Men with poor eating habits may be at greater risk for prostate cancer. Researchers are discovering more and more evidence that men who eat a diet that contains significant amounts of fat—especially fat from red meat—and higher-calorie foods are more prone to develop prostate cancer.
Study Involving Mice
A recent study used mice to determine the effect of a low-fat diet on the development of prostate cancer. The researchers observed that, in addition to regional differences in dietary habits, many environmental factors commonly associated with a Western diet, such as dietary fat, seem to promote the development of prostate cancer.
A number of other studies found that have reached similar conclusions. However, it’s important to note that still other studies have shown no association between dietary fat intake and prostate cancer risk.
Important Information about Fat
Fat is an energy source that’s composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Fat, which is a combination of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, belongs to a group of substances called lipids and can come in either a liquid or solid form.
The body receives calories from three nutrients: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Fats contain nine calories per gram, more than twice the number of calories per gram from carbohydrates or proteins. Naturally, this means that a high-fat diet is be higher in calories.
The Correlation between Diet and Cancer
Prostate cancer seems to be more common where men live a distinctively Western lifestyle. Consequently, researchers examined diet very closely to determine if it is a significant risk factor. The results of the research have yet to provide cancer researchers and healthcare providers with conclusive proof.
There is, however, evidence from some studies of a link between prostate cancer and a diet that includes significant amounts of red meat and high fat dairy products. Conversely, because fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories and high in fiber, they may actually protect against prostate cancer.
“A low-fat, plant-based diet can […] help reduce your risk [for cancer]. For optimum health, everyone should follow a healthy diet and exercise program and maintain a healthy BMI (body mass index).” stated Fred Butler, MD, medical director of IU Health West Hospital’s follow-up treatment clinic. The IU Health Proton Therapy Center in Bloomington, Ind., is one of only nine facilities nationwide which offers proton therapy, an innovative treatment option for prostate cancer.
Reducing Fat Consumption in the Diet
The body must have some fat in order to function properly. Fats contain essential linoleic acids, which control blood clotting, brain development and inflammation. Fish, especially some varieties of salmon, are high in omega-3 fatty acids and much lower in fat (and calories) than red meat. Olive oil is another healthy form of fat, and small amounts of olive oil are useful in cooking, especially when cooking lower fat foods like skinless chicken breasts and fish.
The California Food Guide offers some helpful guidelines and insights into good fats and bad fats. It also provides suggestions that can help men lower their fat intake and choose more healthful choices. The federal government replaced the Food Pyramid with a new program called Choose My Plate, which is designed to help people of all ages learn to make wiser choices with the foods they eat. It’s also designed to teach people about incorporating whole grains, fruits and vegetables into their diets, allowing them to reduce fat consumption and lower calorie intake in the process.
While there’s still no definitive link between diet and the prevalence of cancer, more and more research is beginning to indicate that this factor likely plays a large role in the development of prostate cancer. If you have an unhealthy diet, there is no guarantee that you will get cancer…but there is a chance. There’s no downside to a healthy diet, and you could be reducing your risk for the disease.