According to a study, a plant-based diet lowers the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

August 15, 2022

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the second most frequent cancer in men in the United States. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a new study shows that a plant-based diet may mitigate severe forms of prostate cancer and reduce the risk of death from this disease.2 "When looking at plant-based diets, we tend to see less processed options and more of an emphasis on whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and legumes," the study's authors write. "In 2021, approximately 248,500 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and approximately 34,000 men will

"When looking at plant-based diets, we tend to see less processed options and more of an emphasis on whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and legumes," says Julie Balsamo, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian with Nutrition By Julie.

About the Study

Researchers used information from the Health Professionals Follow-up Investigation, which followed 47,239 men over 28 years, for this prospective study. Researchers sought links between plant-based diets and the incidence of advanced, deadly, and fatal prostate cancers in men of various ages. To follow their dietary patterns, the men in the study completed food frequency questionnaires every four years. For males 65 years of age and younger, the researchers discovered that eating more plant-based meals was linked to a lower risk of advanced, deadly, and fatal prostate cancer. In men over 65, no relationships were discovered.

In comparison to those who consumed fewer plant-based foods, those who consumed the most plant-based foods had a statistically significant lower chance of developing advanced prostate cancer, deadly prostate cancer, and dying from prostate cancer. Their danger was actually cut by more than a third.

"It is not the least bit surprising that this new study shows a lower risk of prostate cancer linked to a plant-based diet since plant-based foods are filled with fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals," says Rayna McCann, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN, a board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition and the founder of Happy Healthy Nutrition, LLC in Long Island, New York.

Why Plant-Based Eating Is Beneficial

A diet that is predominantly composed of plant-based ingredients, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds, is known as a plant-based diet. Plant-based diets are beneficial in preventing cancer because they contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals like carotenoids, lycopene, indoles, and flavonols, according to Balsamo. Some plant-based diets are exclusively vegan and contain no animal-based foods, while others choose mostly plants but also include smaller amounts of poultry, fish, meat, dairy, or eggs in their eating plan.

"Lycopene, the bright red pigment found in tomatoes and watermelon also has been shown to be beneficial in terms of protecting against prostate cancer," says Balsamo.

Naturally high in fiber foods include whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. According to research, eating a diet high in fiber may lower hormone levels that may contribute to the advancement of prostate cancer. Fiber also aids in the removal of toxins from the body by maintaining a regular digestive system.

"As a general recommendation, aim for at least 25 grams of fiber a day from whole food sources," Balsamo says.

How Dairy Affects Prostate Risk

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, there is only weak evidence suggesting that diets rich in dairy or calcium may raise the chance of developing prostate cancer. This information is based on older studies that revealed a higher risk of advanced prostate cancer in men who drank two or more cups of whole milk per day. More current investigations have found that this is not the case.

A systematic review on dairy and prostate health from 2020 shows that there are no official clinical recommendations regarding the consumption of dairy products for people who are at risk for prostate cancer or who have a history of prostate cancer. Research on dairy, calcium, and prostate cancer is still conflicting. More investigation is required to determine the connection

How to Add More Plants to Your Diet

Increasing your intake of plants is an excellent place to start, whether or not you also eat foods derived from animals. Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, studies reveal that the predominantly plant-based Mediterranean diet—which does, however, include certain animal foods—is also linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer progression. Therefore, you are not required to be a complete vegan in order to benefit from eating more plants.

"In my professional opinion, the ideal diet for prostate cancer prevention would be primarily plant-based, focusing on fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes with a moderate intake of lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and seafood," says Balsamo.  

Despite the fact that less than 1% of participants in the prostate cancer trial strictly adhered to a vegetarian or vegan diet, simply increasing one's intake of vegetables had beneficial effects. It's not necessary to be a strict vegan to reap the rewards.

"Start your nutrition plan where you're at," says McCann. "Try basing your meals around plant-based foods. Small changes are still changes."

Consideration of it as consuming a diet heavy in plants might also be helpful. According to McCann, some of her clients find this idea less intimidating and she assists them in preparing meals using their preferred grains, beans, and vegetables.

"If you hate kale, don't eat kale," says McCann. "Find plant-based foods that you enjoy.  It's a lifestyle and the choice is yours!"

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