The Mediterranean diet is well known to support healthy cardiovascular function and metabolic health. But according to a recent study, it may also help men enjoy healthy prostates.
Men who consume colorful fruits and vegetables regularly are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer (PC), according to new research by University of South Australia scientists. The findings, from two studies published in the journal Cancers, highlight the importance of a Mediterranean or Asian diet that includes these foods.
Researchers compared micronutrient plasma concentrations of prostate cancer patients with a healthy control group, revealing low levels of lutein, lycopene, alpha-carotene, and selenium in PC patients and high levels of iron, sulfur, and calcium in the same group, relative to controls.
Increased DNA damage after radiation exposure was also associated with low lycopene and selenium in blood plasma.
Men with plasma concentrations lower than 0.25 micrograms (ug) per milliliter (mL) for lycopene and/or lower than 120 ug/L for selenium have an increased risk of prostate cancer. Foods that are rich in lycopene include tomatoes, melons, papayas, grapes, peaches, watermelons and cranberries. Selenium-rich foods include white meat, fish, shellfish, eggs and nuts.
Study co-author Dr. Permal Deo commented, “Our recommendation is to adopt a Mediterranean diet enlisting the help of a dietician because people absorb nutrients in different ways, depending on the food, the digestive system, the person’s genotype and possibly their microbiome,” Deo said.
Prostate cancer remains one of the most common and fatal cancers in men, but the nutritional deficiencies associated with it remain largely unknown, which inspired this study, according to the authors.
Other risk factors, such as ethnicity, family history and age have previously been linked to prostate cancer. Deo said, “There is strong evidence that being overweight and tall increases the risk of prostate cancer. Diets high in dairy products and low in vitamin E may also increase the risk but the evidence is less clear.” Vitamin E is found in plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
According to Deo, the research is the first to evaluate plasma concentrations of micronutrients and trace elements with respect to prostate cancer in the South Australian population.
Dhillon VS, et al. “Plasma Micronutrient Profile of Prostate Cancer Cases Is Altered Relative to Healthy Controls—Results of a Pilot Study in South Australia.” Cancers, 2022; 15 (1): 77.