We hear a lot about alternative therapies and the use of diet to control our prostate cancer. We are encouraged to stop eating red meat, stop drinking milk (especially skim milk) and increase our consumption of plant-based items. Is there any scientific rationalization for any of these recommendations? Can we expect to experience any extra control of our prostate cancer by following these recommendations?
James Carmody, Barbara Olendzki, George Reed, Victoria Andersen and Penny Rosenzweig of the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester Massachusetts authored a study “A Dietary Intervention for Recurrent Prostate Cancer After Definitive Primary Treatment: Results of a Randomized Pilot Trial.” authored a study to attempt to begin to answer some of these questions.
Their stated Objectives were to begin to evaluate the considerable evidence that diet can affect both the incidence and the progression of prostate cancer. They wanted to determine whether men who made a change in their diet, which emphasized plant-based foods and fish, could affect their quality of life (QOL) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) velocity.
This study was very small having only 36 men and their partners as subjects. Either the subjects were randomly assigned to attend a series of 11 dietary and cooking classes emphasizing the alternative diet or they received no cooking/dietary instructions.
The investigators assessed dietary intake, QOL, and PSA at baseline, after intervention (11 weeks), and 3 months after intervention.
The intervention group showed significant reductions in the consumption of saturated fat and increased consumption of vegetable proteins with accompanying reductions in animal proteins, including dairy products. They reported a significantly increased QOL.
No significant change was found in the rate of PSA increase between the two groups, but the mean PSA doubling time for the intervention group was substantially longer at the 3-month follow-up visit than that of the controls.
The men with an increasing PSA level after primary treatment were able to experience a benefit to their QOL by using a plant-based diet and limitation their consumption of milk. No significant difference was found in the log PSA slope between the two groups; however, the PSA doubling time increased substantially in the intervention group compared with that in the controls.
This study clearly calls attention to the fact that future, larger trials should examine the effect of the prostate-healthy diet with a larger sample of men over a longer period. However, while waiting for these studies it seems to me to be an excellent idea to modify our diets now. It would probably improve our quality of life and might also have an effect on our PSA progression. Even if this does not prove out in the future, you have lost nothing. It is a win-no gain situation, so why not modify your diet.
Joel T Nowak MA, MSW
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