Original Article

Supportive Care in Cancer

, 18:159

First online:

Marine phospholipids—a promising new dietary approach to tumor-associated weight loss

  • Lenka A. TaylorAffiliated withDepartment of Clinical Research, Tumor Biology Center
  • , Lars PletschenAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Oncology, Tumor Biology Center
  • , Jann ArendsAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Oncology, Tumor Biology Center
  • , Clemens UngerAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Oncology, Tumor Biology Center
  • , Ulrich MassingAffiliated withDepartment of Clinical Research, Tumor Biology Center Email author 

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Goals of work

Advanced tumor disease very often evokes excessive loss of body weight. Among others, fish oil or marine fatty acid ethyl esters were investigated for treatment of cancer cachexia with controversial results. In this study, a new formulation of marine fatty acids was investigated, the marine phospholipids, with more than 50% of phospholipid-bound fatty acids being eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid.

Materials and methods

Thirty-one tumor patients with various tumor entities suffering from weight loss were asked to take marine phospholipids (1.5 g/day) as softgel capsules for a period of 6 weeks. Compliance, body weight, appetite, and quality of life as well as the fatty acid profile in plasma and blood cells were monitored; 17 patients could be analyzed.

Main results

Marine phospholipids were very well accepted; low-dose supplementation resulted in a significant increase of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid in plasma phospholipids; therefore, significantly reducing the n − 6 to n − 3 fatty acid ratio. A stabilization of body weight was achieved (median weight change of +0.6% after 6 weeks), while appetite and quality of life improved.


These promising first results encourage further investigation of marine phospholipids in cancer care.


Marine phospholipids Cancer Weight loss Marine fatty acids Lyso-phosphatidylcholine