New Research on Body Composition and Chemotherapy

We’ve talked about the importance of body composition in previous blog posts, however, new research on how body composition affects cancer treatments and even survival has emerged that’s important to discuss.

So, how important is body composition in cancer? Well, not only have we seen links with high body fat and increased cancer occurrence and recurrence, but now, recent evidence has shown that body composition even has an effect on how you may tolerate and respond to treatment. A recent study of women with breast cancer going through chemotherapy found women with high body fat had more side effects and more worrisome, their treatment was less effective.

Adding to the fact that people going through chemotherapy tend to gain body fat and lose muscle mass, this new research points to needing a proactive approach to reducing body fat and preserving muscle mass – both going into treatment and maintaining muscle mass once treatment is complete. We have seen in the past that loss of muscles mass, sometimes like the losses seen during chemotherapy, is correlated with poorer survival outcomes.

While this can sound depressing and overwhelming, there is hope because wherever you are in your treatment, working to improve your body composition is valuable and achievable. Knowledge is power and with education and support, you can work towards a healthier body composition, leading to improved survival outcomes. Nutrition, exercise and sleep, what we call our three pillars of health, play a key role in body composition, cancer and survival. Getting more vegetables, moving daily for at least 30 minutes and aiming for 7-9 hours a night, are steps in the right direction.

Want to learn more about your body composition and how it relates to you and cancer? Our naturopathic doctors at the CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre are here and ready to educate you on all the potential healthy changes you can make!

Dr. Rick Bhim, ND

Naturopathic Resident