Short-term omega-3 supplementation in postsurgical gastrointestinal cancer patients improved post-operative indicators of immune function, inflammation, and other postoperative outcomes, according to meta-analysis of 16 randomized controlled trials. This is significant, the researchers point out, because gastrointestinal cancer patients often have a poor prognosis due to malnutrition and poor immune function manifesting from a lack of appetite, digestive problems, and malabsorption of nutrients. Levels of inflammatory cytokines went down as well—specifically, interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), and C-reactive protein (CRP), all of which play an important role in the body’s response to tissue injury and inflammation in early trauma. Researchers explain that reducing the release of TNF-alpha and IL-6 can reduce damage to the immune system, thus improving immune function.
The meta-analysis also found that lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, were significantly higher in the omega-3 group, improving the body’s defenses. These physiological changes translated into a real-life benefit, as there was a significantly lower incidence of complications from infection in the omega-3 group.