Cancer Active
Cancer Prevention Cancer Treatment Support Us Online Shop
Chris Woolmams / Catherine Woollams
Managing cachexia

Q: How should a very thin (underweight) cancer patient manage their diet when having chemotherapy; do they need to gain weight and if so how would they do it without following the NHS advice to eat lots of dairy, cheeseburgers and feast on biscuits, cake and slabs of chocolate! They are particularly concerned about giving me chemotherapy and a risk of cachexia. Can I manage cachexia to minimize my risk? I´d be grateful if you could point me in the right direction.

A: There are two parts to this answer, and both come straight out of research:

a) Reducing the risk of cachexia 

Hospitals, particularly in the UK, are afraid of cancer patients dying of cachexia. What is this?  Cachexia is when the chemotherapy drug actually causes severe weight loss and this leads to death. And we can´t have people dying from the drug, can we? So dieticians (who are rushed off their feet in UK Hospitals) produce booklets encouraging patients to eat cheeseburgers, sugary and milky foods and ´feed themselves up´! This advice feeds the very cancer you are trying to kill off, it is the opposite of new recommendations in America (to eat nutritiously), it is the opposite of general UK ´Healthy eating´ guide lines, and it is totally opposed to the latest research on the benefits of, say, fasting which can stop a cancer progressing and Calorie Restriction with radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Preventing cachexia - It has now been shown in research that consuming fish oils helps prevent cachexia in lung cancer patients (and I am pretty sure this could be widely extrapolated to include most, if not all, cancers).

Boston College biology Professor Dr Seyfried goes further. He has shown that attacked cancer cells produce the pre-cursor agent for cachexia because of their glucose-burning activity, and fish oils can stop this: ‘It is important to recognize that pro-cachexia molecules such as proteolysis-inducing factor are released from the tumor cells into the circulation and contribute to the cachexia phenotype. By targeting the glycolytically active tumor cells that produce pro-cachexia molecules, restricted diet therapies can potentially reduce tumor cachexia. These therapies could be supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids, which can also reduce the cachexia phenotype. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil also have the benefit of maintaining low glucose while elevating ketone levels. Once the tumor becomes managed, individuals can increase caloric consumption to achieve weight gain’.

b) Using a good diet and managing cachexia

The fact is that the normal hospital dietician recommendations to eat sugary and fatty foods are actually not just wrong, they are dangerous!

For example, common sugar actually feeds cancer cells - they are inflexible. They MUST have glucose, and that is why they have large numbers of insulin receptor sites on their membranes.

For example, saturated fat is linked to an increased risk of cancer, and when people have cancer and consume high levels of saturated fat they get more metastases and lowered survival. So much for the NHS ´Diet for chemotherapy´ recommendations designed to reduce cachexia risk!!! 

The basic principles of a good anti-cancer diet and managing cachexia are:

1. Eat nutritiously - avoiding all empty calories, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, salt, bought fruit juices, refined food and packaged, prepared food. 

Go to: 20 links between sugar and cancer 

2. Eat 6 small to medium meals a day, not one or two big ones. Graze

3. Eat colourful vegetables across the week, and supplement with quality bioactive supplements.

4. Eat plenty of good fats like extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, nuts, fish oils and avocados.

5. If you have to eat carbs, eat low glycaemic carbs - whole grains, whole oats, whole root vegetables. Please do not juice fruits and use during the day.

6. Eat quality fresh meat (for example, organic chicken) and fish, never preserved, or dried meats..

7. Avoid all ´bad´ fats, saturated fats, trans fats and cows´ dairy. They can make your cancer worse. Go to: Saturated fat consumption and cancer, metastases and survival 

8. Nourish your healthy body, not the cancer - Treat your body to the good things in life.

So, for example, if you want carbs, eat whole oat porridge with blueberries and flaxseed on it for breakfast. Snack on nuts and seeds. Lunch of grilled fish and salads. Dine on grilled meats and greens. Use good fats to provide your calories.

