Sperling Prostate Center

The Mediterranean Diet Could Save Your Prostate (and Your Life)

UPDATE: 4/24/2023
Originally published 2/1/2022

The blog below is two years old, but this update is hot off the presses! Two brand-spanking new studies suggest that the Mediterranean Diet offers the best protection against prostate cancer (PCa).

The first study explored DNA in white blood cells of PCa patients compared with healthy controls. Not only was DNA more damaged in patients, it was also more susceptible to damage from PCa radiation treatment, possibly due to low levels of dietary lycopene and selenium.[i]

A second study by the same authors found that patients’ blood levels of iron, sulfur and calcium were raised, yet the micronutrients lutein, lycopene, ?-carotene, ?-carotene and selenium were lower—a combination that points to a Western diet high in dairy and meat but low in plant-based foods.[ii]

The authors suggest that the Mediterranean diet (or similar), with its reduced consumption of red meat and greater consumption of vegetables and fruits would be most preventive.

Rather than take supplements, they recommend individuals consult a dietician “…because people absorb nutrients in different ways, depending on the food, the digestive system, the person’s genotype and possibly their microbiome.”

Tailored plant-forward eating, here we come!


If changing one thing in your life could protect you from colorectal cancer, liver cancer, head and neck cancer, breast or prostate cancer, and gastric cancer – would you make that change?

Back in 2017, a publication of a review and analysis of 83 studies[iii] offered indisputable evidence that close adherence to the Mediterranean diet amounts to putting on a suit of armor against several cancers.

The Mediterranean diet (or MeDi) first gained fame because for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. It has a geographic name because it incorporates the ingredients, traditional cooking styles, and lifestyle habits of countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Its dietary components include:

  • Eat primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Eliminate red meat, or eat it no more than a few times a month
  • Eat fish and poultry at least two times per week
  • Replace butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt

Its lifestyle components are

  • Enjoy meals with family and friends
  • Drink red wine in moderation (optional)
  • Get plenty of exercise

The above-mentioned review of 83 studies covered an astonishing 2,130,753 subjects! Relatively speaking, this is a colossal population, and it gives great weight to the findings.

The most important overall conclusion is that the greater the adherence to the MeDi, the least risk of cancer mortality. On top of that, following the MeDi as closely as possible reduced the chances of developing colorectal cancer, liver cancer, head and neck cancer, breast or prostate cancer, and gastric cancer. The authors point out that the “protective effects appear to be most attributable to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.” Who wouldn’t eat more of these ingredients if they knew that they could prevent at least 5 types of cancer…and were less likely to die from cancer if they did develop it?

MeDi and prostate cancer

When it comes to prostate cancer (PCa) in particular, what is it about the Mediterranean Diet that it seems to boost the health of this small gland? According to Cicero, et al. (2019), “The Mediterranean diet is rich of elements with anti-oxidant properties that act as a protective factor for prostatic cancer.”[iv] Some studies have shown that Vitamins C and E, that richly infuse the MeDi ingredients, are chief among the anti-oxidants, but other studies have not been quite as conclusive. However, those who adhere to the diet are getting the benefits of specific plant-based compounds called bioactive phytochemicals. These include lycopene, which helps inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells as well as encourage cell death, and resveratrol, which discourages PCa development. As López-Guarnido, et al (2018) write, “The high content of bioactive phytochemicals in the MeDi is of particular interest in the prevention of PCa.”[v]

Considering that the MeDi offers both cardiovascular protection as well as cancer protection, it’s worth taking time to assess how closely your current diet matches the MeDi. Even if you’re not ready to commit to a radical change in diet, you can take a small step or two at a time. For example, when you’re tempted to snack on pretzels, chips, or popcorn, grab a handful of dry-roasted nuts (preferably unsalted). Or if you average two servings of red meat per week, try substituting chicken or fish for one of those servings.

One last thought: if you have a family history of prostate, breast or other cancer and you have not already learned about the MeDi, I encourage you to do a little research into the MeDi to learn how you might benefit. It can be an eating adventure to take a kitchen tour of more Italian, Greek, Spanish, Moroccan and Southern France cuisine, using easy recipes.

For a long and healthy life, put a little MeDi YUM in your meals!

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] Dhillon VS, Deo P, Fenech M. Effect of Selenium and Lycopene on Radiation Sensitivity in Prostate Cancer Patients Relative to Controls. Cancers (Basel). 2023 Feb 3;15(3):979.
[ii] Dhillon VS, Deo P, Fenech M. Plasma Micronutrient Profile of Prostate Cancer Cases Is Altered Relative to Healthy Controls-Results of a Pilot Study in South Australia. Cancers (Basel). 2022 Dec 23;15(1):77.
[iii] Schwingshackl L, Schwedhelm C, Galbete C, Hoffmann G. Adherence to Mediterranean Diet and Risk of Cancer: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2017 Sep 26;9(10). pii: E1063. doi: 10.3390/nu9101063
[iv] Arrigo F G Cicero A, Allkanjari O, Busetto GM, Cai T et al. Nutraceutical treatment and prevention of benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer. Arch Ital Urol Androl. 2019 Oct 2;91(3).
[v] López-Guarnido O, Urquiza-Salvat N, Saiz M, Lozano-Paniagua D, et al. Bioactive compounds of the Mediterranean diet and prostate cancer. Aging Male. 2018 Dec;21(4):251-260.


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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