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Mediterranean Diet May Protect Against Prostate Cancer

Did you know that the Mediterranean diet, most often recognized for its effects on heart health, may also help to prevent prostate cancer? 

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. Prostate cancer rates vary widely between countries, with the highest rates seen in relatively poor areas of developed countries. For instance, a man in the United States is about five times as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as a Greek man. If you happen to be a black man in Detroit, you're about eight times as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as your Greek counterpart. In addition, Greek men are less likely to die from prostate cancer than are men in most Western countries.

Different diets may be one reason for the lower rates of prostate cancer diagnosis (incidence) and death (mortality) in Greece, according to a review of the effects of the Mediterranean diet on prostate cancer performed by a research team from the University of Melbourne and the Cancer Council of Victoria in Victoria, Australia. Greek men (and women) have traditionally consumed the "Mediterranean diet," which emphasizes vegetables, fruits, fish, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. Olive oil is the primary source of fat in the diet. These foods also contain several nutrients that have been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer, including omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants such as lycopene, resveratrol and polyphenols, and vitamins E and C, and the mineral selenium.

The research team, led by Catherine Itsiopoulos, M.D., set out to probe possible links between the Mediterranean diet and lower risk of prostate cancer in Greek men. They found that no single element of the diet conferred protection and suggested that it's time for other researchers to stop looking for a "magic bullet" nutrient but instead focus on dietary patterns. They concluded that "the Mediterranean diet is abundant in foods that may protect against prostate cancer and is associated with longevity and reduced cardiovascular and cancer mortality."

The upshot? Men who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet may reduce their risk of prostate cancer. And that's a tasty way to prevent prostate cancer."

Source: Itsiopoulos, C., Hodge, A. and Kaimakamis, M. (2009), Can the Mediterranean diet prevent prostate cancer?. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 53: 227–239. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200800207