Importance of protein supplementation in cancer patients

Posted by Pavithra Anandan on Wed, Jan 3, 2024  
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Cancer is the leading causes of mortality and morbidity with increases in rate expected to further increases in the coming decades. There is a close relationship between cancer and nutrition. Nutrition has an important role in prevention and management of cancer. It also prolongs the life. It gives the essential elements needed for the cell survival. Providing better nutrition to cancer patient while on treatment helps to reduce the treatment related adverse effects and treatment delays.

Malignancy had an impact on food intake symptoms like; dry mouth, alteration in taste and smell of food, pain, dyspnoea and fatigue. Generally cancer is managed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy rarely by surgical resection. These treatments also affect food intake. These leads further deterioration of patient’s nutritional condition.

Approximately 40 - 80% of cancer patients suffer from malnutrition, which is considered the biggest challenge facing them. In patients with cancer, protein needs are increased as a result of abnormalities in protein metabolism, whereby protein breakdown is increased and protein synthesis rates are reduced, leading to muscle loss

One of the important nutrients that need to be supplemented in the diets of cancer patients is protein. It is essential for growth and repair of the body. Protein can provide various benefits that contribute to improves the well being and quality of life for cancer patients

  • Supporting the immune function and aiding in recovery
  • Preserving muscle mass and preventing muscle wasting
  • Assisting in wound healing and tissue repair
  • Providing energy and reducing fatigue

Protein is found in good quantity in eggs, meat, poultry, dairy products, pulses, legumes, beans, peas, broccoli, and nuts. However, the selection of foods may vary from person to person depending upon the biochemical parameters.

One of the conventional options for patients who cannot afford protein intake through diet is Protein supplements. It has enormous benefits to the cancer patients particularly helpful for patients who have eating difficulties (e.g. due to nausea) or a loss of appetite.

It can also be beneficial for patients who experience digestive issues. It is considered as one of the effective way to increase protein intake. 

They play vital role in mitigating muscle loss, supporting patient’s ability to maintain mobility and engage in daily activities .Furthermore, these supplements contribute to wound healing and tissue repair, aiding in recovery after surgeries and medical interventions.

They can help to manage treatment related side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, which often compromise a patient ability to eat and maintain adequate nutrition .By addressing these challenges, protein supplements enhance treatment tolerance and adherence, ensuring that patients receive the full benefits of their therapies .It can also support immune system a critical aspect during cancer treatment when immunity can be compromised.

Moreover while selecting the protein supplement for cancer patients look for the following features:

  • Consult the physician or dietitian to ensure its safe.
  • Select the protein type that suits patients for ex:whey,plant based (soy, pea) and collagen
  • Review the nutritional label whether they have adequate amount of protein per serving
  • Choose with highly quality and minimal additives &opt for sugar free options
  • Check for allergy status
  • Make sure it won’t interfere with treatment or medications 


By seeking professional’s guidance, cancer patients and caregivers can make informed decisions about protein supplementation, optimizing their nutritional intake and contributing to better treatment outcomes and quality of life 

Remember, a collaborative approach between patients, caregivers and healthcare experts is the key to navigating the cancer journey with confidence and comprehensive support



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