Sperling Prostate Center

Saturated Fat: A Prostate Cancer No-No

“In the 1960s, you could eat anything you wanted, and of course, people were smoking cigarettes and all kinds of things, and there was no talk about fat and anything like that, and butter and cream were rife.” Julia Child, whose how-to cooking show brought French cooking into American kitchens, made that observation about a bygone era. We now know that dietary fat, which we get from the vegetables and meats that we eat, is healthy in small quantities, and that some fats are better for us than others.

The kind of fat that we get from animals (red meat, poultry and whole-fat dairy products) is called saturated fat. It is different from vegetable fats such as plant-based oils or the omega-3 fatty acids we get from fatty fish. It is correlated with weight gain, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and diabetes.

For men diagnosed with prostate cancer, it appears that saturated fat is connected with their cancer becoming worse. A group of authors from University of California/Mission Hall used data from the Physicians’ Health Study (PHS) to compare cancer progression between prostate cancer patients whose diets were high in saturated fats vs. those who consumed vegetable fat.[i] Their hypothesis was that saturated fat intake would increase the risk of death, whereas vegetable fat would lower it.

They identified 926 PHS participants who had localized prostate cancer. All men completed a food frequency questionnaire within an average of five years of diagnosis, and they were tracked for a median of 10 years after the questionnaire. During the follow-up period, about a third of participants (333) died, 56 of them from prostate cancer. The authors analyzed all types of fat intake in relation to the reported cause of death. The results were noted as follows:

  • Those who got 5% more of their daily calories from saturated fat and 5% less from carbohydrate were 1.8 times more likely to die of any cause
  • The same men were 2.8 times more likely to die of prostate cancer
  • Men who got 10% more of their daily calories from vegetable fat and 10% less from carbohydrates were 33% less likely to die from any cause, including prostate cancer.

They therefore concluded that for men with localized prostate cancer, “saturated fat intake may increase risk of death and vegetable fat intake may lower risk of death.”

At our Center, we recognize how important it is to lead a healthy lifestyle. We do our part for prostate cancer patients by offering focal laser ablation that controls the cancer while sparing sexual and urinary function. Our patients must do their part by reducing the risk of cancer recurrence. That includes making choices that favor great nutrition, exercise, and stress management. It makes good sense to choose plant-based fats and omega-3 fatty acids over saturated fats. Say no to saturated fats, say yes to a long and healthy life.

[i] Van Blarigan EL, Kenfield SA, Yang M, Sesso HD et al. Fat intake after prostate cancer diagnosis and mortality in the Physicians’ Health Study. Cancer Causes Control. 2015 Aug;26(8):1117-26. doi: 10.1007/s10552-015-0606-4. Epub 2015 Jun 6. (UC-Mission Hall)

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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