For a healthy weight, good strength, immunity, and healthy body tissues, nutrition therapy plays an important role in the life of cancer patients. Cancer may change the way the body utilizes nutrients.
Inadequate nutrition or malnutrition can restrict the response of cancer patients towards their associated chemotherapy or other treatments. Some of the cancer treatments show better efficacy if a patient is getting good nutrition, enough protein, and calorie through their diet.
Therefore, a cancer patient should take an adequate diet as malnutrition can lead to severe consequences. Malnutrition in cancer patients can occur when they consume less protein and energy as compared to the body actually needed. This might lead to sudden weight loss, reduced body fat and muscle.
Protein is very essential for us. To keep the normal flow of biochemical reactions, enhance immunity, maintain cell and tissue structure, body pH and repair body, protein is vital. The need of this macromolecule increases in people who are suffering from cancer. There are 20 types of amino acids, whose sequence decides different proteins structure and function.
Let’s take a look why it is important to consume protein in adequate amounts during cancer treatment:
- Importance of protein in cancer prevention
- Protein status during cancer treatment
- Daily protein requirement for cancer patients
- Dietary sources of protein
Importance of protein in cancer treatment
Adequate amounts of protein in the body help to heal tissue at a faster rate, maintain the muscle mass and prepared body to fight against infection. The data from certain researches also assessed the protein importance in cancer prevention like keto diet and plant-based diet.
According to an analysis, the supplementation of whey protein helps to improve the nutritional status and immunity of cancer patients who were undergoing chemotherapy. In one more analysis, it is found that a higher intake of skim milk and soy food may help to lessen the risk of breast cancer.
All these investigations point out that protein is important for cancer prevention and treatment.
Protein status during cancer treatment
- These problems of anorexia (loss of appetite) and cachexia (weight loss, muscle loss, and general weakness) can lead to a significant deficiency in protein levels.
- Further, activated systemic inflammation syndrome significantly affects various metabolic pathways. Protein metabolism is one of those pathways that is affected by this inflammation.
- Malnutrition also alters protein absorption, binding, and renal excretion of the drug. This also affects protein catabolism. The rate of protein catabolism becomes high and this can also enhance the toxicity in the body.
- Finally, the decreased protein levels in the body lead to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, enhanced lipolysis, and whole-body protein turnover. These finally result in progressive weakness, debilitation and lost lean body mass.
All these problems in a cancer patient can cause severe outcomes. It can hinder the treatment efficacy and propel a patient's life to mortality.
Therefore, it is very important for cancer patients to have adequate and recommend levels of dietary proteins. However, the required protein levels for a cancer patient is somewhat different from a normal person.
Daily protein requirement for a normal healthy person is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, cancer patients require high protein diet than a normal person.
Daily protein requirement for cancer patients
As per ESPEN (European Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition) guidelines, a cancer patient requires 1 to 1.5 g/kg/day.
The systemic inflammation, old age and inactivity can provoke ‘anabolic resistance’. This means your responsiveness of protein synthesis to anabolic stimuli got defected and reduced. The patients with normal kidney function can take protein in doses upto 2 g/kg/day. However, if the patients are suffering from chronic or even acute kidney failure, the protein intake should be up to 1.0 to 1.2 g/kg/day.
Therefore, the cancer patients should watch their daily meal. They need to eat enough protein and be physically active. To gain muscle, weight gain and increase muscle protein, these two requirements are must.
Dietary sources of protein
The sources of a protein involve plant sources, animal sources, and protein powders.
1) Protein powders for cancer patients
Whey protein is the first thing that comes in mind when it comes to protein powders. Natural sources of whey protein can be very effective in improving the nutritional status of cancer patients.
As per the outcomes of a study, whey protein supplementation in cancer patients along with decided chemotherapy for 12 weeks showed a significant improvement in immunoglobulin G and albumin levels as compared to the control group.
These outcomes facilitate the use of whey protein in malnutrition risk prevention, improving protein status, and immune system therapies during chemotherapy.
2) Plant sources of protein
According to one of the studies, plant lectins (a unique group of proteins and glycoproteins) significantly improves the immune system, helps to cause agglutination of cancer cells, and thwarts the growth of cancer cells.
Sources of plant lectins: corn, wheat, potato, tomato, peanut, kidney bean, rice, banana, pea, mushroom, and soybean.
Furthermore, as per the outcomes of another study plant sources like soy food are significantly associated with decreased breast risk cancer. So, you must include this food in your diet.
Other than these, legumes, nuts, seeds, and cereals are also good sources of plant protein.
3) Animal sources of protein
According to a study, the intake of highly processed or red meat is associated with high risk of breast cancer. Therefore, try to avoid these in high amounts. Other than these, skim milk, eggs, fish, and poultry are good sources of animal proteins.
Important note: The servings of these foods can be different for cancer patients as compared to normal healthy people. Therefore, must take in appropriate amounts under the full prescription of the doctor. Also, do resistance training, exercise or daily walking to keep your body fit and healthy.
Eat healthy, adopt healthy lifestyle and do yoga to fights off cancer