Cancer cachexia is characterised by metabolic alterations leading to loss of adipose tissue and lean body mass and directly compromises physical performance and the quality of life of cancer patients. In a murine cancer cachectic model, the effects of dietary supplementation with a specific combination of high protein, leucine and fish oil on weight loss, muscle function and physical activity were investigated. Male CD2F1 mice, 6–7 weeks old, were divided into body weight-matched groups: (1) control, (2) tumour-bearing, and (3) tumour-bearing receiving experimental diets. Tumours were induced by s.c. inoculation with murine colon adenocarcinoma (C26) cells. Food intake, body mass, tumour size and 24 h-activity were monitored. Then, 20 days after tumour/vehicle inoculation, the animals were killed and muscle function was tested ex vivo. Tumour-bearing mice showed reduced carcass, muscle and fat mass compared with controls. EDL muscle performance and total daily activity were impaired in the tumour-bearing mice. Addition of single nutrients resulted in no or modest effects. However, supplementation of the diet with the all-in combination of high protein, leucine and fish oil significantly reduced loss of carcass, muscle and fat mass (loss in mass 45, 52 and 65% of TB-con, respectively (P<0.02)) and improved muscle performance (loss of max force reduced to 55–64% of TB-con (P<0.05)). Moreover, total daily activity normalised after intervention with the specific nutritional combination (50% of the reduction in activity of TB-con (P<0.05)). In conclusion, a nutritional combination of high protein, leucine and fish oil reduced cachectic symptoms and improved functional performance in cancer cachectic mice. Comparison of the nutritional combination with its individual modules revealed additive effects of the single components provided
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