By: Talking Nutrition Editors
Life expectancy is rising worldwide, leading to a higher prevalence of age and lifestyle-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and an increasing number of patients and older people presenting with complex medical needs. Optimal nutritional care is essential for these individuals as it helps to support healthy immune function, reduce medical complications and promote the recovery and independence of patients. However, disease-related malnutrition – a condition characterized by inadequate intake of energy, protein and/or micronutrients resulting from disease or treatment of disease – is common in many clinical conditions and can lead to poorer prognosis. As such, medical nutrition products – like oral nutritional supplements or enteral nutrition – may be required to address nutritional deficiencies in vulnerable patients, giving them the best possible clinical outcomes.
A newly published paper explores the mounting body of scientific evidence linking eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) intake to patient health and how these ingredients support older persons and patients1. With the available research, the expert panel concluded that provision of oral nutritional supplements, or enteral and parenteral formulas containing EPA and DHA may help to support a number of patient populations in a variety of therapeutic areas.
Here, we highlight the key conclusions and scientific insights published in the paper.
Chronic inflammation is usually present in individuals with NCDs. Supporting the resolution of inflammation and ensuring it is properly regulated in the body is therefore considered to be appropriate in the management of disease. The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are known to play a role in human health and normal immune function, with one of their primary actions being to reduce inflammation and promote its resolution.1,2,3 Research shows that this broad action helps to reduce medical complications and support the nutritional needs of patients in many different therapeutic areas.4,5,6,7 In the new publication, the expert panel identified a role for EPA and DHA nutrition in a number of patient populations and medical conditions, including cognitive health, age-related decline in muscle mass, cancer, surgical patients and critically ill patients.8,9,10 As a result, adequate supply of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids should be seen as a critical component in the nutritional management of patients presenting with these conditions.
Despite the promising findings shared here, the currently available research is limited and inconsistent, due to variations in dosage, timing and duration of supplementations, baseline nutritional status, clinical state and medication use. For example, it is increasingly recognized that multimodal interventions are most promising for the therapy of cancer cachexia, yet most of the clinical evidence is derived from trials using only a single therapy. Likewise, it is evident that DHA and EPA play a role in perioperative immunonutrition, but more well-designed trials could provide clearer evidence for their use and confirm the optimal timing and duration. This emphasizes the need for better controlled intervention studies that will help to further define the benefits of EPA and DHA in specific patient groups and inspire the development of more personalized and effective medical nutrition products. Moreover, continued patient insights are critical in the educating medical nutrition community about the latest patient preferences so that they can manufacture more palatable and appealing medical nutrition products.
Want to learn more about the latest science behind nutritional lipids? Download our new whitepaper to learn how EPA and DHA lipids can enable manufacturers to develop concept-led medical nutrition solutions.
14 September 2020
5 min read
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