Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements on Gastrointestinal Cancer Patients after Surgery: Beneficial or Useless?

  • Zhang, Haibin (Department of Surgical Oncology, First Affiliated hospital, Zhejiang University, School of Medicine) ;
  • Zhang, Jing (Department of Surgical Oncology, First Affiliated hospital, Zhejiang University, School of Medicine) ;
  • Wang, Haiyong (Department of Surgical Oncology, First Affiliated hospital, Zhejiang University, School of Medicine) ;
  • Su, Xingyun (Department of Surgical Oncology, First Affiliated hospital, Zhejiang University, School of Medicine) ;
  • Teng, Lisong (Department of Surgical Oncology, First Affiliated hospital, Zhejiang University, School of Medicine)
  • Published : 2015.11.04


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (${\omega}$-3 PUFAs) are essential nutrients for human beings and their potential roles against cancer development and progression have become of wide concern recently. Some studies have suggested that perioperative supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may have beneficial effects in gastrointestinal cancer patients undergoing surgery, while other researchers reported contrary results. This paper reviews recent research to establish therapeutic effects as well as possible underlying mechanisms of ${\omega}$-3 PUFA actions, and to help explain possible reasons for inconsistent results from different institutions.


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids;gastrointestinal cancer;perioperative patients


  1. Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 Research G (2013). Lutein + zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids for age-related macular degeneration: the age-related eye disease study 2 (AREDS2) randomized clinical trial. JAMA, 309, 2005-15.
  2. Caglayan K, Oner I, Gunerhan Y, et al (2012). The impact of preoperative immunonutrition and other nutrition models on tumor infiltrative lymphocytes in colorectal cancer patients. Am J Surg, 204, 416-21.
  3. Calder PC (2007). Immunomodulation by omega-3 fatty acids. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 77, 327-35.
  4. Chapkin RS, Kim W, Lupton JR, et al (2009). Dietary docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acid: emerging mediators of inflammation. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 81, 187-91.
  5. Cockbain AJ, Toogood GJ, Hull MA (2012). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for the treatment and prevention of colorectal cancer. Gut, 61, 135-49.
  6. de Miranda Torrinhas RS, Santana R, Garcia T, et al (2013). Parenteral fish oil as a pharmacological agent to modulate post-operative immune response: a randomized, doubleblind, and controlled clinical trial in patients with gastrointestinal cancer. Clin Nutr, 32, 503-10.
  7. Harris WS (2007). Expert opinion: omega-3 fatty acids and bleeding-cause for concern? Am J Cardiol, 99, 44C-6C.
  8. Jiang ZM, Wilmore DW, Wang XR, et al (2010). Randomized clinical trial of intravenous soybean oil alone versus soybean oil plus fish oil emulsion after gastrointestinal cancer surgery. Br J Surg, 97, 804-9.
  9. Kar S, Webel R (2012). Fish oil supplementation & coronary artery disease: does it help? Mo Med, 109, 142-5.
  10. Koch T, Heller AR (2005). Benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in parenteral nutrition. Clinical Nutrition, 17-24.
  11. Li NN, Zhou Y, Qin XP, et al (2014). Does intravenous fish oil benefit patients post-surgery? A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Clinical Nutrition, 33, 226-39.
  12. Marano L, Porfidia R, Pezzella M, et al (2013). Clinical and immunological impact of early postoperative enteral immunonutrition after total gastrectomy in gastric cancer patients: a prospective randomized study. Ann Surg Oncol, 20, 3912-8.
  13. Miles EA, Calder PC (2012). Influence of marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on immune function and a systematic review of their effects on clinical outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis. Br J Nutr, 107, 171-84.
  14. Nakamura K, Kariyazono H, Komokata T, et al (2005). Influence of preoperative administration of omega-3 fatty acid-enriched supplement on inflammatory and immune responses in patients undergoing major surgery for cancer. Nutrition, 21, 639-49.
  15. Pscheidl E, Schywalsky M, Tschaikowsky K, et al (2000). Fish oil-supplemented parenteral diets normalize splanchnic blood flow and improve killing of translocated bacteria in a low-dose endotoxin rat model. Crit Care Med, 28, 1489-96.
  16. Quinn JF, Raman R, Thomas RG, et al (2010). Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation and cognitive decline in Alzheimer disease: a randomized trial. JAMA, 304, 1903-11.
  17. Risk, Prevention Study Collaborative G, Roncaglioni MC, et al (2013). n-3 fatty acids in patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors. N Engl J Med, 368, 1800-8.
  18. Rudkowska I (2010). Fish oils for cardiovascular disease: Impact on diabetes. Maturitas, 67, 25-8.
  19. Schmidt EB (1997). n-3 fatty acids and the risk of coronary heart disease. Dan Med Bull, 44, 1-22.
  20. Senkal M, Zumtobel V, Bauer KH, et al (1999). Outcome and cost-effectiveness of perioperative enteral immunonutrition in patients undergoing elective upper gastrointestinal tract surgery: a prospective randomized study. Arch Surg, 134, 1309-16.
  21. Sorensen LS, Thorlacius-Ussing O, Schmidt EB, et al (2014). Randomized clinical trial of perioperative omega-3 fatty acid supplements in elective colorectal cancer surgery. Br J Surg, 101, 33-42.
  22. Sultan J, Griffin SM, Di Franco F, et al (2012). Randomized clinical trial of omega-3 fatty acid-supplemented enteral nutrition versus standard enteral nutrition in patients undergoing oesophagogastric cancer surgery. Br J Surg, 99, 346-55.
  23. Tsekos E, Reuter C, Stehle P, et al (2004). Perioperative administration of parenteral fish oil supplements in a routine clinical setting improves patient outcome after major abdominal surgery. Clin Nutr, 23, 325-30.
  24. Vaughan VC, Hassing MR, Lewandowski PA (2013). Marine polyunsaturated fatty acids and cancer therapy. Br J Cancer, 108, 486-92.
  25. Wei Z, Wang W, Chen J, et al (2014). A prospective, randomized, controlled study of omega-3 fish oil fat emulsion-based parenteral nutrition for patients following surgical resection of gastric tumors. Nutr J, 13, 25.
  26. Xin W, Wei W, Li X (2012). Effects of fish oil supplementation on cardiac function in chronic heart failure: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Heart, 98, 1620-5.