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The Prostate Cancer Diet

May 29, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Prostate cancer (PC) is a significant health threat for every aging man. Approximately 90% of all prostate cancer cases are diagnosed after the age of 55. Since average life expectancy is rising, the number of cases of PC will also likely increase in the coming decades, unless we find ways to reduce “normal” PC risk. This is part one of a two part series about advancements in the field of natural prostate cancer protection. Part two will appear next week.

The May 26th issue of the journal Cancer Prevention Research details a new study conducted at the Duke University Prostate Center. The aim of the research was to determine whether the level of dietary carbohydrates could influence the rate of prostate cancer growth in rats with PC. (1)

In order to test this hypothesis, scientists from Duke University separated test mice into three dietary groups. Group A was fed a very high fat diet with no carbohydrates (known as a “ketogenic diet”). Group B was given a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet. Group C was administered a “standard Western diet” which is high in fat and moderate in carbohydrates. None of the three diets were specifically intended to promote weight loss. Here’s the macro-nutrient breakdown of each diet:

  • Group A (the ketogenic diet) – 0% carbohydrate, 83% fat and 17% protein
  • Group B (the low-fat diet) – 71% carbohydrate, 12% fat and 17% protein
  • Group C (the “Western diet”) – 43% carbohydrate, 40% fat and 17% protein

Several key findings were established after the conclusion of the trial. These observations are based on a comparison between the carbohydrate-free diet and the carbohydrate-rich diets.

  • Several markers associated with PC risk were reduced in the low-carb mice. These changes appear to indicate a reduction in inflammation, a decrease in insulin resistance and an improvement in the ability to destroy cancerous cells (apoptosis).
  • The mice fed the no-carbohydrate diet lived, on average, 40%-50% longer than those who consumed the larger amounts of carbs.
  • It was also noted that the carb-restricted mice had to eat more food in order to maintain their weight.

Dr. Stephen Freedland, the lead researcher of the study, points out that excess insulin may promote the growth of prostate cancer cells. The plentiful consumption of dietary carbohydrates instigates the production of insulin. Therefore, reducing carbohydrates in the diet may be an efficient means of slowing prostate tumor growth. (2,3)

A human based study on the effects of dietary carbohydrates on PC is currently recruiting patients at both Duke University and UCLA. The expected start date may be as soon as two weeks from now.

Toward the end of 2007, another trial appeared in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It found that 40 mice with PC that were fed a high carbohydrate diet for 9 weeks demonstrated an increase in body weight, higher insulin levels and greater tumor size. (4)

Dr. Vasundara Venkateswaran, the principle scientist of that study suggests that “hyperinsulinemia” (high insulin production) is likely to be the culprit here. He commented that, “Our results provide support for the concept that diets associated with a reduction in insulin level may have benefits for prostate cancer patients, particularly for the subset of patients who are hyperinsulinemic”.

However, this study was not as complete as the prior one. For instance, the mice who ate more carbohydrates also ate fewer grams of protein in this experiment. It’s also important to point out that weight loss may also decrease energy that tumors need to thrive. The low carbohydrate mice lost weight during the 9 week diet. The higher carbohydrate mice did not lose weight. Having said that, the first study I presented took all of these factors under consideration and still found great success.

Finally, a January 2008 study published in the journal Prostate further strengthens the case for ketogenic diets in the management of prostate cancer. In that trial, 75 mice were fed three separate diets that were virtually identical to the first study. All three groups of mice consumed an equal amount of calories, but the low-carb animals had tumors that were 1/3 the size of the higher carbohydrate mice. The ketogenic mice lived the longest in comparison to the low fat and Western diet groups. There was also a significant amount of weight loss associated with carbohydrate restriction – up to 15% of total body weight. (5)

I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the human studies that will commence shortly. At the moment, I take comfort in the fact that I’m currently following a lower carbohydrate diet. However, I’m not putting all my eggs in that basket. I also include plenty of green and white tea in my diet, as well as regular servings of flaxseeds and tomatoes, which are rich sources of prostate protectors known as lignans and lycopene. (6, 7, 8) Please look out for next week’s column about a unique, scientifically validated and safe herbal blend that may be worth adding to your anti-PC arsenal.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Food and Drink, Nutrition

12 Comments & Updates to “The Prostate Cancer Diet”

  1. David Says:

    A ketogenic diet is not very good for metabolism in long term. I have similar opinion about very low carb diets and high carb diet, both are radical. One thing is to reduce high glycemic carbs and another radicalism of original Atkins diet (really in 90s Atkins introduced more good carbs in his originally terrible nutritional plan). In order to prevent all kind of chronic disease for me the best approach is a promediterranean diet like Zone Diet, and it is for me the best diet in order to control insulin/sugar.

