Influence of a nutritional intervention on dietary intake and quality of life in cancer patients: a randomized controlled trial

Nutrition. 2013 Nov-Dec;29(11-12):1342-9. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2013.05.004.


Objective: Weight loss is common in patients with malignant tumors and it can adversely affect quality of life and survival. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of a nutritional intervention in cancer patients in an outpatient setting.

Methods: Cancer outpatients (N = 58) who were classified as undernourished or at high risk for undernutrition by the Nutritional Risk Screening 2002 tool were randomized into two groups. One group (n = 30) received standardized individual nutritional therapy, including counseling by a dietitian, food fortification, and oral nutritional supplements if required. The second group (n = 28) received standard care. The nutritional intervention lasted 3 mo. Dietary intake (3-d dietary record), nutritional status (body weight), physical functioning (performance status, hand-grip strength) and quality of life (European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire version 3.0) were assessed at baseline and after 6 wk and 3 mo. An additional follow-up assessment was carried out 3 mo post-intervention.

Results: Nutritional intervention led to a significantly higher average energy and protein intake in the nutritional therapy group (+379 kcal; 95% confidence interval [CI], 117-642; P = 0.007, respectively; +10.4 g; 95% CI, 2.3-18.5; P = 0.016). However, the increased dietary intake was not associated with improvements in nutritional status, physical functioning, or quality of life.

Conclusions: Individual nutritional counseling significantly and positively influenced energy and protein intake, but did not improve nutritional or physical outcome or quality of life. These results indicate that nutritional therapy alone is of limited efficacy in cancer patients whose nutritional status has already deteriorated.

Keywords: Cachexia; Dietary counseling; Malnutrition; Nutritional risk; Screening; Tumor; Undernutrition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Energy Intake*
  • Female
  • Food, Fortified
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Nutritionists
  • Quality of Life*
  • Weight Loss


  • Dietary Proteins