Vegan diet lowers risk of prostate cancer?

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Prostate cancer is a growing health concern among men. The chance of survival is improved when it is detected early and if there is no spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). However, though early detection is better, prevention is best, and one study suggests that a vegan diet lowers the risk of prostate cancer. 

 

What did the researchers find? 

The study released in 2016 analyzed the association between a vegan diet and prostate cancer among thousands of subjects involved in a very large research study among North American Seventh-day Adventists, called the: Adventist-Health study 2. Comparing vegans and non-vegetarians, the researchers found:

 

  • Vegan diets were associated with a 35% lower risk of prostate cancer
     
  • This association remained significant after controlling for race, family history of pancreatic cancer, whether screening for cancer took place and calorie intake
     
  • This association was strongest among whites. 

 


Why does a vegan diet lower prostate cancer risk? 

The scientists give several potential reasons for the protective effects of a vegan diet. These are:

  1. Lower intake of animal protein: Less animal protein may reduce levels of a hormone called Insulin-like Growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Lower IGF-1 is beneficial because IGF-1 promotes cell growth and inhibits cell death, even in cancer cells. This is not the greatest when the hope would be to prevent cancer cell growth and promote cancer cell death.
     
  2. Large amounts of antioxidants: Plant based foods are rich in antioxidants which reduces inflammation.
     
  3. Greater intake of soy: It has been found that soy may decrease cancer cell growth, act as antioxidants, and even potentially inhibit processes at the DNA level involved in cancer cell survival.
     
  4. Lower consumption of dairy: Dairy is a high source of saturated fat which may promote insulin resistance. This in turn is linked with prostate cancer risk. 

 

Conclusion

Cancer is strongly associated with lifestyle-factors such as diet. Science is demonstrating more and more that a whole-foods, plant-based diet free of animal foods is very health promoting and has protective effects against various diseases. This study contributes to this growing understanding. 

 

 

You can read the full scientific paper here 

George Cho