While plant-based diets are increasingly popular and have many well-established benefits for health, emerging evidence suggests they might also reduce prostate cancer risk.
A systematic review led by Natasha Gupta, MD, clinical assistant professor of urology at NYU Langone Health, and Stacy Loeb, MD, PhD (Hon), professor of urology and population health, found lifestyle modifications incorporating a plant-based diet were associated with improved oncologic outcomes in men with favorable-risk prostate cancer on active surveillance and those with biochemical recurrence after initial therapy.
“Prostate cancer diagnosis is a teachable moment, and studies show that providing counseling about nutrition can lead to sustained improvements in dietary habits among men with prostate cancer,” Dr. Gupta says.
Reviewing the Literature
The research team searched major databases for studies that included primary data on plant-based dietary patterns and incidence among at-risk men for prostate cancer, or oncologic, general health/nutrition, or quality of life outcomes among patients diagnosed with prostate cancer.
They found 31 publications that included a total of 16 interventional and 15 observational studies. The majority of interventional studies showed improvements in short-term oncologic outcomes, alongside improvements in general health and nutrition.
Epidemiologic studies primarily focused on prostate cancer risk, showing either protective or null associations for plant-based dietary patterns, while studies of the vegan diet consistently showed favorable associations with risk and/or outcomes.
“Our systematic review confirms that plant-based diets may help to prevent prostate cancer and, for patients with prostate cancer, reduce the risk of progression,” Dr. Loeb says.
Other Potential Benefits
Exploring plant-based dietary patterns is particularly timely as they have been suggested as a potential solution to current global issues including emerging infectious diseases and climate change, the researchers add.
“Antibiotic resistance is another major public health threat, and there is increasing concern about the contribution from use of antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals,” Dr. Gupta says.
“Overall, the findings are encouraging in light of the many benefits of plant-based diets for overall health, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare.”
“Overall, the findings are encouraging in light of the many benefits of plant-based diets for overall health, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare.”Natasha Gupta, MD
As a follow-up to this review, the researchers are planning a number of interventional studies.
“We’re planning a pilot study for firefighters in New York City, which would include plant-based cooking demonstrations to promote healthy dietary shifts and men’s health,” Dr. Gupta says. “Providing guidance about healthy dietary patterns is a key component of holistic care.”