Vegetables slow progress of prostate cancer, lessen side effects

More of a steak man? Fruit and veggies are protective against prostate cancer.

More of a steak man? Fruit and veggies are protective against prostate cancer. Photo: Getty

When men develop prostate cancer, it can seem that their biggest worries aren’t dying or having the disease spread through the body.

Of course those fears are there. But more immediately they’re concerned with two questions.

Will I ever have sex again or am I doomed to erectile dysfunction as a consequence of surgery? (Some men do prefer to let the disease run its course for the sake of preserving their sex life.

They also want to know: Am I really going p-ss my pants for a year?

Urinary incontinence is a humbling issue.

You will end up wearing adult nappies for some time, until you get the incontinence under control with exercises. If that fails, surgery is an option.

Some good news

Men with prostate cancer who stick to a diet of largely fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and olive oil tend to have a slower progression of the disease.

They also suffer fewer of the dreaded side effects.

The implication is you’ll live longer and better by embracing the wonders of salad. Every man’s dream!

A new study from the University of California, San Francisco finds that adopting a plant-based diet – and consuming fewer animal products, such as meat and dairy – is associated with a nearly 50 per cent reduction in the risk of prostate cancer progression.

The study of more than 2000 men – with a median age of 65  – investigated “how dietary factors affected the progression of their cancer”.

They compared the men in the highest 20 per cent for plant consumption against those in the lowest 20 per cent (men who consumed the most meat).

The men who ate more fruit and vegetables had a 47 per cent lower risk of their disease progressing.

The researchers made an obvious point: “This adds to numerous other health benefits associated with consuming a primarily plant-based diet, such as a reduction in diabetes, cardiovascular disease and overall mortality.”

These benefits are well known. And widely ignored.

However senior author Stacey A. Kenfield, a UCSF professor of urology, made an observation that might get a few men sitting up straighter: “Greater consumption of plant-based food after a prostate cancer diagnosis has also recently been associated with better quality of life, including sexual function, urinary function and vitality, so it’s a win-win on both levels.”

Wait … what?

Professor Kenfield is referring to a previous study she co-authored, published in February, that found all those fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains are linked to less erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, and other common side effects seen in patients who had prostate cancer.

This study was led by led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

The diet of more than 3500 men with prostate cancer was analysed, with a simple question in mind.

Did those who ate a more plant-based diet suffer fewer quality-of-life issues that arise after treatment?

The patients were sorted into five groups based on the proportion of plant versus animal foods they ate.

Those who consumed the most plants scored:

  • 8 to 11 per cent better in measures of sexual function compared with the group that consumed the least
  • 14 per cent better for urinary health, with fewer instances of incontinence, obstruction, and irritation
  • 13 per cent for hormonal health (which assesses symptoms like low energy, depression, and hot flashes).

Study lead author Stacy Loeb, is a professor in the Departments of Urology and Population Health at NYU.

In a prepared statement she said: “Our findings offer hope for those looking for ways to improve their quality of life after undergoing surgery, radiation, and other common therapies for prostate cancer, which can cause significant side effects.”

She said that “adding more fruits and vegetables to their diet, while reducing meat and dairy, is a simple step that patients can take”.

With their sex lives on the line, they just might take it.

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