After undergoing treatment of head and neck cancer, the patients may develop chronic nutrition impact symptoms up to one year due to difficulty in eating foods. However, those patients who followed a healthy diet prior diagnosis, may be able to avoid such nutritional problems. A team of researchers from the University of Illinois (UI) proved it by carrying out a study on 336 adult patients of the University of Michigan Head and Neck Specialized Program of Excellence. The patients were asked to fill questionnaires on their diet, eating habits, alcohol consumption and smoking habits, right before starting cancer treatment and again after one year of diagnosis. They were also asked if they experienced nutrition impact symptoms like pain or difficulty chewing, tasting or swallowing foods and liquids.
It was seen that patients who ate foods high in antioxidants and other micronutrients before diagnosis may reduce their risks of eating and digestive problems during and after treatment.
Anna E. Arthur, a professor of food science and human nutrition at UI said, "While the origin and development of nutrition impact symptoms are complex and varied, they generally share one common mechanism - cell damage due to inflammation."
Dietary habits can be classified into two major categories - Western pattern and Prudent pattern. The Western pattern includes more of red and processed meats, fried foods and sugar. Prudent pattern includes healthier foods like fruits and vegetables, fish and whole grains.
The researchers noted that patients who followed a healthy diet before cancer treatment reported fewer problems with chewing, swallowing and mucositis one year after the treatment. It was also noticed that healthy diet had more positive impact in people who never smoked and those who had a normal weight.
"The prudent dietary pattern has the potential to reduce inflammation and affect the biological processes involved in the pathogenesis of these symptoms," added Anna E. Arthur.