Diet, Fitness and Supplements for Men with Prostate Cancer

Unhealthy diets encourage prostate cancer’s growth and spread.  Consider Asia, where mortality from prostate cancer is eighteen times lower than in the United States.  Genetic factors and life expectancy alone cannot explain this stunning variance.  When Asians move to the United States and begin eating a western diet, their cancer mortality rate rise.

Reduce Animal Protein Intake

The United States National Cancer Institute spent millions of dollars conducting research on the dietary effect of cancer in China.  China was selected because due to low rates of mobility, Chinese live most their lives in the same place and have dietary practices characteristic of the region of the country they live in. U.S. researchers studied regional dietary practices and compared them with the incidence of cancer.  They found that people eating the lowest amounts of animal protein had the lowest incidence of cancer.  Regions eating high amounts of animal protein had the highest incidence. Intermediate amounts of animal protein resulted in an intermediate risk.

The China Study[1] researched all types of cancer.  But the fact that prostate cancer patients benefit from low-animal-protein diets can be substantiated another way, with PET scans.  Carbohydrates, fats or proteins can be radiolabeled and injected into the blood.  Scans performed minutes after the injection show prostate cancer rapidly consumes fats and proteins, not carbohydrates.  Only very advanced-stage prostate cancers feed on carbohydrates (glucose).  Most don’t consider that animal products contain both protein and fat.  A typical hamburger is 50 percent fat!  Animal protein, combined with copious fat, is a perfect fuel for prostate cancer growth.

Complex Carbohydrates vs. Simple Sugars

If animal protein and fat accelerate cancer growth, a diet comprised primarily of carbohydrates derived from vegetables may slow it.  There are two kinds of carbohydrates, complex and simple.  Complex carbohydrates are often called the “bland” stuff, while simple carbohydrates are known by their immediate sweet taste.  Complex carbohydrates from whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables are composed of long chains of sugar molecules, called polysaccharides. In the digestion process (which begins in the mouth), these long chains are broken down into smaller sugar units.  Thus, unprocessed carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream gradually.  All carbohydrates eventually become sugar; the critical difference is the speed at which they do so.  Complex sugar (from whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit) gives enduring energy, whereas simple sugar offers quick-but-fleeting energy.  Think of complex carbohydrates as a hardwood log burning in a fireplace with a consistent flame.  Conversely, the burning of simple sugar is like a newspaper tossed into a fireplace; it torches big and bright but quickly extinguishes into cool ash.  Erratic blood sugar levels can compromise the immune system, cause inflammation and create strong cravings for sugar or salt. And for cancer patients, maintaining a consistently lower blood sugar decreases insulin, starves cancer cells and discourages cancer growth.[2]

Fitness and Exercise

Obtaining optimal fitness is a very important.  Most people don’t realize that fitness has a bigger impact on survival than standard types of anticancer treatment like surgery or radiation.  Insufficient exercise is very negative. For example, The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that smokers with excellent fitness outlive sedentary nonsmokers.[3]  Optimal exercise consists of resistance training, which augments muscle mass.  This type of program is even more important for prostate cancer patients who tend to be elderly and may require hormonal therapy that reduces testosterone.  Aging and testosterone-blocking medicines conspire to decrease muscle mass.  People who lack self-motivation to exercise should hire a personal trainer.

Antioxidants and Vitamins

Prostate cancer is thought to be caused by inflammation and oxygen radicals.  Human studies suggest that diets rich in antioxidants may reduce the risk of getting prostate cancer.

Lycopene is primarily found in tomatoes.  Tomato sauce reduces the risk of developing advanced prostate cancer by 35%. Higher serum lycopene levels in the blood have been associated with up to an 80% reduction in the risk of developing prostate cancer.  Multiple studies show on average a 20% reduction in the incidence of prostate cancer with an intake of tomato products.

Coenzyme Q 10 can be depleted by common cholesterol pills called statins, which can lead to muscle pain.  Men with depleted CQ10 can replenish this loss with an over-the-counter supplement.  A dosage of one to two hundred milligrams a day is reasonable to reduce the risk of muscle problems in men who take statins.

Vitamin D 2000 u daily is a reasonable starting dose for men in the prostate cancer age group.  Blood levels should be checked after 3 months and the dosage should be modified accordingly.

Curcumin, broccoli, pomegranate and green tea in combination slowed the rate of PSA increase in a randomized study of 200 men on active surveillance.[4]  Whether this favorable PSA effect was from counteracting prostatitis, prostate cancer or both cannot be determined.

Calcium 250 mg at dinner or bedtime is a reasonable preventative from osteoporosis for men on hormone therapy or who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Vitamin B12 levels drop due to impaired stomach absorption as we get older. Blood levels of B12 should be checked annually and, if found to be low, men should begin taking 1000 mcg u “under the tongue” daily (Trader Joe’s sells a good product)

Vitamin C is yet to be proven as a meaningful anticancer agent, 500 mg daily is useful for shortening the duration of a cold

Selenium: The results of the multimillion dollar SELECT trial showed no change in the frequency of diagnosing prostate cancer within the first five years after starting supplementation with selenium.

Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant and is often touted for its protective effects against prostate cancer. Several early studies reported a reduction in prostate cancer risk.  However, a compilation of multiple studies observed an increase in mortality with the use of 400 mg daily.

Excess Minerals May Feed the Cancer

Some minerals—especially if taken in excess—appear to be detrimental.  Studies show that an excessive intake of multivitamins, zinc, iron, copper, and high doses of calcium are all associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer mortality (lower doses of calcium, less than 1000 mg a day, have not been linked to an increased risk).  The most potentially problematic minerals are copper, iron, and zinc.  These rich nutrients and calories appear to stimulate cancer growth just as fertilizer stimulates plant growth.  Clearly, the most sensible approach to inhibiting cancer growth is to cut back on the intake of all these rich nutrients.

Final Considerations

How we nurture our bodies can have a major impact on cancer growth.  An active lifestyle and a diet that limits animal protein and incorporates the right antioxidants is optimal for longevity and health.


[1] The China Study, Colin Campbell.

[2] The Key to Prostate Cancer, Chapter 47 Verne Varona.

[3] Exercise Capacity and Mortality among Men Referred for Exercise Testing. Myers et. Al. NEJM 346:793, 2006.

[4] A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial evaluating the effect of a polyphenol-rich whole food supplement on PSA progression in men with prostate cancer–the U.K. NCRN Pomi-T study. Thomas et. al. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2014 Jun;17(2):180-6.

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