Life Extension Magazine December 2013
Impact of Diet on Prostate Cancer Risk and Mortality
By William Faloon
If the information you are about to read could be turned into a patented drug, it would be worth billions of dollars of annual sales to whoever owned it.
What’s regrettable is very few doctors provide this lifesaving data to their prostate cancer patients. A staggering number of lives could be spared if the dietary changes discussed in this article are widely implemented.
In the February 2007 issue of Life Extension magazine®, we published an article titled “Eating Your Way to Prostate Cancer.”
In the April 2003 issue, we published an article titled “Eating Food Cooked at High Temperature
Since these articles were published, large numbers of confirmative studies have been conducted that substantiate what we warned about.
This article will describe recently published science showing how eating the wrong foods markedly increase one’s risk of developing prostate cancer.
It also reveals data showing that men already diagnosed with prostate cancer who consume the wrong foods progress to advanced disease and death faster.
Cancer cells are present in the prostate glands of many aging men, yet only one in six men are ever diagnosed with prostate cancer.1,2 If one looks at what is required for a single cancer cell to develop into a detectable tumor, it becomes obvious that natural barriers exist to protect men against full-blown cancer.
Unfortunately, dietary choices in the Western world circumvent the body’s protective barriers.3 The end result is that most men unwittingly provide, through their food choices, biological fuel for existing prostate cancer cells to propagate and metastasize.
An understanding of the biological roles of diet and specific nutrients can enable aging men to achieve a considerable amount of control over whether isolated cancer cells in their prostate gland will ever show up as a clinically diagnosed disease.
The impact of the food we ingest on cell growth and death is so pronounced that it can be similar to the effects displayed by anticancer drugs—without the toxicities.
Don’t Eat Overcooked Meat
This Increases Risk of
Aggressive Prostate Cancer
Any meat (including fish) cooked at high temperatures creates dangerous carcinogens.4 Scientists looked at men whose diets included high intake of red meat cooked at high temperatures, pan-fried, or well-done. Their findings published in 2012 showed specific gene expression changes that predisposed these men to advanced prostate cancer.5 These kinds of studies show that one can exert a degree of control over their cell regulatory genes by avoiding overcooked meats.
Aggressive malignancies are those that rapidly propagate, infiltrate and metastasize.6 A 2011 study evaluated almost 1,000 men and found that higher consumption of any ground beef or processed meats was associated with an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer.7 Men who ate ground beef showed the strongest association with a 130% increased incidence. The association primarily reflected intake of grilled or barbequed meat, with more well-done meat conferring a higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer. In contrast, consumption of rare/medium cooked ground beef was not associated with aggressive prostate cancer.7
A 2011 study looked at dietary patterns of 726 newly diagnosed prostate cancer cases and compared them to 527 controls.8 For advanced prostate cancer (but not localized disease), there was an associated 79% increased risk in men who ate hamburgers, a 57% increased risk with processed meats, a 63% increased risk with grilled red meat, and a 52% increased risk with well-done red meat.8 This study corroborated others associating consumption of processed meat and red meat, especially when cooked at high temperatures, with increased cases of advanced prostate cancer.5,6
Concern About Eggs and Milk
Large-scale studies associate egg consumption with sharply increased cancer risks.9,10
A 2011 study looked at 27,607 men who developed or died from prostate cancer over a 14-year period.9 Men who consumed 2.5 or more eggs per week had an 81% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer compared to those who consumed less than half an egg per week.9 This study showed that consumption of eggs increased the risk of healthy men developing metastatic prostate cancer.
A 2013 evaluation was done using data from the famous Physician’s Health Study to identify the impact of consumption of skim or whole milk on incidence and survival after diagnosis of prostate cancer.11 This analysis involved 21,660 physicians who were followed for 28 years. Skim/low fat milk was associated with increased risk of low grade prostate cancer, whereas whole milk was associated with increased risk of fatal prostate cancers. In these men diagnosed with prostate cancer, consumption of whole milk was associated with a 117% increased risk of progression to fatal disease.11 This finding further substantiates the important role of diet even after prostate cancer is diagnosed.
The take-home lesson so far is if one has an elevated or rising PSA, it is especially prudent to avoid over cooked red meats, processed meat, eggs, and whole cow’s milk.
Confusion About Omega-6 Fats
Omega-6 fats are essential to life. We are unable to make them in our body and must get them from foods.12
The problem is that Western diets have become so overloaded with omega-6s that our bodies have become poisoned with them. The typical American tends to consume up to 25 times more omega-6 fats than the healthier omega-3 fats.12
One reason we have become so overloaded with omega-6s is that in the rush to switch from red meat and other saturated fats such as lard, we have been gobbling down too many omega-6-rich foods. These include vegetable oils used in all kinds of processed and fried foods, margarine, salad dressing, mayonnaise, certain nuts, peanut butter, and even poultry, a meat with high omega-6 content.13
Commercial food companies deceivingly promote polyunsaturated vegetable oils like corn and safflower as healthy because of early studies showing reduced cardiovascular risk factors in those who consumed vegetable oils compared to animal-based fats such as butter.14
Remember that you require omega-6s to live, but not in the large quantity consumed in the typical American diet. This means you want to lower the percentage of calories in your diet that comprise of omega-6 fats.
The chart below lists foods high in omega-6 fats. Eating any of these foods in moderation is not a problem, but when they comprise a high percentage of your overall diet, your body becomes overloaded with omega-6s, which sets the stage for a wide variety of disorders. We next describe how a high intake of omega-6 fats contributes to prostate cancer.
Role of Omega-6 Fats in Prostate Cancer
Diets high in omega-6 fats and saturated fats are associated with greater prostate cancer risk, whereas increased intake of the type of omega-3 fats found in fish has been shown to confer protection.15-17
Based on consistent epidemiological findings across a wide range of human populations, scientists have sought to understand why eating the wrong kinds of fat (saturated and omega-6 fats) provokes a stimulatory effect on prostate cancer.15,17
To ascertain what happens after we eat bad fats, all one has to do is look at the metabolic breakdown pathways that these fats follow in the body, as shown in the chart on the next page (Figure 1). For example, let us assume that for dinner, you eat a steak (a source of saturated fat), potato (a high-glycemic starch) and a salad with a typical dressing of soybean and/or safflower oils (omega-6 fats).
As can be seen in the flow chart, omega-6 fats can convert to arachidonic acid in the body. Meat itself contains arachidonic acid.18 One way that the body rids itself of excess arachidonic acid is by provoking a dangerous metabolizing pathway through 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX).
It is well established that 5-LOX products stimulate prostate cancer cell proliferation via several well-defined mechanisms.19-21 High glycemic foods also promote formation of 5-LOX in the body, via activation of enzymes involved in the formation of arachidonic acid.18
Arachidonic acid, found abundantly in eggs and chicken, is metabolized by the 5-LOX enzyme to 5-hydroxyeicosatetraeonic acid (5-HETE), a potent survival factor that prostate cancer cells use to escape destruction. 18,22,23
The flow chart (Figure 1) clearly demonstrates how consuming a diet rich in arachidonic acid provokes the production of dangerous 5-LOX products, which can promote prostate cancer progression.18-23 In addition to 5-HETE, 5-LOX also metabolizes arachidonic acid to leukotriene B4 and other pro-inflammatory agents that promote cancer.24
The chart (Figure 1) on this page provides a list of foods that are high in arachidonic acid. Just because a food is listed on this chart does not mean you have to avoid it. It is wise, however, to pick which high-arachidonic acid foods are that important compared to ones you may not even realize you’re consuming.