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The role of diet, nutritional assessment and intervention in the prevention of cancer and the treatment of cancer-related malnutrition.

Posted on: 21 Jun 2018

The role of diet, nutritional assessment and intervention in the prevention of cancer and the treatment of cancer-related malnutrition.



Linked Breakthrough Research Priorities: 6

Principal Investigator: Dr Aoife Ryan

Researcher: Dr Éadaoin Ní Bhuachalla 


Clinical Challenge being addressed: 

 (1) The rates of malnutrition and muscle wasting in Irish cancer patients were unknown at the outset of this project and with rising levels of overweight and obesity it is incredibly difficult for clinicians to identify malnutrition. Using CT-based assessment in a very large cohort of ambulatory oncology patients allowed us to publish a paper describing the true rates of wasting and assess various different commonly used bedside screening tools to detect these conditions.

(2) In terms of addressing these issues a clinical trial was undertaken to assess if a tube feed enriched with omega 3 fatty acids given perioperatively over 60 days could suppress inflammation post oesophagectomy and enhance recovery (body composition, oral intake, physical activity and quality of life).

(3) Finally due to a huge volume of fad diets being promoted to cancer patients both online and in books written by non experts we undertook to develop a series of resources that were evidence based and free of charge to patients. Three cookbooks were developed which all contained high-protein high calorie recipes and advise on how to maximise a poor appetite during chemotherapy. In total 31,000 copies of these books were printed and distributed throughout Ireland and also some in UK. These books have been awarded two Irish healthcare awards and we continue to receive very positive feedback from both health care professionals and patients.

(4) There is no evidence based resource for cancer prevention in the form of a lay language book with a compliment of recipes that adhere to cancer prevention guidelines as recommended by the WCRF. This project took up the challenge of developing such a resource (one for cancer prevention and one for cancer survivors off treatment and in the survival phase of their illness). These resources are almost complete and will be available in 2018.

Project Summary: 

Nutrition plays a fundamental role in both the prevention and the treatment of cancer. Malnutrition is known to be highly prevalent in oncology setting and is associated with adverse clinical consequences. This project involved describing the prevalence of malnutrition in Irish oncology patients using gold standard methods (CT scans) and developed practice based solutions to address malnutrition in the oncology setting. Additionally this project initiated the development of a series of resources for cancer patients to improve oral intake during treatment and a further resource aimed to support patient’s recovery in the survival stage. Additionally an evidence based resource for cancer prevention through healthy eating and lifestyle advice was developed and will be published in 2018.




Selected Relevant References:

Peer reviewed publication:

Ní Bhuachalla ÉB, Daly LE, Power DG, Cushen SJ, MacEneaney P, Ryan AM. Computed tomography diagnosed cachexia and sarcopenia in 725 oncology patients: is nutritional screening capturing hidden malnutrition? J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2018 Apr;9(2):295-305.


Ryan AM, Power DG, Daly L, Cushen SJ, Ní Bhuachalla Ē, Prado CM. Cancer-associated malnutrition, cachexia and sarcopenia: the skeleton in the hospital closet 40 years later. Proc Nutr Soc. 2016 May;75(2):199-211. 


Daly LE, Ní Bhuachalla ÉB, Power DG, Cushen SJ, James K, Ryan AM. Loss of skeletal muscle during systemic chemotherapy is prognostic of poor survival in patients with foregut cancer. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2018 Apr;9(2):315-325.



Making the Most of Every Bite. 
Ryan AM, Ni Bhuachalla E, Holy J, O'Connor A. (2018) Making the Most of Every Bite. Cork: Cityprint Cork, 2018


Nourishing Your Body during Pancreatic Cancer Treatment. 
Ryan AM, Ni Bhuachalla E, Healy J, Power DG (2017) Nourishing Your Body during Pancreatic Cancer Treatment. Ireland: Cityprint, Cork, 2017. 


Good Nutrition for Cancer Recovery. 
Ryan AM, Ni Bhuachalla E, Power DG, O'Connor A (2014) Good Nutrition for Cancer Recovery. Cork City: Cityprint, 2014




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