Posted on by Neal Barnard, MD, FACC
Adopting a plant-based diet can create a protective effect around the prostate which can help reduce your risk for prostate cancer and slow the progression if diagnosed. In 2019, the American Cancer Society estimated there would be approximately 174,650 new cases of prostate cancer in men and around 31,500 cancer-related deaths. Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with 1 in 9 being diagnosed during his lifetime and about 1 in 41 dying from prostate cancer.
But research shows that a plant-based diet that avoids dairy, eggs and processed meat may:
- Lower prostate cancer risk
- Create a protective effect for the prostate
- Slow the progression of prostate cancer, if diagnosed
Researchers compared several dietary patterns and cancer incidence rates for 26,346 participants. Those who followed a vegan diet were less likely to be obese and experienced a 35% lower prostate cancer risk than those following a non-vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, or semi-vegetarian diet.
Recently, the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association published a review of about 50 publications that assessed diet and cancer risk. The reviewers observed a protective effect against cancer from vegan diets, especially those with increased consumption of vegetables, legumes and tomato products.
Lycopene is Great for Your Prostate!
That bright red pigment found in tomatoes, watermelon, red bell peppers and pink grapefruit may be especially beneficial to protect against prostate cancer. Lycopene is the carotenoid antioxidant that imparts the red color to tomatoes and other fruit. Men who consume two or more servings of tomato sauce per week have a 23% less risk of prostate cancer, compared to those having tomato sauce less than once per month.
Shave the Milk Mustache
Milk and dairy products are linked to an increased prostate cancer risk due to the hormone insulin-like growth factor (IFG-1), saturated fat, and dairy calcium and protein. Men who consume three or more servings of dairy products a day had a 141% higher risk for death due to prostate cancer compared to those who consumed less than one serving.
However, soy milk has shown to be beneficial for the prostate! An analysis of 14 studies showed that increased intake of non-fermented soy products, such as soy milk, resulted in a 30% reduction in prostate cancer risk!
Ban the Bacon and Eggs
Red and processed meats are associated with an increased risk for prostate cancer, and a National Institutes of Health-funded study found that in men who already have prostate cancer, eating poultry and processed red meat increased their risk for death. Eating eggs is linked to developing prostate cancer, according to a National Institutes of Health-funded study. By consuming 2.5 eggs per week, men increased their risk for a deadly form of prostate cancer by 81%, compared with men who consumed less than half an egg per week.
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Dr. Neal Barnard
Dr. Barnard leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research.
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