n-3 PUFAs in cancer, surgery, and critical care: a systematic review on clinical effects, incorporation, and washout of oral or enteral compared with parenteral supplementation

Barbara S van der Meij, Marian A E van Bokhorst-de van der Schueren, Jacqueline A E Langius, Ingeborg A Brouwer, Paul A M van Leeuwen

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BACKGROUND: n-3 (omega-3) Fatty acids (FAs) may have beneficial effects in patients with cancer or in patients who undergo surgery or critical care.

OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to systematically review the effects of oral or enteral and parenteral n-3 FA supplementation on clinical outcomes and to describe the incorporation of n-3 FAs into phospholipids of plasma, blood cells, and mucosal tissue and the subsequent washout in these patients.

DESIGN: We investigated the supplementation of n-3 FAs in these patients by using a systematic literature review.

RESULTS: In cancer, the oral or enteral supplementation of n-3 FAs contributed to the maintenance of body weight and quality of life but not to survival. We did not find any studies on parenteral supplementation of n-3 FAs in cancer. In surgical oncology, we did not find any studies on enteral supplementation of n-3 FAs. However, postoperative parenteral supplementation in surgical oncology may reduce the length of a hospital stay. For general surgery, we did not find any studies on enteral supplementation of n-3 FAs, and evidence on parenteral supplementation was insufficient. In critical care, enteral supplementation of n-3 FAs had beneficial effects on clinical outcomes; evidence on parenteral supplementation in critical care was inconsistent. The incorporation of n-3 FAs in plasma and blood cells was slower with enteral supplementation (4-7 d) than with parenteral supplementation (1-3 d). The washout was 5-7 d.

CONCLUSIONS: This review shows the beneficial effects of n-3 FA supplementation in cancer, surgical oncology, and critical care patients. Supplementation in these specific patient populations could be considered with the route of administration taken into account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1248-65
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


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