Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy can benefit from the appetite stimulant qualities of cannabis, according to a Canadian study.
For many cancer patients, chemotherapy gives food an unpleasant metallic taste. The sight, smell, and texture of foods can become completely unappetizing. Chemotherapy can also cause a feeling of nausea that compounds the problem, causing many cancer patients, myself included, to lose weight. Too much weight loss can lead to other serious health concerns.
The pilot study, published in Annals of Oncology, was undertaken to determine if delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an ingredient in cannabis, could improve taste and smell perception, appetite, caloric intake, and quality of life for cancer patients who were experiencing changes in taste sensation.
Twenty-one patients with advanced cancer and poor appetites were given THC or placebos twice a day for 18 days. All were undergoing chemotherapy or had in the past.
Sixty-four percent of patients who were treated with THC reported an increase in appetite and improvement in food perception. Twenty-seven percent showed no change and no THC-treated patients reported a decrease in appetite.
The THC group also reported better quality of sleep and relaxation than those in the placebo group. Patients who were given the placebo reported decreased appetite or no change at all.
In a press release, Dr. Wendy Wismer (PhD), associate professor at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada), who led the study, said:
“This is the first randomized controlled trial to show that THC makes food taste better and improves appetites for patients with advanced cancer, as well as helping them to sleep and to relax better. Our findings are important, as there is no accepted treatment for chemosensory alterations experienced by cancer patients. We are excited about the possibilities that THC could be used to improve patients’ enjoyment of food…
Indeed, cancer patients are often told to ‘cope’ with chemosensory problems by eating bland, cold and odorless food. This may well have the result of reducing food intake and food enjoyment.”
Further research is necessary, but Dr. Wismer believes doctors could consider THC treatment for cancer patients.
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