Could a simple dietary change be the key to preventing prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is a serious concern for many men, with over 200,000 new cases diagnosed annually in the United States.
A new study suggests that there may be a dietary solution to this problem - the Mediterranean diet. With its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, the Mediterranean diet has long been praised for its health benefits.
Researchers have found that following this diet may also help prevent prostate cancer. This article will examine the study's findings and what they could mean for men's health.
Did You Know?
Your genes hold precious clues about your nutritional needs and dietary requirements. They influence how you respond to various diets, including the Mediterranean diet. Learn more:
What Is The Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) is based on traditional food that people in countries like Greece, Italy, France, and Spain (along the Mediterranean coast) ate during the 1960s.
An American physiologist named Ancel Keys was the first to introduce the Mediterranean diet.
His most famous work was the Seven Countries Study, which highlighted how saturated fats and cholesterol levels increase Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) risk.
Until his lifetime, he championed the Mediterranean diet, promoting it for its health benefits.
In generic terms, this diet includes abundant fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and seafood and avoids processed food, sugar, saturated fat, and refined grains.
People living along the MedDiet are reported to enjoy a healthier and more active lifestyle. Nutritional experts attribute these benefits to their everyday diet style.
Components Of The Diets
The Mediterranean diet is high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and monounsaturated fats.
A typical MedDiet may contain the following elements.
|Olive oil||With every meal|
|Vegetables||2+ servings with every meal|
|Fruits||1-2 servings with every meal|
|Cereals and whole grains||1-2 servings with every meal|
|Nuts||1-2 servings with every meal|
|Red meat||Less than two servings/week|
|Sweets/desserts||Less than two servings/week|
When the MedDiet components are added to a food pyramid, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, and seafood will top the charts.
Red meat, refined sugar, and processed foods would be at the bottom.
Health Benefits Of The Diet
The MedDiet may support heart health and reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
A 2021 randomized controlled trial reports that long-term consumption of the MedDiet may help slow down plaque buildup in the arteries, bringing down the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
A 2022 review study reports that a MedDiet helps bring down the risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases and also supports glycemic control.
A 2021 study reports that adhering to a MedDiet for an extended period increases gray matter volume in the brain, improves memory, and reduces the risk of cognitive decline.
A 2014 study analyzed the relationship between MedDiet adherence and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).
Cortical thinning in the brain is associated with cognitive impairment and an increased risk of memory loss.
According to this study, individuals who adhered to a MedDiet regularly had a lower risk of cortical thinning, which may have a protective effect against AD.
The presence of high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and flavonoids in the MedDiet may help support mental health.
A 2019 Australian randomized controlled trial analyzed the effects of a MedDiet on people struggling with depression.
The participants were assessed for mental health improvement and quality of life after three months of following a MedDiet.
At the end of three months, the study reported reduced depression and improved quality of life scores in those who adhered to the diet plan.
A meta-analysis study reported that adhering long-term to a MedDiet may bring down the risk of depression by 30%.
Protection Against Cancers
The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a decreased risk of many types of cancers.
A 2021 meta-analysis analyzed the results of 117 studies involving 3,202,496 participants. The study reported that higher adherence to a MedDiet lowered cancer mortality risk.
This included liver, bladder, gastric, head and neck, colorectal, and respiratory cancers.
MedDiet is a success among people wanting to lose weight because it isn’t as restrictive as other diets and has healthy and tasty food options.
A 2020 study reports that people who adhered to a MedDiet for a more extended period had a two-time increased likelihood of maintaining weight loss.
A similar 2022 study analyzed the ability of 470 adults to maintain their lost weight in 12 months while on MedDiet.
This study reports that higher adherence to the MedDiet was associated with a better likelihood of maintaining weight loss.
Blood Sugar Regulation
A systematic review analyzed the relationship between MedDiet and type II diabetes.
The review reports that MedDiet may help reduce fasting blood sugar levels and the three-month blood sugar average (HbA1c), thereby improving blood sugar regulation.
Prostate Cancer: An Overview
Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in men (after skin cancer). The prostate is a small gland in men that produces semen fluid.
According to the National Cancer Institute, about 268,490 new prostate cancer cases were diagnosed in 2022.
The same source reports that about 12.6% of men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetimes.
Can The Mediterranean Diet Help Prevent Prostate Cancer: A New Study
Men may genetically inherit the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Apart from that, dietary and lifestyle habits may also influence the condition.
Consuming the following foods may increase people’s risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Excess red meat
- Grilled and charred meat
- Processed foods
- Foods containing high saturated fats
- Refined foods
- Excess sugar
A 2023 Australian study analyzed the effect of a MedDiet on prostate cancer and reported that people who adhere to the diet regularly have a lower chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
CSIRO Human Nutrition and the Royal Adelaide Hospital conducted this case-controlled study.
It analyzed the lab reports of adult men diagnosed with prostate cancer and compared the values to a control group.
The study included 116 caucasian men diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The mean age of the participants was 71.24 ± 7.18
The study design is based on the idea that the plasma concentrations of micronutrients and trace minerals would differ for healthy individuals and those with prostate cancer.
Plasma concentrations of the following values were measured in the control and the study groups.
- Vitamin B12
- Trace minerals like selenium, zinc, iron, copper, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorous, and sulfur
The study reports that people with prostate cancer have lower levels of selenium (<120 mcg/mL), lycopene (<0.25 mcg/mL), and α-carotene compared to the control group.
People with prostate cancer also had higher plasma calcium, sulfur, and iron levels than the control group.
The study concludes that people with lower levels of selenium, lycopene, and α-carotene have a higher risk of prostate cancer.
Deficiencies of selenium, lycopene, and α-carotene may occur from a western diet lacking enough vegetables and fruits.
A MedDiet encourages the consumption of colorful veggies and fruits rich in lycopene and α-carotene and seafood, eggs, and nuts rich in selenium.
As a result, a MedDiet may be protective against prostate cancer.
Tips To Get Started On The Mediterranean Diet
If moving to a MedDiet seems overwhelming right away, here are some tips to get the diet started.
- Try choosing unprocessed, fresh meat over processed meat
- Include at least two portions of whole grains in the everyday meal
- Swap red meat for seafood and fish
- Pick olive oil instead of butter, margarine, or vegetable oil for cooking
- Have a side salad of greens and vegetables with every meal
- Snack on nuts
- Choose fruits for dessert
- Drink red wine instead of other kinds of alcohol in moderation
- Try to cook more at home than ordering takeouts
- Pick different types of cheese and use them in moderation in your diet
Other Ways To Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk
Apart from changing your diet, here are other ways to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Maintain a healthy weight - Obesity increases the risk of developing all types of cancers, including prostate cancer.
- Be physically active - A sedentary lifestyle may cause cell-level physical changes in the body, increasing the risk of developing tumors. Being physically active can also help maintain a healthy weight.
- Stop smoking - Smoking is one of the major preventable causes of cancer.
- The Mediterranean diet focuses on whole grains, seafood, olive oil, nuts, vegetables, and fruits and stays away from red meat, processed foods, refined grains, and sugar.
- A 2023 study reports that adhering to a Mediterranean diet for an extended period may help men reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer.
- According to this study, men diagnosed with prostate cancer have low plasma values of micronutrients and trace minerals like selenium, lycopene, and α-carotene.
- A Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and good fat may help replenish these micronutrients, reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Staying away from smoking, being active, and losing weight (if overweight) are other ways to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.