Can plant-based diets lower your risk of prostate cancer?

New research provides encouraging evidence.

Want to eat healthier while helping save the planet? Try going vegetarian. You can avoid supporting the livestock industry, which emits a lot of greenhouse gases, and the foods you eat lower your chances of developing heart disease and diabetes.

A plant-based diet is also associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers. But what about prostate cancer specifically?

Earlier this year, researchers published the results of a comprehensive review of the literature on plant-based diets and prostate cancer risk. In addition to benefits for cardiovascular health and quality of life, they concluded that a plant-based diet may improve prostate cancer outcomes.

Plants contain many anti-cancer compounds such as flavonoids, tannins and resveratrol. On the other hand, cooking meat (especially red meat and processed meat) creates two types of carcinogens. Heterocyclic amines produced when frying in a frying pan and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons produced by grilling and barbecuing.

The researchers behind this new review evaluated 32 studies assessing associations between a plant-based diet and reduced prostate cancer risk. One-third of the studies were observational studies, meaning the studies relied on pre-existing information contained in databases and health registries. The remaining studies were interventional. Subjects enrolled in these studies were prostate cancer patients who were followed over time to see if dietary changes, exercise, stress management, and other lifestyle interventions lead to better outcomes. .

In general, these studies leaned towards the beneficial effects of consuming a plant-based diet. And 60% of intervention studies reported a slower rise in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in plant eaters compared to meat eaters. An elevated PSA suggests that prostate cancer is worsening or recurring in men who have already been treated for this disease.

Commentary and context

In addition to improving overall health and delaying the need for additional prostate cancer treatment in plant eaters, the review authors singled out the evidence for PSA, suggesting that a vegetarian diet is protective. However, large clinical trials are still needed to confirm the association, said a urologist and director of the Center for Integrative Cancer and Lifestyle Research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. One Dr. Stephen Friedland warned.

In a follow-up editorial this October, Dr. Friedland and co-authors highlighted the shortcomings of existing data. For example, the intervention studies cited in recent review papers were small (less than 100 subjects each), had a follow-up period of less than 1 year, and some studies detected an association between the prostate and prostate cancer. Observational evidence is largely inconsistent, given that it did not. Cancer risks and a vegetarian diet were included, while others had mixed results.

Yet another problem is the lack of consensus on what constitutes a plant-based diet. Various. In fact, one of the interventions cited in the review was described as “increasing plant-based foods and oily fish, and reducing or eliminating land animal-based proteins.”

“What the field really needs are more rigorously designed and well-controlled randomized clinical trials,” says Dr. Friedland. “We need to sort out whether the diet is really protective or if vegetarians and vegans are just more health conscious in other ways. Do they have better access to health care? Do they live in places with better air quality? These are the questions we need to answer.”

Despite these limitations, Dr. Freedland explained that the evidence linking vegetarianism to a reduced risk of prostate cancer is intriguing and encouraging. In the meantime, he advises avoiding obesity is the best lifestyle strategy for reducing cancer risk overall. “That’s where we have the best evidence,” he says. say.

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