Sperling Prostate Center

Can an Ancient Diet Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk?

UPDATE: 3/11/2024
Originally published 9/19/2019

As ancient as the Mediterranean diet may be, it is very much a current event. It is promoted as one of the healthiest—if not THE healthiest—food programs on earth.

Now another centuries-old diet is making headlines: the Atlantic diet. It is named after Portugal and northwest Spain, whose traditional cuisines include Atlantic fish and shellfish, and locally sourced plant foods.

The Atlantic diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet: the majority of foods are vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, grains, olive oil, seeds, herbs and spices. Animal protein includes cheese, milk, seafood and poultry, with minimal red meat and sweets.

A 6-month study of the Atlantic diet[i] aimed to “assess the effects of this regional traditional diet on families’ eating habits” asses its impact on metabolic syndrome. The authors tracked 231 families (at least 2 members age 3-85) randomly assigned to the intervention or a control group. Participants were not currently taking cholesterol medication, not pregnant, did not have alcoholism, major cardiovascular disease, or dementia. After 6 months, the intervention group had less incidence of metabolic syndrome and fewer of its components, than the control group.

Since metabolic syndrome may be a risk factor for prostate cancer,[ii] choose your nutrition wisely. Want to be healthier and live longer? As a Feb. 13 , 2024 USA Today story puts it, “the Atlantic diet may be a beneficial new option for people looking to simplify and improve their nutrition.”


Here’s a little quiz…

  1. What diet was ranked best overall and easiest to follow by U.S. News & World Report in 2019?
  2. What do beans, spices and olive oil have in common?

The answer to the first question is, the Mediterranean Diet.[iii] And the answer to the second is, these three foods are among the key elements in this top-ranked diet.

The Mediterranean Diet

Following the Mediterranean Diet (MD) is good for your prostate because it is anti-inflammatory. This means it focuses on foods that help protect against chronic inflammation, a known precursor for prostate cancer (PCa). MD is ancient. Its history goes back 12,000 years to the development of agriculture in the Near East region known as the Fertile Crescent. Grains, olives, nuts, legumes and other components of the today’s MD came to be cultivated by the ancestors of today’s farmers.

A nonprofit organization called Oldways is devoted to rediscovering the healthy and sustainable traditions of other cultures, including ancient ones. To help promote the MD, they developed a Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid[iv] that illustrates MD principles:

Starting from the base up, it depicts the proportions of foods included in this ancestral nutrition plan. Following it means that every day your meals include vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, spices and herbs, nuts, and healthy fats like olive oil. Twice a week you eat fish and seafood. Your weekly portions of dairy, eggs and poultry are moderate. As for red meat and sweets—infrequent!

MD reduces prostate cancer risk

I have previously written about the value of anti-inflammatory diets in combatting the ills associated with chronic inflammation, especially PCa. But don’t just take my word for it. A number of published studies demonstrate that eating the MD way is linked with reduced PCa risk. Here are three samples:

  1. Schneider et al. (2019)[v] used records on African American and European American PCa patients from the North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Project (PCaP) to explore the relationship between aggressive PCa and nutritional patterns (the MD and the DASH diet, also considered anti-inflammatory). They found that the MD was more strongly associated with reduced risk of aggressive PCa than the DASH diet. Results were similar for both ethnicities in the study. This may be particularly noteworthy for African American men who are generally held to be at greater PCa risk than European American men.
  2. Jalilpiran et al. (2018)[vi] compared the dietary habits of 60 men with newly-diagnosed PCa vs. 60 controls. They identified two diet patterns, the Western diet (high in refined foods, red meat and unhealthy fats) and the Mediterranean diet. The Western diet was associated with greater PCa risk while the MD was not.
  3. Capurso & Vendiamale (2017)[vii] conducted a review of published literature on the correlation of MD and the risk/mortality of PCa. They concluded that “…our narrative review allows us to reaffirm how nutritional factors play an important role in cancer initiation and development, and how a healthy dietary pattern represented by MD and its components, especially olive oil, could exert a protective role by the development and progression of prostate cancer.”

The takeaway message is obvious. Eating along the lines of the earliest farmed foods and readily available healthy fats and fish is healthier than the Western diet most Americans are consuming in today’s world. We don’t know if those ancient farmers had less prostate cancer than we have today, but it’s worth maximizing nature’s anti-inflammatory, dietary prostate protection.

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] Cambeses-Franco C, Gude F, Benítez-Estévez AJ, González-García S et al. Traditional Atlantic Diet and Its Effect on Health and the Environment: A Secondary Analysis of the GALIAT Cluster Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2024 Feb 5;7(2):e2354473.
[ii] Lifshitz K, Ber Y, Margel D. Role of Metabolic Syndrome in Prostate Cancer Development. Eur Urol Focus. 2021 May;7(3):508-512.
[iv] https://www.oldwayswebstore.org/mediterranean-diet-pyramid-poster/
[v] Schneider L, Su LJ, Arab L, Bensen JT et al. Dietary patterns based on the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet are inversely associated with high aggressive prostate cancer in PCaP. Ann Epidemiol. 2019 Jan;29:16-22.e1.
[vi] Jalilpiran Y, Diantinasab M, Zeighami S, Bahmanpour S et al. Western Dietary Pattern, But not Mediterranean Dietary Pattern, Increases the Risk of Prostate Cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2018 Aug-Sep;70(6):851- 859.
[vii] Capurso C, Vendemiale G. The Mediterranean Diet Reduces the Risk and Mortality of the Prostate Cancer: A Narrative Review. Front Nutr. 2017; 4: 38.


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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