Ask the Nutritionist
Q: Is it safe and appropriate for overweight and/or obese patients to intentionally lose weight during cancer treatment?
Dana, Reno, Nevada
A: There is controversy regarding whether weight loss is safe during treatment because of the difficulty many patients experience maintaining appropriate nutrition and weight status through the process. It is important that your body is properly nourished because of the extra energy you will be burning during chemotherapy. However, if you are overweight or obese going into treatment, a 1-2 pounds a week weight loss is usually safe during treatment.
Recommendations for every patient are going to be different and are going to depend on your cancer, treatment, and current weight. Overall, controlled, careful weight loss during treatment is completely safe and potentially advisable. Making dietary changes that incorporate more lean and plant-based proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting red meat, processed foods, and refined grains is a great first step toward reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
It would be detrimental to focus on treatment as a weight loss tool, although for many overweight cancer patients this has appeal. Rather, focus more on daily exercise and consuming ample amounts of healthful foods that will provide important nutrients and may contribute to gradual, appropriate weight loss.