• Physical Wellbeing
  • Article
  • Nutrition and Health
  • Oncology
  • Malnutrition


Addressing Malnutrition in Cancer Care


  • Physical Wellbeing
  • Article
  • Nutrition and Health
  • Oncology
  • Malnutrition

Addressing Malnutrition in Cancer Care - Nutiani's Compassionate Approach | Nutiani

Addressing Malnutrition in Cancer Care - Nutiani's Compassionate Approach | Nutiani

Whitepaper: Benefits of Dairy Proteins in the Nutritional Support of Cancer Patients


There is a strong link between nutrition and the body’s ability to combat disease.

Essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein, and antioxidants support bodily and cellular functions. Essential nutrients are particularly important during illness or when undergoing treatment for chronic conditions.

Uncovering the Connection Between Cancer and Malnutrition

Malnutrition is prevalent among cancer patients and can contribute to imbalances in body composition, including a depletion of muscle mass, which affects overall quality of life and activity levels. Malnutrition also increases the risk of a poor response to treatment, chemotherapy-associated toxicity, and post-operative complications. Patients are also at a higher risk of becoming malnourished as cancer progresses, which is often compounded by the effects of treatment. 

However, malnutrition is often under-recognized and under-treated.1,2
Cancer Treatment Leads to Diet Changes

Cancer patients undergoing treatment often suffer from treatment-related adverse events that may affect their diet and contribute to inadequate nutritional intake. 

Overall, 67% of patients report at least one sensory alteration when undergoing cancer treatment:4
  • Taste sensitivity is experienced by 50% of patients
  • Decreased taste sensitivity is reported by 17% of patients
  • More than 40% are bothered by at least one scent
Mitigating Malnutrition Through Nutrition

Careful food choices can support the well-being of patients with cancer. The latest European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) guidelines recommend starting nutritional screening for risk factors for malnutrition as early as possible and repeating regularly to allow for timely support.2


Tips for eating during cancer treatment:
Eat small meals or nutritious snacks throughout the day.
Do not wait to feel hungry,  Make it a priority to have a few bites of food every hour or so.
Include foods high in protein, such as milk, yoghurt, and eggs, with every meal/snack.
Be open to trying new foods.


For patients unable to meet their nutritional needs with dietary interventions (a balanced diet, energy- and protein-rich foods, and sufficient fluids), global nutrition societies including the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition and ESPEN, recommend oral nutritional supplements (ONS) as a first step for managing malnutrition.1,2,8–10

ONS are convenient, ready-made solutions that contain balanced nutrients, calories, and proteins. For patients who are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, they may help stabilise nutritional status2. ONS are associated with improved quality of life11 and survival rates.12, 13

Powered by our industry expertise and technical know-how in nutrition, Nutiani presents a wide range of science-backed, validated concepts.


1. Medical Nutrition International Industry. Value of medical nutrition in oncology – Evidence dossier 2020. Available at: https://www.medicalnutritionindustry.com/files/user_upload/documents/cancer/MNI_oncology_dossier_2020.pdf. Accessed October 2022

2. Muscaritoli M, et al. ESPEN practical guideline: Clinical nutrition in cancer. Clin Nutr 2021;40(5):2898–2913.

3. Medical Nutrition International Industry. Better care through better nutrition: Value and effects of medical nutrition. Available at: https://www.medicalnutritionindustry.com/files/user_upload/documents/medical_nutrition/MNI_Summary_Booklet_2018_FINAL_HR.pdf. Accessed October 2022.

4. Coa KI, et al. (2015). The impact of cancer treatment on the diets and food preferences of patients receiving outpatient treatment. Nutr Cancer 2015;67(2):339–353.

5. National Cancer Institute. Nutrition in cancer care (PDQ®) – Patient version. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/appetite-loss/nutrition-pdq. Accessed October 2022.

6. Cancer Research UK. How treatment causes diet problems. Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/physically/diet-problems/about/how-treatment-causes-diet-problems. Accessed October 2022.

7. Cancer Research UK. Side effects of hormone therapy in women. Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatment/hormone-therapy/side-effects-women. Accessed October 2022.

8. Bauer JD, et al. Evidence based practice guidelines for the nutritional management of cancer cachexia. Nutr Diet 2006;63(S2):S3–S32.

9. August DA, Huhmann, M. B. ASPEN clinical guidelines: Nutrition support therapy during adult anticancer treatment and in hematopoietic cell transplantation. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr 2009;33(5):472–500

10. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Clinical guideline 32. Nutrition support for adults: Oral nutrition support, enteral tube feeding and parenteral nutrition. August 2017. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg32. Accessed October 2022.

11. Blackwood HA, Hall CC, Balstad TR, Solheim TS, Fallon M, Haraldsdottir E, et al. A systematic review examining nutrition support interventions in patients with incurable cancer. Supportive Care in Cancer. 2020;28(4):1877-89.

12. Icard P, Schussler O, Loi M, Bobbio A, Lupo AM, Wislez M, et al. Pre-disease and pre-surgery BMI, weight loss and sarcopenia impact survival of resected lung cancer independently of tumor stage. Cancers (Basel). 2020;12(2).

13. van der Werf A, Langius JAE, Beeker A, et al. The effect of nutritional counseling on muscle mass and treatment outcome in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer undergoing chemotherapy: A randomized controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2020;39(10):3005-3013.


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