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Nutrition Column

Dietary Saturated Fat Increase Risk of Prostate Cancer

According to the 2004 U.S. National Cancer Institute’s statistic review, over 2 million men have prostate cancer in the United States. Researchers have been working to identify modifiable risk factors that may help prevent the onset and progression of the disease. Numerous studies have shown that obesity is associated with a rise in prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. High levels of PSA are indicative of prostate cancer. Because of the known association between obesity and diets high in saturated fat, a recent study in the International Journal of Cancer investigated the effect of saturated fat intake on PSA levels in patients treated with prostatectomy.

Three-hundred and ninety patients treated with prostatectomy completed a food frequency questionnaire which assessed nutrient consumption for the year prior to diagnosis. Analysis showed that patients who had diets high in saturated fat were twice as likely to have a significant rise in PSA levels. The increased risk was independent of the increased risk associated with obesity. Patients who were obese and consumed diets high in saturated fat experienced the most rapid increase in PSA while non-obese patients who consumed a diet low in saturated fat had the slowest increase in PSA levels.

Another study published in the Journal of Urology investigated the effect of lifestyle changes on the progression of early, low grade prostate cancer in men. A total of 93 men with elevated PSA levels were split into two groups: one group followed a low-fat vegan diet for one year and the other consumed a typical American diet. Alongside the healthy diet, patients in the experimental group participated in moderate exercise, stress management techniques, and a 1-hour support group to enhance compliance to the dietary changes. Six patients in the control group underwent conventional therapy because of elevated PSA levels or other signs of disease progression while zero patients in the vegan diet group required further treatment. Furthermore, PSA levels decreased by 4% in the vegan diet group and rose 6% in American-diet group.

It is clear that if diagnosed with prostate cancer, your dietary choices will significantly influence its progression. Consuming foods high in saturated fat such as red meat, cheese, dairy, and other animal products will significantly reduce the time it takes for the cancer to recur. Those foods are also largely devoid of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients which have been shown to have powerful cancer-resisting capabilities.

Written by Ryan Serrano with Eric Sternlicht, Ph.D. Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA.