Supplement Savvy

Confused about the role supplements play in your wellness plan? Here are some tips.

By Paul Van Ness

Many cancer patients hope to find a supplement program that is both simple and effective. But because there are so many different supplements available and, unfortunately, so many different forms of cancer, it’s nearly impossible to provide simple recommendations that apply to all forms of cancer. Nonetheless some shining stars have been scientifically shown to have anticancer potential and are also generally considered safe. Read on.

Getting Proper Nutrients

It can be difficult to get enough nutrients from food in our daily diet. The reasons for this vary but include poor food quality resulting from soil depletion and processing, and food preparation techniques that deplete nutrients. Even people with relatively healthy diets may be deficient in certain nutrients.

This issue is compounded for some cancer patients. Cancer hijacks nutrients, leaving healthy tissues depleted. Plus, many cancer patients experience loss of appetite or have digestive or absorption problems, especially when undergoing conventional cancer treatments. Therefore a comprehensive multivitamin or multimineral supplement can be helpful.

The following key nutrients are often recommended:
Green tea. Ingested as a beverage or supplement, green tea supports detoxification and apoptosis (cell death), interferes with carcinogenesis, and has demonstrated strong immune system activity.

Essential fatty acids. A variety of studies have shown these to be beneficial. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—are especially good.
Melatonin. In high doses (10 to 20 milligrams [mg]), melatonin promotes safe, restful sleep; improves quality of life during active conventional treatment; and can provide a variety of other benefits. Consult your doctor before taking more than 3 mg per day.

Paul Van Ness is managing director at Cancer Nutrition Centers of America (, which provides premium-quality nutritional supplements for thousands of cancer patients and finicky consumers across the United States.