No matter what phase of mesothelioma treatment you’re in there are probably times when you don’t feel like eating very much. But at the same time you may also be concerned about maintaining good nutrition and obtaining all the nutrients you need to so you can feel as well as you possibly can.
Should you consider taking a multi-vitamin?
Maybe but proceed with caution. The American Cancer Society takes an overall dim view of nutrition supplements. “Regardless of what they claim, dietary supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or relieve the effects of diseases,” they state emphatically on their website.
While most doctors frown on single nutrient supplements because of the dangers of mega doses, they generally take a more lenient attitude towards multi-vitamins.
Helpful or harmful?
Multivitamins may not help—but they also probably don’t hurt, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Taking a multivitamin during and after treatment didn’t reduce the risk of the cancer coming back, nor did patients live any longer compared with nonusers. Even so, researchers didn’t find any evidence that the supplement interacted with chemotherapy or had any other harmful effects, said lead researcher Kimmie Ng, MD, a gastrointestinal oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
“After doing this study, I now tell patients that although it isn’t detrimental to your outcomes, we have not been able to find any proof that it will improve your survival or the rate of cancer recurrence.”
Helpful during eating difficulties
Without such proof, the only time multivitamins may be really helpful is when patients are unable to eat a well-balanced diet for a week or longer. “When people experience severe nausea or vomiting as a result of treatment multivitamins are important for preventing nutrient deficiencies,” states Kim Robien, PhD, RD, a cancer and nutrition researcher at George Washington University’s School of Public Health.
But patients shouldn’t rely on multivitamins, Robien cautions, according to the American Cancer Society, because they don’t provide the calories, protein, fat, and fiber the body needs to recover from cancer treatments. She says multivitamins are only as good as the nutrients that scientists have identified and isolated in order to put into tablet form. Whole foods, meanwhile, may contain healthful components that researchers have yet to identify.
For patients unable to eat a diet with enough nutrients, the American Cancer Society suggests a standard multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains about 100% of the daily requirements. Think of it as a form of nutrition insurance. But check with your physician before adding a multivitamin to your daily regimen during mesothelioma treatment.