June 12, 2017 7:03 pm
Updated: June 12, 2017 8:46 pm

Can a high-protein diet help cancer patients live longer?

WATCH ABOVE: A University of Alberta research team is looking at whether protein-rich foods can actually help patients with late stage colorectal cancer live longer. Su-Ling Goh explains.

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High-protein diets are all the rage when it comes to losing weight and gaining muscle, but could they actually help people with colorectal cancer?

Fifty per cent of colorectal cancer patients experience muscle loss. According to University of Alberta researchers, that can affect their survival time.

“Having enough muscle is very important for immune function, for wound healing, for recovery,” said Dr. Carla Prado, director of the U of A’s Human Nutrition Research Unit.

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“[Muscle] is also associated with survival. So the more muscle we have, the better we can battle the disease.”

Prado says muscle loss is linked to longer hospital stays and cancer recurrence.

Her team is now recruiting participants for a 12-week study. Volunteers with late-stage colorectal cancer will be divided into two groups: one eating one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, the other eating double that amount.

Participants work with a registered dietitian to design a personalized diet plan based on their exact calorie needs. They can also be supplied with pre-portioned lean meats and protein powders if they choose.

Participant Charlotte Povey enrolled in the study shortly after she began chemotherapy in January 2017.

The stage 3 colorectal cancer patient says she went from feeling “deathly sick” to “lots better” after two weeks on the diet.

Povey ate most of her protein in the morning, with eggs and ham or peanut butter on toast. When she felt too ill to eat, she added protein powder to beverages.

By the end of the study, the Edmonton grandmother had gained about one kilogram of muscle. She also gained energy.

“The high protein diet definitely just bumps that (energy level) right up,” Povey said. “(It) lets you go along your merry way.”

The research team is looking for participants who were recently diagnosed with stage 2, 3 or 4 colorectal cancer. Volunteers must be between 45 and 85 years of age and in treatment at Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute. Visit this website for more details. 

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