Impact of fish oil and melatonin on cachexia in patients with advanced gastrointestinal cancer: a randomized pilot study

Nutrition. 2005 Feb;21(2):170-8. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2004.05.026.


Objective: The effect of fish oil (FO), melatonin (MLT), or their combination and dietary advice on cachexia and biochemistry variables reflecting cachexia were investigated in patients with advanced gastrointestinal cancer.

Methods: Twenty-four patients not amenable to standard anticancer treatment and with documented weight loss and/or decreased serum albumin were included. They were randomized to 30 mL/d of FO, which provided 4.9 g of eicosapentaenoic acid and 3.2 g of docosahexanoic acid, or 18 mg/d of MLT for 4 wk. During the next 4 wk, all patients had FO and MLT. Serum or plasma was analyzed for tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-1beta, soluble interleukin-2 receptor, interleukin-6, and interleukin-8 and the fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexanoic acid, arachidonic acid, and linoleic acid.

Results: Serum levels of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexanoic acid increased as expected with FO. No major changes in biochemical variables and cytokines were observed with any intervention. In the FO group, 5 of 13 patients (38%) showed weight stabilization or gain compared with 3 of 11 patients (27%) in the MLT group. After combining interventions, approximately 63% of patients showed such responses.

Conclusions: FO, MLT, or their combination did not induce major biochemical changes indicative of a strong anticachectic effect. Nonetheless, the interventions used may have produced a weight-stabilizing effect.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Cachexia / drug therapy*
  • Cachexia / metabolism
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Fatty Acids / blood*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage
  • Fish Oils / therapeutic use*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / complications*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melatonin / administration & dosage
  • Melatonin / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects


  • Antioxidants
  • Cytokines
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fish Oils
  • Melatonin