Can A Plant Based Diet Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk?

Men who want to ward off aggressive prostate cancer should turn to plants, or more precisely, a plant-based diet. That’s what scientists reported at the recent International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research. However, this report is not the only one that has shown that a diet based on plant foods offers benefits for men who want to reduce their prostate cancer risk.

Why eat a plant-based diet

Let’s start with the latest study of the impact of a plant-based diet on prostate cancer. In this latest report, which was conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, the consensus was that the flavonoids (substances in plants that have antioxidant and other health benefits) in plants, such as fruits and vegetables, herbs, and teas, may provide men with a 25 percent lower risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer when compared with men who don’t follow a plant-based diet.

How did the researchers come to this conclusion? Data from 977 white men and 920 black men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer were evaluated, including their self-reported dietary history. Analysis of the information indicated that men who consumed the highest amount of flavonoids had a lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

In this study, the foods high in flavonoids the men ate most were citrus fruits and juices, tea, grapes, strawberries, onions, and cooked greens. However, this does not mean these are the only plants that can contribute to a lower risk of prostate cancer, nor the only study that has shown the advantage of a plant-based diet on prostate cancer risk.

More evidence of plant diet benefits

For example, a recent study from Spain reported that the Mediterranean diet, which is mainly based on plants, offers a preventive effect against cancer, which is “due to the great number and quality of phytochemicals with antioxidant and inflammatory properties that it contains.”

A study from Iran explored the association between diet and prostate cancer risk, with specific emphasis on intake of red meat, tomatoes and tomato products, and garlic. The study included 194 men with prostate cancer and 317 cancer-free controls.

When researchers compared highest intake of these foods with the lowest consumption, they found a protective effect associated with tomatoes, a slight reduction in prostate cancer risk associated with garlic, and a nonsignificant increase in prostate cancer risk with red meat consumption.

Yet another study explored the idea that a diet rich in vegetables can reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Specifically, the investigators looked at: lycopene (a potent antioxidant in tomatoes), which has evidence as being protective against prostate cancer; soy, which has shown limited but promising evidence of a reduced risk; and vitamins C and E, garlic and related vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables, which the authors noted had illustrated limited protective evidence. Overall, the authors said the “benefits of plant based diet on cancer prevention and other diet-related diseases should be promoted.”

The Prostate Health Diet

Men who want help in choosing a healthful way to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and also support prostate health can turn to a diet like the Prostate Health Diet, whose foundation is plant-based. The Prostate Health Diet was designed after careful research of the scientific literature that explored the impact of dietary choices on prostate health and prostate cancer risk. Men who choose to follow the Prostate Health Diet can enjoy a versatile and delicious eating program that also helps protect against prostate cancer and inflammation while maintaining prostate health.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.


Salem S et al. Major dietary factors and prostate cancer risk: a prospective multicenter case-control study. Nutrition and Cancer 2011; 63(1): 21-27

Steck S. Eat your plant based foods. Research presented at the International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research. University of South Carolina news

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