Inflammation, Insulin, and Prostate Cancer

March 7, 2021

Two recent studies conducted from separate teams at both Harvard University and the University of Texas Cancer Center show a similar link between diet and prostate cancer. What diets specifically? Dr. Benjamin Fu, leading the Harvard team, focused on hyperinsulinemic and inflammatory diets. Dr. Justin Gregg and the University of Texas team had findings on the Mediterranean diet. These diets showed association with aggressive prostate cancer (PCa).

Dr. Fu’s team followed over 41,000 men between 1968 and 2014. Both hyperinsulinemic diets and inflammatory diets were significantly associated with early onset aggressive or lethal PCa (early onset meaning before the age of 65). Dr. Fu stated that, “Avoiding dietary patterns with hyperinsulemic or inflammatory potential may be beneficial for the prevention of clinically relevant prostate cancer, especially among younger men.”

Dr. Gregg’s team studied over 400 men who were on active surveillance for prostate cancer. They found that an adherence to a Mediterranean diet decreased the risk for the cancer’s progression.

So… what are these diets?

Diet to avoid hyperinsulinemia:

This is a diet focused around whole, fresh foods that are high in fiber and have a low glycemic index. Examples include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Carbohydrate intake should be moderately low, at around 45% to 65% of the total daily calorie intake, with a focus on high fiber carbohydrates. Saturated fats (fats from animal protein and dairy) should be avoided, while healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fats should make up around 25% to 35% of daily calories. Good sources of of these fats include nuts, avocados and olive oil, and fish. Protein should make up 12% to 20% of the daily calorie intake, with legumes, fish and lean chicken being examples of good sources.

This diet avoids red or fatty meats, dairy, sugary foods, and processed foods. Additionally, high glycemic foods to avoid include processed carbohydrates, fried foods, sweets like cakes and cookies, and dried fruits.

Anti-inflammatory diet:

While not as specific as the hyperinsulinemic diet, this diet is focused on whole fresh foods as well. This means fruits and vegetables, foods containing omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon or walnuts), whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, and herbs. Some specific examples of anti-inflammatory foods include: tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables like spinach or kale, nuts like almonds and walnuts, fatty fish like mackerel and tuna, and fruits like berries, cherries, and oranges.

Similarly, it avoids or discorages of processed foods, red meats, sugary foods, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol.

The Mediterranean diet:

The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, healthy fats such as olive oil, and herbs. Meals are focused on these plant-based foods. Seafood is included, as well as moderate amounts of dairy, lean poultry, and eggs. Red meat is eaten only on occasion, and fried processed foods are avoided.

Is this starting to sounds a bit repetitive? There are obviously more than a few similarities in each of these ideal “prostate cancer diets.”

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Opt for whole grains.
  • Use healthy fats and avoid saturated fat.
  • Eat more seafood and reduce red meat.
  • Keep it natural, avoid the processed foods.
  • Spice it up with herbs.

Austin Urology Institute offers nutrition services to those who need help with the right diet when trying to prevent or reduce risk for prostate cancer. If you have questions, schedule a consultation.