Dietary recommendations for advanced prostate cancer

As you go through prostate cancer treatment, there are foods you can eat—and others to avoid—that can boost your health. While there is no magic diet cure for prostate cancer, your eating habits can make a difference in your prognosis.

“In all cancers, and especially prostate cancer, a heart-healthy, sensible, low-sugar diet is absolutely beneficial for cancer treatment,” says Mark Pomerantz, MD. He is an oncologist at the Center for Genitourinary Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Prostate cancer treatment can affect your metabolism (how food is turned into energy), strength and endurance, he says. When you eat foods that support your heart and improve your health, your body can handle these treatments better.

“Along with exercise, a diet that helps you maintain as lean a body as possible is very valuable and helps treat advanced prostate cancer as aggressively as we want,” says Pomerantz.

Eat fruits and vegetables

A plate filled with colorful fruits and vegetables increases fiber and antioxidants. Both benefit your cancer care.

The high fiber content of fruits and vegetables can help lower your testosterone levels. It may be helpful because testosterone helps stimulate tumor growth. Fiber can also bind to carcinogens and carry them out of the body.

Antioxidants help rid your body of free radicals – molecules that damage your cells. They can affect the growth of cancer. A diet full of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables helps keep free radicals in check.

Pomerantz says researchers are looking into whether certain antioxidants in supplement form, such as vitamin E and selenium, might actually increase some people’s chances of developing prostate cancer.

“There is evidence that there is a subset of people with prostate cancer who benefit considerably from antioxidants, and there are others with a rare specific genetic variant who do not,” says Pomerantz. “There is research going on to see if we can figure out exactly who fits into each category.”

Always consult your doctor before taking supplements.

Choose heart-healthy fats

The most common form of treatment for advanced prostate cancer is hormone therapy. It lowers the level of testosterone in your body, which directly affects the amount of fat you gain and keep on your body.

“Testosterone is what gives men a favorable ratio of muscle to fat,” says Pomerantz. “And when we take this hormone away, we put men at risk of losing muscle mass and gaining adipose tissue, especially around the abdomen. It is this adipose tissue that is associated with heart disease and diabetes.”

That’s why it’s especially important to steer clear of high-fat choices like red meat and dairy and get protein from heart-healthy sources like fish, which are full of omega-3 fatty acids, and plants.

Options include:

  • Fish like salmon
  • Lean poultry meat
  • Nuts
  • Beans

Avoid processed lunches with nitrates and charred meats, which are linked to cancer.

Watch your sugar

Sugar cannot cause or worsen cancer, but there is an indirect link between the two. So while you don’t have to cut out sugar completely, it’s still a good idea to keep the amount to a minimum.

“When you change the amount of sugar in a petri dish, it absolutely affects cancer cells,” says Pomerantz. “What I’m not so sure about is whether you can reproduce these conditions in the same way in the body and affect the course of cancer.

Sugary foods like cakes, cookies and soda increase the amount of calories you take in without much nutritional benefit. Eating a lot of sugar is a quick way to gain weight and increase body fat, which increases the risk of health problems and the chance of the cancer coming back.

Avoid alcohol

Alcohol is full of carbohydrates. When you drink a lot of it, you are adding sugar to your system. You may gain weight, which puts pressure on the heart and can increase the chance of the cancer coming back.

Too much alcohol can also limit your doctor’s options for treating you.

“Alcohol affects your liver,” says Pomerantz. “And many of the cancer drugs we use are metabolized in the liver. When you put undue pressure on the liver, it can affect our ability to deliver certain drugs.”

Alcohol can also prevent your body from working and absorbing certain essential vitamins and nutrients.

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