    “Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets”
    CONCLUSIONS: KLC and NLC diets were equally effective in reducing body weight and insulin resistance, but the KLC diet was associated with several adverse metabolic and emotional effects. The use of ketogenic diets for weight loss is not warranted.

    Regards from mediterranean Europe, JP.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful contribution, David. 🙂

    I’m in agreement with you about reducing/eliminating high glycemic carbs. What remains to be seen is whether a Zone style diet is as effective (or perhaps equally or more effective) as compared to a ketogenic diet in relation to prostate cancer management.

    Maybe in the future such studies will also be conducted. I’ll be on the lookout for them!

    Be well!


  3. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    Just learned that a friend is paralyzed with brain cancer. While researching for her illness I found this article on the ketogenic diet and brain cancer. http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/2/1/30

  4. JP Says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about your friend, Iggy.

    Thank you for sharing the link.

    Be well.


  5. Margaret Says:

    What a great blog!I had a great-great grandfather(died at 113) who was a proponent of holistic medicine and was a spokeperson for it way back in 1800s.I have an old newspaper article featuring him at about 100 speaking at a town meeting decades ago.I will fax it to Jodi who knows you.Best regards,Margaret

  6. JP Says:

    Thanks, Margaret!

    I’ll look forward to reading it. Your great-great grandfather sounds like an incredibly inspiring guy!

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update: Coffee may reduce prostate cancer risk in a dose dependent manner …


    Nutr Cancer. 2015 Feb 23:1-9.

    Coffee Consumption and Prostate Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies.

    This meta-analysis was conducted to assess the association between coffee consumption and prostate cancer risk. Thirteen cohort studies with 34,105 cases and 539,577 participants were included in the meta-analysis. The summary relative risks (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for different coffee intake levels were calculated. Dose-response relationship was assessed using generalized least square trend estimation. The pooled RR for the highest vs. lowest coffee intake was 0.90 (95% CI: 0.85-0.95), with no significant heterogeneity across studies (P = 0.267; I2= 17.5%). The dose-response analysis showed a lower cancer risk decreased by 2.5% (RR = 0.975; 95% CI: 0.957-0.995) for every 2 cups/day increment in coffee consumption. Stratifying by geographic region, there was a statistically significant protective influence of coffee on prostate cancer risk among European populations. In subgroup analysis of prostate cancer grade, the summary RRs were 0.89 (95% CI: 0.83-0.96) for nonadvanced, 0.82 (95% CI: 0.61-1.10) for advanced and 0.76 (95% CI: 0.55-1.06) for fatal diseases. Our findings suggest that coffee consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer and it also has an inverse association with nonadvanced prostate cancer. Because of the limited number of studies, more prospective studies with large sample size are needed to confirm this association.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Update 06/06/15:


    Cancer. 2015 May 18.

    A phase I trial of mushroom powder in patients with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer: Roles of cytokines and myeloid-derived suppressor cells for Agaricus bisporus-induced prostate-specific antigen responses.

    BACKGROUND: Each year in the United States, nearly 50,000 prostate cancer patients exhibit a rise in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, which can indicate disease recurrence. For patients with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer, we evaluated the effects of white button mushroom (WBM) powder on serum PSA levels and determined the tolerability and biological activity of WBM.

    METHODS: Patients with continuously rising PSA levels were enrolled in the study. Dose escalation was conducted in cohorts of 6; this ensured that no more than 1 patient per cohort experienced dose-limiting toxicity (DLT). The primary objective was to evaluate treatment feasibility and associated toxicity. The secondary objectives were to determine WBM’s effect on serum PSA/androgen levels; myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs); and cytokine levels.

    RESULTS: Thirty-six patients were treated; no DLTs were encountered. The overall PSA response rate was 11%. Two patients receiving 8 and 14 g/d demonstrated complete response (CR): their PSA declined to undetectable levels that continued for 49 and 30 months. Two patients who received 8 and 12 g/d experienced partial response (PR). After 3 months of therapy, 13 (36%) patients experienced some PSA decrease below baseline. Patients with CR and PR demonstrated higher levels of baseline interleukin-15 than nonresponders; for this group, we observed therapy-associated declines in MDSCs.

    CONCLUSIONS: Therapy with WBM appears to both impact PSA levels and modulate the biology of biochemically recurrent prostate cancer by decreasing immunosuppressive factors.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update 07/14/15:


    PeerJ. 2015 Jul 2;3:e1080.

    A pilot study to investigate if New Zealand men with prostate cancer benefit from a Mediterranean-style diet.

