dry weight, without a reduction in food intake. Diets containing fish oil significantly reduced host body weight loss, with almost complete protection occurring when the fish oil comprised 50% of the calories, without an alteration of total calorie consumption or nitrogen intake. There was also a significant reduction in tumor growth rate, although the reduction in host weight loss was greater than might be expected from a smaller tumor burden. The reduction of host body weight loss was associated with an increase in total body fat and muscle mass. The effect appears specific to the type of fat since comparable results were not obtained with a γ-linolenic acid-enriched diet. When compared with cyclophosphamide and 5-fluorouracil the fish oil diet exerted a similar antitumor effect at the maximum dose. Whereas the antitumor effect of the former agents was achieved with considerable host toxicity, the latter produced no toxicity and almost completely abolished the cachectic effect of the tumor. These results suggest that fish oil is a nontoxic, highly effective anticachectic agent with the added advantage of antitumor activity.


This work has been supported by a grant from M. C. M. Klosterfrau GMBH, Cologne, West Germany.

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