Go to: The Rainbow Diet - and how it can help you beat cancer 

The key is to be nutritious and nourishing. Less is more.

See our other relevant articles:

A Diet for Chemotherapy

The Ketogenic Diet

Fasting and cancer

The Rainbow Diet

At last - the definitive, research-based book on how to build a diet to help beat cancer. Click here to read about it.

Want the latest news on this?
Print This Page
  Search Website
Follow us on:
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter
Rendezvous with Chris Woollams

CANCERactive Website Appeal

Thank you for helping us to raise a fantastic £19,708 for our new CANCERactive website which will be launched in 2018

Select a donation amount:
Enter a donation amount:

Gift Aid:
So that CANCERactive can claim back 25p for every £1 donated, I confirm that I am a UK tax payer, who has paid over enough tax for you to reclaim this amount

Sign up for icon


Our icon magazine is available free in over 500 UK hospitals, cancer centres and libraries. Full of great articles and the very latest cancer information, you can have it sent to your own home.

Buy online

The CANCERactive Patient Group (CAPG) – Run by Patients, for Patients

  • Tell your Story
  • Start a Blog
  • Start a Diary Blog
  • Start a Discussion
  • Ask a Question

Search Drugs


Quick search for YOUR DRUG here  

Search Drugs


Quick search for a COMPLEMENTARY THERAPY here 

Search Complementary Therapies



Search Alternative Therapies

Important Notice

At CANCERactive we provide information that is already in the public domain.  It is not our intention to provide advice. It is up to the reader to decide if any of the matters to which any article refers might be suitable for them.


Follow CHRIS WOOLLAMS, the UK's number 1 cancer researcher, on his free e-news and keep right up to date with the very latest cancer information and research

 click here

  click here

click here


CANCERactive information and publications (books, magazine and leaflets)

CANCERactive compiled books

Heal Your Gut Heal Your Body

A real paradigm shift - this book will help you really understand exactly what to do to be in great health.

Click here to find out more.

The Brand new 4th edition of Everything You Need to Know to Help You Beat Cancer

"This book is head and shoulders above the rest". Geoffrey Boycott

Click here to find out more.

The Rainbow Diet - and how it can help you beat cancer

"At last the definitive book on a diet to fight cancer". Mrs BS Devon.

 Click here to find out more...

Brand new 3rd edition of Oestrogen The Killer in our Midst

"Learn how to take control of your oestrogen levels"

 Click here to find out more...

CANCERactive magazine (free in hospitals and complementary cancer centres)


Free downloadable prevention leaflets


Buy online

Donate to Us

We can only help people like you - if people like you help us!

Buy online

Fund Raising


Interested? Click here for more information

Click here to see all our fundraising events.

Click here and see what events are taking place and perhaps sponsor one of our supporters. 

Click here for other ways to raise money for CANCERactive.

Or if you want more information about our other fun activities, the Peru trek, our sky diving etc. click the button below.

Click here for our Just Giving page and see what our supporters are doing for us.

Click here for our Virgin Money Giving page.

Buy online

Visit a Catherine Corner

Catherine Wollams

Buy online

Need a Support Group?  

Find a cancer support group near you, now.
Buy online

So what is the truth behind mammograms, drug clinical trials, the PSA test and prostate surgery, and the stories you read in the press?Go to Junk Science to read the unbiased truth. Click Here.


Do you have a problem with our factual content?

If you have research which conflicts with ours, just address it to 'The Medical Board'. Ever since we started this site we have had an 'open-mind' policy and have expert oncology doctors and professors who will address your concerns.

© Copyright 2018 CANCERactive. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, contact, creation and information intact, without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit format and provided, where used to publish on a website, that website provides a link to If any other use is desired, permission in writing from CANCERactive is required.
All content and images © Copyright 2018 - Website design and maintenance by a Web design and Search engine marketing company