    Carcinoma of the prostate is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy and the third leading cause of mortality in New Zealand men, making it a significant health issue in this country. Global distribution patterns suggest that diet and lifestyle factors may be linked to the development and progression of this cancer. Twenty men with diagnosed prostate cancer adhered to a Mediterranean diet, with specific adaptations, for three months. Prostate-specific antigen, C-reactive protein and DNA damage were evaluated at baseline and after three months of following the diet. Dietary data were collated from diet diaries and an adaptation of a validated Mediterranean diet questionnaire. A significant reduction in DNA damage compared to baseline was apparent, with particular benefit noted for overall adherence to the diet (p = 0.013), increased intake of folate (p = 0.023), vitamin C (p = 0.007), legumes (p = 0.004) and green tea (p = 0.002). Higher intakes of red meat and dairy products were inversely associated with DNA damage (p = 0.003 and p = 0.008 respectively). The results from this small feasibility study suggest that a high-antioxidant diet, modelled on Mediterranean traditions, may be of benefit for men with prostate cancer. Protection against DNA damage appears to be associated with the diet implemented, ostensibly due to reduction in reactive oxidant species. These findings warrant further exploration in a longer trial, with a larger cohort.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 05/06/16:


    Curr Nutr Rep. 2016;5:9-17.

    Does a Mediterranean-Type Diet Reduce Cancer Risk?

    Overall cancer incidence has been observed to be lower in Mediterranean countries compared to that in Northern countries, such as the UK, and the USA. There is increasing evidence that adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern correlates with reduced risk of several cancer types and cancer mortality. In addition, specific aspects of the Mediterranean diet, such as high consumption of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and low processed meat intake, are inversely associated with risk of tumor pathogenesis at different cancer sites. The purpose of this review is to summarize the available evidence regarding the association between the Mediterranean diet and cancer risk from clinical trials, prospective cohort studies, and case-control studies. Furthermore, we focused on the different definitions of a Mediterranean diet in an attempt to assess their efficiency. Observational studies provide new evidence suggesting that high adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk of overall cancer mortality as well as a reduced risk of incidence of several cancer types (especially cancers of the colorectum, aerodigestive tract, breast, stomach, pancreas, prostate, liver, and head and neck).

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:


    Br J Cancer. 2016 Jun 9.

    Nut consumption and prostate cancer risk and mortality.

    BACKGROUND: Little is known of the association between nut consumption, and prostate cancer (PCa) incidence and survivorship.

    METHODS: We conducted an incidence analysis and a case-only survival analysis in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study on the associations of nut consumption (updated every 4 years) with PCa diagnosis, and PCa-specific and overall mortality.

    RESULTS: In 26 years, 6810 incident PCa cases were identified from 47 299 men. There was no association between nut consumption and being diagnosed with PCa or PCa-specific mortality. However, patients who consumed nuts five or more times per week after diagnosis had a significant 34% lower rate of overall mortality than those who consumed nuts less than once per month (HR=0.66, 95% CI: 0.52-0.83, P-trend=0.0005).

    CONCLUSIONS: There were no statistically significant associations between nut consumption, and PCa incidence or PCa-specific mortality. Frequent nut consumption after diagnosis was associated with significantly reduced overall mortality.

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Updated 10/26/17:


    Front Nutr. 2017 Aug 24;4:38.

    The Mediterranean Diet Reduces the Risk and Mortality of the Prostate Cancer: A Narrative Review.

    Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in the world among men, and is the fifth most common cause of cancer death among men. The aim of our review was to analyze observational and case-control studies to point out the effects of overweight and diets components on the cancer risk, particularly on risk of prostate cancer, and the effect of the Mediterranean diet (MD) on the reduction of risk and mortality of prostate cancer. It is known that incidence and progression of cancer is multifactorial. Cancer of the large bowel, breast, endometrium, and prostate are due also to a high body mass index and to high consumption of high carcinogenic dietary factors, as red and processed meat or saturated fats rich foods, and to a low consumption of vegetables and fruits. Previous meta-analysis suggested that high adherence to diet model based on the traditional MD pattern gives a significant protection from incidence and mortality of cancer of all types. The main component of the MD is olive oil, consumed in high amount by Mediterranean basin populations. In addition, phenolic compounds exert some strong chemo-preventive effects, which are due to several mechanisms, including both antioxidant effects and actions on cancer cell signaling and cell cycle progression and proliferation. The protective effect of the MD against the prostate cancer is also due to the high consumption of tomato sauce. Lycopene is the most relevant functional component in tomatoes; after activating by the cooking of tomato sauce, it exerts antioxidant properties by acting in the modulation of downregulation mechanisms of the inflammatory response. MD, therefore, represents a healthy dietary pattern in the context of a healthy lifestyle habits. In conclusion, our narrative review allows us to reaffirm how nutritional factors play an important role in cancer initiation and development, and how a healthy dietary pattern represented by MD and its components, especially olive oil, could exert a protective role by the development and progression of prostate cancer.

    Be well!


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