Can Diet Help Fatigue
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
JANUARY 31, 2017
We all know the many ways that food can be beneficial. It comforts, cheers, soothes, delights us. For some of us, there is an almost meditative quality to food preparation: the repetitive chopping, the stirring, the smells and sounds. Considering whether food might improve fatigue is a new concept for me. This study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health is tantalizing.
Their randomized pilot trial studied 30 breast cancer survivors, putting half of them on a diet rich in anti-oxidants and half were left to their usual habits. Those women who ate lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids felt significantly less fatigued after the three month study.
Using Food to Combat Cancer-Related Fatigue
Persistent fatigue is a common effect for patients who were treated for
breast cancer, and while there is no cure for the malady, a team of
researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, led by
Suzanna M. Zick, N.D., M.P.H., sought to determine if a diet rich in
antioxidants would improve fatigue.
The randomized pilot trial included 30 breast cancer survivors, whose diagnoses ranged from stage 0 (ductal carcinoma in situ) to stage 3 who completed cancer treatments. Half (15 patients) were assigned to the fatigue reduction diet (FRD), which entailed consuming a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods for three months. They were compared to the other 15 patients – the control group – who stayed on the general health curriculum (GHC). Primary outcomes were change in fatigue (measured by the Brief Fatigue Inventory), and the secondary outcomes were: change in sleep quality, serum carotenoids and fatty acids.
There were three in-person visits between the researchers and the participants: screening, baseline and the end of the treatment after three months. In between that time, there were six telephone counseling visits—which the authors say can be a feasible intervention for breast cancer survivors in the future – and participants kept diet records every day.