Study: High dose omega-3 protein juice shows muscle wasting benefits

By Lynda Searby

- Last updated on GMT

Image: / nicalfc
Image: / nicalfc

Related tags Cancer functional beverage beverage

An omega-3, protein and vitamin juice formulated by Norwegian biotech firm Smartfish has become the first nutrition product to demonstrate a positive effect on the disease related wasting syndrome cachexia.

A study led by Professor J Argilés at the University of Barcelona found that the juice blend had beneficial effects on body weight, muscle weight and tumour size in tumour bearing mice, and could therefore be part of a therapy for cancer cachexia. 

“Cachexia is a wasting syndrome, characterised by several mechanisms, for instance, inflammation and weight loss, and we know from previous studies and experiments that our drinks can affect all of these,​ explained Maria Öhlander, chief scientific officer at Smartfish and part of the team of researchers that carried out the study.

“We also knew from previous data what effect each component would have individually - each has a specific effect in relation to the disease. Omega-3 has the potential to prevent muscle breakdown and an essential role in inflammation, protein is important in muscle synthesis, and vitamin D has an effect on immune function. Interestingly, though, we see better efficacy of the components in our composition​ she told NutraIngredients.

Smartfish’s intention is that the juice blend will be commercialised as a Food for Special Medical Purpose (FSMP) under EU law with the working name Nutrifriend Cachexia (NFCax), for reducing and counteracting cachexia.

“We conceived this blend so that it should be the optimal one for cachexia; it contains a fairly high dose of proteins and omega-3, which are particularly important nutrients for this patient population,​ said Öhlander.

She said there are other drinks on the market for cachexia, but that Smartfish had a juice based position that set it aside.

Study design

In the preclinical trial, tumour bearing mice were treated for 18 days with either an isocaloric placebo, a Smartfish juice dose corresponding to a human dose of 4 g of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) / DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) per day (NFCax) or a Smartfish juice corresponding to a human dose of 3 g and fortified with curcumin (NFCur), with or without chemotherapy.

The results showed a clear, statistically significant increase in tibialis muscle when the animals were treated with NFCax or NFCur. In chemotherapy treated mice, administration of both juices resulted in an increase in grip force - an important measure of function in patients.

Significant findings in relation to body weight loss were also observed: both juices significantly reduced tumour growth, but despite the tumour reduction, mice given the juice blends didn’t lose any body weight as a result of chemotherapy.

“It is concluded that the administration of omega-3 and omega-3/curcumin-enriched fruit juices may have beneficial effects on muscle wasting and could be part of a multi-modal therapy for cancer cachexia,​wrote the researchers in an abstract.

The cachexia research has not yet been peer-reviewed, but Öhlander confirmed that the researchers were preparing a manuscript based on these results.

Human studies underway


This was the first preclinical study involving this particular juice blend. Two human studies are currently underway, which will test the cachaxia effect of NFCax in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

After focusing on consumer products from 2008 to 2011 Smartfish launched a separate medical nutrition arm with Nutrifriend 600, Nutrifriend 1100 and Nutrifriend Resolve. The products are sold as medical foods/Food for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP) in Norway, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Singapore and Italy.

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