Tweaking dietary fat mix might boost prostate cancer survival


Men with prostate cancer may boost their survival chances if they replace animal fats and carbohydrates in their diet with healthy fats such as olive oils, nuts and avocados, new research suggests.

Men who substituted 10% of their daily kilojoules from animal fats and carbs with such healthy fats as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocados were 29% less likely to die from spreading prostate cancer and 26% less likely to die from any other disease when compared to men who did not make this healthy swap, the study found.

And a little bit seems to go a long way. Specifically, adding just one daily tablespoon of an oil-based salad dressing resulted in a 29% lower risk of dying from prostate cancer and a 13% lower risk of dying from any other cause, the study contended.

Healthier fats

In the study, nearly 4 600 men who had localised or non-spreading prostate cancer were followed for more than eight years, on average. During the study, 1 064 men died. Of these, 31% died from heart disease, slightly more than 21% died as a result of prostate cancer and slightly less than 21% died as a result of another type of cancer.

The findings appeared online June 10 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study can't say for sure that including healthy fats in the diet was responsible for the survival edge seen among men. "The main take-home message is that consuming healthy fats and nuts may have a protective role," said study author Erin Richman, a postdoctoral scholar in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.

In 2013, there will be nearly 239 000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer and nearly 30 000 men will die from the disease, according to estimates from the US National Cancer Institute.

"The next step is to plan a randomised controlled trial of these healthier fats and see whether and how they affect the prostate," Richman said. "The novel finding in this study seems to be a benefit on prostate cancer survival." She noted that there is already a large body of evidence suggesting that healthy fats help reduce heart disease risks.

An editorial by Dr Stephen Freedland of Duke University Medical Center accompanied the new study.

"We can say for sure that being obese increases the risk of dying of prostate cancer," Freedland said. "The new study gives us some more clues. It suggests that cutting out saturated fats and carbohydrates and replacing them with healthy fats can also lower the risk of dying from prostate cancer."

Findings inconclusive 

Another expert praised the new study, while noting that the findings aren't conclusive.

"This study is well-designed and offers some evidence that a diet higher in vegetable fat and lower in carbohydrates might reduce risk of premature death from prostate cancer in men with prostate cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body," said Eric Jacobs, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society. "While these results are exciting, there have been few other studies in this area and more are needed before conclusions can be made about the effect of vegetable fat or other dietary factors on prostate cancer progression."

Moreover, Jacobs said, "there is stronger evidence that smoking and obesity increase risk of prostate cancer recurrence and death from prostate cancer, giving prostate cancer survivors one more reason to avoid smoking and maintain a healthy weight."

More information

Learn more about prostate cancer and prevention at the US National Cancer Institute.

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