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Low-fat veg diet may keep prostate cancer at bay

By Clarisse Douaud , 18-Sep-2007

Eating a low-fat and plant-based diet could reduce the risk of prostate cancer or slow onset of the disease, a new study has found.

The review study, conducted at George Mason University, once again raises the issue of a possible connection between Western diets and a higher incidence of prostate cancer. Published in the latest issue of Nutrition Reviews, the article looks at eight observational studies and 17 intervention or laboratory trials on the effect of plant-based diets and plant nutrients and prostate cancer. The findings underscore the importance of making the public aware of the link between nutrition and disease prevention, or at least improving survival chances for those with disease. Worldwide, the highest rates of prostate cancer occur in the US and Sweden, while the lowest incidences occur in China and India. According to National Institute of Cancer figures, there will be an estimated 218,890 new cases of the disease in the US in 2007, and another 27,050 deaths. The reported rate of prostate cancer in the US is more than twice the reported rate in the UK, though this is said to be in part due to higher rates of testing for the disease in the US. "Comparison of age-standardized incidence rates shows dramatic international variation in risk of prostate cancer," the study authors wrote. In countries where there has been a gradual Westernization of the diet, the incidence of prostate cancer has risen. "In large population studies performed in over 60 countries, as well as in prospective cohort studies, intake of dairy products, red meat, and total dietary fat, have been found to be positively correlated with increased risk of prostate cancer," the researchers wrote. "In contrast, consumption of soy products, fiber-containing foods cruciferous vegetables, and lycopene has been reported to be inversely associated with prostate cancer risk." Some studies also found omega-3 fatty acids may slow down the disease's progression. As such, consumers need to be aware of what are the right types of fats are for their health. In the review, vegetable components linked to helping with prostate cancer, or risk of the disease, include fiber, nutrients and antioxidants. One mechanism proposed for how these components perform is by means of altering levels of hormones that encourage tumor growth. "These studies suggest that predominantly plant-based diets that are high in fiber and phytonutrients and low in fat and saturated fat, favorably influence health outcomes for prostate cancer patients," concluded the authors. Source: Berkow, Susan et al. "Diet and survival after prostate cancer diagnosis." Nutrition Reviews. Vol 65, No. 9.

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