Plant-based diet linked to greater QOL in patients with prostate cancer

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"Our findings offer hope for those looking for ways to improve their quality of life after undergoing surgery, radiation, and other common therapies for prostate cancer, which can cause significant [adverse] effects," says Stacy Loeb, MD, MSc.

Recent findings published in the journal Cancer indicate that a plant-based diet is linked to improvements in the quality-of-life domains of sexual function, urinary irritation/obstruction, urinary incontinence, and hormonal/vitality among patients with non-metastatic prostate cancer.1

The team next plans to expand their research to a more diverse group of patients, as well as to those with more advanced stages of disease.

The team next plans to expand their research to a more diverse group of patients, as well as to those with more advanced stages of disease.

"Our findings offer hope for those looking for ways to improve their quality of life after undergoing surgery, radiation, and other common therapies for prostate cancer, which can cause significant [adverse] effects. Adding more fruits and vegetables to their diet, while reducing meat and dairy, is a simple step that patients can take," said lead author Stacy Loeb, MD, MSc, in a news release on the findings.2 Loeb is a professor in the departments of urology and population health at New York University Langone Health in New York, New York.

Overall, data showed that patients who consumed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts and low in meat and dairy were shown to have improvements of 8% to 11% in sexual function compared with patients who consumed the least amount of plant-based food.

Similarly, those in the highest quintile of plant-based consumption were shown to have up to 14% better scores in the domains of urinary health compared with patients in the lowest quintile. Those in the highest quintile demonstrated fewer instances of urinary incontinence, obstruction, and irritation.

Regarding hormonal health, those in the highest quintile of plant-based food consumption showed score improvements of up to 13% compared with those in the lowest quintile. The hormonal health measure takes into account symptoms such as low energy, depression, and hot flashes.

Age-adjusted analyses also showed that consuming more healthful plant-based foods was associated with better sexual and bowel function, as well as improved urinary incontinence and hormonal/vitality scores.

"These results add to the long list of health and environmental benefits of eating more plants and fewer animal products. They also clearly challenge the historical misconception that eating meat boosts sexual function in men, when in fact the opposite seems to be the case," added Loeb in the news release.2

In total, the study included 3505 patients in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, an ongoing study that began in 1986 and is sponsored by the Harvard Chan School. The median age of participants at diagnosis was 68 years, with the median time from diagnosis/treatment to the first quality-of-life questionnaire being 7.0 years.

More than 83% of patients included in the study underwent treatment for prostate cancer. In total, 48% underwent radical prostatectomy and 35% received radiation as their primary therapy.

Plant-based diet indices were measured using food-frequency questionnaires, which were administered every 4 years. Quality-of-life scores were measured using the Expanded Prostate Cancer Index Composite, administered every 2 years. Patients were divided into 5 groups (quintiles) based on their plant to animal-based food ratio. Associations over time were adjusted for demographics, oncologic history, body mass index, caloric intake, health-related behaviors, and comorbidities.

A limitation of the study noted by the investigators was that most of the men assessed were White health care professionals. The team next plans to expand their research to a more diverse group of patients, as well as to those with more advanced stages of disease.

References

1. Loeb S, Hua Q, Bauer SR, et al. Plant-based diet associated with better quality of life in prostate cancer survivors. Cancer. 2024. doi:10.1002/cncr.35172

2. Plant-based diet tied to improved sexual health in men treated for prostate cancer. News release. NYU Grossman School of Medicine and NYU Langone Health. Published online and accessed February 13, 2024. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/plant-based-diet-tied-to-improved-sexual-health-in-men-treated-for-prostate-cancer-302057117.html

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