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We have all heard the saying before: you are what you eat.

Nutrition plays an important role in your health. When it comes to surgery, physicians primarily focus on patients who are malnourished, like someone with esophageal cancer losing weight because they are having trouble swallowing. Doctors concentrate on building that patient back up before they undergo surgery or any other treatment.

But what about the average patient who isn’t malnourished?

Dr. Lary Robinson, thoracic surgeon.

It’s a question that crossed the mind of thoracic surgeon Dr. Lary Robinson, and he became curious if Nestle’s Impact Advanced Recovery®, an immunonutrition drink, could be beneficial to those patients prior to surgery. “We started giving my surgery patients the drink,” he said. “It’s very cheap, non-toxic and didn’t interfere with anything we’ve been doing. We had them drink it three times a day for the five days before surgery.”

John Grandoff was one of those patients. After being diagnosed with a neuroendocrine lung tumor last year, he was scheduled for a bi-lobectomy to remove half of his right lung. For the five days before his surgery, he had the drink with breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Grandoff doesn’t have anything to compare it to, but believes the drink helped in his recovery after surgery. “I wasn’t as fatigued,” he said. “I had pain, but I didn’t feel as tired as I thought I would.” Grandoff spent four days in the hospital before returning home.

Robinson continued to see the same results in other patients over the course of about a year. “We found that patients were indeed going home significantly sooner,” he said. “They had far less complications and spent less time in the hospital.”

Robinson also found this benefited the hospital. The cost of caring for these patients was 16% less, resulting in over $500,000 worth of savings for Moffitt Cancer Center over two years.

Looking at the recovery drink’s ingredients, Robinson said it makes sense that immunonutrition could aid patients in their recovery. It has high amounts of arginine, an amino acid necessary for wound healing; omega-3 fatty acids that help decrease inflammation; and glutamine which boosts the immune system.

Robinson is presenting the results of using the immunonutrition drink in surgical patients at the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association in November, but is hoping the work doesn’t stop there. He is working on securing funding to expand the trial to stage 3 lung cancer patients who are not eligible for surgery and are about to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The patients would drink the recovery drink for five days before each dose of chemotherapy.

“The important thing about this study is if we use Nestle’s Impact Advanced Recovery in lung cancer patients having chemoradiation therapy and they do better both from a symptomatic standpoint and even possibly in terms of cancer cure, then we can comfortably recommend using this for others, such as patients with breast cancer, colon cancer and any other cancer,” Robinson said. “You could apply it to anything else because it’s not a new drug. It’s a nutritional supplement.”

Grandoff says he thinks it’s a great idea to expand the trial to other patients. “Drinking the drink was very easy and definitely didn’t cause any harm, so I hope others can also benefit from it,” he said.