A recent study in Germany has shown promise for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. The weight loss and malnutrition resulting from this disease could in future be treated with L-Carnitine supplementation.
Advanced pancreatic cancer, which is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, is highly resistant to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. One cause of this high mortality rate is significant weight loss (cachexia), present in over 80% of pancreatic cancer patients. This weight loss is defined at over ten percent in six months.
Cancer weight loss and malnutrition are associated with an increased risk of surgical complications and higher toxicity levels of chemotherapy. And of course this impacts patient quality of life.
Deficiency of the amino acid L-Carnitine has been proposed to cause cancer weight loss and tumor associated fatigue. L-Carnitine modulates the inflammatory response mechanisms, which is the main cause of cancer weight loss in pancreatic cancer patients.
L-Carnitine is widely available. We get 75% of our L-Carnitine from foods, those with the highest concentration being red meat and dairy products. Other natural sources include nuts and seeds, legumes and pulses, vegetables, fruits and cereals.
L-Carnitine supplementation could benefit pancreatic cancer patients
M Kraft, K Kraft, S Gartner et al from the University Medicine Greifswald, Germany, conducted a multicentre trial investigating the role of oral L-Carnitine supplementation on cancer weight loss in pancreatic cancer. Oral L-Carnitine supplements are inexpensive, and well tolerated by the body.
After a 12 week placebo-controlled, randomized and double-blinded trial of 72 patients, those receiving L-Carnitine supplements reported an increased body mass. There was also a trend towards reduced hospital stays. And in addition to nutritional status, the patients’ quality of life was also reported improved.
Of course, further trials are needed, but this preliminary data indicates that L-Carnitine supplements normalize nutritional L-Carnitine deficiency and give pancreatic cancer patients clinically relevant benefits.