Dietary Intervention May Help Reduce Chronic Fatigue, Improve Quality of Life for Cancer Survivors

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Researchers have discovered that dietary interventions may help reduce fatigue, improve diet quality, and lead to an overall better quality of life for cancer survivors, according to a new study published by Weinhold et al in Nutrition and Cancer


For many cancer survivors, the side effects of treatment may remain long after they are declared cancer-free. Chronic fatigue is the most common long-term symptom among the more than 18 million cancer survivors in the United States.

“Inflammation may be one of the factors that contributes to long-term, persistent fatigue. And because diet is so heavily associated with chronic inflammation, it really makes sense to investigate diet [as] a possible treatment for fatigue,” highlighted lead study author Tonya Orchard, PhD, Associate Professor of Human Sciences at Ohio State University and a researcher at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center–Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC–James). 

Study Methods and Results

In this new, small study, researchers met virtually with lymphoma survivors for 3 months, starting with small changes and swaps in the patients’ diets, introducing a new food group each week. Diet plans were personalized for each patients’ food preferences and cooking ability to build habits they were capable of sticking with and to integrate a range of beneficial nutrients from foods like whole grains, colorful fruits and vegetables, and fatty fish. Ten patients were enrolled in the study; nine attended all sessions and completed the intervention.

The researchers monitored the patients’ fatigue symptoms and food intake through self-reported patient checklists, and followed up with them to ensure that each patient was given the greatest opportunity to continue eating foods that helped them improve their quality of life. By the end of the study, the vast majority of participants successfully met their goals for various whole foods categories, and seven of the nine patients (78%) reported feeling less fatigued. 


“It’s important to find a wide range of nutrient sources that patients enjoy because it is thought that there may be a synergistic effect of the nutrient-rich foods working together that truly creates positive changes in our bodies long-term,” emphasized study coauthor Anna Maria Bittoni, MS, RD, LD, a clinical oncology dietitian at OSUCCC–James. “There is still much that we don’t understand about this process yet,” she concluded. 

Although the pilot study was conducted in lymphoma survivors, the researchers hope to expand the program to all cancer survivors and, in the future, to patients suffering with fatigue associated with a range of health issues and diseases.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.